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* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 9:15 a.m. April 1)

March 24

Received a report of an abandoned vehicle on 431st Ave.  The owner was called and moved the vehicle.

March 25

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from a rural area in Johnstown.  One patient was transported to the Brown County Hospital.

March 26

Issued a citation for speeding 84mph in a 65mph  zone on Highway 7.

Responded to a report of a loose dog on Oak Street.  The dog was taken to the Vet Clinic.  After a week of advertising the dog was adopted by a new owner.

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call along Highway 20.  One patient was taken to the Brown County Hospital.  They also responded to a senior living facility and transported another patient to the hospital on this day.

During a traffic stop on Highway 7, a citation was issued for speeding 84mph in a 65mph zone.

March 27

The Brown County Ambulance picked up a flight crew from the airport and transported them to the Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient.

Responded to a request for a welfare check on juveniles not attending school.  They were located and reported safe at this time.

Paged the Ainsworth water department after receiving a phone call of water running into a home on Osborne Street.

During a traffic stop on Highway 7, a Nebraska male was issued a citation for driving under revocation and no proof of insurance.  The male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail, where he posted bond and was released.

March 28

Received a report of a vehicle in violation of city ordinance.  The vehicle owner was issued a citation and towed.

During a traffic stop near the intersection of 4th and Walnut Street, a male subject was issued a citation for driving during revocation and no valid registration.  He was booked into the Brown County jail and later posted bond and was released.

Two written warnings for speeding were issued on this day.

Received a report of a physical disturbance at an apartment complex in Ainsworth.  No citations have been issued at this time.

March 29

Received a request for a welfare check in Ainsworth.  All parties were reported safe at this time.

Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.

During a traffic stop on Highway 20, a citation was issued for speeding 80mph in a 65mph zone.  Another stop on Highway 7, a citation for speeding and possession of marijuana was issued. 

During a traffic stop near the intersection of 4th and Pine Street, a citation was issued for driving under suspension, no valid registration, and failure to stop.  The driver was booked into the Brown County Jail and later released after posting bond.

During a traffic stop in Long Pine near 3rd and Main Street, a driver was issued a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol and defective vehicle lighting.  The driver was booked into the Brown County Jail and later released after posting bond.

March 30

Assisted another agency on locating a male subject with an active warrant from Boyd County.  The male was later arrested in Holt County.

Responded to a report of a verbal disturbance at a medical facility. 

Issued two written warnings for speeding on this day.

Weekly Summary

Calls:  111

911 Calls:  4

Incident Reports:  14

Gun Permits:  1

Vin Inspections:  4

March 17

Provided a welfare check in Ainsworth.  The subject was located and reported safe at this time.

Issued a citation for speeding 48 mph in a 35mph zone and no proof of insurance.  A written warning for speeding was also issued on this day.

March 18

Received a report of an open door to a business on Main Street.  The owner was called, and no criminal activity was found at this time.

The Brown County Ambulance transported a patient from Brown County Hospital to Kearney, NE.

The Ainsworth and Johnstown Fire Departments responded to a fire located in a cornfield approximately 3 miles North on Rauscher Ave.  Trucks were out of the barn around an hour.

Issued citations for speeding 101mph and 80mph in 65mph speed zones on Highway 20.

March 19

Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office jailed a male subject on a Brown County District Court warrant.  The male subject was brought back to Brown County and booked into jail while awaiting his court date.

Responded to a report of a missing person who was in a mental health crisis.  Nebraska State Patrol was called for assistance.  The individual later returned.

Received a report of a suspected child abuse from Department of Heath and Human Services.  This is an ongoing investigation.

Received a report of a dog being attacked by another dog on Oak Street in Ainsworth.  Written statements were received, and the dog was taken to a vet clinic for medical treatment.  This is an ongoing investigation.

March 20

Assisted Nebraska State Patrol on a traffic stop on Highway 20 in Brown County. 

March 21

Received a report of loose horses on Highway 7.  Owners were called and removed them from the roadway.

Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.

March 22

Issued a citation for speeding 80mph in 65 mph zone on Highway 183.  Other citations were issued for passing on the right side and no proof of insurance or working lights.  Three warnings for speeding were also issued on this day.

Received a report of a loose dog near 1st & Harrington Street.  The owner was later identified and called to pick up their dog.

March 23

Received a 911 call reporting a fire near 883rd Rd.  Ainsworth and Long Pine Fire Departments were paged to the structure around 8PM.  Bassett Fire Department was also paged for assistance.  The Brown County Ambulance was also paged to the scene.  Trucks returned to the barn around 12:30 AM.

Weekly Summary

Calls: 121

911 Calls:  7

Incident Reports:  11

Gun Permits:  4

Vin Inspections:  4

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 10:15 a.m. March 28)

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

Kalynn B. Giesbrecht, age 23, of Tracey Mills, Canada, charged with speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, fined $125.

Terry J. Vassar, 35, of Ainsworth, no proof of insurance, $100; also charged with no license on person, $100.

Katie L. Shifflet, 35, of Holbrook, no valid registration, $25.

Jimena R. Velasco, 20, of Lawrenceville, Ga., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Triston D. Griffin, 27, of Charlotte, N.C., first offense resisting arrest, $1,000.

Brandon D. Holmes, 39, of Baker, La., driving under suspension, $300; speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Braxton K. Jefferis, 21, of Bassett, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Knicolus J. Fernau, 40, of Ainsworth, violating a stop or yield sign, $75.

Janet A. Alberts, 70, of Long Pine, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Anne E. Quigley, 75, of Valentine, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Sherri R. Johnson, 35, of Ainsworth, two counts of having dogs running at large, fined $50 on each county and ordered to pay $191 in restitution.

Amber D. Hollenbeck, 29, of Bassett, assault by mutual consent, ordered to pay $96 in restitution.

Michael A. Petter, 68, of Ainsworth, violating a protection order, sentenced to six months of probation.

John L. Tripp, 46, of Ainsworth, disturbing the peace, $250.

Bryan W. Reed, 65, of Ainsworth, first degree criminal trespassing, sentenced to six months of probation.

Marco Manoatl Tetlalmatzi, 39, of Ainsworth, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Bradley J. Schumann, 42, of Berthoud, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Max E. Eggert, 40, of Valentine, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

* Kerrigan takes first in NECC test

(Posted 7:15 a.m. March 28)

Ainsworth High School had 22 students participate Wednesday in the Northeast Community College Scholastics at Norfolk.

Medal winners were Katherine Kerrigan, who took first place in Geography; Cole Bodeman placed third in American Government; and Emma Kennedy placed third in Public Speaking.

* Swanson named strength coach at UN-L business school

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

The Clifton Strengths Institute at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has selected 46 students to serve as new strengths coaches for the 2024-25 academic year. The students will join more than 100 returning coaches to mentor about 1,000 new students enrolled in the College of Business’ Professional Enhancement I: Investing in Strengths.

Among the students selected as a strength coach is Gracie Swanson of Bassett.

The required course for all first-year business students empowers them to excel using their natural talents, learned from taking the Clifton Strengths assessment. Strengths coaches help new students develop as they learn to leverage their top strengths.

“A student’s college experience can be the most transformative years of their life, especially during times of life transitions and self-discovery,” said Alyson Lenz, assistant director of the strengths program. “Within the College of Business, students can identify their natural talents and dive into the qualities that make them unique. Focusing on their strengths, along with their student strengths coach’s guidance and support, sets students up to be successful and more confident throughout their college careers.”

The program requires all new coaches to enroll in Strengths Coaching, Theory and Practice this spring, where they learn about strengths-based development and techniques to maximize individuals’ potential. These skills are used to make positive impacts within the college and community, and in their professional careers.

“Our student coaches play a pivotal role in fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of students’ unique talents,” Lenz said. “They possess a passion and energy for investing in others, cultivating trusting relationships and empowering students to excel, leaving a lasting impact beyond the classroom.”

Each new strengths coach receives personalized guidance from experienced student mentors.

“We believe prioritizing investment in these new coaches’ development is essential,” Lenz said. “This mentorship ensures they are well-equipped to effectively support first-year students while remaining authentic to their unique approach and coaching philosophy.”

* Nebraska jobless rate fifth lowest in U.S.

(Posted 1 p.m. March 27)

The Nebraska Department of Labor announced the state’s unemployment rate for February is 2.5 percent. The rate has remained unchanged for six straight months and is up 0.4 percentage points from the February 2023 rate of 2.1 percent.

Nebraska has the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in the nation. North Dakota’s 2.0 percent rate was the lowest in the U.S. in February, with neighboring South Dakota second at 2.1 percent. Vermont at 2.3 percent, Maryland at 2.4 percent and Nebraska round out the five states with the lowest unemployment in the country.

California has the highest jobless rate in the U.S. at 5.3 percent in February. Nevada at 5.2 percent, New Jersey and Illinois at 4.8 percent, and Washington and Alaska at 4.7 percent round out the states with the highest unemployment rates in the country.

The national unemployment rate for February is 3.9 percent, up 0.2 percentage points from the January rate of 3.7 percent and up 0.3 percentage points from the February 2023 rate of 3.6 percent.

“February saw a larger than normal increase in total nonfarm jobs in Nebraska, growing by 11,322,” said Commissioner of Labor John H. Albin.  “This is the largest month to month increase for February going back to 1939.”

The counts of employed and unemployed in the labor force are based on a survey conducted by the Census Bureau regarding employment status.

Nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was 1,048,697 in February, up 11,322 from January and 19,645 from February 2023.  Private industries with the most growth month to month were private education and health services (up 2,034 jobs), professional and business services (up 1,639 jobs) and leisure and hospitality (up 1,337 jobs).

Private industries with the most over the year growth were private education and health services (up 7,059 jobs); trade, transportation, and utilities (up 3,460 jobs); and leisure and hospitality service (up 3,031 jobs).

Brown County’s unemployment rate in February crept upward to 3.0 percent and is now above the statewide average. Blaine County, at 4.6 percent, had the highest unemployment rate in the state in February.

On the flip side, Rock County’s February jobless rate of 1.9 percent was the third lowest in the state, trailing only the 1.8 percent rates in Wheeler and Grant counties.

Cherry County at 2.0 percent, Holt County at 2.2 percent and Keya Paha County at 2.3 percent all saw unemployment rates lower than February’s statewide average. Boyd County experienced a jobless rate of 3.2 percent.

* Main Street work to commence April 1

(Posted 2 p.m. March 26)

Weather permitting, work will begin April 1 on Highway 7 in downtown Ainsworth, from South Street to Highway 20, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

A&R Construction of Plainview is the prime contractor for the project. Work includes replacement of water lines, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, lighting, concrete pavement and sidewalks.

Construction will be completed in five phases with work beginning at the Highway 20 intersection and progressing south. Each phase is estimated to take two months to substantially complete. Work on phase 1 will begin the week of April 1 with complete closure of Main Street from Second Street to Highway 20.

Local traffic access to Main Street will be maintained while phases are not under construction. Phases with active construction will utilize side street parking with pedestrian access to the businesses maintained during business hours. Additional information will be provided as the project advances.

Highway 7 traffic will be detoured utilizing Road 877 and 431st Avenue/Pine Street. A 12-foot width restriction will be in effect. Anticipated competition is December.

Motorists are reminded to drive cautiously in and near work zones, to buckle up, and to put phones down.

* Saturday fire destroys rural Ainsworth home

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

A rural Ainsworth man’s home was destroyed by a fire Saturday evening northeast of Ainsworth.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at 8 p.m. Saturday, firefighters responded to a report of a structure fire approximately 6 miles north and 2-1/2 miles east of Ainsworth.

Upon arrival, Fiala said the home, owned by Wayne Westcott, was completely engulfed with flames coming out of the roof.

The fire chief said the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Raven and Bassett Volunteer Fire departments responded and began to try and douse the structure, but winds pushed the flames throughout the entirety of the home and attached garage.

“There was just no way to get enough water on it,” Fiala said.

No one was home at the time of the fire. However, two family pets were lost in the fire. In addition to the home and all its contents, the fire spread to the attached garage, destroying everything including two vehicles and two motorcycles.

Fiala said the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, and the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office would try and determine how the fire may have started.

Firefighters returned to their respective fire halls at approximately 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

* Stuart is Class D-2 State Speech Runner-Up

(Posted 7 a.m. March 25)

Class D-2 State Speech Championships
Kearney
Team Sweepstakes
1. Chambers, 140; 2. Stuart, 130; 3. Osmond, 108; 4. O’Neill St. Mary’s, 92; 5. Arnold, 90; 6. Falls City Sacred Heart, 50; 7. Sioux County, 46; 8. Potter-Dix, 36; 9. Scribner-Snyder, 34; 10. Arthur County, 32.

Stuart Results
Entertainment Speaking – Will Paxton, state champion

Extemporaneous Speaking – Will Paxton, state champion; 3. Dawson Heiser.

Oral Interpretation of Poetry – 2. Lacey Paxton; 5. Brynn Almgren.

Serious Prose – 3. Drew Schmaderer.

Program of Oral Interpretation – 3. Lacey Paxton; 7. Elly Steinhauser.

Oral Interpretation of Drama – 5. Drew Schmaderer, Gavynn Mustin, Elly Steinhauser, Hunter Tubbs and Ben Paxton; 11. Bryer Almgren, Brynn Almgren, Addisyn Ketteler, Maddux Alder and Megan Karo.

Humorous Prose – 7. Ben Paxton.

Persuasive Speaking – 10. Dawson Heiser.

* Area students named Academic All-State

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

The Nebraska School Activities Association announced the student recipients of the Winter 2023-2024 Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association Academic All-State Awards.

Each year the NSAA and the NCPA recognize students during Fall, Winter, and Spring seasons who are nominated by their schools for their individual academic excellence, leadership, and significant contributions in an NSAA activity.

Area students named Academic All-State for the winter season are:

Ainsworth

Trey Appelt and Logan Schroedl in Boys Basketball, Kendyl Delimont and Jocelyn Good in Girls Basketball, Taylor Allen and Brianna Starkey in Speech, Jackson Irwin and Sam Titus in Boys Wrestling, and Londyn Dunbar and Megan Jones in Girls Wrestling.

Keya Paha County

Jackson Hallock in Boys Basketball and Brenna Caulfield in Speech.

Rock County

Hunter Craven in Boys Basketball, Adisyn Anderson and Morgan Lewis in Girls Basketball, and Branson Anderson and Kip Leonard in Wrestling.

Stuart

Benjamin Paxton and Hunter Tubbs in Boys Basketball, Gracie Kaup and Reagan Stracke in Girls Basketball, and Lacey Paxton and William Paxton in Speech.

West Holt

Mason Crumrine and Drake Nemetz in Boys Basketball, Makinley Cadwallader and Monica Chavez in Girls Basketball, Sidney Burkinshaw and Carter Gotschall in Speech, Caleb Davis and Grant Osborne in Boys Wrestling, and Maddie Davis and Madalyn Pistulka in Girls Wrestling.

Sandhills

Kyle Cox in Boys Basketball, Charlsie Teahon in Girls Basketball, Ella Held and Cora Martindale in Speech, Rhett McFadden in Boys Wrestling, and Emily Chavez and Shelby Schukei in Girls Wrestling.

Boyd County

Adrien Baer and Will Nelson in Boys Basketball, Paige Drueke and Lanie Lechtenberg in Girls Basketball, and Liz Kersch and McKenzie Snyder in Speech.

Valentine

Traven Fletcher and Lex Larsen in Boys Basketball, Kaetryn Bancroft and Kimber McGinley in Girls Basketball, Finley Mosner and Marybelle Ward in Speech, and John Lloyd Fulton and Will Sprenger in Boys Wrestling.

* Ainsworth students advance in History Day competition

(Posted 9:15 a.m. March 22)

Nine Ainsworth Middle School students participated at the district level of the National History Day contest, and all nine finished in the top three of their category to advance to state competition. This year’s theme was “Turning Points in History.” 

Isabelle Arens earned first place for her junior individual performance, “Rural Electrification.” The team of Max Hasenohr, Paul Denny and Keith Munnu received first place for their junior group performance, “How the Bombing of Pearl Harbor Changed the World.” 

Miranda Lambrecht earned second place for her junior individual documentary titled “Woodrow Wilson’s Turning Point: America’s Entry into World War I.”  

The junior group exhibit had a lot of competition with 22 entries. Both of the Ainsworth Middle School entries placed in the top three to earn a spot at the state contest. Leighton Konkoleski and Buck Ruhter earned first place for their exhibit titled “The Dust Bowl.” Beau Ortner and Callen Pierce received third place for their junior group exhibit, “The Battle of Midway.”

All these sixth-graders have qualified to compete in the state contest on Saturday, April 20, at Lincoln. The students will share their projects in the school cafeteria at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 16.  Everyone is welcome to attend and view the presentations.

* Bright Horizons receives $2 million award

(Posted 7 a.m. March 21)

Bright Horizons learned Tuesday it was one of the recipients of a substantial grant from the MacKenzie Scott Yield Giving Foundation. As part of $650 million donated by Scott’s charitable organization, Bright Horizons received a $2 million grant.

In March 2023, Yield Giving launched an open call for community-focused organizations with a purpose of enabling individuals and families to achieve substantive improvement in their well-being through foundational resources.

Yield Giving was initially planning to provide 250 awards of $1 million each. After 6,353 applications were received and applicants went through a several-step review, Yield Giving announced it was awarding $640 million to 361 non-profit organizations, with many receiving $2 million gifts.

Bright Horizons was one of the fortunate organizations benefitting from Scott’s philanthropy, receiving $2 million toward its effort of eliminating domestic violence and sexual assault in 10 counties in north central and northeastern Nebraska.

“This gift provides an amazing opportunity to provide long-term stability for our agency and the families we serve,” Bright Horizons Executive Director Linda Olson said.

Bright Horizons began serving families affected by domestic violence and sexual assault in 1978. The agency serves the residents of Brown, Rock, Keya Paha, Holt, Boyd, Antelope, Knox, Madison, Pierce and Stanton counties. It has offices located at Ainsworth, O’Neill and Norfolk.

In the past year, Bright Horizons answered 5,321 crisis calls and provided services to 1,201 individuals.

Scott’s Yield Giving Foundation has now awarded more than $16.5 billion to more than 1,900 non-profit organizations. Northeast Community College previously received a substantial grant from Scott’s foundation.

More information about Scott’s Yield Giving Foundation can be found online at www.leverforchange.org

* Commissioners approve bid for dump trailer

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

The Brown County Commissioners accepted a bid from RDO Truck Center of Norfolk for a new dump trailer for the roads department after opening three bids Tuesday.

RDO Truck Center bid a 2025 R Way trailer at a cost of $65,562. The bid included a one-year full warranty and a five-year limited warranty.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the R Way dump trailer was the closest model to the Load King, which he said he preferred due to the trailer’s durability.

“This is a heavier trailer, it is more solidly built,” Turpin said. “I think this is the better trailer of those I looked at.”

Aria CSS of Sarasota, Fla., bid a Manac trailer at a cost of $56,595, and Jim Hawk Truck Trailers of Council Bluffs, Iowa, bid an Armor Lite trailer at $59,477. That bid also carried a $2,487 delivery fee, while the bid from the Florida company did not mention how delivery would be made.

Turpin said the roads department could drive a truck to Norfolk to bring back the R Way trailer from RDO Truck Center.

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said he felt it was worth the extra $5,000 to go with the trailer with the heavier gauge steel.

“That is the one I am in favor of,” Dailey said.

Commissioner Buddy Small said the R Way trailer was made with considerably stronger steel.

Turpin said the county has done quite a bit of business with RDO Truck Center.

“They have always been good to work with,” the highway superintendent said.

Turpin said he initially received price estimates of $77,000 for a new belly dump trailer, so the bids came in better than he anticipated. He said RDO Truck Center indicated it could have the new trailer ready for pickup prior to the end of the current budget year. Turpin said he included the cost of the trailer in the current year’s budget.

Commissioner Denny Bauer said the quote from Aria was more of an estimate, because the bid included that the price may change from the manufacturer.

The board unanimously approved the bid from RDO Truck Center.

In other roads department items, Turpin said the county had received $132,309 in FEMA funding for the Camp Witness bridge.

“The last project we are waiting on for reimbursement is $106,231, plus about $30,000 in administrative costs,” Turpin said.

When those final two reimbursements are made, Turpin said the county will finally be able to close out the 2019 flood and recover all the funding it was eligible to receive from FEMA.

Bauer applauded Turpin’s effort for sticking with each project and receiving reimbursement.

Turpin said the county also received $149,341 in federal funding through the highway buyback program. Of that total, he said $76,697 goes toward road surface projects and $72,644 is allocated for bridge rehabilitation.

Turpin reported the roads department was in the process of pulling shoulders to recover gravel from the edges of several county roads.

“Some roads will be bumpy for a while until the sod works off,” Turpin said. “We do pick up a lot of gravel that way.”

The highway superintendent said the roads department planned to work on grading projects on Road 883 and 426th Avenue.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners tabled quotes for bat removal from the courthouse and improvements to the building so bats could not return.

Small said he contacted five companies, with two of those companies coming to the courthouse to look at the project. He said one company bid $29,865 for the work, while Bats 2 Rats Wildlife Control & Prevention submitted a bid of $21,816 to seal the entire building and keep the bats from being able to get in.

Dailey said he would be more comfortable with having the bat-proofing work done after a contractor makes repairs to the courthouse roof.

“If we do any work to the roof after he is here, he will have to come back or he won’t guarantee his work,” Dailey said. “I know the bats are an issue, and I don’t know how long it will take for the roof repair work to get done. I just don’t want to pay for it twice or three times.”

The board tabled action on the item until its April 2 meeting. Dailey agreed to contact the company that had offered to do the roof repair work to discuss a timeline for the project and the possibility of meeting with the bat control contractor to develop a plan.

The commissioners opened one bid Tuesday for the Brown County Ambulance Association’s 2000 ambulance, approving a bid of $7,500 submitted by Pro Electric.

Ambulance Association representative Scott Goodloe said the bid was substantially higher than the previous high bid of $1,000 for the vehicle, which the county had rejected.

County Attorney Andy Taylor informed the commissioners he planned to move his office into a building on Main Street and out of the courthouse.

“We had issues with soundproofing in the current office,” Taylor said. “We can’t have that with confidential information.”

Taylor said the new office would be open to the public until 6 p.m. on weekdays.

“The county attorney position is part-time,” Taylor said. “And I can’t run a private practice from the courthouse.”

Taylor said the Holt, Rock and Cherry counties attorneys all have their own offices and do not work out of their respective courthouses.

“I am not aware of any part-time county attorneys who have offices in a courthouse,” Taylor said.

Small said both Veterans Services Officer Jake Graff and District Probation Officer Harlin Welch had expressed interest in moving into the upstairs office currently occupied by the county attorney.

Small said Welch was agreeable to moving into Graff’s current office in the lower level of the courthouse if Graff were to move into the upstairs office.

Taylor said he planned to be out of the courthouse office in early April.

Sheriff Brent Deibler met with the board requesting the go-ahead to advertise for bids to remove paint from the interior of the Brown County Jail and paint the jail’s interior and add epoxy flooring.

Deibler said the various projects at the sheriff’s department building are moving along, from the brickwork to the heating and air.

Bauer asked the sheriff if he had any idea what the painting work might cost. Deibler said the removal and new paint would likely run between $10,000 and $20,000.

The commissioners and county officials listened on a Zoom call as Nick Smith with MIPS demonstrated the company’s time management system that allows for biometric or cellular phone-based clocking in and out for county employees. The system also calculates overtime, vacation and sick leave.

The cost for the MIPS software is $570, with an ongoing cost of $193 monthly.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. April 2.

* Seniors eligible for additional COVID vaccine dose

(Posted 7 a.m. March 19)

The North Central District Health Department provided an update on changes with COVID-19 vaccinations and the rise in Measles cases in the US.

On February 28, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ approved a recommendation for adults ages 65 years and older to receive an additional updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine dose. Adults 65 years and older have been hit harder by COVID-19, with more than half of COVID-19 hospitalizations during October 2023 to December 2023 occurring in that age group. The CDC advised that an extra dose of the updated COVID-19 vaccine may bring back protection that has weakened since a fall vaccine dose, giving more protection to adults ages 65 years and older.

To be eligible for this dose, you must be 65 years or older and have had your most recent COVID-19 shot at least 4 months ago.

The NCDHD also reminds the public Measles cases are on the rise in the United States, and while Nebraska has not seen cases yet, now is the time to make sure you and your family are up to date on vaccinations. 

The state of Nebraska issued a statement encouraging prioritization of vaccinations to safeguard communities. MMR, the vaccine that covers Measles, is given at 12-15 months and at 4-6 years. 

It is safe and is 97% effective after 2 doses. If you plan to travel, talk to your provider or NCDHD about options for children that are too young to be vaccinated. If you are not sure about your vaccination history or do not know if you have had measles, contact your provider or NCDHD to see options available.

Contact your local clinic, hospital, pharmacy and NCDHD to see where you can get a COVID-19 or MMR vaccination. NCDHD’s vaccination schedule is available at www.ncdhd.ne.gov or by calling 402-336-2406.

For more information on COVID-19 or Measles, check out www.ncdhd.ne.gov

* Meadville Avenue projects highlight department’s 2023

(Posted 3 p.m. March 18)

Asphalt paving on Meadville Avenue and the completion of a new bridge across the Sand Draw Creek on Meadville Avenue highlighted the projects completed during 2023 by the Brown County Roads Department.

The $2.12 million bridge was paid for using primarily federal funding after a box culvert at the site was demolished by flooding in September 2019. The county also opted to take advantage of low interest rates at the time to issue bonds to pay for more than $2 million in new asphalt paving on 7.5 miles of Meadville Avenue.

The bridge and the new paving were both completed in 2023, as were five other projects.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin listed 17 projects on the county’s one-year plan, many of which are for grading and gravel resurfacing on several county roads.

The most expensive project on the one-year plan is $139,000 for armor coating the entire new 7.5-mile asphalt stretch of Meadville Avenue. All the other projects on the one-year plan are estimated to cost $54,000 or less to complete, with the roads department using its own forces for those grading and gravel resurfacing projects.

Among roadways targeted in the one-year plan are portions of Roads 876, 879, 880, 883 and 886, portions of 422nd, 423rd, 426th and 430th avenues, and portions of Norden Avenue, East Calamus Road, Raven Road, Moon Lake Avenue and the northern gravel portion of Meadville Avenue.

Major projects on the roads department’s six-year plan include replacing a bridge on the Bar 25 Road at an estimated cost of $517,000, rehabilitation of a bridge on 426th Avenue at an estimated cost of $135,000, and the rehabilitation of a bridge on 432nd Avenue at a cost of $95,000.

Two 10-mile stretches of the Elsmere Road are slated for armor coating in the six-year plan at a projected cost of $185,000 for each portion.

The remaining projects on the six-year plan are grading and gravel resurfacing projects on portions of several county roads.

* Brown County Commissioners Tuesday agenda

(Posted 1:45 p.m. March 18)

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 19
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

1:15 p.m.     Roll Call.

Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

Brent Deibler – Bids for sandblasting jail

Move County Attorney office out of Courthouse – Taylor

Mitigate bat problems agreement – Small

1:30 p.m.   Open Sealed Bids for Bottom Dump Trailers – Turpin

1:45 p.m.   Zoom meeting with Nich Smith MIPS time management system         

2 p.m.  Open sealed bids for surplus Ambulance – Goodloe

Approve Claims

Correspondence

Public Comment

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

March 10

  • Responded to a traffic complaint on Highway 20 near the Highway 183 Junction. Contact was made with the driver and a verbal warning was issued.
  • During traffic stops on Highway 20, two warnings and three citations were issued for speeding.
  • Responded to a report of excessive dog barking on 7th Street in Ainsworth. The dog owner was called and removed the dog from outside.

March 11

  • Responded to a report of a semi-trailer, who had lost several large round bales on Highway 20 after a securement strap failure, near the 9A Spur. No damage was reported to the vehicle, minimal damage did occur to the guardrail.  The Nebraska Department of Transportation was called to assist.
  • Released a male subject from the Brown County Jail after serving a court commitment sentence.
  • Received a traffic complaint of a motorcycle in excessive speeds driving in Ainsworth. Deputies were unable to locate the vehicle.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20 a citation was issued for no valid registration.

March 12

  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity at a rural location on 879th This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Issued a written warning for speeding on Pine St to a Colorado driver.
  • The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from Ainsworth and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.

March 13

  • No reportable news on this day.

March 14

  • Responded to an accident in the alley on the 300 Block of North Main Street. Both vehicles had minimal damage and drove away from the scene.
  • The Brown County Ambulance were paged twice on this day, each resulting in transporting one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Responded to a report of a loose dog near Oak and 6th Street in Ainsworth. The owner responded to the scene and was assisted in catching the dog.

March 15

  • Received a report of suspected harassment. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • During traffic stops on this day, five warnings were issued for speeding, one violation was issued for improper vehicle lighting.
  • Responded to a report of a barking dog near the 200 Block of 5th Contact was made with the owner who agreed to take the dog inside.
  • The Brown County Ambulance transported a flight crew to pick up a patient at the hospital and take back to the airport.

March 16

  • During traffic stops on this day, two warnings and two citations were issued for speeding that included no valid registration and no proof of insurance.
  • Responded to a report of an accident involving an abandoned vehicle that had struck a power pole near 877th and 428th The driver was identified and issued a citation for leaving the scene of an accident, no valid registration, no proof of insurance.
  • Responded to a report of a barking dog on Maple Street. No barking found.
  • Responded to a life alert button activation in Ainsworth. The Brown County Ambulance was also paged and transported one patient to the hospital.

WEEKLY SUMMARY

INCIDENT REPORTS:  17

PHONE CALLS: 97

911 CALLS:  4

VIN INSPECTIONS:  5

HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS: 0

PAPERS SERVED: 2

* Atkinson receives $362,600 CDBG for mobile clinic

(Posted 3:45 p.m. March 14)

K.C. Belitz, director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, joined leaders in Atkinson Thursday to celebrate the official unveiling of a new mobile health clinic. DED awarded $362,600 to the City of Atkinson through the Community Development Block Grant Program’s Emergent Threat funding opportunity to enable West Holt Medical Services to complete the clinic. The mobile clinic will provide onsite health services and free up hospital capacity during seasons of peak demand. It will regularly visit rural communities within the WHMS service area such as Atkinson, Stuart, Bartlett and Chambers.

“I applaud the team at West Holt Medical Services for finding a creative way to make healthcare more accessible to communities in northern Nebraska,” Belitz said. “For earlier generations of rural Nebraskans, it was common for doctors to make house calls. This mobile clinic revives that model of convenient, local access to high-quality healthcare.”

Belitz praised the local cooperation that led to completion of the mobile health clinic. The City of Atkinson, West Holt Medical Services, and Central Nebraska Economic Development District worked closely to bring the project to fruition.

“The mobile medical clinic will prove to be an incredible tool in providing patient care in the underserved areas surrounding Atkinson and Stuart, and we are excited to begin with Chambers this spring,” said Jeremy Bauer, CEO of West Holt Medical Services. “We appreciate the great support from the Central Nebraska Economic Development District, the City of Atkinson, the State of Nebraska for the funding opportunity, and all of the team members at West Holt Medical Services who played key roles—from acquisition to implementation.”

* City Council approves streets plan

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

The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday approved a one- and six-year streets plan that does not call for any additional projects in the current year with the North Main Street project underway and the NDOT’s renovation of Highway 7 through Main Street in Ainsworth preparing to begin this spring.

The city’s six-year plan calls for concrete paving on several city streets, including portions of First, Harrington, Elm, Pine and Eighth streets, as well as portions of Seventh Avenue and Old Highway 7.

Audience member and former councilman Tonny Beck urged the council to begin the process now of creating a paving district for First and Pine streets.

“I have been on the council twice,” Beck said. “Pine and First have been on the six-year plan for the better part of 15 years. Paving districts take a fair amount of time. If you want to do something for 2025, you need to start now.”

Beck said First Street will not survive the additional traffic it will see during the Main Street renovation project.

“I probably own more of that assessment than anyone and I would vote yes and pay my share,” Beck said. “I don’t know how opt outs would go on First and Pine, but you have to get going.”

Councilman Brad Fiala said he agreed that those two streets needed to be replaced.

“Pine Street is going to be a problem during the detour,” Fiala said. “First Street has been a mess for years.”

Councilman Dustin Barthel agreed the city needed to start the process of creating a paving district.

“Pine Street and First Street are going to be wrecked,” Barthel said of the additional traffic that will use those two streets during the Main Street detour.

Councilman Kent Taylor said creating a paving district was definitely a high priority for him.

“We can’t keep top-coating forever,” Taylor said. “It is an infrastructure need for our town. The city can issue a district or property owners can issue a petition.”

Beck said First Street has at least 6 or 7 inches of armor coating material on it, as evidenced by the level of the street compared to its manhole covers.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said a paving district would likely be the next major project for the city after the completion of the Main Street project.

“We have had some money come off our debt service,” Schroedl said. “We just don’t know how much Main Street is actually going to cost yet.”

The city’s six-year plan, in addition to the concrete projects, also includes armor coating for portions of Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth and Oak streets, as well as asphalt paving for the city’s northern portion of Old Highway 7.

Following the discussion, the council approved the streets plan as presented.

In a related item, the council approved the first payment on the North Main Street renovation project, which includes new water and sewer lines as well as concrete paving from Highway 20 north to the wastewater treatment plant.

Work has commenced on the northern portion of the project. The council approved a payment of $219,246 toward the project.

In other business Wednesday, Ainsworth Golf Course representatives Todd Kicken and Robert Magill provided the council with an estimate for the cost of a new clubhouse and discussed potential funding sources for the project.

Kicken said the estimate for the structure is $360,125, and the course is planning for about double that amount with utility work and equipment costs to make the clubhouse move-in ready.

In addition to applying for a grant through the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, which had been previously discussed, North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said there were several potential private statewide funding sources available.

“Parks and recreation tend to score well on those applications,” Olson said.

The group also discussed potential local funding from the city’s Ainsworth Betterment Committee, the Brown County Foundation, and the Brown County Visitors Committee to assist with the cost of the project.

Kicken said the course would also try to obtain pledges from among its membership.

“If 20 people pledged $5,000, that would provide us with a big chunk,” Kicken said.

Magill said the golf course sees between 60 and 70 kids participating in its youth program, which has led to an increase in participation at both the junior high and high school levels.

“We are hosting district golf this year,” Magill said. “A lot of schools are far enough away that it should result in hotel stays, food and fuel here. We are also hosting the Sandhills Cattle Association Tournament this year.”

No action by the council was required, as the group will continue to work toward securing funding for the new clubhouse.

The council approved a request from the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department to conduct a controlled burn on a grassed area owned by the city near the KBR Solid Waste Transfer Station.

Mayor Joel Klammer said he received a call from Cameron Koch with the fire department, who indicated the department would like to hold a controlled burn at the site for training purposes.

Fiala said the fire department is required to conduct the training, but it would only be conducted when conditions allow.

There is currently a burn ban in effect for Brown County due to the dry conditions.

The council approved the controlled burn at the site when conditions allow.

Olson presented a quarterly report on the LB 840 program, which the NCDC administers for the city.

Olson said there was currently about $200,000 in the LB 840 fund. Some of that total has been allocated for projects but has not yet been spent down.

“It has been a strange year,” Olson said. “I think there are a lot of businesses waiting on the street project to be completed. I expect we will see more façade applications when the Main Street project is done.”

Olson said numerous businesses along the Highway 20 and Main Street corridor have already been updated using façade grants through the LB 840 program, which provide for half the cost of business frontage improvements up to $10,000.

Olson said she is working on several larger projects, any one of which would likely use up all of the LB 840 funds. She said several projects end up utilizing other funding sources instead of LB 840.

The council discussed the LB 840 contract between the city and the NCDC, with Barthel questioning the $60,000 provided by the city for the contract to the NCDC when only a handful of projects are approved for funding from LB 840 each year.

Barthel said the city has heard complaints at times about the ability to reach someone with NCDC or the time it takes to receive responses.

Olson said the NCDC is basically operating as a staff of one currently, with one part-time person assisting with some clerical work.

Olson said the NCDC Board voted to enter into a contract with the city of Bassett to provide LB 840 administration for that community, so the board was in the process of adding part-time staff to assist the office.

“I can’t be everywhere all the time,” Olson said.

Olson said it is difficult to keep set office hours as she is frequently meeting with prospects and attending meetings on projects.

Barthel said he and Councilman Shawn Fernau, who is also a part of the LB 840 contract subcommittee for the council, had met with a member of the NCDC Board to discuss their concerns and would await a proposal from the NCDC Board on addressing those concerns.

Both Barthel and Fernau expressed support for economic development in the community, but indicated their questions were the amount of funding coming from the LB 840 fund to support the administration contract when a limited number of applications receive approval from the council each year.

Olson said, numerous times, projects she works on that would be eligible for LB 840 funding end up using different funding sources because the LB 840 funds are limited, especially for larger projects.

“That doesn’t mean we are not putting in the work,” Olson said.

Wednesday’s agenda also included a subcommittee update on the city’s law enforcement agreement with Brown County.

Klammer said he had nothing new to report to the council regarding that agreement at this time.

During her report, Schroedl said Kevin Shaul announced his plan to retire from the streets department May 1. Schroedl said Jade Egle has been hired as the streets foreman, and the city would advertise to fill Egle’s former position as the refuse truck operator.

The council thanked Shaul for his work.

Schroedl also reported office staff member Lendi Osborn had resigned her position with the city to pursue a new opportunity.

Schroedl and Klammer both expressed their appreciation for Osborn’s work in the city office.

The city administrator reported she is still working to try and obtain the remaining reimbursement due to the city from FEMA from flood damage back in 2019. Schroedl said she believed the city was close to receiving approximately $500,000 in reimbursement to the streets department.

If that reimbursement is received, the only remaining reimbursement would be for administrative expenses handling the paperwork and reported requirements associated with the flooding.

Schroedl said the city would begin the search for summer help at the pool and park soon. She said applications for summer positions can be obtained from the city office.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. April 10.

* Stuart finishes as district speech runner-up

(Posted 11:30 a.m. March 13)

Class D2-3 District Speech
Stuart High School
Team Scores

1. Osmond, 304; 2. Stuart, 282; 3. Elgin, 126; 4. Niobrara, 56; 5. Wheeler Central, 48; 6. Cody-Kilgore, 46; 7. Verdigre, 38; 8. Keya Paha County, 0.

Stuart results (top three qualify for state)
Entertainment Speaking – 1. William Paxton; 4. Maddux Alder

Extemporaneous Speaking – 1. William Paxton; 2. Dawson Heiser

Program Oral Interpretation – 1. Lacey Paxton; 2. Elly Steinhauser

Poetry – 1. Lacey Paxton; 3. Brynn Almgren

Serious Prose – 1. Drew Schmaderer; 4. Elly Steinhauser

Persuasive Speaking – 1. Dawson Heiser; 5. Andrew Yemma

Oral Interpretation of Drama – 2. Benjamin Paxton, Drew Schmaderer, Elly Steinhauer, Gavynn Mustin and Hunter Tubbs; 3. Addisyn Ketteler, Bryer Almgren, Brynn Almgren, Maddux Alder and Megan Karo

Humorous Prose – 3. Benjamin Paxton; 6. Maddux Alder

Informative Speaking – 6. Addisyn Ketteler

* Area UN-L students receive Engler Scholarships

(Posted 8 a.m. March 13)

The Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has announced the recipients of scholarships for the 2024-25 academic year. The one-time scholarships will be awarded to over 100 students totaling $189,000 for the ensuing academic year.

Students receiving scholarships from the area are Libby Wilkins of Ainsworth; Logan Hafer of Long Pine; Ty Schlueter of Wood Lake; and Brooklyn Buell, Jaya Nelson and Jillian Buell of Bassett.

The Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program was established in 2010 as a gift from the Paul and Virginia Engler Foundation. The mission of the program is to embolden people on the pursuit of their purpose through the art and practice of entrepreneurship.

The program offers an academic minor while serving as an intersection in which students from a diverse array of majors and business interests can come together in pursuit of the American Dream.  

* Ainsworth City Council Wednesday agenda

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

Ainsworth City Council
Meeting 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 13
Ainsworth Conference Center
Agenda

  • Call to Order
  • I. Routine Business
    • Announcement of Open Meetings Act
    • Roll Call
    • Pledge of Allegiance
  • II. Consent Agenda – All items approved with the passage of one motion
    • Approve minutes from the February 14, 2024 regular meeting
    • Approval of claims
    • Treasurer’s report
    • Department head reports
  • III. Mayor’s Appointments and Report
    • Mayor’s Report
    • Mayor’s Appointments
  • IV. Public Hearings
    • 1 and 6 Year Street Improvement Plan
  • V. Old Business
    • None
  • VI. Regular Agenda
    • Consider Resolution #24-01:  Adopting a long-range six-year plan of highway, road, and street improvements based upon priority of needs
    • Ainsworth Golf Course report – Todd Kicken and Robert Magill
    • Consider a request by the Ainsworth Fire Department to conduct a controlled burn on city property
    • LB840 quarterly report from NCDC – Kristin Olson
    • Consider application for payment #1 of the Main Street Rehabilitation – North project in the amount of $219,246.80
    • Discuss and consider subcommittee recommendations regarding the Law Enforcement Agreement and Economic Development Services Agreement
    • City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Report

* Graff elected NARD Board President

(Posted 2:30 p.m. March 12)

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

Marty Graff, NARD President (Ainsworth, Nebraska)
Marty Graff of the Middle Niobrara NRD was elected president of the NARD Board and NARD Risk Pool Board. Graff has served on the Middle Niobrara NRD Board 29 years and on the NARD boards since 2018. He farms with his wife, Brenda, and sons near Ainsworth.

Ryan Reuter, NARD Vice President (Minatare, Nebraska)
Ryan Reuter of the North Platte NRD was elected vice president of the NARD Board and NARD Risk Pool Board.

Mason Hoffman, NARD Secretary-Treasurer (Juniata, Nebraska)
Mason Hoffman of the Little Blue NRD was elected secretary-treasurer of the NARD Board and NARD Risk Pool Board. He farms outside of Hastings and has served on the Little Blue NRD Board since 2016 and on the NARD boards since 2021.

Dr. Orval Gigstad, NARD Past President (Syracuse, Nebraska)
Dr. Orval Gigstad from the Nemaha NRD serves as past president of the NARD Board and NARD Risk Pool Board. He served as president from 2022-2024 and has been on the boards since 1996. Gigstad has served on the Nemaha NRD Board since 1993 and serves as chair of the National Association of Conservation Districts Northern Plains Region.

In addition to the president, vice president, secretary-treasurer and past president, the NARD Board executive committee includes Terry Martin, Legislative Committee chair representing the Upper Republican NRD, and Bob Hilger, Information and Education Committee chair representing the Lower Platte North NRD.

Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts Managers Committee
On March 6, the NRD managers elected J. Scott Sobotka, general manager of the Lower Big Blue NRD, as chair of the Managers Committee; and Wade Ellwanger, general manager of the Lower Niobrara NRD, as vice-chair of the Managers Committee.

Scott Sobotka, Lower Big Blue NRD
J. Scott Sobotka was promoted to general manager of the Lower Big Blue NRD in January 2022. He has served the district for 22 years as a land resources specialist and most recently as assistant manager.

Wade Ellwanger, Lower Niobrara NRD
Wade Ellwanger was promoted to general manager of the Lower Niobrara NRD in March 2023. Prior to his promotion, he served the district for six years as a water resources coordinator and assistant manager. He also has more than 20 years of production management experience in the ag industry.

* North Main Street project underway in Ainsworth

(Posted 2 p.m. March 12)

Due to the North Main Street construction that is occurring between Highway 20 and Seventh Street, traffic access will be temporarily halted along portions of North Main Street in Ainsworth.

Construction crews will be working south one block at a time to replace sewer and water main lines.

When the construction reaches your block, the city would advise you to access your properties through the alleys and/or parking along side streets. The city asks residents to please not park vehicles along North Main Street. Construction crews will first replace the sewer main and then come back through to replace the water main.

The city will contact residents when sewer and water services will be interrupted at your residence to disconnect/reconnect your services. The time of interruption of those services should take generally less than an hour and there will not be a cost associated to the homeowner for the reconnections.

Following the completion of the installation of the utility lines, concrete paving will be poured. The city office will contact individual homeowners and residents regarding instructions for garbage service during the construction period. Should anyone have any questions, contact the city office at 402-387-2494.

* Sandhills Care Center census rises to 27

(Posted 2 p.m. March 12)

The Sandhills Care Center now cares for 27 residents and generated a profit of $46,654 during February. However, with three pay periods falling in the month of April, the Board of Directors voted Monday not to make an additional payment on its remaining line of credit balance of $34,537.

The board had the revenue to make a payment on the credit line and wipe out the balance, but agreed to do so would mean the facility would likely just have to borrow from the line of credit again in April to fund the three-pay-period month.

The care center pays its employees every other week, so there are two months each year when the facility pays employees three times instead of two. Payroll each two weeks is typically $80,000 or more, so the facility will experience elevated expenses in April.

Board member Dr. Mel Campbell suggested holding off making a repayment to the credit line in anticipation of the higher expenses in April even though the facility was profitable in February and had a little more than $53,000 available after expenses were paid.

Board member Dennis Bauer agreed, saying, “I think we should just let it ride for a month. That way we won’t have to borrow as much.”

Administrator Penny Jacobs told the board the census in the facility had increased by two since the board’s February meeting, with 27 residents now calling the care center home. She reported three new residents were admitted since the board’s February meeting, with one resident discharged to the hospital and passing away.

Of the 27 current residents, 15 pay privately, 10 receive Medicaid assistance, one receives hospice care and one resident is Medicaid-pending.

Jacobs said 17 are residents of Ainsworth, with three from rural Brown County, one from Long Pine, five from Cherry County and one from Rock County.

Jacobs reported the facility has hired additional CNAs and is now fully staffed at that position. She said the care center is still in need of two full-time charge nurses as well as a part-time cook.

In addition to the $46,654 in profit for the month, the care center also received $26,346 in funds collected from the voter-approved bonds in both the city of Ainsworth and Brown County.

The board, with Chairman Tom Jones absent Monday, approved a contract with Dr. Kenneth Wasmund to serve as the facility’s medical director, replacing Dr. Campbell. The board approved Wasmund’s request of $1,000 monthly as compensation to serve as the medical director.

Jacobs said there were initial questions about whether the care center’s insurance or the Brown County Hospital’s insurance would cover Dr. Wasmund in his capacity as medical director. Jacobs said the care center’s insurance will cover Dr. Wasmund when he sees and treats residents in the care center.

Board member Shawn Fernau said he has felt for a long time the $350 monthly payment made to Dr. Campbell was not sufficient compensation.

Dr. Campbell said serving as the facility’s medical director includes being on call when needed, seeing residents and attending staff meetings on resident care.

The board, with Fernau abstaining, approved a quote from Fernau Construction to replace damaged flooring at the nurses’ station in the facility. Fernau said the flooring was coming up and looked nasty.

He quoted $715 to replace the flooring at the nurses’ station.

Fernau also offered to donate the labor to paint different areas of the facility’s interior if the care center purchases the paint. He said the main room could use some brightening.

Jacobs said they were leaning toward using Bulldog colors in the main area since many of the residents were big Bulldog fans.

Dr. Campbell said, since painting in the building was a maintenance cost, it did not need to be approved by the board. The board thanked Fernau for donating his time to assist with the painting.

In a final action item Monday, the board approved Board of Directors bylaws as presented. Office Manager Makenzie Crane said the bylaws reflected all changes requested by the board during its February meeting.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. April 8.

* School Board approves purchase of cafeteria tables

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

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education voted Monday to use school lunch account funds to purchase new tables for the cafeteria.

Superintendent Dale Hafer told the board the school’s lunch fund was in positive territory and the school needed to spend some of the funds to make upgrades.

“There is about $100,000 in the account and we should only carry forward about $70,000,” Hafer said. “The lunch fund has done well since making the switch to Lunchtime Solutions.”

Hafer said the board had looked at replacing the cafeteria tables in the past but then had to replace the walk-in cooler and freezer system.

Hafer said he obtained two quotes for the rectangular cafeteria tables that will allow for easier maintenance. The new tables carry a 15-year warranty.

The board, with Scott Erthum absent Monday, unanimously approved the $23,747 purchase from Shiffler Equipment.

In other business Monday, the board approved an annual contract with Educational Service Unit 17 for special education services. Hafer said the special education portion of the contract would increase by 6 percent for the 2024-25 school year due to increased staffing costs and the school having some additional need. The special education contract for 2024-25 is $695,490, up from $656,132 in the current school year.

Hafer said the district receives 80 percent reimbursement from the state for the cost of providing special education services, with approximately $100,000 of additional funds provided by the federal IDEA program.

Hafer said the $30,000 nursing contract with ESU 17 for nursing services for the entire student body was unchanged for the 2024-25 school year. The board approved both contracts.

In a final action item Monday, the board approved the review of sections 300 to 302 of its board policies. Hafer said no major changes were being proposed, so a simple review of the policies was sufficient.

Board President Brad Wilkins told Hafer he has done a good job keeping the board’s policies updated and in compliance with state statutes.

High School Principal Steve Dike reported the school received the Class D-1 Sportsmanship Award from the Nebraska School Activities Association during the boys state basketball tournament.

“This is a community award,” Dike said. “From the players to the student section to the fans, hat’s off to the community. I couldn’t be more proud of the kids.”

Hafer shared an email he received from someone from outside the area who attended the state basketball tournament complimenting the Ainsworth team for its sportsmanship and behavior.

“The kids showed a lot of class,” Hafer said. “The cheerleaders, the band, everyone did a nice job. It was a great experience.”

During his report, Activities Director Luke Wroblewski reported a shot clock would be implemented for all classes of high school varsity basketball for the 2024-25 season. He said the cost to purchase the shot clock and lighted backboards would be between $5,000 and $7,000, with additional costs for installation. He said the school would need a separate shot clock operator.

Hafer reported he was in the process of applying for a grant from the Nebraska Department of Education to upgrade the district’s security camera and door locking system. Hafer said the application, if approved, would install a digital security camera system and provide additional door access options.

He said the total cost of the upgrades is approximately $97,000.

“It would be nice to get half of the cost awarded or more, but it might be an all or nothing application,” Hafer said.

Hafer reported, after 24 years with Ainsworth Community Schools, custodian Nick Krause had submitted a letter of resignation effective Aug. 31 as he planned to retire.

“I know he loves this place,” Hafer said. “We are excited for him to be able to enjoy retirement.”

The superintendent said he planned to begin advertising for a custodian in the spring to start work during the summer.

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

* Area students participate in district speech meets

(Posted 7 a.m. March 12)

Class C2-3 District Speech
Hartington-Newcastle
Team Results

1. Hartington-Newcastle, 340; 2. Ponca, 130; 3. Hartington Cedar Catholic, 116; 4. Bloomfield, 94; 5. Ainsworth, 80; 6. Summerland, 62; 7. Boyd County, 58; 8. Neligh-Oakdale, 20.

Ainsworth Results (top three qualify for state)
Serious Prose – 4. Taylor Allen

Persuasive Speaking – 4. Taylor Allen; 5. Hannah Beel

Duet Acting – 6. Hannah Beel and Puridy Haley
Extemporaneous Speaking – 6. Erick Hitchcock

Oral Interpretation of Drama – 6. Brianna Starkey, Kiley Orton and Puridy Haley

Humorous Prose – 6. Willa Flynn

Poetry – 6. Brianna Starkey

Boyd County Results
Program Oral Interpretation – 3. Elizabeth Kersch

Duet Acting – 3. Elizabeth Kersch and Zoe Kaczor

Entertainment Speaking – 4. McKenzie Snyder; 5. Brooklyn Eckert

Class C1-5 District Speech
West Holt High School
Team Results
1. Boone Central, 302; 2. Battle Creek, 216; 3. West Holt, 162; 4. West Point-Beemer, 104; 5. Elkhorn Valley, 48; 6. Norfolk Catholic, 40; 7. Stanton, 18; 8. Lutheran High Northeast, 10.

West Holt Results (top three qualify for state)
Humorous Prose – 1. Mary Hamilton; 4. Teagan Butterfield

Poetry – 1. Abigail Thiele; 6. Iris Sanchez

Entertainment Speaking – 2. Drew Martin

Persuasive Speaking – 3. Lily Vogel

Informative Speaking – 3. Sidney Burkinshaw; 6. Madison Kratz

Oral Interpretation of Drama – 3. Abigail Thiele, Carter Gotschall, Mary Hamilton, Nate Cambras and Sidney Burkinshaw

Serious Prose – 5. Madysen Kramer

Duet Acting – 6. Aubrei Clouse and Samantha Coffin

* Several search warrants executed Friday at Stuart

(Posted 4 p.m. March 11)

The Holt County Sheriff’s Department and the O’Neill Police Department, with the assistance of the Nebraska State Patrol and the Nebraska Brand Committee, executed six search warrants in Stuart Friday.

A search warrant was served at a fifth wheel camper located at 221 N. Main St. A handgun and four rifles were allegedly found during a search of the camper. Christopher Deepe, age 48, of Broken Bow, was arrested on a charge of Possession of a Deadly Weapon by a Prohibited Person and was transported to the Holt County Jail.

A search warrant was served at a business located at 221 N. Main St. A rifle was allegedly found during the search. Tyler Bain, 41, was arrested during a search of his residence at 203 E. Fourth St. on a charge of Possession of a Deadly Weapon by a Prohibited Person and was transported to the Holt County Jail.

Search warrants were also served at 302 E. Third St., at a fifth wheel camper located at 219 S. Main St., Lot #7, and at 219 S. Main St. Lot #5. Timothy Johnson, 48, was arrested on charges of Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Marijuana less than 1 ounce, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person. Johnson was transported to the Holt County Jail.

* Area entities receive NDEE grants

(Posted 10:30 a.m. March 11)

Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy Director Jim Macy announced the awarding of $6.7 million in grants to support 132 projects across the state that promote waste and litter reduction and recycling.

The grants are provided through NDEE’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Grants program and the Litter Reduction and Recycling Grants program. The two programs help fund litter and waste reduction projects, recycling programs, and pay costs for scrap tire cleanups and collections for household hazardous waste, electronic waste, and pharmaceuticals.

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

The city of Atkinson received a $37,644 grant to collect up to 200 tons of scrap tires in the community. O’Neill picked up a $115,700 grant to clean up 600 tons of scrap tires.

The Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District at Valentine received a $59,665 grant to renovate and implement green infrastructure projects at the district office headquarters. The Upper Loup Natural Resources District at Thedford received a $27,600 grant to assist with the cost of transporting recycling trailers and collection totes from sites across the district.

Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive funds are generated by a fee on solid waste disposed of in landfills, an annual retail business sales fee, and a fee assessed on the sale of new tires. Grants are provided to local integrated waste management projects, and can include recycling systems, household hazardous waste collections, and composting. For 2024, 22 projects totaling $2,259,601 were funded under the Business Fee and Disposal Fee categories.

Also included in the Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive program are Scrap Tire funds, which are generated from a $1 fee on new tires purchased in Nebraska. In 2024, 59 grants totaling $1,837,862 were awarded. These grants will fund 28 scrap tire cleanup events across Nebraska. Enough funding was awarded to cleanup up 5,461 tons of scrap tires. Funds will also be used to partially reimburse the cost of many products made from recycled scrap tires, such as artificial turf football, soccer, baseball, and softball fields, athletic running tracks, and playground surfacing.

Litter Reduction and Recycling funds are generated from a fee charged to certain manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of products that commonly contribute to litter. The program has provided grants annually since 1979. In 2024, 51 litter grants totaling $2,600,011 were awarded in the public education, cleanup, and recycling categories.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

March 3

  • Received a report of a loose dog on Woodward Street. The owner was found and reunited with their dog.

March 4

  • Brown County Ambulance responded to a lift assist request in Ainsworth. Patient denied transport for further medical treatment.
  • Brown County Ambulance responded to senior living facility and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Issued a written warning for speeding during a traffic stop on Highway 20.

March 5

  • Issued 2 Citations for speeding 51mph and 45mph in a 35mph zone within Ainsworth city limits.
  • Issued violation citations for no proof of insurance and no valid registration on Highway 20 traffic stops.
  • Released a male subject from the Brown County Jail after serving a district court commitment sentence.
  • Responded to a traffic complaint of a reckless driver on Highway 20, near the Highway 183 junction.
  • Responded to a report of a small “fender bender” on North Main Street. Damage was minimal and no accident report was done.
  • Responded to a report of suspected animal abuse/neglect. No citations were issued at this time.

March 6

  • Received a report of loose dogs on Ash Street in Ainsworth. The owner was notified, and they picked up their dogs.
  • Received a report of cattle out on Highway 7. The owner was called and removed them from the roadway.
  • Received a parking complaint about vehicles parked blocking the alley near Maple Street. Contact was made with the drivers who agreed to move.
  • Issued a written warning for speeding on Highway 7.

March 7

  • No reportable news on this day.

March 8

  • Issued a citation for speeding and no valid registration on Meadville Ave 69mph in a 50mph zone. Another citation was issued for speeding on Highway 20 for 80mph in a 65 mph.  Written warnings were issued for driving left of center and improper or defective vehicle lighting.
  • Received a report of cattle out on South Pine Ave. The owner was called and they removed them from the roadway.
  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing near Highway 7 and 877th Road.

March 9

  • Issued a citation for misuse of a learner’s permit and failure to yield. A written warning was also issued for driving on shoulder of highway.
  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing on Highway 7, near the Richardson Road intersection.
  • Received a report of a loose dog in Long Pine. All information was transferred to their animal enforcement officer.
  • Received a report of a pony and some calves on the loose on Meadville Ave. The owner was called and removed them from the roadway.
  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity on Oak Street in Ainsworth. No criminal activity was found at this time.

WEEKLY SUMMARY TOTALS

INCIDENT REPORTS:  8

PHONE CALLS: 78

911 CALLS:  3

VIN INSPECTIONS:  3

HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS: 2

PAPERS SERVED: 4

*Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 1:30 p.m. March 4)

February 25th
• Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Long Pine. The patient refused transport.
• An individual was booked into the Brown County Jail for a Court Commitment.

February 26th
• A Nebraska male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail for Domestic Assault.

February 27th
• An individual was released on bond from the Brown County Jail.
• Responded to a request for a welfare check on an infant in Ainsworth. The infant was located and found safe at this time.
• Received a report of suspected adult abuse/neglect. This is an ongoing investigation.
• Received a report of cattle standing on the roadway on Meadville Ave. The owners were quickly identified and removed them from the roadway.
• Aided a motorist on Highway 20 in need of a tow truck.

February 28th
• Released a male subject from the Brown County Jail after completing a court commitment sentence.
• Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing at 877th Rd and Highway 7.
• The Brown County Sheriff’s Office and Brown County Ambulance responded to a two-vehicle accident at 6th and Main Street in Ainsworth. Both drivers refused medical assistance.
• Responded to a request for a welfare check at a rural Brown County address. The subject was located and reported safe at this time.
• Served a no trespassing order to a rural Brown County resident.

February 29th
• Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a report of suspicious activity on South Main Street in Ainsworth. No citations were issued at this time.
• Johnstown and Ainsworth Fire Departments responded to a request for mutual aid assistance for a grass fire near Pony Lake on Highway 83. Trucks were out of the barn from approximately 2pm to shortly after 6pm.

March 1st
• Officer issued a Citation for speeding 82-mph in a 65-mph zone. Two additional warnings were issued for speeding on this day.
• Released a male subject from the Brown County Jail after serving a court commitment sentence.

March 2nd
• During a traffic stop a citation was issued a citation for failure to stop and no proof of insurance. A warning was also issued to a Nebraska driver for speeding on this day.

* Fire in Cherry County burns 283 acres

(Posted 7:15 a.m. March 2)

A wildfire on the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge near Pony Lake was reported to the Region 26 Emergency Management & 911 Dispatch office at 2:07 p.m. Thursday. As of Friday afternoon, the fire had burned 283 acres of Sandhills grassland.

Although the point of origin is unknown at this time, the wildfire began off Highway 83 near mile marker 180 north of Brownlee Road.

Fire personnel were successful in holding the fire within the burned area Thursday night. Fire lines were reinforced Friday to hold the fire within the burned area.

Responding to the fire were two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fire engines, the Nebraska Forest Service engine, Cherry County Emergency Management, and Volunteer Fire Departments from Ainsworth, Cody, Kilgore, Purdum, Thedford, Valentine, and Wood Lake. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

* Area students selected for KHOP program

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

The University of Nebraska at Kearney is once again welcoming a record-breaking group of students into its signature health science program.

A total of 72 high school seniors were recently accepted into the Kearney Health Opportunities Program for fall 2024. These students come from communities across the state – Bridgeport to Norfolk to Hebron – and represent the future of rural health care in Nebraska.

Among the students selected for the KHOP program are Mason Hagan of Bassett, who plans to major in physical therapy; Addison Karo of Stuart, who plans to major in medicine; and Sidney Burkinshaw of Atkinson, who plans to major in medical laboratory science;

This year’s class is the program’s largest-ever, surpassing the 56 students admitted in 2023.

“It’s very promising and exciting to have such a highly talented group of students who are dedicated to practicing health care in rural Nebraska,” said Peggy Abels, director of UNK Health Sciences. “The KHOP program is an important part of the rural health initiatives on the UNK campus that are designed to alleviate the health care workforce shortages in our state. We look forward to working with these future Lopers as they prepare to serve their communities as health care professionals.”

A partnership between UNK and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, KHOP was launched in 2010 as a pipeline program designed to grow the state’s health care workforce by recruiting and training students from rural Nebraska who are committed to practicing in these communities as professionals. The program offers financial assistance, academic support and professional development opportunities, with many participants receiving full-tuition scholarships to attend UNK and guaranteed admission to UNMC.

KHOP members can study in the fields of dental hygiene, dentistry, medical laboratory science, medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistant and radiography.

Participants also receive a $3,000 room waiver through the KHOP Learning Community. A requirement for freshmen, the one-year residential learning community gives students a chance to explore various health care careers while receiving support and guidance as they transition to college. KHOP members meet with health care providers and tour medical facilities throughout the region, better preparing them for professional school and beyond.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 3 p.m. Feb. 29)

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

Jose A. Perdomo Bravo, age 29, of Bolivar, Mo., charged with attempting a Class IV felony, sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for three days served.

Maggie M. Carone, 34, of Northglenn, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75; also charged with driving too fast for conditions, $100; no valid registration, $25.

Lina L. Dantonio, 41, of Long Pine, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Benjamin V. Carper, 20, of Thayne, Wyo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Michael A. Douglas, 21, of Ainsworth, no operator’s license, $75; no proof of insurance, $100; no registration, $25.

Courtney W. Sears, 75, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for one day served, driver’s license revoked for six months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Luis F. Perez III, 34, of Bassett, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Mary A. Nisley, 26, of Statesville, N.C., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Wojciech Szaflarski, 43, of Lockport, Ill., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Wallace E. Wiebesiek, 61, of Ainsworth, improper or defective vehicle lighting, $25; no valid registration, $25.

Kristie G. Hellzen, 34, of Maple Grove, Minn., attempting a Class IV felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500.

Brooke I. Bennett, 33, of Ainsworth, committing child abuse negligently, sentenced to six months of probation.

Brian T. Sitting-Eagle, 50, of Omaha, first offense driving under the influence, $500, 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.

Holdyn S. Fhuere, 19, of North Platte, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Rachel L. Collatos, 24, of Long Pine, leaving the scene of an accident/failing to furnish information, $100 and ordered to pay $18.75 in restitution.

Brady J. Ford, 17, of Lake Wilson, Minn., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Casper M. Rehkopf, 24, of Long Pine, no registration in vehicle, $25.

David J. Clark, 64, of Long Pine, violating a stop or yield sign, $75; failure to wear a seat belt, $25.

Christopher J. Walnofer, 51, of Ainsworth, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Evan K. Atkinson, 33, of Long Pine, attempting a Class 1 misdemeanor, $150; second degree criminal trespassing, $150.

Dalton L. Cole, 21, of Ainsworth, attempting a Class 1 misdemeanor, $300.

Ryan E. Happold, 14, of Ainsworth, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Christian Thompson, 20, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Mckenzie S. Brown, 22, of Ainsworth, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

James E. Worden, 27, of Ainsworth, second degree criminal trespassing, $100.

Justino A. Ortiz Vargas, 33, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Spencer T. Sinner, 33, of Sargent, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

* Brown County issues burn ban

(Posted 12:30 p.m. Feb. 29)

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala has issued a burn ban for Brown County effective immediately.

Fiala said dry conditions and dormant vegetation coupled with low relative humidity levels and strong winds in the forecast led to the ban being issued.

The ban includes the burning of any brush piles, leaves, bale wrap or yard waste and also bans open pit burning and campfires. No burn permits will be issued until conditions improve.

Fiala said he would provide notice when conditions have improved to the point that the ban can be lifted.

* Burn ban now in effect for Keya Paha County

(Posted noon Feb. 29)

Keya Paha County Emergency Manager Jessica Coyle, in consultation with area fire departments, has issued a burn ban effective immediately for Keya Paha County.

“After consulting with the local fire chief and other officials, the consensus was to issue a burn ban in Keya Paha County until we receive significant moisture, or the conditions change,” Coyle said. “This ban applies to all permitted burning and not to gas grills or barrels. Please use caution and have a garden hose ready when using anything that could cause a spark. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to the Keya Paha County Emergency Management Department or your local fire chief.  We appreciate your cooperation.”

The ban includes the burning of brush piles, leaves, bale wrap or yard waste and also bans open pit burning and campfires.

Grills, fireplaces, encircled gas fire pits, wood burning stoves and secured burn barrels with spark arresters are permitted during the burn ban.

Anyone violating the burn ban could be held liable for any damage caused by a fire.

Landowners are encouraged to keep stock tanks full to help supply water to fire departments should the need arise. The Keya Paha County Emergency Management office and area fire departments appreciate the public’s assistance in adhering to the burn ban.

The ban will be lifted when conditions improve and the emergency management office will provide notice when the ban is no longer in effect.

* Betty’s Way Fire now 82 percent contained

(Posted 2:30 p.m. Feb. 28)

Firefighters continued to make progress on the Betty’s Way Fire north of North Platte. Containment Wednesday increased to 82% with approximately 60 people working on managing the large and complex wildfire.

Tuesday’s weather played a major factor in that snow and moisture assisted in suppression efforts, yet wind hampered some suppression tactics. Wednesday’s weather allowed crews to aggressively continue suppression efforts. Fire managers are monitoring fire weather concerns throughout the weekend with the potential of increased winds and decreased relative humidity.

Current operations are focusing on the east area of the fire. Heavy timber like trees have been impacted and continue to burn and put off smoke. In Division K, hand crews and fire engines are aggressively engaged in suppressing timber. In Division R, firefighters are using engines and hand tools to increase the depth of the fire perimeter, eliminating any heat that poses risks to the containment line. In Division Z, firefighters are patrolling the perimeter and confirming there are no other threats to controlled lines. In Division A and Division H, fire engines are patrolling the perimeters making sure the containment line will hold.

Fire managers are currently evaluating primary residences, outbuildings and agriculture/ranch infrastructure to determine the impact.

Nebraska’s Incident Management Team, based on Governor Jim Pillen’s state of emergency declaration, has provided assistance to local agencies with fire suppression. Wednesday’s efforts also included developing a plan once the fire is contained. Pockets of heat and fuels will continue to burn within the perimeter for several days. Smoke will be visible within the fire footprint, but will not pose risks to the fire line and cause it to escape. Fire managers hope to make progress which should allow minimal staff through the night and into the weekend.

* Betty’s Way Fire has burned more than 70,000 acres

(Posted 12:45 p.m. Feb. 27)

At 10:32 a.m. Monday, North Platte’s 911 center received a phone call reporting a wildfire from a resident on Betty’s Way, approximately 8.6 miles northeast of North Platte.

North Platte Fire Department responded with three stations and arrived on scene within 12 minutes. Fire managers established immediate suppression tactics and named the fire the Betty’s Way Fire. North Platte requested mutual aid through the Mid-Plains Mutual Aid District which is comprised of 15 area volunteer fire departments.

Due to red flag warnings and wind speeds in excess of 40 mph, the fire grew rapidly to the east. Evacuations were issued for areas ahead of the fire. As of Tuesday, no injuries were reported.

Additional requests were made to the State of Nebraska and Governor Jim Pillen declared an emergency disaster. This provided additional support from Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, Nebraska Forest Service, Nebraska State Fire Marshal, and cooperating agencies from across the state. Governor Pillen activated the Nebraska Incident Management Team to support the local fire managers on scene.

Region 51 Emergency Management ordered additional support from many Nebraska fire departments. Nebraska IMT began operations on Tuesday to assist in managing additional resources throughout the state. The Nebraska National Guard and Nebraska State Patrol are assisting with aerial support and drone needs.

As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, Betty’s Way Fire is 71,022 acres. The fire is estimated to be 72 percent contained. Fire managers are currently working on assessing the work performed through the past 24 hours. Two primary residences and numerous outbuildings have been destroyed. The incident management team is currently working with ranchers, farmers and residents to address any needs they have. Fire Managers are actively working with the American Red Cross and various state agencies to provide assistance to those affected by the Betty’s Way Fire.

The Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Agency has determined the fire was human caused, resulting from mowing operations.

* Wildfire burning in Lincoln, Custer counties 

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Feb. 27)

Local officials in Custer and Lincoln counties have declared emergencies and requested state assistance due to a large wildfire affecting the area, closing several roads, requiring multiple evacuations and requiring the response of multiple volunteer fire departments from around the region.

The North Platte/Lincoln County Emergency Operations Center was activated and has been monitoring the situation and coordinating resources since the fire started.

The fire, which originated north of North Platte from an unknown cause, is burning on private lands in Lincoln and Custer counties. Governor Jim Pillen approved a state disaster, which allows funds from the Governor’s Emergency Fund to be used to assist in the response.

At the request of county officials, Nebraska’s Incident Management Team, as well as members of the state’s Wildland Incident Response Assistant Team, have been deployed and will assist local responders in the coming days.

Two National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters will be deployed to the fire and begin operations to drop water on the fire beginning Tuesday. Additional aircraft will be used to map the fire to assist teams as they plan the best strategy to fight the fire.

Area fire departments provided assistance, with crews from the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Springview, Bassett and Newport volunteer fire departments making their way south Monday afternoon.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Feb. 26)

February 18

  • Received a report of possible sale of illegal substances. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report of damage that occurred to a guard rail on Highway 183, near Keller Park.
  • Officer issued a Citation for defective Lighting.
  • Officer issued a Citation for defective Lighting.

February 19

  • Officer responded to a request for a welfare check at a rural property in Brown County. The individual was taken into emergency protective custody and transferred to a mental health facility.
  • Officers issued a Citation for defective Lighting.
  • Officers issued a Citation for leaving the scene of an accident.

February 20

  • Officer responded to a complaint regarding trash and vehicles at a residence on Osborn St. A written warning was issued to the property owners to correct.

February 21

  • Officer responded to a request for traffic control for a cattle crossing West of Ainsworth.
  • A male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail to serve a court commitment.
  • Officer responded to a report of an unauthorized vehicle on the cowboy trail. A verbal warning was issued to the driver.
  • Officers responded to a request for a welfare check on an Individual on Hwy 7 in Ainsworth. The individual was not found in Brown County.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported one individual from a facility in Ainsworth to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from a rural Brown County address. An Individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital

February 22

  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office responded to a request for assistance from another Agency.
  • A male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail to serve a court commitment sentence.
  • Officer responded to a report of harassment on a male subject in Ainsworth. Both parties were issued a verbal warning to have no future contact.

February 23

  • Officer issued a citation for speeding 87 mph in a 65 mph zone.
  • Officer issued a citation for speeding 46 mph in a 35 mph zone.

February 24

  • Officer responded to a call for motorist assist in Long Pine.
  • Officers responded to a report of a verbal disturbance in Long Pine.

WEEKLY SUMMARY TOTALS
INCIDENT REPORTS:  15
PHONE CALLS: 134
911 CALLS:  7
VIN INSPECTIONS:  7
HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS:  7
PAPERS SERVED: 2

* Ainsworth to play Axtell Saturday for district title

(Posted 8:45 a.m. Feb. 23)

After defeating Boyd County Thursday, the Ainsworth boys basketball team advanced to the Class D-1 District Finals.

Ainsworth (17-7) is the No. 6 seed in the district finals, and will host No. 11 Axtell (18-6) at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, in McAndrew Gymnasium.

KBRB’s pregame show begins at approximately 4:45 p.m. Saturday on FM 92.7 and streaming live at www.kbrb.net. 

* Commissioners approve charge for removing vehicles

(Posted 3:45 p.m. Feb. 20)

After discussions that spanned several meetings, the Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a resolution that sets a $500 minimum charge if the county roads department has to remove a vehicle from a roadway during inclement weather that is creating a hazard for other motorists.

The resolution authorizes the roads department to remove a vehicle creating a hazard in conjunction with the sheriff’s department, with the vehicle owner charged $500 per hour with a minimum $500 charge.

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said the roads department would only be called in to remove a vehicle in the event private towing companies cannot reach the site.

“We aren’t going to be a towing company,” Dailey said. “It is similar to people burning when there is a burn ban and starting a fire. They are cited for any damages.”

Commissioner Buddy Small said the resolution is not intended to punish people trying to travel during emergencies or when trying to feed livestock.

“It is the people out joyriding,” Small said.

Small cited an instance where the county roads department had to rescue two women in their 20s during extreme cold who became stranded when they had no reason to be traveling on county roads.

Small said he heard concerns from a resident about people being stranded and not receiving assistance. Small said that would never be the case, but people would be charged for the county roads crew having to put themselves at risk.

Commissioner Dennis Bauer said, during an emergency, the county will go out to assist people who become stranded.

Motorists who become stranded and have to either be rescued or have their vehicle removed would be issued a citation that includes the county’s charge. If the fee is paid to the county the citation can be dropped.

In other roads items Tuesday, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said he included the purchase of a belly dump trailer in his 2023-24 budget and told the board he planned to advertise for bids for the piece of equipment.

Turpin said he budgeted $100,000 for the belly dump trailer, but he said the estimated cost might now end up being closer to the $60,000 to $80,000 range.

Turpin said he had traveled to South Dakota to look at a couple sites where the county could potentially purchase rock. He said a company north of Colome has three-quarter inch to 1 inch rock at a cost of $22.50 per ton. Turpin said he would like to try and get some of that rock next year and potentially mix it with clay to improve road surfaces.

Turpin said he appreciated the public’s patience as gravel roads go through their annual thawing period.

“We have been out blading but it is a work in progress,” the highway superintendent said. “We are hoping the sun shines to dry out the roads. It always gets bad during the spring thaw.”

The commissioners opened sealed bids for armor coating county asphalt roads, approving a bid of $18,747 per mile submitted by Topkote of Yankton, S.D. Figgins Construction of Red Cloud submitted a bid of $21,296 per mile, which was rejected. The county is also responsible for supplying the gravel for the armor coating.

Turpin said Dan Osborne’s crew with Topkote had been good to work with in the past and was willing to take its equipment out into the remote stretches of the county even if it was only to armor coat a small area.

Turpin said the roads department budgets to armor coat between 12 and 15 miles of paved county roads annually.

In other business, Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum discussed noxious weed treatment in the county. He said he read the minutes of a previous meeting regarding the board’s concerns on road ditches being sprayed.

Erthum said there are state regulations he has to follow to keep the county in compliance, and those regulations sometimes compete with his ability to spray ditches.

“I work hard to keep the county in compliance, but I am not making you happy with the road ditches and I want to fix that,” Erthum said.

Erthum said, when he is contacted regarding noxious weeds located in county road right of way, he attempts to get out there the next day to spray.

“We have about four noxious weeds that bloom in the ditches,” Erthum said.

Those weeds include leafy spurge, followed by thistles, purple loosestrife and a second bloom of leafy spurge.

“I keep a record of where we have found infestations in road ditches,” Erthum said. “If people contact you, get a hold of me.”

Dailey said he receives complaints about ditches in the southern part of the county. He asked how much of Erthum’s time is spent on the Niobrara River corridor.

Erthum said he writes grant applications in the spring for the river, but otherwise the river does not take up much of his time. The only time in the summer is spent coordinating with the helicopter crew contracted for aerial spraying.

Bauer said he was open to the possibility of getting a second person certified to assist in spraying ditches for a month or two in the summer.

“We have people spend thousands to spray and then they see weeds in the county road ditches and they get upset,” Bauer said.

Erthum said, “I completely understand. I encourage people to call me if they see anything. I want to make it right and do what you want me to do.”

He said he would accept any help the county is willing to provide, but it may be difficult finding someone willing to become certified for one or two months of work.

Erthum said the Legislature has appropriated additional funding for noxious weed control and has expanded the boundary for spraying assistance from 100 feet of a river channel to the entire flood plain so there may be an ability to assist additional landowners.

Erthum thanked the commissioners for their letter of recommendation to the state association and reported he had been elected as the association’s vice president. He will serve in that role for two years before becoming president of the state association for two years.

In courthouse improvement items, the board approved having Environmental Services of Norfolk test the air quality in several areas of the courthouse for the presence of mold spores or other contaminants.

Bauer said the county has possibly had some issues in the courthouse.

Small said having the air quality tested would determine if there were any issues the county would need to address. The tests will be conducted in several offices on both floors of the courthouse.

The cost included $71 per hour with an estimated two hours of work to complete the testing, $60 per test and $325 in travel expenses.

Small said he had a meeting scheduled for March 6 with Dave Patton with Bats to Rats of Lincoln to address a bat issue in the attic of the courthouse building.

Bauer said the North Central District Health Department had received more than 40 complaints in the north central part of the state regarding humans having potential contact with bats. Bauer said, if a bat is found in someone’s home after they have been asleep and the bat cannot be captured, the rule of thumb is to assume that there has been a potential exposure to rabies and seek preventative treatment.

Small said Patton would inspect the courthouse and provide the county with options for allowing the bats an avenue to leave the attic in the spring but then not be able to return into the building.

The county rejected the lone bid received to purchase a 2000 Ford ambulance from the Brown County Ambulance Association. The lone bid of $1,000 submitted by Grant Kobes was rejected upon the recommendation of members of the ambulance association, who indicated they believed the ambulance was worth more than $1,000. The association will readvertise in an effort to obtain additional bids. One bid was submitted after the deadline. It was not opened since it was received after the advertised deadline.

The board rejected a proposal submitted by Lengemann CPA and Associates to handle the county’s annual audit. The three-year quote submitted by the company was higher than the quote approved during a previous board meeting.

The commissioners approved a NIRMA insurance renewal questionnaire as presented that was filled out by department heads.

The board discussed with department heads the potential for implementing a time management system. While department heads present were in favor of implementing the system to track the time worked by hourly employees, discussion centered on integrating the system without a major interruption to current pay periods.

The commissioners will hold a special meeting at 8 a.m. Friday to open bids on an improvement project at the sheriff’s department. The next regular meeting is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. March 5.

* Traffic Accidents

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

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated two motor vehicle accidents that occurred in early February.

According to the just-released reports, at 12:13 p.m. Feb. 2, a collision occurred in a parking lot off Highway 20 between a 2001 Ford F-150, driven by a 21-year-old Ainsworth woman, and a 2016 Ford Fusion, driven by a 51-year-old Ainsworth man.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the F-150 was estimated at $300. The Fusion sustained approximately $1,500 damage.

The sheriff’s department investigated a vehicle-deer collision that occurred Feb. 4.

According to the report, at 6:43 p.m. on Highway 183 near milepost 202, a 2015 Chevy Traverse, driven by an 82-year-old Ainsworth man, was traveling south in dense fog when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.

Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $1,500.

* Brown County Commissioners Tuesday agenda

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Feb. 19)

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

Approve minutes of the 2-6-2024 Commissioner meeting.

Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

Resolution regarding emergency assistance in inclement weather – Board

Proposal submitted from Lengemann CPA and Associates for County Audit – Clerk

NIRMA Insurance Renewal Questionnaire – Clerk

Bat removal – Small

Proposal to test air quality in Courthouse – Small

Courthouse hallway flooring maintenance buffing and sealing/polishing – Clerk

Time Management System – Dailey

Approve Claims

Correspondence – Central Nebraska Economic Development District

1:25   Dan Zwiebel – Comments regarding the proposed charges relating to emergency assistance in inclement weather – Zwiebel

1:30     Open sealed bids for Armor Coating – Turpin

1:45     Broadband updates from Nextlink Internet – Ebony Cooksey via phone call

2:00   Open Sealed Bids for sale of Ambulance – Fiala/Goodloe

2:05   Scott Erthum – Annual Report

Public Comment

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

February 11

  • Officer issued a Citation for improper/defective lighting.
  • Officer issued a Citation for speeding. 81 mph in a 65 mph zone.
  • Officer issued a Citation for speeding. 82 mph in a 65 mph zone.
  • BCSO booked one individual into the Brown County jail for Driving under suspension.
  • One Individual was released on Bond from the Brown County Jail.

February 12

  • Nothing to report

February 13

  • Officer responded to a call in reference to a Harassment claim in Long Pine.
  • Officers responded to a call in reference to Cattle being out on 881st The owner was notified, and cattle secured.
  • Officer responded to a civil matter in Long Pine.
  • One individual was booked into the Brown County Jail for Court Commitment.

February 14

  • Officer responded to a call in reference to individual trespassing.
  • Officer responded to a report of Suspicious Activity on 2nd Street in Ainsworth.
  • Officer responded to a report of Terroristic threats on 2nd St in Ainsworth.

February 15

  • Officer Issued a Citation for no Operators license and no proof of insurance.

February 16

  • Officer Issued a Citation for No Valid Registration.
  • Officer responded to a request for a civil Standby on First Street in Ainsworth.
  • Officer responded to a request for a civil Standby on 429th Ave in Ainsworth.
  • Officer responded to a call from a local business in reference to an accident in their parking lot.

February 17

  • Officer Issued a Citation for Speeding, 80mph in a 65mph zone.
  • Officer Issued a Citation for Improper/Defective lighting.

WEEKLY SUMMARY TOTALS

INCIDENT REPORTS:  12

PHONE CALLS: 115

911 CALLS:  4

VIN INSPECTIONS: 2

HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS:  3

PAPERS SERVED: 6

* North Main Street renovation work to begin soon

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 15)

Work will begin soon on North Main Street north of Highway 20 as part of a major renovation in the city in 2024. During Wednesday’s Ainsworth City Council meeting, City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said Myers Construction has been moving pipe and equipment into the area.

“They found an issue right at the treatment plant so we already have a change order,” Schroedl said. “They will be working near the treatment plant for the first couple weeks before they start moving south.”

The project is being conducted in conjunction with a renovation of Highway 7 in Ainsworth by the Nebraska Department of Transportation from the Highway 20 junction south to the south side of the city.

Schroedl said the north portion of the project needs to be completed before the NDOT project gets underway. She said the city would send out information to residents of North Main Street soon regarding logistics for the project and any potential interruptions in utility services.

When the NDOT portion of the project begins, Schroedl said the contractor would start at the Highway 20 junction and work to the south.

The city administrator said she and the engineering company would work to coordinate both projects for the continuity of utility services for residents and businesses.

In a related action item Wednesday, the City Council approved a construction management contract with the Central Nebraska Economic Development District to handle the grant reporting on the project.

Amber Ross with CNEDD said the contract would include managing Davis-Bacon Act requirements, reviewing payroll and interviewing workers. Ross said the contract with CNEDD is paid using grant funds.

In other business, the council gave Schroedl the green light to submit an application to the Brown County Foundation for potential grant assistance with the city’s portion of the Main Street renovation project.

“I just wanted to make sure you were on board,” Schroedl said. “We did not receive any grants for the south portion of the project. It is mostly aesthetic, so there are not a lot of big grant opportunities. This would fit within the purview of the foundation.”

Councilman Kent Taylor, who serves on the Brown County Foundation Board, said the foundation typically has about $80,000 in grant funds to award annually toward various community improvement projects.

Mayor Joel Klammer, who has also previously served on the foundation board, suggested segmenting the cost for the city’s portion of the renovation project and requesting assistance from the foundation for a specific item.

“Give them some options and different portions of the project they may be interested in supporting,” Klammer said.

The council also discussed the potential to add decorative lighting to the first block of North Main Street north of Highway 20 to the Ainsworth Public Library. Decorative lighting is currently not included in the north portion of the project that is not part of the NDOT renovation.

The council approved a quote of $1.67 per square yard for armor coating submitted by Top Kote of Yankton, S.D.

Schroedl said the cost for the armor coating oil and application was up from $1.60 last year. The city also furnishes the gravel for the armor coating.

“We budget $65,000 each year,” Schroedl said. “That used to get us 30 blocks. Now it only does 20-some blocks as the price has gone up.”

Schroedl said the city split the armor coating work between two budget years last year and was able to get more than 30 blocks armor coated. The work typically gets done in the fall.

Councilman Dustin Barthel asked if the city needed to go out for bids for the armor coating work.

Schroedl said another company did some armor coating work for the city following the 2019 flooding, but the work was not done well. She said the city had been satisfied with the work done by Top Kote.

The council determined the city was only locking in the price for the armor coating and not agreeing to a certain amount of work in approving the price per yard. By locking in the price per yard now, the council avoids the potential of oil prices increasing as they typically do during the summer months.

Councilman Brad Fiala said he was satisfied with the work Top Kote has done for the city. He said spending money on armor coating was not an ideal situation, but if the city didn’t armor coat some of the streets they would be lost.

“We need to get a paving district started,” Fiala said.

Schroedl said, after the Main Street renovation project is completed, the city would begin looking at the creation of a paving district to improve some of the asphalt streets in the city that are in poor condition.

The council also approved an administrative subdivision requested by property owner Steve Salzman for ground just north of the city near the wastewater treatment plant.

Schroedl said the original tract is 10.68 acres and the subdivision would create a separate tract of 2.15 acres. She said the property is outside the city limits but is within the city’s one-mile zoning jurisdiction.

In a final action item Wednesday, the council approved the mayor’s recommended reappointments of Kathy Klammer, Jim Arens and Bob Maxwell to the LB 840 Loan Committee for three-year terms that expire Nov. 1, 2026. The mayor said he had visited with all three loan committee members and they were willing to continue serving on the committee.

“They have been doing a good job for us,” the mayor said.

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

* Recent cases from Brown County District Court

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 15)

During Brown County District Court proceedings Tuesday, Shane Cole, age 24, formerly of Ainsworth, was sentenced to two years of probation and 30 days in the Brown County jail after previously pleading guilty to charges of attempted first degree domestic assault, a Class IIIA felony count.

Also in District Court Tuesday, Aaron Fernau, 48, of Ainsworth, entered guilty pleas to two charges – making terroristic threats, a Class IIIA felony, and criminal mischief, a Class I misdemeanor. Fernau will be sentenced April 9 in District Court.

* Care Center receives first tax levy funds

(Posted 1 p.m. Feb. 13)

After borrowing $74,000 from a line of credit during its January meeting, the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors voted to repay $40,000 of that borrowed amount during its meeting Monday.

The Sandhills Care Center received its first funds from the voter-approved levy that is expected to raise close to $200,000 annually for the next five years. The 2023 tax year was the first year the bond was levied on property after being approved by voters of both the city of Ainsworth and Brown County in 2022.

As property owners pay their 2023 taxes, the care center will receive the levy payments. The care center recently received the first $26,346.

Business Manager Makenzie Crane said the funds will make a difference for the care center and could be used to help make upgrades to the facility like the recently installed Wander Guard system.

The care center paid $25,710 for the installation of the system to Securitas Healthcare. Crane said the funds received in the first levy installment were enough to cover the entire cost of that upgrade to the facility.

The Sandhills Care Center generated $225,290 in revenue during January, with expenses, which included the Wander Guard system installation, amounted to $216,202 for a net profit for the facility for the month of $9,088. The January profit and loss statement does not include the funding received from the city and county tax levies.

The board unanimously voted to repay more than half of the $74,000 borrowed in January from the care center’s line of credit, making a $40,000 repayment on the credit line.

Crane said April would be a three pay-period month so expenses will be elevated for that month. The care center pays its staff every other week, with two months of the year including three pay periods.

Administrator Penny Jacobs reported there are currently 25 residents in the care center, with 13 paying privately, 10 receiving Medicaid assistance, one receiving Medicare assistance and one resident receiving hospice care.

Jacobs said there had been two new residents admitted to the care center since the board’s January meeting, with two residents passing away.

She said the facility received a positive referral Monday and was working on an additional three referrals for new residents.

Of the current residents, 15 are from Ainsworth, three are from rural Brown County, one is from Long Pine, three are from Cherry County and one is from Rock County.

Jacobs said the facility had hired two full-time CNAs since the board’s January meeting and had hired a full-time housekeeper. One CNA resigned from the care center during the past month. Jacobs said some staff members are still putting in a lot of overtime hours, so the facility could still use night shift and weekend CNAs and one or two charge nurses.

Board member Shawn Fernau asked Jacobs if the residents were utilizing the new virtual reality headsets that were purchased. Jacobs said most of the residents love them.

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

* Goochey selected to attend Elks Scholar Service Trip

(Posted 12:45 p.m. Feb. 13)

Ainsworth High School graduate Cameryn Goochey has been selected to take part in the Spring Elks Scholar Service Trip to Philadelphia, Pa.

Goochey was one of 350 Elks National Foundation Legacy Award Scholarship recipients in 2023. Of those receiving Legacy Awards, 20 are selected to attend the service trip, allowing them to serve others in the name of the Elks Organization.

Goochey will travel to Philadelphia March 7-11, and will assist the city’s residents through various organizations while also exploring the city.

In 2015, the Elks National Foundation initiated the service trips, helping Elks Scholars give back while connecting with one another through the National Elks Organization. Goochey said she is excited to represent Ainsworth, the Elks Lodge 1790 and the Nebraska State Elks Association on the service trip.

A freewill donation spaghetti feed to help Goochey with her travel costs to Pennsylvania is scheduled from 5 until 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18, in the Ainsworth Elks.

* Ainsworth withdraws from Southwest Conference

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 13)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to officially exit the Southwest Conference following the 2023-24 school year.

The board has discussed its conference affiliation for the past several meetings, weighing the size and distance of a majority of the conference schools against the opportunities provided by remaining in the conference.

Superintendent Dale Hafer said he attended the Southwest Conference Superintendents meeting in January. He said all of the schools were supportive and voted to allow Ainsworth to withdraw its membership from the conference if the board chose that route.

“I think we’ve done the right thing,” Hafer said. “We have taken our time with this, and we have received a lot of input. I think there will be an opportunity for us to be in a conference in the future.”

Hafer said Activities Director Luke Wroblewski was working to add games to next year’s basketball schedule against O’Neill St. Mary’s, Neligh-Oakdale, Anselmo-Merna and others with the goal of replacing some of the Southwest Conference Schools currently on the basketball schedule.

Hafer said the school plans to keep playing against Valentine, Broken Bow and Cozad, but will likely drop games against other SWC members Ogallala, McCook, Holdrege, Minden and Gothenburg.

He said the school was actively working on additional opportunities in the fine arts as well.

Ainsworth joined the Southwest Conference during the 2005-06 school year following the dissolution of the Rangeland Conference and will complete its 20th and final year in the SWC this year.

In other business Monday, the board approved the replacement of an overhead door for the school’s bus barn on the east side of the campus.

Custodian Joey Finley said the seal at the top of the door gave out at some point and water leaked into the door. Finley said the water leak added weight to the door and caused the Styrofoam inside to expand.

The door no longer opens properly. A technician with Overhead Door Co. of Norfolk inspected the door and suggested it needed to be replaced.

“He has seen this before with west-facing doors,” Finley said.

The building is 16 years old, so there is no longer any warranty on the original door. The board approved the $16,484 quote from Overhead Door Co. to replace the door, using depreciation funds to pay for the purchase.

The board also voted to use depreciation funds to replace an outdated watering reel for the football practice field at East City Park. Finley said the current watering reel was purchased in 1976 and parts to fix it were no longer available.

The board reviewed quotes for a new reel or for placing underground sprinklers at the practice field. Finley recommended a replacement reel, as the school may have issues with broken sprinkler heads from vehicles using the RV dump or parking at the practice field during football games.

“I’m afraid we would get a lot of sprinkler heads broken,” Finley said.

A new reel was also more than $2,000 less expensive than an underground system. The board approved the purchase of a new reel from Flatwater Sales of Ord for $9,924. The school also received a quote of $10,106 for a new reel from Performance Reel LLC of Pensacola, Fla. The underground system bid by Morrison Underground Sprinklers was $12,283.

In a final action item Monday, the board continued its policy review, looking at 16 policies and making no changes.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson met with the board to provide an update on NCDC activities.

Olson said the NCDC is trying to focus on housing and has received Rural Workforce Housing funds from the state for construction and rehabilitation. She said the cost for new construction coupled with high mortgage interest rates made new construction difficult under the program’s current parameters.

“The cost per square foot is really high, as are the costs of demolition,” Olson said.

Olson said the NCDC has also assisted the Ainsworth Child Development Center in its efforts to establish its operation on Main Street, and has assisted all the in-home child care providers in Brown and Rock counties with obtaining available pandemic funding.

Olson reported most of the LB 840 funds in the city of Ainsworth’s account have been put to use in the community. She said taxable sales remain robust so there is money coming into the LB 840 fund along with loans made from the fund being repaid.

She said the NCDC was also helping private property owners with demolition.

“If we can take a property that generates $50 in property tax and get something new built, that helps the tax base,” Olson said.

She said the NCDC has also assisted with the new Rock County Community Center project, and had written or assisted with grant applications that had resulted in $1.8 million in funds being awarded to the area.

The board discussed potential grant projects for the school, including playground equipment and crumb rubber. Olson said grants are available for 50 percent of the cost of crumb rubber for playgrounds.

During his report, Hafer said the district’s lunch account has done well and the board would need to consider upgrades for the cafeteria so its federal funding for the meal program was not jeopardized.

Hafer suggested the board look at replacing the current lunch tables and chairs with dual split-bench cafeteria tables. He said school personnel viewed that style of table while the girls wrestling team participated in the district meet at Gothenburg.

Hafer said the Gothenburg superintendent indicated the school was very happy with that style of table, and it works well for all ages from elementary students to senior citizens.

“They are very comfortable, and they are handicap accessible,” Hafer said. “The round tables are in decent shape but some aren’t the best. There is an opportunity to surplus those to the community. I think there would be some interest in them. Our current setup is pretty labor intensive for our custodial staff.”

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 11.

* KBRB Big Game Contest goes to tiebreaker

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Feb. 12)

While none of the record 190 scores submitted during the annual KBRB Big Game Call-in Contest picked Kansas City’s 25-22 overtime victory over San Fransisco by the exact correct score, it still took being within three points of the final to earn certificates from among the 41 sponsors of this year’s contest.

Six contestants picked Kansas City to win by a 24-21 margin, missing the final by just two total points. That forced us to the tiebreaker to determine this year’s winner, and Les Waits of Ainsworth was the first caller to predict Kansas City to win 24-21. Being quick with the dialing fingers earns Les Waits $225 in gift certificates to sponsoring businesses, a record haul for the KBRB Big Game Contest.

Five other contestants who picked Kansas City to win by a 24-21 margin each earn $100 in certificates for tying for the runner-up spot. Those prognosticators are Keith Ammon of Bassett, Carl Chase of Springview, Nathan Finley of Valentine, and Ashley Titus and Jake Nelson of Ainsworth.

Six contestants were within three points of the 25-22 final score. In tying for seventh place, each of those six contestants earn $50 in certificates to sponsoring businesses. Those six contestants are Judy Graff, Deb Hollenbeck, Marilyn Lund, Harper Larsen, Ezra Ford and Nikki Howard. Judy Graff was the fourth overall score to be submitted Wednesday, and Nikki Howard on Friday was the third to last of the 190 total scores called in during the contest.

Congratulations to those winners of this year’s KBRB Big Game Call-in Contest. Certificates may be picked up from the KBRB Studios or call KBRB at 402-387-1400 to make arrangements to have certificates either delivered or mailed.

There were 11 callers who missed the 25-22 final score by four points to just miss out on this year’s bounty of certificates. Those contestants were Cory Brodbeck, Mary Smith, Ronda Theis, Todd Kicken, Eldon Sylvester, Dave Fowler, Sandy Sisson, Dwight Niemann, Eli Beel, Caleb Zarbarbnicky and Randy Hart. Randy actually correctly predicted the Big Game to go into overtime. He had Kansas City winning, 23-20, to narrowly miss an epic prediction.

KBRB thanks the following sponsors of the Big Game Call-in Contest for making the annual contest possible.

Those businesses are:
Ainsworth Golf Course
Ainsworth Drug
Long Pine Lumber
The L-Bow Room in Johnstown
Needles N Pins
Speedee Mart
Ainsworth Auto Parts – Carquest
H&R Food Center
Yogi’s Place
Husker Meats
Century Lumber Center
Daze of Wine in Atkinson
Scott’s Place in Bassett
Ainsworth Flowers & Gifts
Kelly Gambill Massage Therapy
The Book Peddler
First Stop in Atkinson
The Ainsworth Grand Theater
Ward Plumbing & Heating in Valentine
The Cast Iron Bar & Grille in Stuart
The Silver Circle
Shamrock Nursery in O’Neill
G&V’s Market in Bassett
Palmer Embroidery & Boutique
Bloomin’ Daisies in Stuart
Circle B Livestock in Bassett
Turp’s Automotive in Bassett
Wettlaufer’s Flower Shop and Nursery in Atkinson
Simple Solutions of Long Pine
Ainsworth Motors
MC’s Tees & More in Springview
Something Special by Marilyn in Atkinson
The Sandhills Lounge in Long Pine
The Whistle Stop in Bassett
First Class Auto
The Ainsworth Elks Club
Willow Creek Mercantile
Buckles Automotive
The Springlake Angus Center near Lynch
Red & White Market
The 402 Bar.

* Ainsworth speech team competes at Gordon

(Posted 10 a.m. Feb. 12)

On Saturday, the Ainsworth High School speech team traveled to Gordon to compete in the Gordon-Rushville Invitational. This meet was varsity only, so the novice speakers on the team competed as varsity during the meet.

Of the 11 speeches competing in the tournament, six made it to the finals. Earning medals were William Biltoft (fourth) and Willa Flynn (sixth) in Humorous Prose, Erick Hitchcock (fourth) in Extemporaneous and (fourth) in Informative, Hannah Beel (sixth) in Persuasive, and Hannah Beel and Puridy Haley (sixth) in Duet Acting.

Earning superior ratings were Kiley Orton, Hannah Beel, and Terra Shoemaker in Informative, William Biltoft in Extemporaneous, and Puridy Haley in Persuasive. The team hosts the Ainsworth Invitational Saturday, Feb. 17.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 9:30 a.m. Feb. 11)

February 4

  • Officer issued citations to three individuals for Assault.
  • A Nebraska male subject was jailed and issued a citation for violating a Protection Order and Domestic Assault.
  • Officer responded to the site of a car/deer accident on Highway 183.

February 5

  • Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call to Cedar Street in Long Pine. One Individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Air Crew to the Brown County Hospital and back to the Airport with one patient.
  • Officer responded to a report of vandalism at a local residence.
  • Officers responded to a call in reference to an abandoned vehicle at a local business. The vehicle was towed to a local tow yard.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a report of suspected terroristic threats.

February 6

  • Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call at a local business. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Sheriff’s Office received a complaint of barking dogs on Maple St in Ainsworth. A written warning was issued to the owner.
  • Officers responded to a request for traffic control for a cattle crossing West of Ainsworth.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Dept received a call from a Local Business. Officers responded and Brown County Ambulance was paged.

February 7

  • Officer issued a citation for No Valid Registration.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a report of an individual not stopping for a school bus when stop sign deployed. Contact was made with the driver and a written warning was issued.

February 8

  • Officer issued a citation for speeding, 85 mph in a 65 mph zone.
  • Officer issued a citation for no valid registration.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported an individual from a local facility to the Brown County Hospital.

February 9

  • Officer issued a citation for no valid registration and no proof of insurance.
  • Officer responded to a reported accident on Main Street in Ainsworth.
  • Officer responded to a report of multiple dogs running down Main Street. Owner was Located and dogs returned.

February 10

  • Officer issued a citation for Stop sign violation.
  • Officer responded to a report of a Verbal Disturbance at a local establishment.
  • Officer responded to a request for traffic control for a cattle crossing East of Ainsworth.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Department received a report of a suspected burglary at a residence in Ainsworth, Residence was found to be Secure.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a report of possible vandalism at a residence in Long Pine.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a physical disturbance at a residence on North Main Street in Ainsworth.
  • Officer responded to a report of Suspicious activity on Park Street in Ainsworth.

WEEKLY SUMMARY TOTALS
INCIDENT REPORTS:  20
PHONE CALLS: 117
911 CALLS:  6
VIN INSPECTIONS:  11
HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS: 7
PAPERS SERVED: 4

* Arens wins spelling bee with ‘lyricist’ and ‘eclectic’

(Posted 3:15 p.m. Feb. 7)

Ainsworth sixth-grade student Isabelle Arens correctly spelled the words “lyricist” and “eclectic” to win the annual fifth- through eighth-grade Oral Spelling Bee Wednesday in the Ainsworth Community Schools Learning Center.

Arens and eighth-grader Maya Villalobos had a dual for the top spot that lasted numerous rounds after the two spellers outlasted the other 18 students in the competition. Eighth-grade student Raelynn Reagan finished third in the contest.

Arens advances to the Regional Spelling Bee.

Dallyn Dailey won the first-grade spelling bee, with Jaiden Lehn finishing second and Brayden Arens third.

In the second grade, Lawson Rentschler correctly spelled “flake” and “floor” to win the bee. Keegan O’Hare finished second and Santiago Covarrubias third.

In the third-grade bee, winner Sutton Owen correctly spelled “grinned” and “cheese” to win, with Rowan Alberts placing second and Landon Arens third.

Isabella Pike correctly spelled “breathe” and “alley” to win the fourth-grade bee, with Stella Lentz finishing second and Sophia Schroedl in third.

KBRB’s Graig Kinzie served as the pronouncer for the annual spelling bee, with Mary Rau, Susan Scholtes and Amanda Ganser serving as the judges for the competition.

* Appelt selected for Shrine Bowl

(Posted 9:45 a.m. Feb. 7)

The Shrine Bowl of Nebraska Board of Directors released the rosters for the 66th Nebraska Shrine Bowl Game.

Among the players selected for this year’s Shrine Bowl is Ainsworth High School Senior Trey Appelt. A standout defensive lineman and tight end for the Bulldogs, Appelt will play for the North Team, coached this year by Chris Koozer of Norfolk High School.

Among the players joining Appelt on the North team are Tucker Shabram of O’Neill, Trent McCain of Ord, Bryson Gadeken of Neligh-Oakdale and Brice Chaplin of Broken Bow.

The South team is coached by Ryan Gottula of Lincoln Southeast High School.

The 66th annual Nebraska Shrine Bowl will be played Saturday, June 1, in Ron and Carol Cope Stadium on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Kearney.  For more information, visit www.NEShrineBowl.org.

* Commissioners to set fee for freeing stuck vehicles

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 7)

The Brown County Commissioners continued discussion Tuesday on creating a charge for the roads department to pull out vehicles that get stuck in the snow on county roads.

Previous discussion centered on the danger created to roads department employees for having to venture out in adverse conditions to assist people who should not have been out on the roads in the first place during or following winter storms.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said he visited with private towing companies. Turpin said Bruce Dannatt with Frontier Diesel charges between $300 and $400 per hour depending on the equipment needed, and Kacey Jones with KC Collision does not have snow-clearing equipment to reach vehicles stuck in snow drifts.

County Attorney Andy Taylor said he believed, if the vehicle was not creating a hazard on the roadway, then the county should not pull it out and the owner should contact a private company.

Turpin said most of the private companies won’t pull people out because of the likelihood of the vehicle owner not paying the bill.

Taylor said, if the vehicle was creating a hazard for other motorists, then the county has to remove it but the county is not responsible for any damage caused when freeing the vehicle.

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said the roads department should coordinate with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department to issue citations to motorists who get vehicles stuck when they should not be out on the roads. Dailey recommended a minimum fee of $500 plus another $500 for each additional hour it takes to reach and free the vehicle.

Turpin said he had concerns about vehicles getting abandoned after becoming stuck and then getting covered with snow and either hit by a plow or another vehicle.

Turpin said during the 2022-23 winter season, numerous vehicles became stranded on 430th Avenue.

Commissioner Denny Bauer questioned whether the county needed to include exceptions in any resolution for people with medical emergencies or people trying to reach and feed their livestock.

Taylor said the commissioners would not need to pass a resolution but could simply establish the fee that could then be enforced.

“Each instance will have the ability for the commissioners’ discretion on whether there is a reason to waive the charge,” Taylor said.

No action was taken. The item was placed on the board’s Feb. 20 agenda for continued discussion.

Turpin urged motorists to use caution when traveling county roads as warmer temperatures and melting snow were creating several soft, muddy roads in the county.

“The best thing for the roads is sunshine and some breeze,” the highway superintendent said.

Turpin requested approval from the board to allow the roads department employees to attend a four-day heavy equipment training that would be held in the spring in Rock County.

Turpin said the total cost for all of the roads department personnel to attend the training would be $7,433.

“I think it is a cheap investment,” Turpin said. “I think it would be good for the crew. They may be better than Dustin and I at teaching.”

Turpin said the training included 1-1/2 days in the classroom and 2-1/2 days working with machines.

Dailey said he thought the training would be good for the employees but questioned having the entire roads crew gone for four days. Turpin said, if any situations were to arise, he or Nakoa Fletcher could leave the training to take care of things.

Bauer said the training was a good investment, especially since it was being held close to home. He said the cost would be higher elsewhere if the county had to pay for travel costs and hotel rooms.

The commissioners gave Turpin the go-ahead to have the roads department employees attend the training, which Turpin thought would likely be held sometime in April.

The board continued to discuss the mowing of road ditches in the county. Bauer said he contacted an insurance company and found the cost for a private contractor to obtain $1 million in liability insurance to mow ditches for the county would be $1,500.

At that expense, Bauer said there would likely not be too many people willing to mow the ditches. At $200 per mile, Bauer said there wouldn’t be much left over for a contractor hired to mow 10 miles of road ditch.

Turpin again stated he believed the best way to handle the issue may be for the county to purchase a tractor and mower, mow the ditches not taken care of by the adjacent property owner and charging the landowner for the cost.

No action was taken.

The board opted to postpone opening bids for armor coating work after one company indicated it had just received oil prices and had submitted a bid prior to the deadline but it would likely not be delivered by the postal service in time for Tuesday’s meeting. The commissioners will open armor coating bids during their Feb. 20 meeting.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved providing a letter of recommendation on behalf of Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum to serve as the vice president of the Nebraska Weed Control Association. Small said Erthum had been nominated by the Weed Control Association to serve a three-year term, in which he would serve as the association’s president during the third year of the term.

Though not against Erthum serving in the role, both Dailey and Bauer indicated greater attention needed to be paid to spraying county road ditches for noxious weeds, specifically leafy spurge.

Bauer said ranchers are spending thousands of dollars to spray for spurge, then complain to the commissioners about the road ditches never being sprayed.

“I think the weed superintendent needs to focus on spraying road ditches and not the river,” Bauer said. “The river should be the responsibility of the Niobrara Council.”

Bauer said he would not be opposed to the county hiring some part-time help in the summer to help spray road ditches.

Small said he would contact Erthum to attend the next board meeting to put together a plan for spraying ditches.

Blaire Speck with the BKR Extension office presented the board with the Extension’s annual report. Speck said participation in 4-H increased 10 percent from the prior year and participants would no longer be required to be members of 4-H to participate in planned activities.

Sheriff Brent Deibler presented the commissioners with a proposal to increase meal reimbursement rates for employees who have to travel on county business. Deibler said the current rates of $10 for breakfast, $12 for lunch and $18 for dinner did not cover rising meal prices in most instances.

“When officers are traveling for training or prisoner transport, the current reimbursement does not cover their costs,” Deibler said.

The board approved a reimbursement increase to $12 for breakfast, $16 for lunch and $24 for dinner.

Deibler said he also planned to go out for bids to repair brick and mortar on the sheriff’s department building. After windows were replaced, water is still coming in to the building due to brick and mortar issues.

Taylor said interior work cannot be completed in the sheriff’s department building until the brick and mortar is repaired. Since the item will likely carry a cost in excess of $50,000, sealed bids would be required and the county had to advertise for bids for two weeks. He asked the board to schedule a special meeting for Feb. 23 to open the bids to allow work to potentially progress more quickly. The board set the special meeting at 8 a.m. on Feb. 23 to open the bids.

In a final sheriff’s department item, the commissioners approved renewing the annual Highway 20 Interlocal Law Enforcement Agreement.

Deibler said the agreement works well and allows the sheriff’s departments in the area to assist each other when needed.

The board approved accepting the donation of two lots with a building in downtown Long Pine to the county. Taylor said the property belonged to the estate of Sammy Ellis. He said Ellis’s daughter lives in Minnesota and does not want the property.

“She wants to give it to the county to cut the red tape,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the county would be required to foreclose on the property at some point with property taxes not being paid.

“We are going to end up with it anyway,” Taylor said.

He said the building, located at 390 N. Main St. in Long Pine, is in bad shape. When the donation is completed, the commissioners indicated they would contact an adjacent business to see if it had an interest in acquiring the property from the county.

West Plains Bank President Doug Weiss encouraged the commissioners to consider the local banks when taking out loans for equipment.

Weiss said he saw during the board’s previous meeting that it took out an equipment loan through DA Davison and NACO and paid more than $1,400 in fees. Weiss said the local bank has done municipal loans and leases for a long time.

“We could probably provide that financing at about the same rate and without the $1,400 in fees you were charged,” Weiss said.

Dailey said the board was at fault because it didn’t look to compare it anywhere else.

Commissioner Buddy Small said Andy Forney with DA Davison had called to apologize and said the company would visit with the local banks before making any additional loan recommendations to the board.

Turpin said he didn’t realize the local banks would be able to compete with the rate NACO was offering.

In final action items Tuesday, the commissioners signed a settlement agreement with NIRMA for a hail damage claim submitted following a storm in May. NIRMA paid $52,985 to the county for damage incurred to county property by the hail.

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

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Feb. 20, with a special meeting scheduled for 8 a.m. Feb. 23.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 11 a.m. Feb. 4)

January 28

  • Officer issued a citation for No Proof of Insurance.
  • Officer responded to a request for a welfare check at a residence on 4th Street in Ainsworth.
  • Officer responded to a report of a vicious dog on Ash Street in Ainsworth. The animal in question was apprehended and taken to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic.

January 29

  • Officer issued a citation for speeding, 45 mph in a 35 mph zone.
  • Officer responded to a report of an abandoned vehicle on Maple Street in Ainsworth. A tow service was contacted to remove the vehicle from the street.
  • Officers responded to a report of a physical disturbance on Cedar Street in Long Pine

January 30

  • Officers responded to a call from the Ainsworth Community Schools in reference to a runaway juvenile.

January 31

  • Officers and the Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from an individual on Maple Street in Ainsworth.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Individual from a residence on Maple Street to the Brown County Hospital.

February 1

  • Officers responded to a request for traffic control during a fire drill at the Ainsworth Community School.

February 2

  • Officers, Brown County Ambulance, Long Pine and Ainsworth Fire Departments responded to a 911 Call in reference to an Overturned Semi tractor trailer on the West end of the Long Pine Hills. The driver of the Semi refused Ambulance Transport. There was severe damage to the guardrail and spilt grain is still to be cleaned up.
  • Officers responded to a report of a hit and run accident at a business on Main Street in Ainsworth.
  • Officers responded to a report of an accident at a business on 4th Street in Ainsworth.

February 3

  • Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in reference to an individual who had fallen. The individual was transported from a residence on Mertin St to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Officers responded to a 911 call in reference to a physical altercation taking place on Highway 20 East of Ainsworth.
  • Officers arrested an individual for domestic assault and the individual was booked into the Brown County Jail awaiting bond.

WEEKLY SUMMARY TOTALS
INCIDENT REPORTS:  11
PHONE CALLS: 140
911 CALLS:  7
VIN INSPECTIONS:  7
HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS: 2
PAPERS SERVED: 1

JANUARY MONTHLY TOTALS
INCIDENT REPORTS: 75
PHONE CALLS: 603
911 CALLS: 30
VIN INSPECTIONS: 22
HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS: 9
PAPERS SERVED: 9

* Drivers urged to watch for accident scene

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 2)

Motorists are urged to use caution traveling on Highway 20 in the Long Pine hills as an overturned semi is blocking the westbound lane of traffic.

Emergency responders were paged to the accident at approximately 3 a.m. Friday in heavy fog. Visibility has been reduced since Thursday afternoon.

Flashing emergency lights warn motorists of the crash site as they approach the area. 

* Area students named to Northeast CC Dean’s List

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 1)

Northeast Community College at Norfolk announced the President’s Honor List and Dean’s Honor List for both full– and part–time students for the fall 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. Students named to the President’s Part–Time list attained a 4.0 grade point average while taking at least six credit hours. Students named to the Dean’s Honor List earned a graded point average of at least 3.75 while taking at least 12 credit hours. Students named to the Dean’s 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 Northeast Community College President’s or Dean’s lists for the fall semester are:

PRESIDENT’S HONOR LIST – Full–Time

Ainsworth – Tessa Barthel, Molly Salzman.

Long Pine – William Pfister.

Bassett – Whisper Welton.

Mills – Raden Orton.

Newport – Edward Reynolds.

Stuart – Dalton Clemens, Lexi Schroder.

Atkinson – Brody Deseive.

Naper –Paige Drueke.

Valentine – Wyatt Barnes, Austyn Kieborz.

PRESIDENT’S HONOR LIST – Part–Time

Ainsworth – Taylor Allen, Trey Appelt, Chloe DeBusk, Gus Ganser, Jocelyn Good, Emma Kennedy, Traegan McNally, Mason Titus.

Springview – Heather Hespe, Alveana Wenger.

Bassett – Branson Anderson, Dalya Dearmont, Lily Gudgel, Jade Johnson, Lindsay Wegener.

Newport – Keira Taylor.

Stuart – Dawson Heiser, Addison Karo, Katelynn Kratz, William Paxton, Blake Wallinger.

Atkinson – Sidney Burkinshaw, Makinley Cadwallader, Aubreionna Clouse, Samantha Coffin, Angelique Davis, Caleb Davis, Madison Davis, Luke Klabenes, Rylee Poessnecker, Cadey Schaaf, Lainey Smith.

Naper – Jacob Corrado, Kaylee Hinton.

Butte – Elizabeth Bernt.

DEAN’S HONOR LIST – Full–Time

Springview – Ryan Painter.

Stuart – Whitlee Paxton.

Atkinson – Nacesha Zahnd.

Valentine – Jaycie Cox, Hayden Larabee, Becca McGinley, Nathan Perrett, Jackson Ravenscroft.

DEAN’S HONOR LIST Part–Time

Ainsworth – Addah Booth, Trevor Johnson.

Bassett – Adisyn Anderson, Mason Hagan.

Newport – Tory Thurlow.

Stuart – Gracie Kaup, Luke Ludwig.

Atkinson – Miya Carey, Abigail Mathis, Itzel Sanchez.

Butte – Lanie Lechtenberg.

* Stuart-Atkinson Airport receives federal grant

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Jan. 31)

U.S. Senators Deb Fischer and Pete Ricketts announced the Nebraska Department of Transportation will receive $15.3 million in federal funding to enhance and maintain existing infrastructure at 21 airports statewide.
Fischer said, “From Omaha to Chadron, Atkinson to Lexington — Nebraska’s airports connect our communities, ensure accessibility for travel, and grow the rural economy. I was proud to vote for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support Nebraska’s airports. Nebraska continues to see a return on that investment, as our state will now receive $15.3 million to support and maintain essential airports statewide.”

Among the airports receiving funding are the Stuart-Atkinson Municipal Airport and Cram Field at Burwell. The Stuart-Atkinson Municipal Airport received $306,000 in federal funding, while Cram Field received $113,000.

The largest grant of $5.37 million went to Eppley Airfield at Omaha. Lee Bird Field at North Platte received $2.69 million.
Ricketts said, “Nebraska’s airports are essential to our state’s economy. These strategic investments in critical infrastructure will improve safety and support the continued growth of communities across our state.”

* Nebraska in top 5 for lowest December jobless rate

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Jan. 30)

Nebraska’s unemployment rate for December was 2.3 percent. The rate was unchanged from the November rate of 2.3 percent and is down 0.4 percentage points from the December 2022 rate of 2.7 percent. Nebraska was ranked fifth in the nation.

North Dakota and Maryland shared the top spot nationally in December with unemployment rates of 1.9 percent. South Dakota sits third at 2 percent, followed by Vermont at 2.2 percent and Nebraska at 2.3 percent.

Rock County had the lowest unemployment rate in the area in December at 1.4 percent, which tied Perkins County and Hayes County in southwestern Nebraska for the best jobless rate in the state.

Brown County’s December unemployment rate of 2.4 percent was just above the state average. Blaine County had the highest unemployment rate in the area in December at 2.9 percent.

Cherry County’s unemployment rate was in the top 10 in the state at 1.6 percent, with Holt County at 1.8 percent. Keya Paha County’s rate at 2.1 percent was slightly below the state average, with Boyd County’s December rate coming in at 2.8 percent.

“Employment in private education and health services in Nebraska reached a new all-time high for the fourth straight month at over 166,000 in December,” Nebraska Commissioner of Labor John Albin said. “Manufacturing employment saw another monthly increase, and total statewide nonfarm employment increased by over 11,000 compared to December 2022.”

Nonfarm employment was 1,054,500 in December, down 925 from November but up 11,473 from December 2022.

Private industries with the most growth from November to December were the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (up 2,441 jobs); private education and health services (up 801 jobs); and manufacturing (up 327 jobs). Private industries with the most over the year growth were the private education and health services sector (up 7,619 jobs), leisure and hospitality (up 2,371 jobs), and trade, transportation, and utilities (up 2,308 jobs).

The national unemployment rate for December was 3.7 percent, unchanged from the November rate but up 0.2 percent from the December 2022 rate of 3.5 percent.

* Area students named to UN-L Deans’ List

(Posted 7:30 a.m. Jan. 30)

More than 6,800 University of Nebraska–Lincoln students have been named to the Deans’ List for the fall semester of the 2023-24 academic year.

Qualification for the Deans’ List varies among the eight undergraduate colleges and the Explore Center. Listed below are the minimum requirements for each entity and the name of its respective dean or director. All qualifying grade-point averages are based on a four-point scale and a minimum number of graded semester hours.

Area students named to the UN-L Deans’ List include:

Ainsworth
Libby Wilkins, sophomore, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural leadership, education and communication.

Samuel Duane Wilkins, senior, College of Engineering, agricultural engineering.

Bassett
Brooklyn Buell, freshman, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, environmental and sustainability studies.

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

Gracie Eva Swanson, freshman, College of Business, business administration.

Stuart
Anthony Heiser, freshman, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, PGA golf management.

Cameron Sattler, junior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, animal science and pre-veterinary medicine.

Atkinson
Emma Alder, junior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, biochemistry.

Luke Olson, sophomore, College of Business, accounting.

Madeline Ann Rentschler, freshman, College of Business, actuarial science.

Wood Lake
Shyanne Dawn Urbin, senior, College of Engineering, biological systems engineering.

Valentine
Logan Michael Cate, senior, College of Business, supply chain management.

Ryan OKief, junior, College of Business, finance.

Skyler Reagle, senior, College of Business, management.

* Three recent vehicle-deer collisions reported

(Posted 11 a.m. Jan. 28)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated three recent vehicle-deer collisions in the county.

At 7:52 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 25, a 2012 Ford Focus, driven by Jaden Lee, 17, of Ainsworth, was traveling east on Highway 20 near milepost 237 when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.

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

At 10:58 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23, on Highway 20 between mileposts 250 and 251, a 2008 Ford Explorer, driven by Kenley Welke, 15, of Long Pine, was traveling east when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.

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

At 6:35 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19, a 2013 Subaru Forester, driven by Andrea Goeken, 65, of Long Pine, was traveling north on Highway 183 near milepost 202 when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.

No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Subaru was estimated at $5,000.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 10:45 a.m. Jan. 28)

January 21

  • Brown County Sheriff’s Dept as well as the Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from Walnut St in Ainsworth. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital
  • Brown County Ambulance transported a flight crew from the Ainsworth Airport to the Brown County Hospital and back to the Airport.
  • Officers responded to a report of a transient on highway 183. No Individual was located.

January 22

  • Officer responded to a request for traffic control for a cattle Crossing South of Ainsworth.
  • An Individual came to the Brown County Sheriff’s Office in reference to a harassment claim. The individual was advised to fill out a detailed Statement form.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Dept was informed of a counterfeit $100 bill that had been deposited by a local business.

January 23

  • Brown County Ambulance transferred a Patient from the Brown County Hospital to Kearney.
  • Officer responded to a car/deer accident on Highway 20 near Long Pine. No Injuries were reported. Vehicle considered to be a total loss.

January 24th

  • Brown County Court, No Events to report.

January 25

  • Officer issued a citation for speeding 79 mph in a 65 mph zone.
  • Officer responded to a report of a vehicle that had its emergency flasher on and had appeared to have hit something. It was determined that the vehicle had hit a deer. The owner was contacted and had already contacted a tow company to get the vehicle.  No injuries were reported, and vehicle was considered totaled.

January 26

  • Brown County Ambulance transported and Individual from a business on Main St to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Department received a request for a welfare check on an Individual in Ainsworth.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Department received a report of an abandoned vehicle on Highway 7 South of Ainsworth. Vehicle was later towed to a Local Business.
  • Brown County Sheriffs Office received a Life Protect call stating that an individual had fallen outside of a local business. Officer responded and Brown County Ambulance was paged.
  • Officer responded to a call in reference to an injured deer West of Ainsworth.

January 27

  • Brown County Ambulance transported and Individual from Brown County Hospital to the Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney.
  • Received a report of a pickup-deer accident West of Long Pine. The vehicle was drivable, and no injuries were reported.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a domestic dispute. The individual reporting was advised to fill out a detailed Statement Form.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported an individual from Cottonwood Villa to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a male individual randomly stepping out into traffic on highway 20 in Ainsworth, causing vehicles to have to stop and go around him. Officers attempted to contact the individual but were unable to at the time.
  • Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from a residence on Main Street in Ainsworth. An Individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a Stolen Semi tractor and Trailer. The driver at last report was in Ainsworth.
  • Officer issued a citation for defective/improper lighting on vehicle.
  • Officer issued a citation for defective/improper lighting and no valid registration on vehicle.

WEEKLY SUMMARY TOTALS
INCIDENT REPORTS:  23
PHONE CALLS: 126
911 CALLS:  2
VIN INSPECTIONS:  7
HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS:  1
PAPERS SERVED: 3

* Area students selected for UNK music festival

(Posted 4 p.m. Jan. 22)

Students from 95 high schools in Nebraska will participate in the annual Honor Band and Choral Clinic hosted by the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Department of Music, Theatre and Dance.

The Jan. 29 event includes 606 high school music students who will work with UNK faculty and guest instructors before performing two public concerts at UNK’s Health and Sports Center. The 5:30 p.m. performance will feature the UNK Wind Ensemble along with the festival and honor bands. The 7 p.m. concert will showcase the UNK Choraleers along with the treble, festival and honor choirs.

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

Area students selected to participate include:

Ainsworth – Colby Beegle, Grace Goodwin, Jordan Beatty, Madison Phares and William Biltoft.

Rock County – Hannah Kaup and Kyla Pyle.

Valentine – Devlin Welch, Grant Springer, Marybelle Ward, Neeley Cronin, Patrick Caley, Sari LaDeaux and Titus Maunu.

* Frederick finishes as season-long NHRA runner-up

(Posted 2 p.m. Jan. 22)

Brad Frederick was named the Division 5 season-long runner-up of the NHRA drag racing series during the year-end banquet Saturday at Kansas City, Mo.

Frederick finished second in the Division 5 Super Street category, which covers Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and portions of Canada.

Frederick posted a runner-up finish during the Topeka races and was a semifinalist during the Earlville, Iowa, stop.

Those two efforts, coupled with several other races where he advanced deep into the competition throughout the racing season, helped place Frederick second overall among the 130 racers competing in the Super Street series for Division 5.

* Flood warning lifted for Smith Falls area

(Posted 11 a.m. Jan. 22)

The National Weather Service has lifted the flood warning for the Niobrara River, allowing Smith Falls State Park in north central Nebraska to reopen its campground and trail to the falls.

The NWS had issued the flood warning Jan. 16 after an ice jam had formed on the river near Sparks downstream from the park. No floodwaters entered the park. River levels will be monitored continually for any changes.

* Property owner injured during Sunday fire

(Posted 8:45 a.m. Jan. 22)

A Sunday fire southeast of Johnstown destroyed an exterior shed full of equipment and injured the property owner who was trying to get equipment out of the shed before it was destroyed.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, firefighters were paged at 2:25 p.m. Sunday to the site owned by Dan Clapper 15 miles southeast of Johnstown on Moon Lake Avenue.

Fiala said, upon firefighters’ arrival, the 40-by-60-foot steel shed was completely engulfed in flames. Clapper, who had entered the shed to try and remove equipment from inside before it was destroyed, was transported by private vehicle to the Brown County Hospital for treatment of burns and smoke inhalation.

Fiala said the exterior shed housed two tractors, a skid loader, a bale processer, a side-by-side UTV and other equipment, all of which were destroyed.

The fire chief said a power line was downed onto the roof of the building upon arrival, so firefighters were forced to wait until the line was de-energized before being able to extinguish the fire.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. The Johnstown and Raven-Calamus Volunteer Fire departments also responded to the fire Sunday. Fiala said the Ainsworth firefighters returned to the fire hall just before 6 p.m. Sunday.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

January 14

  • Officer issued a citation for speeding, 82 mph in a 65mph zone.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a call of a burglary alarm going of at a residence in Long Pine. The keyholder was notified.

January 15

  • Officer responded to a request for traffic control for a Cattle Crossing 0n Highway 183.

January 16

  • Officer issued a citation to an Individual for driving under revocation, No proof of ownership of vehicle, No valid registration, and No proof of insurance.
  • Officers Arrested an Individual for driving while under revocation, No proof of Ownership of Vehicle, No valid registration, and no proof of Insurance. The Individual was later released on Bond.

January 17

  • Brown County Ambulance transported an individual from their residence on Cedar St to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s office received a complaint of Harassment at a local business.
  • Officers Investigated a parking complaint on East 2nd St in Ainsworth
  • Officers responded to a report of Animal neglect on Norden Ave in Johnstown. The owner was contacted.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a Mailbox being knocked over by County Road crew. County Roads Department was notified.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s office received a report of a traffic hazard in Long Pine as a UPS truck was stuck on a local street. Vehicle was later pulled out and hazard removed.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call in ref to an unconscious female on Cedar St. Brown County Ambulance was paged and Officer responded.

January 18

  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Individual from their residence on Zero St in Ainsworth to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call in reference to an immobile individual needing assistance and taken to Brown County Hospital.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Individual from their residence on Maple St in Ainsworth to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Individual from the Brown County Hospital to Kearney Regional Hospital.
  • Officers responded to a request for traffic Control for a cattle crossing South of Ainsworth.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a gas Drive off at a local business. Individual could not be located.

January 19

  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Individual from their residence on Carpenter St in Johnstown to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Individual from their residence on 877th Rd in Ainsworth to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Individual from the Brown County Hospital to the Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney.
  • Officer responded to a welfare check on 4th St in Ainsworth. The individual was found to be ok. 
  • Officer responded to a request for a welfare check on Ash Street in Ainsworth. Subject was found to be ok.
  • Officer responded to a 911 call on Carpenter St. in Johnstown.
  • Officer responded to a report of a car/deer accident on hwy183 South of Keller Park.
  • Officer responded to a call in reference to a possible fire in East end of Ainsworth. It was found to be smoke from a wood stove.
  • Officer picked up Individual on Cedar St and transported to Brown County Hospital ref Welfare Check.

January 20

  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Individual from the Sandhills Care Center to the Rock County Hospital.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Individual from the Brown County Hospital to Faith Regional in Norfolk.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Individual from their residence on Maple St in Ainsworth to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call in reference to an individual who had fallen down the stairs. Ambulance was paged and Officer dispatched to residence.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Individual from their residence on Walnut St in Ainsworth to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Officer responded to a 911 call from Walnut St in Ainsworth.

WEEKLY SUMMARY TOTALS
INCIDENT REPORTS:  20
PHONE CALLS: 143
911 CALLS:  13
VIN INSPECTIONS:  5
HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS: 0
PAPERS SERVED: 1

* Take steps to keep water lines from freezing

(Posted 11:15 a.m. Jan. 17)

With the area forecast to see additional freezing temperatures, Ainsworth Water Superintendent Brad Miller encourages residents to take steps to keep their water lines from freezing.

Frozen lines can potentially lead to substantial damage for homeowners. Miller urges residents to either insulate their water lines or keep water trickling during times of extreme cold to help mitigate the chances of having lines freeze.

Miller said there have been several city water customers who experienced frozen water lines during the most recent cold snap.

Anyone seeking information on the best ways to keep water lines from freezing may contact Miller or the city office.

* Commissioners discuss cemetery association issue

(Posted 11 a.m. Jan. 17)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday again discussed a unique item relating to the ownership and operation of a cemetery association.

Amid renewed interest in families wanting to utilize the Highland Grove Cemetery, an issue has arisen regarding the process for being able to place a loved one at the site north of Ainsworth.

Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor said Tuesday state statute handles how cemetery associations are established.

“If there was a prior association, you have to prove it is no longer in existence,” Taylor said. “You have to determine the owner of the land and then get an affidavit from the landowner that the association is no longer in existence.”

Taylor said, once it is established that the previous cemetery association is no longer in existence, steps can be taken to form a new association.

Doris Harris of Rapid City, S.D., formerly of the area, appeared by phone and told the commissioners she had researched the Highland Grove Cemetery. Harris said the land was purchased from the state in 1890 by the Garfield Association and was officially deeded to the association in 1908. Harris said all of the members of the Garfield Cemetery Association have passed away. She said the last burial in the Highland Grove Cemetery occurred in 1978.

“There are about 15 to 20 people who would like to be buried there,” Harris said. “It has been maintained. We would like to see it reestablished.”

Taylor said, if an owner with clear title to the property can be found, that person could sell the site to a new association.

“If the Garfield Cemetery Association actually owns the land, you have to prove that association is no longer in existence,” Taylor said. “Until then, it is in limbo.”

Taylor said he would be happy to assist individuals interested in forming a new association. The new association would have to have at least five members who either live in Brown County or who have family members buried in the Highland Grove Cemetery.

“Most of the case law on this is about a century old,” Taylor said. “The most recent case law was from the 1950s. Most was in the 1920s and ‘30s.”

Taylor asked Assessor Peg Gross who paid the property taxes at the site. Gross said the cemetery site has been exempt from taxation. She said the Garfield Cemetery has filed the exemption form.

Commissioner Dennis Bauer said, if someone has been filing the exemption form every year and the cemetery has been maintained, maybe it could be determined that the Garfield Cemetery Association is still active and it can just be reorganized with additional members.

Taylor said going through the process of the county trying to take possession of the land and then selling it to a new association could take years, so if it can be determined that the former association still exists, that would be the quickest option for moving forward.

Taylor said, until ownership of the site can be determined, there is nothing the commissioners can do.

In another cemetery-related item on Tuesday’s agenda, Marty Graff approached the commissioners regarding potential financial assistance from the county for the ongoing maintenance at the East Woodlawn and Grand Prairie cemeteries near Johnstown.

Graff said he, Jim Jackman, Dave Sherman, Jay Burrows and Rick Goochey were the current members of the association in charge of those two cemeteries.

“Our only income is through donations or selling a lot,” Graff said. “We contract with Jerry Paulsen for mowing. He is very reasonable with us.”

Graff said, within the next 14 years, the association is going to run out of money to maintain the two cemeteries. He said the association has $15,000 in a long-term investment and would like to get to the point that interest from that investment could be enough to sustain ongoing maintenance costs.

Graff requested the county assist with the $2,750 annual cost of maintaining the two cemeteries, which encompass a total of 7-1/2 acres.

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey asked Graff if the association had tried to raise donations from families associated with the two cemeteries. Graff said donations have been requested in the past, with the association typically receiving enough response to pay for the cost of mailing the donation request letters.

Commissioner Buddy Small suggested Graff submit a letter to the board asking the commissioners to budget for maintenance of the cemeteries during the 2024-25 budget.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners discussed adding a fee for the county having to assist people who become stranded during winter storms.

“The road crew has had to go bail people out of some problems,” Small said. “We should have a policy that charges people we have to pull out when they should not be out there.”

Small said there would be exceptions to a policy for essential workers and people who need to feed their animals.

Sheriff Brent Deibler said it puts everyone at risk when county personnel have to go out in freezing and blizzard conditions to rescue people who should not be out there at 50 below wind chill.

Bauer agreed the county should draw up a resolution for the next meeting and should check with local tow providers to make sure the rate the county would charge to pull someone out wasn’t lower than what private tow truck operators charge.

Dailey suggested an hourly rate of $500 per hour since county employees are put in danger when they get called to pull people out during storms.

Tow truck operator Casey Jones, who was in attendance Tuesday, offered to sit down with the commissioners and share how he charges for towing service.

Taylor said he didn’t believe a resolution was necessary, as the driver of a vehicle that has to be pulled out can be cited on a charge of careless driving and add in the cost of being pulled out as restitution.

“That is the best way to do it,” Taylor said. “We can always then dismiss the criminal charge if they pay the county. You can set a rate as long as it is reasonable. We then issue a citation and will process from there.”

Taylor said adding the criminal charge was the best way to ensure that someone who has to be pulled out pays for the cost. He said, otherwise, people just have a tendency not to pay for the cost of the tow and it is difficult to recoup that cost.

In action items Tuesday, the commissioners approved a resolution authorizing the county to enter into a NACO lease purchase agreement with D.A. Davidson for the purpose of purchasing equipment.

The commissioners plan to purchase an International truck for the roads department at a cost of $162,000. The roads department has $60,000 available as a down payment, with the county financing the remaining $104,311 including fees on a three-year loan at 4.75 percent interest.

Forney said the agreement allows the county to access capital markets for equipment purchases using a program NACO has in place. There is a $700 fee charged by D.A. Davidson to handle the issuance of the note and a $782 fee to NACO.

Bauer suggested the county continue to budget for the upgrade of its equipment on a similar basis using the Nebraska Association of County Officials program.

The board approved a three-year agreement with Caleb Johnson to continue providing budget preparation services to the county. The agreement includes a $300 increase but locks in the $3,800 annual rate for a three-year period. Johnson said there were no other changes to the previous agreement.

The commissioners approved a resolution transferring $59,660 from the ambulance fund to the debt services fund to make the first bond payment on the new Brown County Ambulance Association building. The board also approved a $1,000 transfer from the county’s general fund to the county medical fund.

The commissioners approved having Small as chairman sign a document for the Brown County Hospital allowing the hospital’s home health state license to expire. Hospital Administrator Mirya Hallock said, to keep the home health license, the hospital has to keep a nurse on call at all times. She said the hospital has had one actual referral for its home health program since March, and that referral was from Sargent.

“The license ends Jan. 31,” Hallock said. “It is not cost effective for us to keep that license. We need to send a letter to the state that we are no longer continuing that service.”

The board approved having Small sign the letter to the state.

The commissioners acknowledged the 2024 IRS mileage rate of 67 cents per mile to reimburse county employees who have to use their personal vehicle in a work-related capacity.

Prior to adjourning Tuesday, the board held its annual reorganizational meeting for 2024, approving Small to continue serving as the board char with Bauer as vice chair.

The board approved 13 holidays for 2024, and will continue to meet on the first and third Tuesdays of each month beginning with the Board of Equalization at 1 p.m. and the Board of Commissioners at 1:15 p.m.

The Ainsworth Star-Journal was approved as the official newspaper for publication of county legal notices, with KBRB Radio and the Brown County web site serving as additional sources for county announcements.

West Plains Bank, Homestead Bank, Union Bank & Trust, NPAIT and NFIT were approved as depositories for county funds.

Kenny Turpin was reappointed as the county highway superintendent and Lloyd Smith with Niobrara Valley Consultants of Valentine will continue as the county surveyor.

Small will represent the county on the Niobrara Council, the KBR Solid Waste Board, the Lexington Area Solid Waste Board, and the Region IV Behavioral Health Board.

Bauer will represent the county on the Sandhills Care Center Board, the Central Nebraska Community Services Board, the North Central District Health Department Board and will attend Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees meetings.

Dailey will represent the county on the Safety Committee, the North Central Development Center Board, the North Star Region IV Board, the county-wide law enforcement committee, and the revitalization committee.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Feb. 6.

* Ice jam causes flood warning at Smith Falls

(Posted 12:15 p.m. Jan. 16)

The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for Smith Falls State Park in north-central Nebraska until further notice.

An ice jam on the Niobrara River near Sparks, Nebraska, may cause minor flooding in low-lying areas near the river, including the Smith Falls campground.

For the safety of park visitors, access to the falls and campground temporarily are closed until the flood warning is lifted.

* Brown County Commissioners Tuesday agenda

(Posted 9 a.m. Jan. 15)

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

Approve minutes of the 1-2-2024 Commissioner meeting.

Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

Enforcement of mowing of roadside ditches – Turpin

Review the current County policy regarding sick, vacation, compensatory time and tuition reimbursement – Bauer

Acknowledge mileage rate for 2024 of $0.67 per mile – Clerk

Resolution to transfer money from Ambulance Fund to Debt Services Ambulance Building $59,660 – Treasurer

Approval to wire Ambulance Barn Bond Payment in the amount of $59,660 – Treasurer

Scott Erthum – Annual Reports

Transfer $1,000 from Miscellaneous General in the General Fund to County Medical in the General Fund – Clerk

Approve Claims

1:30      Reorganization of Highland Grove Cemetery Association

Discuss East Woodlawn and Grand Prairie Cemeteries – Marty Graff

1:45      Signature on Home Health State License – Hallock

2:00       Consider a resolution authorizing the County to enter a NACO lease purchase with D.A. Davidson for the purpose of acquiring equipment and related matters

2:10      Open Reorganization meeting: D/A Reorganization meeting – Official Banks, Radio, Newspaper, Website; Set 2024 Holiday dates, BOE and Commissioner meeting dates, appoint Commissioner Chairman & Vice Chairman, appoint county surveyor, appoint County Highway Superintendent and committee representatives – Clerk

2:30        Caleb Johnson – Budget Renewal

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 3:45 p.m. Jan. 14)

January 7

  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Air Crew from the Ainsworth Airport to the Brown County Hospital and back to the Airport with a patient.
  • Officers responded to a report of a Physical Disturbance at a local apartment complex.

January 8

  • Officer Issued Citation for speeding 80mph in a 65mph zone, Driving too fast for the conditions, and No Valid registration.

January 9

  • Brown County Ambulance responded to a call on East 5th St in Ainsworth. An Individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Dept. assisted another agency in Identifying a subject.
  • Officers responded to a request for traffic control for a cattle crossing East of Ainsworth.
  • Officers responded to an Alarm going off at a local business. Everything was found to be secure.

January 10

  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Air Crew from the Ainsworth Airport to the Brown County Hospital and back to the Airport with a patient.
  • Officers provided traffic control to assist a Jackknifed vehicle on Hiway 20 West of Ainsworth
  • Officers provided traffic control to assist a semi to enter Hiway 20 from Wilson St.
  • Officers responded to a request for a welfare check on 879th rd in Ainsworth. Individuals were found to be ok.

January 11

  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Individual from the Sandhills Care Center to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Officers responded to a call for a welfare check on Oak St in Ainsworth. Individuals were found to be OK.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Dept released inmate being held for another Agency.

January 12

  • Officers responded to a call for a welfare check on a driver of a broken down vehicle on Pine St in Ainsworth. Officers were unable to contact the Individual.

January 13

  • Individual in Office to fill out a Statement Form in reference to an individual being harassed at a local business.

WEEKLY SUMMARY TOTALS

INCIDENT REPORTS:  13

PHONE CALLS: 130

911 CALLS:  6

VIN INSPECTIONS:  1

HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS: 1

PAPERS SERVED: 0

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Jan. 11)

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

Jason W. Dubery, age 42, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, charged with speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, fined $25.

Michael F. Davis, 71, of North Sioux City, S.D., overtaking/passing prohibited, $25.

Timothy K. Hughes, 26, of Rutherfordton, N.C., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Meemanage S. Fernando, 36, of Fargo, N.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Chelsi S. Daniels, 32, of Dayton, Texas, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Wallace E. Wiebesiek, 61, of Ainsworth, failure to comply, $50.

Antonio J. Lemieux, 61, of Green River, Utah, disturbing the peace, $500.

Timothy G. Taylor, 45, of Newport, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Candelario Marquez Chavez, 55, of La Luz, N.M., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

David G. Kramer, 62, of Sterling, Colo., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Aquilino Aquino Gomez, 33, of Ainsworth, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Marc E. Burggraff, 45, of Flandreau, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Christopher D. Fernandez, 48, of Lincoln, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; also charged with no operator’s license, $75.

Javier A. Verano Camargo, 25, of New Port Richey, Fla., no operator’s license, $75.

Erin J. Painter, 22, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Sean R. Kirby, 38, of Bennett, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Richard C. Mendenhall, 53, of Denver, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Gregory C. Irwin, 41, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for one day served, driver’s license revoked for six months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Dustin S. Privett, 26, of Ainsworth, no motorcycle operator’s license, $75.

Caesar D. Macias-Avila, 50, of Arvada, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Benjamin T. Hecht, 24, of Ainsworth, failure to yield the right of way, $25.

Alexander T. Colfack, 25, of Paxton, domestic assault – intentionally causing bodily injury, sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for three days served.

Shane H. Urbin, 22, of Wood Lake, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Brent H. Guetz, 62, of Golden, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Timothy Medina, 29, of Aurora, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; no operator’s license, $75.

* Council approves CARC six-month LB 840 report

(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 11)

During a light agenda Wednesday, the Ainsworth City Council approved the six-month report submitted by the LB 840 Citizen Advisory Review Committee.

Marcus Fairhead, representing the CARC, told the council money from the LB 840 fund has gone to work in the community.

“There have been a significant amount of loans, and some grants as well,” Fairhead said. “All loans are current. The program is doing what it is designed to do. Facades are improving, it is allowing businesses to stay locally owned, and it is helping recruit professionals.”

Fairhead said sales tax collections have been healthy and building the LB 840 fund. The fund generates revenue through a voter-approved one-half cent sales tax.

Fairhead said the Citizen Advisory Review Committee had some preliminary discussions about the potential of the LB 840 fund being able to assist Main Street commercial property owners with water and sewer line replacements during the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s renovation of Highway 7 in Ainsworth.

Fairhead said the committee hoped the business owners would consider replacing the lines while the street is torn up instead of running the risk down the road of needing to replace lines and tear up the new concrete.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said infrastructure assistance is an allowable use of LB 840 funds according to the state plan. The council discussed providing assistance similar to the way the program helps business improve their façade. The façade program provides a grant of up to $10,000 to assist businesses with up to 50 percent of the cost of improving their building frontage. Numerous businesses on the Highway 20 and Main Street corridors have utilized that program to improve their buildings.

The CARC includes Fairhead, Mark Kovar, Roger Lechtenberg, Jennifer Schuett and Lacey Marbry.

The city also has an LB 840 loan committee, which reviews all loan and grant applications to the program and makes a recommendation to the council on whether or not to approve the application. That committee consists of Jim Arens, Kathy Klammer, Bob Maxwell, Dane Sears and Kirk Peterson.

Fairhead said the terms of Arens, Klammer and Maxwell expired in November and those three loan committee members would need to be reappointed if they were willing to continue serving on the committee.

Mayor Joel Klammer said one of the members would be easy for him to check with, and he would try to get a hold of the other two members to see if they are willing to continue on the committee. Committee members are recommended for appointment by the mayor.

During his report, Klammer discussed snow removal in the city. The mayor said there were a few issues that caused the city to take a little longer than usual to remove the snow from the center of Main Street. He said the city may look at some additional equipment that would speed up the snow removal process.

Councilman Kent Taylor said he was pleased the city got around and cleared all the side streets.

Councilman Brad Fiala said he had some residents ask him why the city leaves a light layer while cleaning the streets. Fiala said, due to the condition of numerous city streets, the crew cannot put the blade all the way down. He said the blade would take chunks of the streets with it if it put the blade all the way down onto the pavement.

Klammer also reported the city’s Board of Health was back in gear and revisiting properties on the city’s nuisance list. He said he hoped to see additional properties in the city cleaned up.

During her report, City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the city received 39 building and demolition permits during 2023, which amounted to $1.2 million in new construction. She said three permits were outside city limits but within the city’s 1-mile zoning jurisdiction, nine permits were for commercial properties, with the remainder for residential projects in the city limits.

Schroedl reported the city made the final payment on its 2013 water bond. She said that would free up between $50,000 and $90,000 from the city’s debt service. She said the city’s remaining debt service obligations amounted to about $110,000 annually.

She said the portion of the city’s 1 percent sales tax to relieve debt service from property taxes brings in about $240,000 per year. Schroedl said there was approximately $523,000 in the debt service fund, which will be used to help with the debt on the Main Street renovation project the city will incur in conjunction with the work being done by the NDOT.

Schroedl reported A&R Construction was awarded the contract for the Highway 7 renovation project by the NDOT, and work would begin in the spring as scheduled. Completion on the project is anticipated in November.

A&R Construction placed a bid of $8.54 million for the work.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Feb. 14.

* Hafer provides update from school board meeting

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

Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer provided an update from Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. The conversation with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie is located below.

* Pospichal named to Buena Vista Dean’s List

(Posted 7:45 a.m. Jan. 10)

Buena Vista University of Storm Lake, Iowa, announced its Dean’s List students for the fall semester. To be named to the Dean’s List, students must carry at least a 3.5 grade point average and take a minimum of 12 credit hours.

Among the students named to the Dean’s List for the fall semester is Dolan Pospichal of Bassett.

* Ainsworth City Council Wednesday agenda

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

Ainsworth City Council
Meeting 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 10
Ainsworth Conference Center

  • Call to Order
  • I. Routine Business
    • Announcement of Open Meetings Act
    • Roll Call
    • Pledge of Allegiance
  • II. Consent Agenda – All items approved with the passage of one motion
    • Approve minutes from the December 13, 2023 regular meeting
    • Approval of claims
    • Treasurer’s report
    • Department head reports
    • Cemetery Certificates

* Any item listed on the Consent Agenda may, by the request of any single Council member, be considered as a separate item under the Regular Agenda section

  • III. Mayor’s Appointments and Report
    • Mayor’s Report
    • Mayor’s Appointments:  None
  • IV. Public Hearings
    • Hearing to review the Citizen Advisory Review Committee’s (CARC) 6-month report on the LB 840 program
  • V. Old Business
    • None
  • VI. Regular Agenda
    • City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Report
  • VII. Adjourn

* Care center borrows from line of credit

(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 9)

For the first time in almost a year, the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors had to borrow from a line of credit to cover its expenses.

The care center generated $224,552 in revenue during December with expenses of $272,481 for a net loss for the month of $47,929.

Business Manager Makenzie Crane said $40,000 in retention bonuses the board approved during its December meeting from federal recruitment and retention funds the facility received were paid out during December, which played a role in the deficit.

The care center was required to spend the federal dollars on recruitment and retention efforts by March or it would have forfeited the funds. The board kept enough of the federal funding to pay for its advertising expenses through March but opted in December to use the remainder to provide bonuses to employees.

Crane said, while the numbers aren’t where she would like them to be for the month, the care center was also waiting on a large payment from Medicare that had not yet arrived, so it was not reflected in the revenue for the month.

Administrator Penny Jacobs said Medicare is required to audit five claims each year for each facility that receives Medicare dollars. She said Medicare delays payment until each audit is complete. She said one Medicare claim was audited in October, there were three audited in November, and she anticipated the fifth would be audited in December.

Once the audits are complete, Medicare will release the payments to the care center.

Board President Tom Jones said the care center’s resident numbers were about where they needed to be for the facility to break even.

“We would be close to that if we had received the Medicare payment,” Jones said. “There is a lot of extra work with that, and then they hold up your income.”

Jacobs reported there are currently 25 residents in the Sandhills Care Center, with 13 paying privately, 11 receiving Medicaid assistance, one receiving Medicare assistance, and one resident was Medicaid pending.

The administrator said the facility had admitted three new residents since the board’s December meeting, and one resident had passed away. She said 15 current residents are from Ainsworth. Six are from Cherry County, two are from rural Brown County, one is from Long Pine and one is from Rock County.

Director of Nursing Sara Mayhew said there was no longer any agency staffing in the facility, as all employees were now in-house.

Mayhew said the care center had to be somewhat selective on the residents it was able to admit, especially when it comes to patients with dementia and behavioral issues. She said if residents have major behavioral issues, staffing levels have to be increased. She said the facility simply can’t afford to admit some Medicaid patients with expensive medication needs, as Medicaid does not reimburse the care center for the cost of those medications.

“Unfortunately, there are some residents we just can’t take,” Mayhew said. “This is a good place to be. I hope the community gives us a chance to care for their loved ones. There is a lot of heart in that building.”

Jacobs said the care center hired a full-time charge nurse during the past month, as well as part-time PRN nurses and CNAs and a part-time housekeeper. She said the facility was still in need of a full-time housekeeper, a maintenance director, CNAs and nurses.

The board approved a transfer of $74,537 from its line of credit to cover the facility’s expenses. Jones said he would visit with the treasurer’s office about how the funds collected from the voter-approved bond from the county and the city would be distributed to the care center once they are paid by property owners.

This is the first year the 1-cent bond for county property owners and the 10-cent bond from city property owners is being collected. Jones will look at how the treasurer distributes those funds to the care center once the property tax is paid.

During action items Monday, the board approved a security system policy and a social media policy for the facility.

The security system policy lays out who has access to the video. There is no audio utilized through the security system, only video.

The social media policy includes parameters that photos of residents cannot be posted to social media by individual employees of the facility. Jacobs said, before the care center can post any photos of residents to its own social media pages, the facility has to have a release signed by the families.

Jacobs reported the Wander Guard system has been installed. There is some staff training being completed, then residents will receive wristbands and the system will be active.

Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor provided the board with a review of the Open Meetings Act, in particular the utilization of executive sessions.

Taylor said executive sessions can be used for certain business, such as protecting an individual’s reputation, discussing pending litigation, contracts or facility security issues.

Taylor said no minutes are taken during executive sessions, and the board cannot take any action during an executive session.

Taylor said the one item that gets public boards into trouble more than anything else is the issue of protecting someone’s reputation. He said the person being discussed in executive session does have the right to be included in the session to defend themselves if necessary. Taylor said that individual also has the right to have the discussion in open session instead of in executive session.

Taylor said the individual does not have to be included for the entire executive session, but they do have to have the opportunity to be included and present their side of the issue.

Taylor said the reason for an executive session has to be stated clearly before entering the session, and no other items can be discussed during the executive session.

The board thanked Taylor for providing more clarity on the Open Meetings Act requirements for executive sessions.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. Feb. 12.

* Collared female lion harvested north of Long Pine

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Jan. 8)

The 2024 mountain lion hunting season in Nebraska’s Niobrara Unit closed Jan. 7 when the harvest sublimit of one female was met.

A 6-year-old collared female lion was shot north of Long Pine. The season opened Jan. 2.

In accordance with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s management objectives, the harvest of mountain lions allows the population to remain resilient and healthy, while slowing growth in the Niobrara Unit, and halting growth or moderately reducing the population size in the Pine Ridge Unit.

The Niobrara Unit was added to the Pine Ridge Unit for mountain lion hunting for the first time for the 2024 season. The Niobrara Unit encompasses parts of Brown, Cherry, Keya Paha, Rock and Sheridan counties.

Mountain lion presence has been documented in the Niobrara River Valley of north central Nebraska since 2001. There has been a resident reproducing population there since 2013 and information gathered through research suggests a population that is growing and will be resilient to harvest.

This is the state’s seventh mountain lion harvest season; the first was in 2014. No mountain lions have been harvested in the Pine Ridge Unit this season as of Jan. 7.

Season 1 in the Pine Ridge Unit will continue through the end of February. The season will end immediately if the annual harvest limit of four mountain lions or sub-limit of two females are reached. An auxiliary season would be held March 16 through the end of March if the annual harvest limit or female sub-limit are not reached during Season 1.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

December 31

  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Air Crew from the Ainsworth Airport to the Brown County Hospital and back to the Airport.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported a patient from the Brown County Hospital to St. Elizabeth’s in Lincoln.
  • Officer responded to a 911 call from a local establishment regarding an Individual Disturbing the Peace
  • Officer responded to a vehicle fire on Maple St in Ainsworth, Fire extinguisher was deployed.
  • Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a vehicle fire on Maple St in Ainsworth.

January 1

  • Officer issued a citation for speeding, 78 mph in a 65 mph zone.
  • Officer issued a citation for improper or defective lighting, failure to display proper number of plates, and No proof of Insurance.
  • Brown County Ambulance responded to a call to a residence on third St in Ainsworth, Individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.

January 2

  • Officers responded to a call concerning a suspicious vehicle on 429th Ave in Ainsworth. Individual was checking Cell Phone Networks
  • Officers responded to a report of disorderly conduct in Ainsworth.
  • Booked and Individual into Brown County Jail for Court Commitment.

January 3

  • Brown County Ambulance and Brown County Sheriff’s Department responded to a residence on 2nd St in Ainsworth, an Individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Officers responded to a request for traffic control for a cattle crossing on Highway 7 south of Ainsworth.
  • Brown County Dispatch received a call regarding a strong smell of gas in the area. Gas Company and Fire Dept. informed.

January 4

  • Officers responded to a request for traffic control for a cattle crossing West of Ainsworth.
  • Officer performed a Motorist Assist in Long Pine.

January 5

  • Brown County Ambulance transported an Individual from the Brown County Hospital to the Individual’s residence on 3rd St in Ainsworth.

January 6

  • Officer Arrested Individual on an Out of State Warrant.

WEEKLY SUMMARY TOTALS

INCIDENT REPORTS:  10

PHONE CALLS: 124

911 CALLS:  10

VIN INSPECTIONS:  3

HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS: 5

 PAPER SERVICE: 4

MONTHLY SUMMARY TOTALS

INCIDENT REPORTS: 57

PHONE CALLS: 524

911 CALLS: 32

VIN INSPECTIONS:  9

HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS: 10

PAPER SERVICE: 10

YEARLY SUMMARY FOR 2023

INCIDENT REPORTS:  1048

PHONE CALLS: 6938

911 CALLS:  466

VIN INSPECTIONS:  207

HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS: 128

PAPER SERVICE:  181

* Jelinek receives degree from UNMC

(Posted 9 a.m. Jan. 4)

Diplomas were conferred to more than 400 University of Nebraska Medical Center students on Dec. 15.

Addressing the graduates at the ceremony, UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, said, “This day reminds me, and hopefully reminds all of you, that achievement of a goal, particularly a lifetime-defining goal, takes talent, it takes time, it takes tenacity, and it takes real perseverance.”

Among the students graduating from the UNMC was Kassidy Jelinek of Atkinson, who received a master’s degree in physician assistant studies.

* Rock County Commissioners reorganize for 2024

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Jan. 3, report from meeting minutes)

The Rock County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday. The Annual Reorganization meeting was held.

Wade Hollenbeck was nominated for Chairman and Colby Sybrant for Vice Chairman. The board approved those nominations.

The board declared the first and third Tuesday of each month as their regular meeting date with the exception of one meeting on the third Tuesday of January & July. And a third meeting on June 27 for the end of the fiscal year and December 27 for the end of the calendar year. Meetings will start at 9 a.m.

The commissioners approved the Rock County Leader as the official newspaper of the county and designated the county website rockcountyne.gov as an additional method of providing notice of board meetings. Hollenbeck, Faye Smith and Sybrant were approved as signatories of the imprest checking account at The Tri-County Bank.

Applications for investment of funds were received from The Tri-County Bank, NFIT (Union Bank & Trust), Sandhills State Bank & NPAIT. The board approved resolutions declaring the Tri-County Bank, NFIT (Union Bank & Trust), NPAIT of Lincoln and the Sandhills State Bank as County Depositories.

County Road Wage & Equipment Rental scale was reviewed & tabled until the January 16 meeting.

The commissioners appointed Lloyd Smith of Niobrara Valley Consultants as the county’s Highway Superintendent for 2024. Smith was appointed as the County Surveyor for 2023-2026 during the 2023 reorganization meeting.

The board appointed Hollenbeck to represent Rock County on the Niobrara Council & North Central District Health Department boards.

Smith will represent the county on the Northeast Nebraska Area on Aging Governing Board, the Region IV Mental Health Board & the North Central Development Center Board.

Sybrant was appointed to represent Rock County on the Central Nebraska Community Services Board & as the county’s Emergency Management designee.

Waylon Reynolds, Interim Road Foreman gave road updates. Maintainer repairs that are needed was discussed. Applications for the road foreman position were reviewed and the board appointed Reynolds as the Road Foreman with an hourly wage of $27 per hour.

Sheriff Ben Shelbourn met with the Commissioners to discuss the law enforcement interlocal agreement between the sheriff’s department and the city of Bassett. The commissioners, clerk and sheriff will attend the Bassett City Council meeting at 7 p.m. January 10.

Assessor TJ Ellermeier met with the Commissioners on a tax correction. Acting as the Board of Equalization, the commissioners approved the splitting of the parcel in question evenly by adding a new parcel.

The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 16.

* Commissioners discuss mowing road ditches

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

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday again discussed the topic of property owners who fail to mow the county road ditches adjacent to their property twice per year as required by county ordinance.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said he had talked to several people but had not found anyone interested in contracting with the county to handle mowing ditches that are not taken care of by the adjacent property owner.

Commissioner Buddy Small said he had visited with a NIRMA representative, who indicated anyone serving as a sub-contractor for the county to mow the ditches would need to have a liability insurance policy. Small said that would likely serve as a deterrent to anyone interested in mowing the ditches for the county.

Commissioner Denny Bauer said it might be a possibility for the county to cover the cost of the liability insurance policy to help find someone willing to handle the work.

Small said he asked the county attorney to research if the county could issue fines to those who do not follow the ordinance of mowing adjacent ditches twice annually.

Turpin estimated, after looking back, there were approximately 50 miles of county road ditches that were not mowed by property owners in the past year. Turpin said it would be nice if the county had a tractor and mower so the roads crew could handle the mowing for those who don’t mow themselves and then assess the cost of doing so to the property owner.

As he did during the previous meeting, Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said he was opposed to spending the money for a tractor and a mower and having the county crew do the mowing.

No action was taken, as the commissioners indicated they would check with potential sub-contractors on their interest in mowing if the county covered the cost of the liability insurance policy. The item was placed on the board’s Jan. 16 agenda.

During his report Tuesday, Turpin said the roads department had spent the past week plowing snow from the roads. He said there were some deep drifts on the roadways, especially in the western portion of the county.

Turpin said the roads crew had also completed some repair work on both the Long Pine and Johnstown roads department buildings. Turpin said windows that were broken during the May hailstorm at the Long Pine shop were replaced, and several repairs, including a door replacement, were completed at Johnstown.

“We saved some money doing those ourselves instead of hiring it out, and we should save on heating bills,” Turpin said. “The Johnstown shop already feels a lot warmer now, and it looks a lot better.”

Turpin reported $38,051 in repairs were completed on one of the county’s motor graders, and the county’s 1998 scraper had $15,068 in repair work. Turpin said, even with some repairs, having the scraper saves the county money instead of having to hire a contractor for scraper work.

The highway superintendent reported the Nebraska Department of Transportation annually sends personnel to inspect 2 to 3 percent of the county’s bridges. Turpin, who serves as the county’s primary bridge inspector, said he received a 98.7 percent compliance grade on the inspection work he performed.

“I guess I didn’t miss too much,” Turpin said.

Dailey congratulated Turpin on the high marks.

“That lets you know how you are doing so you don’t have to worry about it,” Dailey said.

Turpin reported he had $54,000 remaining in the roads department’s asphalt budget, and planned to contract for crack sealing work on the Elsmere Road asphalt.

“The crack sealing is worth it,” Turpin said. “It gets the cracks sealed up and keeps water from getting under it.”

Turpin said the declining price of fuel had also helped the roads department budget this year.

In action items Tuesday, the commissioners approved a county burial application for the late Jane Williams.

The board approved removing retired Assistant Treasurer Janice Devall from the treasurer’s checking account. Treasurer Bruce Mitchell said the bank needed something in the board’s minutes before it could remove Devall from the account.

The board approved tuition reimbursement in the amount of $1,500 for county employee Zach Welch. The county has a policy that provides tuition assistance to full-time county employees who further their education.

The board also approved the county’s property, vehicle, mobile and remote schedules for its NIRMA insurance policy as presented.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Jan. 16.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 1:15 p.m. Jan. 1)

December 24

  • No events to report

December 25

  • Brown County Ambulance responded to a request for a lift Assist at an Ainsworth residence.

December 26

  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office and Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a report of a gas meter being hit on Second St in Ainsworth.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s office responded to a report of a non-injury Rollover Accident South of Ainsworth.

December 27

  • Brown County Ambulance responded to a call on Elm St in Ainsworth. An Individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Officer responded to a report of Fraud/Impersonation at a local establishment.

December 28

  • Officer issued citation for passing in a no passing zone.
  • Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a Vehicle in the ditch west of the Long Pine Spur. The vehicle was later moved.
  • Officers responded to a request for traffic control for a cattle crossing West of Johnstown.
  • Officers responded to a request for a welfare check on Ainsworth resident. Individual was found to be OK

December 29

  • Officers responded to a request for traffic control for a cattle crossing East of Long Pine.
  • Officers responded to a request for traffic control for a funeral in Ainsworth.

December 30

  • Officer issued citation for speeding, 74 mph in a 65 mph zone.
  • Received a report of a threat against an individual.

WEEKLY SUMMARY TOTALS

INCIDENT REPORTS: 9

PHONE CALLS: 127

911 CALLS:  7

VIN INSPECTIONS: 0

HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS:  2

 

 

 

 

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