News

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

E-mail us at kbrb@sscg.net

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Sept. 29)

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

Matthew C. Wimmer, age 46, of Detroit Lakes, Minn., charged with two counts of violating a stop or yield sign, fined $75 on each count.

Reyes Escarcega Molina, 38, of Colorado Springs, Colo., violating a stop or yield sign, $75; also charged with speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Michael R. Spotted Bear, 22, of Ainsworth, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Alejandra Alonso Cruz, 32, of Long Pine, failure to use a child passenger restraint, $25.

Patricia K. Gabbard, 72, of Riverside, Calif., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Martha L. Boyle, 70, of Hoisington, Kan., no park permit, $25.

Christopher S. Purdum, 38, of Wichita, Kan., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Kenneth E. Jefferis, 67, of Long Pine, no valid registration, $25.

* State, national unemployment rates tick up in August

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 28)

The Nebraska Department of Labor reported Nebraska’s preliminary unemployment rate for August was 2.1 percent. The rate was up 0.1 percentage points from the July rate and was down 0.4 percentage points from the August 2021 rate of 2.5 percent.

Nebraska’s August rate is the fourth lowest in the country. Minnesota has the lowest rate in the nation at 1.9 percent in August, followed by New Hampshire and Utah at 2.0 percent. Nebraska is tied with Vermont for the fourth lowest rate in the country at 2.1 percent. New York has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 4.7 percent.

“The number of employed workers in the state increased by over 16,000 since August 2021,” said Commissioner of Labor John H. Albin. “Nebraska also saw an uptick in new entrants in the labor force from July to August.”

Brown County’s unemployment rate of 2.2 percent is just above the state average. Rock County has the lowest rate in the area with just 1.4 percent of workers claiming unemployment benefits. Cherry County and Holt County are close behind at 1.6 percent. Keya Paha County and Boyd County each matched the state average with an August rate of 2.1 percent. Blaine County has the highest unemployment rate in the area in August at 2.9 percent.

Thurston County, at 3.6 percent, had the highest unemployment rate in the state in August. The lowest rate in the state belonged to tiny Grant County in the Sandhills at 1.2 percent.

Over 1 million Nebraskans have been employed since August of 2020.

Nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was 1,029,051 in August, down 3,238 over the month and up 16,336 over the year. Private industries with the most growth month to month were financial activities (up 877), mining and construction (up 718), and information (up 385). Private industries with the most growth year to year were professional and business services (up 3,387), leisure and hospitality (up 3,162), and education and health services (up 3,142). 

The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for August is 3.7 percent, up 0.2 percentage points from the July rate and down 1.5 percentage points from the August 2021 rate of 5.2 percent.

* Cherry County vineyard receives CDBG funding

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

Just over a mile south of rural Nenzel, members of a five-generation family serve as vintners in north central Nebraska. Specialty wines at Niobrara Valley Vineyards tell the story of the Nollette family’s ranching roots. Cowgirl Blush and Sweetheart Red are just two of the vineyard’s wines that portray the family’s life in the Sandhills since the turn of the 20th century.

More than 100 years later, the Nollettes are expanding their company’s footprint with an expansion project. This week, Lt. Gov. Mike Foley helped celebrate the project’s groundbreaking with Gregory and Cindy Nollette, Cherry County officials, members of the Central Nebraska Economic Development District and the Department of Economic Development.

A new campsite, walking paths and restrooms are part of the $736,089 project, which will include assistance from a federal Community Development Block Grant for Tourism Development. Program funding is facilitated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by DED.

“We appreciate the opportunity to collaborate on projects designed to showcase why we choose to call Nebraska home,” Foley said. “The story of Niobrara Valley Vineyards started with an entrepreneurial family’s vision to welcome visitors to our state. Cherry County and CNEDD leaders brought tourism dollars to the table for this project, which solidified efforts to invigorate development in this region.”

In addition to the ongoing development of infrastructure and amenities on the property, the $385,039 Community Development Block Grant will create Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility. The funding assistance will create two full-time jobs for low to moderate income employees. The employees will provide staffing for the winery’s new tasting room and event center, which will be funded through private investments.

“Public and private partnerships are often a cornerstone of tourism development in our state and encourage Nebraskans to play a role in regional growth,” said CDBG Manager Steve Charleston. “The CDBG-Tourism Development program has become increasingly competitive over the past several years and has helped fund projects in other Nebraska communities, such as Gothenburg, Hastings and Ogallala. We are anxious to help facilitate similar growth in Cherry County through Niobrara Valley Vineyard’s expansion.”  

The CDBG-Tourism Development program requires visitation from 2,500 people per year. The program also helps fund historic restorations, scientific and educational interpretive sites, cultural and heritage sites, and facilitates the removal of architectural barriers.

* Hansmeyer wins Week 5 football contest in a tiebreak

(Posted 3 p.m. Sept. 27)

After the first perfect card was submitted in Week 4, no one was able to pick all 14 games correctly during Week 5 of the KBRB Football Contest. In fact, only two contestants checked the right boxes on 13 of the 14 games.

Lanay Hansmeyer of Long Pine and Byron Pfister of Long Pine each missed just one game on the Week 5 card, with Hansmeyer missing Texas Tech’s home victory over Texas on the college side, and Pfister picking Valentine to beat O’Neill on the high school side in a game the Badgers lost by a point to the Eagles.

With two contestants missing one game, that sent us to our tiebreaker, Ohio State’s 52-21 triumph over Wisconsin with Nebraska on a bye. Both Hansmeyer and Pfister correctly picked the Buckeyes to win. Hansmeyer’s prediction of 35-21 missed the total by 17, while Pfister had the Buckeyes picked 35-14, missing the total by 24 points. By virtue of the tiebreaker, Lanay Hansmeyer wins this week’s $40 first-place certificate and Byron Pfister picks up the $10 second-place certificate.

Five contestants missed two games to finish just out of the running. They included Tony Allen of Ainsworth, Travis Mundorf and Crystal Stout of Springview, and Mark Hysell and Russ Burkhalter of Atkinson.

Winners may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios or make arrangements for the KBRB sports crew to drop off cards if unable to make it to Ainsworth. Certificates may be redeemed from any of the KBRB Football Contest Card sponsors.

Week 6 KBRB Football Contest cards are available now from Buckles Automotive, AKRS Equipment and Speedee Mart in Ainsworth; from Circle B Livestock and the Tri County Bank in Bassett; from West Plains Bank in Springview; from the Tri County Bank in Stuart; and from Speedee Mart and the Tri County Bank in Atkinson.

The deadline to submit football contest cards this year is 4 p.m. Thursday if dropping off at the studio or the cards must carry a Thursday postmark if mailed.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 6:15 a.m. Sept. 26)

September 18

  • Responded to suspicious activity on South Main St in Ainsworth. No criminal activity was found.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 243, a NE plated vehicle was issued a citation for speeding 60mph in a 35 mph zone.

September 19

  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity near an apartment complex in Ainsworth. Deputies were unable to locate any subjects in the area.
  • Responded to a report of trespassing on a property along Highway 183. This is an ongoing investigation.

September 20

  • During a traffic stop near the 4th St and Richardson Drive intersection, a Nebraska driver and passenger were issued citations for possession of marijuana 1 oz or less and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Responded to a report of a juvenile sexual assault. One male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail and bond was set at $50,000 cash.  This is an ongoing investigation.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 245, a Colorado driver was issued a citation for possession of marijuana 1 oz or less, no proof of insurance, and defective vehicle lighting.

September 21

  • The Brown County Ambulance was paged for a 911 call in Ainsworth and transferred one individual to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Responded to a motorist assist on Highway 7. No accident report was needed but a tow truck was dispatched.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 245, a Washington driver was issued a citation for speeding, and driving under the influence of alcohol. The subject was booked into the Brown County jail and later posted bond and was released.

September 22

  • Responded to suspicious activity on Elm St in Ainsworth. Deputies made contact with two individuals on 4th St and found no criminal activity at this time.
  • Responded to a report of a juvenile having a mental health crisis.
  • Responded to a report of juvenile enticement. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, mile marker 238, a South Dakota driver was issued a citation for speeding 85mph in a 65 mph zone.

September 23

  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity at a hotel in Ainsworth. Deputies responded and found no criminal activity.
  • Provided civil standby for a property dispute in Ainsworth.
  • Responded to a report of a disturbance in Ainsworth. The individual was separated from the rest of the party for the night.

September 24

  • Booked a male subject into the Brown County Jail on an arrest warrant. Bond was set at $1000.
  • Booked a female subject into the Brown County Jail for a weekend court commitment.
  • The Raven Fire Department sent a truck to respond to a report of smoldering hay bales.
  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing on Highway 7 near mile marker 13.

Weekly Summary:
0 – Handgun Permits Applied For
16- Incident Reports Were Taken
4 – Paper Services Were Served
156 – Phone Calls Were Received
12- 911 Emergency Calls Received
4 – Titles Were Inspected

* Initial segment of north lane to be poured Tuesday

(Posted 11:45 a.m. Sept. 22)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation on Thursday provided an update on the Highway 20 construction project in Ainsworth. A&R Construction, now in Phase III of the project, plans to pour concrete from Pine Street to Richardson Drive Tuesday on the north lane of the highway.

A total of 650 cubic yards of concrete is slated to be poured Tuesday. Once that stretch of paving is complete, A&R Construction will begin preparing Wilson Street to Main Street for concrete.

Beginning Monday, direct access to Rodeway Inn will be closed for up to two weeks until the new concrete is cured enough for vehicles to drive on it. Access to Rodeway Inn will be available from the east entrance to the hotel utilizing Hunt Street and East Fifth Street. The route will be marked.

The storm sewer contractor plans to close the Wilson Street intersection Monday for utility improvements and storm sewer installation. Meadville Avenue will remain open during that time for truck traffic.

* Care Center runs in the red during August financial report

(Posted 12:15 p.m. Sept. 21)

The financial outlook was again top of mind Friday for the monthly meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors. While many agency staffing positions have now been filled with its own hires, the care center still incurred more than $55,000 in agency staffing costs during August and overall losses for the month were over $58,000.

During August, the care center generated $183,923 in revenue, with expenses of $242,441 for a net loss of $58,518. The care center’s financial report did show a $10,000 donation that was made to the facility, and the facility is planning on $125,000 in previously committed support from the Brown County Commissioners to get the facility to the November General Election where voters will be asked whether they want to support the nursing home through property tax levies.

Care Center Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said the care center hired its former agency assistant director of nursing for the same position. He said the current agency director of nursing was potentially interested in full-time employment with the care center pending the outcome of the public votes in November.

“If we can get a director of nursing hired, we would be finished with agency staffing and would be closer to making things work,” Fuchs said.

Fuchs said the city of Ainsworth also budgeted $125,000 to match the county’s committed contribution, but did not include the other $80,000 in funding as the county had as part of its 2022-23 budget.

The board discussed the upcoming General Election ballot questions. City of Ainsworth voters will be asked whether to provide 10 cents in a property tax levy for the next five years to support the facility’s operations, while voters in the county who reside outside the city limits of Ainsworth will be asked whether to provide 1 cent in property tax levy for five years to support the nursing home.

Fuchs reported the county tax would levy $10 in property tax for every $100,000 in property valuation, while the levy on property inside the city limits would amount to $110 in tax for every $100,000 in property owned.

Fuchs reminded the board these levies would replace the annual $80,000 contributions the city and the county had been making from their general funds to support the care center. Should both levy questions be approved by voters, the tax would be levied beginning with the 2023 tax year and the nursing home would begin to receive the funds when 2023 taxes are paid. Those taxes become delinquent in May and September of 2024.

Administrator Penny Jacobs reported Friday there were 22 residents in the Sandhills Care Center, and the care center had the potential for two additional admissions during the next week.

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

* Wilkins named homecoming candidate at UN-L

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

Twenty senior students have been selected as University of Nebraska–Lincoln homecoming royalty finalists.

Among the UN-L homecoming king candidates is Sam Wilkins, an Ainsworth High School graduate majoring in agricultural engineering and agricultural economics.

The royalty winners will be elected by the student body in an online vote Sept. 28 and 29. They will be crowned Oct. 1 at halftime of the Nebraska vs. Indiana football game, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. in Memorial Stadium.

* Allen submits perfect card in KBRB Football Contest

(Posted 1 p.m. Sept. 20)

The first perfect card was submitted during Week 4 of the KBRB Football Contest. Navigating some toss-up matchups on both the high school and college side of the card, Terry Allen of Ainsworth picked all 14 games correctly on the Week 4 card to earn the $40 first-place certificate.

Five contestants missed just one game on the Week 4 contest card, which sent us to the tie-breaker, Oklahoma’s 49-14 domination of the Huskers.

All five contestants who missed one game had the Sooners correctly picked to win. Maxine Brink of Atkinson and Roger Brink of Atkinson picked identical scores of 35-7 Sooners to miss the total by 21 points. Mark Hysell of Atkinson picked a 42-7 Sooner final, missing the total by 14 points. Derek Swan of Springview had the Sooners pegged, 52-24, missing the total by 13 points. Byron Pfister of Long Pine had the Sooners to win, 42-17, missing by 10 points. Pfister was the closest to the actual score and takes home the $10 second-place certificate.

Winners may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios or make arrangements for the KBRB sports crew to drop off cards if unable to make it to Ainsworth. Certificates may be redeemed from any of the KBRB Football Contest Card sponsors.

Week 5 KBRB Football Contest cards are available now from Buckles Automotive, AKRS Equipment and Speedee Mart in Ainsworth; from Circle B Livestock and the Tri County Bank in Bassett; from West Plains Bank in Springview; from the Tri County Bank in Stuart; and from Speedee Mart and the Tri County Bank in Atkinson.

The deadline to submit football contest cards this year is 4 p.m. Thursday if dropping off at the studio or the cards must carry a Thursday postmark if mailed.

* City to armor coat 21 blocks Wednesday

(Posted 9 a.m. Sept. 20)

The city of Ainsworth streets department asks vehicle owners to keep all vehicles off 21 blocks of streets that are planned for armor coating work on Wednesday.

TopKote will be in Ainsworth Wednesday placing armor coat gravel on the designated blocks of city streets. Vehicles must be removed from the streets prior to the armor coat work beginning Wednesday morning.

Streets scheduled for armor coating Wednesday are:

First Street from Walnut to Pine streets
Glen Street from First to Second streets
Ash Street from First to Second streets
Woodward Street from First to Second streets
Third Street from Osborne to Woodward streets
Fifth Street from Court to Woodward streets
Fifth Street from North Main to Elm streets
Sixth Street from North Main to Oak streets
Oak Street from Sixth to Seventh streets
Seventh Street from Maple to Oak streets
Seventh Street from Elm to Ash streets

* Brown County Commissioners agenda for Tuesday

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Sept. 20)

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

5:15             Roll Call.

Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

Mowing road ditches – Small

Chandler Schmidt, Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District – Update on Sand Draw Creek Stabilization – Small

Annual Report on Distress Warrants & Striking taxes on a parcel – Vonheeder

Approve 2022-2023 Inventories for County Attorney & STOP – Hobbs

Nomination/Election of NIRMA Board Members – Small

MASA – Employer Benefit Agreement – Hardy

Liquor control commission epayment authorize Brown County Clerk Hobbs to sign – Hobbs

Approve Claims

* Commissioners approved 2022-23 budget, tax request

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Sept. 20)

Following public hearings Monday, the Brown County Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt a $26.9 million budget that will ask property owners in the county for $3.19 million in tax.

A little more than half of the approved budget is the Brown County Hospital budget. The hospital’s $13.7 million budget is included in the county’s overall budget.

The county asked for $2.79 million in property tax to support its general fund, with $397,958 in property tax supporting the voter-approved hospital addition bond. The hospital bond payments will be completed following the 2024-25 fiscal year.

The $3.19 million in property tax the county requested is approximately $126,000 more than the $3.06 million requested for the 2021-22 budget. While the tax asking increased by about 4 percent, the county’s overall budget of $26.98 million was only 0.21 percent above the $26.92 million budget approved for 2021-22.

The overall property valuation in the county jumped by more than $100 million, increasing 11.26 percent from $894.1 million to $994.8 million. While a small percentage of that increase was due to new construction, the vast majority of the valuation increase was due to increased value on existing property.

With the more than $100 million in valuation increase, the county’s property tax levy rate decreased despite the $126,000 in additional tax asking. The levy rate dropped from 34.3 cents per $100 in property value to 32.1 cents per $100. The levy rate declined by 6.44 percent. Had the county asked for the same amount of property tax as it did to support the 2021-22 budget, the levy rate would have been 30.8 cents per $100 in property value.

The county actually spent $19.47 million during the 2021-22 fiscal year, down slightly from the $19.69 million spent during the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The Brown County Hospital spent $11.55 million during the 2021-22 fiscal year, down slightly from $11.67 million spent during 2020-21.

The county spent $3.74 million from its general fund during the recently completed year, up from $3.09 million spent during 2020-21. The roads department spent $2.21 million, up from $1.74 million spent during 2020-21.

The 2022-23 budget includes $2.48 million in capital projects, which is the Meadville Avenue asphalt replacement project. Another $634,625 is budgeted for the county’s bridge fund, which includes the county’s share of the Meadville Avenue bridge project on the Sand Draw Creek as well as the replacement of a bridge over the Ainsworth Irrigation District canal.

With the approval of the 2022-23 budget, the county created $745,277 in unused budget authority, which is property tax dollars the county could have collected if it had maximized its allowable budget increase but instead chose to keep in the pockets of property owners.

Audience member Don Fling asked the commissioners which part of the budget included support for the Sandhills Care Center.

Commissioner Buddy Small said the county had provided $80,000 in funding to the Sandhills Care Center for the current fiscal year, which had been processed in July. He said the board had previously agreed to provide an additional $125,000 if needed, which would come from the county’s inheritance tax.

Fling said he disagreed with money going from the inheritance tax fund to support the nursing home.

“The county has other sources of income other than inheritance tax,” Fling said. “I don’t think that fund should be used for the nursing home.”

Fling said the Legislature initially approved a tax on inheritance that was to be used for county road improvements. He said the Legislature changed the provisions after 100 years to allow counties to use inheritance tax funds in any way they saw fit.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said he was not in favor of drying up the county’s inheritance tax fund to support one entity, but he said the county knew when it decided to reopen the nursing home in cooperation with the city that the nursing home would likely not be a money maker.

“When he first talked to us about doing this, Ron Ross told us nursing homes in small communities don’t make money,” Wiebelhaus said. “The question becomes how much are we willing to spend to provide that service.”

Both Commissioners Buddy Small and Denny Bauer said they would not agree to provide any additional support to the nursing home than what has already been provided.

“What we promised to do a few meetings ago is as far as I am willing to go,” Small said.

Bauer said, “That goes for me as well, I won’t vote for any more funds from the inheritance tax. We have to draw a line in the sand somewhere.”

Both the commissioners and the Ainsworth City Council voted to have ballot questions appear on the November General Election ballot that would provide approximately $100,000 from each entity for the next five years in voter-approved levies to support the nursing home. If passed by voters, the $100,000 from each entity would replace the $80,000 in general funds per year each entity had been providing the care center.

Small said the nursing home faces two main problems, those being not having enough residents to pay for operational expenses, and having to hire too many agency nursing positions.

“Managing the care center has been very trying,” Small said. “If it was a private business, it would have been closed by now. The lack of staff is what has been so devastating financially.”

Following discussion on the budget and property tax request, the board approved the 2022-23 budget and property tax request.

The commissioners meeting in regular session at 5:15 p.m. today (Tuesday).

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 19)

September 11

  • Brown County Ambulance transferred a rural Brown County resident to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Conducted a welfare check on an Ainsworth resident. Found to be okay.

September 12

  • Responded to a report of vandalism to a mailbox in Ainsworth.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported a patient from the Sandhills Care Center to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Received a report of property theft from the Village of Johnstown. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Advised Ainsworth Street Dept of a street sign in Ainsworth that needs to be reset or replaced.
  • Received a report of a motorized vehicle on the Cowboy Trail. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to a Lifefone fall alert at a local resident. Resident was found to be fine as this was a false alarm.
  • Responded to a request for an accident report at a business on Highway 20. No injuries were reported.
  • Responded to a report of Vandalism on 4th St in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Booked an individual into the Brown County Jail on an Arrest Warrant out of TX.

September 13

  • Received a report of dead deer on Highway 20 near Plum Creek. The NE State Dept of Roads was advised and disposed of the deer.
  • Provided a Civil Standby at a local Ainsworth residence.
  • Received a report of an individual driving recklessly at Ainsworth Community Schools. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Transported a stray dog to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic.

September 14

  • Received a report of vandalism to a Stop Sign in rural Brown County. Brown County Dept of Roads was advised. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report of possible assault at Ainsworth Community Schools between students. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report of 1 vehicle accident without injury on Highway 7. Local business contacted to assist with airing some tires.
  • Received a report of Civil Dispute over personal property at a residence in Hidden Paradise. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Long Pine Rural Firemen responded to a possible fire in a storm drain in Long Pine. There was not a fire present.

 September 15

  • K-9 Dutch & handler conducted drug checks at Ainsworth Community Schools.
  • Assisted a business with questions about oversized loads in Brown County by getting him in contact with the Superintendent of Brown County Roads Dept.
  • Booked an individual into Brown County Jail on an Arrest Warrant.

 September 16

  • Provided traffic control for the Homecoming Parade on Main Street.
  • Responded to a 2 vehicle accident without injury on Highway 20 in Ainsworth.
  • Received a report of a possible assault on a student by another student at Ainsworth Community Schools. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Brown County Ambulance responded to a request for transfer of an Ainsworth resident to Brown County Hospital.
  • Released an inmate on appearance bond.
  • Contacted campers at Long Pine State Park to put out their campfire due to the current fire ban and reference posted signs.
  • Responded to a suspicious vehicle parked at a stop sign for a long length of time. Booked an individual into Brown County Jail on an Arrest Warrant. Later released on an appearance bond.

 September 17

  • Responded to a telephoned report of a civil dispute at an Ainsworth residence. Officers were unable to locate anyone in a civil dispute.
  • Responded to a report of suspicious juvenile activity in Ainsworth. The individual was spoken to and no other action was needed.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported a patient from Sandhills Care Center to the Rock County ER.
  • Booked an individual into Brown County Jail following arrest on a DWI violation. Later released on Appearance Bond.

Weekly Summary
18 – Incident Reports Were Taken
113 – Phone Calls Were Received
6 – 911 Emergency Calls Received
2 – Titles Were Inspected
0 – Handgun Permits Applied For
3 – Paper Services Were Served

* City asks for $427,617 in property tax for 2022-23 budget

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

The Ainsworth City Council Wednesday approved a $6.67 million budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year that will ask property owners inside city limits for $427,617.

Following public hearings Wednesday, the council approved the budget and property tax levy, which will maintain a levy rate of 45 cents per $100 in property valuation inside city limits and an additional 5 cents in levy for interlocal agreements.

The levy rate is the same as approved for the 2021-22 fiscal year. With the total value of property inside city limits increasing by a little more than 1 percent from $93.7 million to $95 million, the city will capture just shy of $6,000 in additional property tax by keeping its levy the same.

The property tax asking increases from $421,773 for the 2021-22 fiscal year to $427,617 to support the 2022-23 budget.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said, “Even with all the things we have going on, the council decided to keep the status quo and stay at a 45-cent levy.”

Schroedl said the big project included in the 2022-23 budget is a paving project on North Main Street between Fourth Street and Seventh Street that will coincide with water and sewer line replacement in that stretch. The city plans to replace the water and sewer lines under the remainder of Main Street in 2024 when the Nebraska Department of Transportation renovates Highway 7 in Ainsworth.

“We hope to get some grant funds to help offset some of those expenses,” Schroedl said. “The budget, otherwise, is pretty similar.”

The city has $1.76 million in bonded debt, which includes a water bond and a USDA loan from a wastewater improvement project that was completed within the past two years. Schroedl said the bond on the last paving project has been paid, and the water bond will be paid off following next year’s budget.

As part of the sales tax the city collects, six-tenths of 1 percent of that 1.5 percent tax goes toward paying off city debt, keeping property taxpayers from having to shoulder the full burden of debt service.

While the city approved a $6.67 million budget Wednesday, actual expenditures are sure to be substantially lower. The city must budget to spend every dollar from every fund under its control, even though the likelihood of doing so is remote.

The city actually spent a touch over $3.5 million during the 2021-22 fiscal year, which was substantially less than the $5.72 million spent during the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Schroedl said flood repairs from the 2019 flooding and a portion of the wastewater improvement project were paid for during the 2020-21 budget, which was why it had substantially higher disbursements than the recently completed 2021-22 budget year.

Following public hearings, the council approved the budget and property tax request and voted to increase the city’s restricted funds by an additional 1 percent, which are funds the city could have asked for in property tax but did not.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved updated garbage service rates and plans to roll out new totes to residential and commercial customers within the next few weeks.

Residential customers will be charged $20 per month for garbage service per 64-gallon or 96-gallon tote requested. Residential customers with one tote having their garbage picked up the standard once per week will pay $20 per month. The city will supply the customer with the tote of their choosing, either 64-gallon or 96-gallon.

All garbage must be bagged before being placed in the totes, and all pickup will be from curbside with the new garbage truck. There will be no alley pickup service.

“The new truck picks up and empties the totes on the top of the truck,” Schroedl said. “The garbage has to be bagged or it will blow all over.”

Schroedl said customers will have from 6 p.m. the day before their pickup day until 6 p.m. on the day of pickup to have their totes curbside. Other than that window, totes are to stay near the residence and not at the curb.

When totes are delivered to residences, the city will place the tote where they would like the resident to place the tote for pickup. Residents are asked not to park vehicles in front of any totes during pickup days. Garbage outside the totes will not be picked up by the city, so residents are encouraged not to place additional bags of trash next to the totes.

Commercial customers who have dumpsters will be charged $65 per month per dumpster for once per week pickup service. The cost is an additional $65 per month if the dumpsters are emptied twice per week.

Schroedl said the city plans to send out letters to all garbage service customers explaining the changes. The city opted to keep its garbage service in-house and purchase a new truck that can be operated by one employee instead of contracting for garbage pickup from a private company.

Residential customers had been paying $14.30 per month for garbage service. Heavy commercial customers with dumpsters had paid $54.60 per month and an additional $13 per month to rent a dumpster. The new $65 rate for commercial customers includes the dumpster rent.

Councilman Schuyler Schenk said, even with the increased costs for most customers, having the city handle garbage pickup was still less expensive than the proposal the city received from the private service.

Schroedl said the new rates should generate approximately $355,800 in revenue annually. Expenses to pay for the truck, operate the truck and pay for the cost of the solid waste is approximately $331,000. She said the city will pay $76,807 annually for the next five years for the new truck.

Schroedl said the city is currently interviewing candidates to operate the new truck, and the city plans to have the operator in place and the new truck in service by Oct. 1.

Anyone with questions regarding garbage pickup may contact the city office.

In other action items Wednesday, briefly, the council:

* Held the second reading of Ordinance 1551 that would amend city code to allow residents to keep up to six laying hens inside city limits. The ordinance will be read for a third time in October before being adopted.

* Approved Ordinance 1552 which renews the city’s economic development program and the Citizens Advisory Review Committee. Residents voted by a nearly 90 percent margin to renew the city’s LB 840 local option sales tax during August, and the action taken by the council renews the program for an additional 15 years.

* Approved, in a related item, Ordinance 1553 that renews the one-half cent sales tax upon transactions inside the city limits for an additional 15-year period.

* Approved a special designated liquor license request for the Silver Circle Bar for a dance Oct. 22 that will also close the alley west of Main Street behind the business.

* Approved a special designated liquor license requested by Sandhills Lounge for the annual Pheasants Forever banquet scheduled for Nov. 4 in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

* Approved a 3-cent levy for the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department through an interlocal agreement with the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District. Under the agreement, for the city and rural fire district to receive Mutual Finance Organization funding from the state, the Ainsworth Fire Department and rural fire district must have a matching levy of at least 3 cents for at least one year of the three-year agreement. Schroedl said the county has agreed to provide the matching 3-cent levy to the rural fire district for this budget cycle for the entities to qualify for the state MFO funding.

* Approved having North Central Development Center Director Kristin Olson apply for a USDA Rural Development grant on behalf of the city to purchase a quick response multi-use vehicle. Councilman Brad Fiala said the rural fire district cannot apply for the grant for the grass rig because the county is not at its maximum property tax levy. The city, which is at its levy cap, would qualify for the grant and would own the truck. He said it would be used to assist during vehicle accidents and to help provide traffic control. The city would own the truck, and the rural fire district would pay to outfit the truck if the $50,000 grant is awarded.

* Approved allowing Ainsworth Community Schools to place up to four handicap parking spaces at the East City Park football field to allow for handicapped parking.

* Approved declaring chain link and vinyl fence being stored at East City Park as surplus equipment that will be sold by sealed bid. Schroedl said the surplus equipment will be advertised, with bids accepted until Oct. 11.

* Approved designating Schroedl as the city’s voting representative during the annual members meeting of the League Insurance Government Health Team.

The Ainsworth City Council will hold a special meeting at noon Sept. 30 to pay claims and close out the 2021-22 fiscal year. The next regular meeting of the council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 12.

* Shaw wins KBRB Football Contest second straight week

(Posted 12:30 p.m. Sept. 13)

For the second week in a row, Kim Shaw of Bassett was the top prognosticator during the KBRB Football Contest. There were some notable upsets on the Week 3 contest card, especially in the college ranks, and no one submitted a perfect score. For the second straight week, two misses among the 14 games on the card put contestants in the running for the weekly prizes.

Shaw, husband JT Shaw of Bassett, and Kurtis Mizner of Springview each missed two games on the Week 3 card. That took us to our tie-breaker, Georgia Southern’s 45-42 victory over Nebraska that cost Husker coach Scott Frost his job.

All three contestants thought Nebraska would win. That sent us to our second tie-breaker, the closest to the actual score. JT Shaw had the Huskers picked to win, 28-17, missing the total by 42 points. Mizner had the Huskers pegged, 30-20, missing by 37 points. Kim Shaw had the Huskers’ 42-point total picked to the number, but was 24 points off Georgia Southern’s total with her 42-21 prediction.

Kim Shaw earns the $40 first-place certificate for the second straight week, while Mizner picked up the $10 second-place prize.

Six contestants missed three games on the card to just miss out on the top spot. They included Brett Swan and Crystal Stout of Springview, Don Schmaderer of Stuart, Mark Hysell of Atkinson, and Dianah Schrad and Kathy Bennett of Ainsworth.

Winners may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios or make arrangements for the KBRB sports crew to drop off cards if unable to make it to Ainsworth. Certificates may be redeemed from any of the KBRB Football Contest Card sponsors.

Week 4 KBRB Football Contest cards are available now from Buckles Automotive, AKRS Equipment and Speedee Mart in Ainsworth; from Circle B Livestock and the Tri County Bank in Bassett; from West Plains Bank in Springview; from the Tri County Bank in Stuart; and from Speedee Mart and the Tri County Bank in Atkinson.

The deadline to submit football contest cards this year is 4 p.m. Thursday if dropping off at the studio or the cards must carry a Thursday postmark if mailed.

* School asks for fewer property tax dollars, levy drops

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 13)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education approved a $14.8 million budget for the 2022-23 year that will ask property owners in the district for $6.67 million in property tax, which is slightly less in property tax than was requested to support the 2021-22 budget.

Coupled with a substantial increase in total property value in the district, the district’s property tax levy will drop by about 8 cents to 68.4 cents per $100 in property value.

“We felt we were conservative with our budget and cognizant of our taxpayers,” Superintendent Dale Hafer said during Monday’s public hearing on the budget. “We offset the increase in costs in some places. We absorbed some positions, and we have seven new staff members who start at a lower salary than those retiring who had a lot of experience.”

The board approved a budget that asks for $6.099 million to support the general fund and $569,447 to support the special building fund for a total ask of $6,669,414. That is slightly less than the $6,671,702 requested for 2021-22.

With total valuation inside the district’s boundaries increasing by more than 11 percent from $876.2 million to $974.5 million, the property tax levy dropped from 76.1 cents per $100 in property valuation in 2021-22 to 68.4 cents for the 2022-23 year. That represents about a 10 percent decrease in the levy rate.

“ESSR funding has helped us,” Hafer said. “We spent those funds on things we would have otherwise had to use general funds, and we will keep doing so. There is an opportunity for us to maintain a level tax asking for a while, but that can be a little hard to predict. There are sometimes unforeseen expenses.”

The school district is scheduled to receive a paltry $47,337 in state aid for the 2022-23 year.

The $9.58 million actually spent during the 2021-22 fiscal year was about $150,000 more than the $9.43 million spent during the 2020-21 fiscal year. Some of the increase in actual disbursements came from the district using its allotment of American Rescue Plan Act funding, which was used to purchase curriculum and replace laptop computers.

The district has $1.9 million in payments remaining for the agriculture and industrial technology building addition. Those payments will end following the 2025-26 fiscal year. The district pays just over $560,000 annually using its special building fund to pay for that addition. This year, the $563,752 payment for the building addition represents 5.8 cents in property tax levy.

“I feel good about what we have done with the budget and where we are headed,” Hafer said. “We are accomplishing our strategic plan and moving the district forward.”

Following the public hearings on the budget and property tax request, the board unanimously approved both Monday.

In other business Monday, the board approved allowing the sale of any surplus property, with lower value items being offered to the public and surplus items with a potential higher value coming to the board to decide whether to offer for sale through sealed bid or by auction.

Hafer said the board in the past has given him the authority to sell smaller items as needed, such as surplus chairs and tables.

“Anything of significant value we bring to you to decide,” the superintendent said.

Board member Brad Wilkins said, “I just encourage you to be as transparent as possible so anyone who would like to has a chance to put in a bid.”

Hafer said that was how the district tried to handle all surplus items.

The board approved an option enrollment request Monday allowing freshman Sidon Brock to option into the Keya Paha County District.

Secondary Principal Steve Dike reported teacher Roberta Denny had been nominated for and received an Outstanding Educator Award from Yale University. Denny was nominated for the award by Yale freshman and Ainsworth High School graduate Alyssa Erthum. Denny was one of just 48 educators in the country to receive the award from the university.

Dike also reported the community betterment day that is typically held in May has been moved to the fall this year to try and take advantage of more scheduling opportunities and better weather. This year’s betterment day, which sees students go out into the district’s communities to perform community service work, is scheduled for Sept. 21.

During their report, Activities Directors Jared Hansmeyer and Scott Steinhauser reported the Learning Center is scheduled to receive an upgrade thanks to a donation from the Weichman family. New stage lights will be put up, and an upgrade will be made to the audio system in the Learning Center. That work is scheduled for Jan. 16-20.

During his report, Hafer said an isolation valve in the boiler room failed, which caused a leak of propylene glycol as well as damage to two pumps and electrical inputs. He said the district has filed an insurance claim, and the boiler is again up and running while parts to repair the issue have been ordered.

“That glycol is about three times more expensive now than it was when we originally put it in to the system,” Hafer said.

He reported the new elementary HVAC system is working nicely to cool the elementary building.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education will begin with a curriculum and assessment retreat at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 followed by the board’s regular meeting at 8 p.m.

* Ainsworth homecoming royalty candidates nominated

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 13)

Candidates for Ainsworth High School homecoming queen and king were unveiled Monday during Royalty Night. Candidates are nominated by various clubs and groups and include: Emma Sears and Jensen Williams who were nominated by the A Club, Cameryn Goochey and Ethan Fernau who were nominated by the Senior Class, Saylen Young and Landon Holloway who were nominated by fall sports, Lauren Ortner and Colten Orton who were nominated by the vocational clubs, and Makenna Pierce, Dakota Stutzman and Ian Finley who were nominated by fine arts. There was a tie between Pierce and Stutzman for the fine arts queen nomination so both were nominated.

The homecoming queen and king will be crowned following the Bulldog football game Friday against Niobrara-Verdigre.

* Phase 3 north lane work to begin on Highway 20

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Sept. 12)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation reported Monday work on Phase 3 of the Highway 20 construction project in Ainsworth will soon commence.

According to the NDOT, A&R Construction plans to switch westbound traffic to the center lane of Highway 20. Both eastbound and westbound traffic will be traveling on the new concrete, as both the south lane and center lane of the project have been completed.

For Phase 3, A&R Construction will renovate the north lane of the highway in similar fashion to the way the south lane was constructed during Phase 1.

As construction on Phase 3 progresses, intersections and business access points will change.  A 5-foot buffer zone will be maintained between westbound traffic in the center lane and the work on the north lane of the project.

* Road work to begin Sept. 19 south of Bassett

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Sept. 12)

Weather permitting, work will begin Monday, Sept. 19, on Highway 183 south of Bassett, from mile posts 172 to 183, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

Western Engineering Company of Harlan, Iowa has the contract. Work includes asphalt overlay,

culvert pipe, curb and gutter, grading and seeding. Traffic will be maintained with a pilot car and flaggers. Anticipated completion is November.

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

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 12)

September 4

  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 236, a Kansas driver was issued a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol. The driver and passenger were both cited for minor in possession of alcohol.
  • Responded to a report of an abandoned one vehicle rollover accident on Highway 7. No injuries were reported but the vehicle was considered to be totaled. 
  • Released three inmates from the Brown County Jail on bond and another inmate for a weekend court commitment.
  • Responded to a verbal disturbance at the Brown County Hospital.
  • Responded to a report of vandalism that occurred to a vehicle in Long Pine.
  • Received a report of a recovered handgun near Long Pine. Efforts are being made to locate the owner.

September 5

  • Responded to a motorist complaint on West Highway 20 involving 2 Indiana plated vehicles passing on the right hand side of the highway. Deputies were unable to locate the vehicles in question.

September 6

  • The Brown County Ambulance was paged to transport a patient from the Sandhills Care Center in Ainsworth to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Provided a civil standby for a landlord and tenant property dispute.
  • Issued a city ordinance notice to correct for properties on Osborne and Ash streets in Ainsworth.
  • Responded to a report of theft involving a purse that was stolen from a vehicle. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a request for a welfare check on an infant. The infant was found safe and determined to be in another county with a parent.
  • Provided civil standby for an individual to gather personal belongings.

September 7

  • An Ainsworth resident reported a reckless driving vehicle deliberately swerving at a pedestrian. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to Elm St in Ainsworth for a report of two loose dogs. Deputies were unable to locate the dogs.
  • Responded to a report of a disturbance on Main St in Ainsworth. The Brown County Ambulance was also paged and transferred one individual to the Brown County Hospital.  A report was filed with the Brown County Attorney.

 September 8

  • The Brown County Ambulance was paged to the Sandhills Care Center and transferred one individual to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Provided traffic control on 4th St for an oversized equipment hauler.
  • Received a report of suspicious activity that occurred at an apartment complex in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to an abandoned vehicle on Norden Avenue. The owner of the car was reached and came to remove the car from the roadway.

 September 9

  • The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Long Pine. The patient denied transport at this time.
  • Responded to a domestic disturbance in rural Brown County. No charges were filed at this time.

 September 10

  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity on 6th St in Long Pine. This is an ongoing investigation.

 Weekly Summary
18 – Incident Reports Were Taken
140– Phone Calls Were Received
10– 911 Emergency Calls Received
1– Titles Were Inspected
0 – Handgun Permits Applied For
4 – Paper Services Were Served

* Shane selected for LEAD Nebraska group

(Posted 11 a.m. Sept. 8)

Nebraska Leadership Education/Action Development Group 41 participants have been announced by the program’s director, Dr. Terry Hejny. The two-year program will begin in September. 

Among the participants in LEAD Nebraska is Amber Shane of Atkinson.

The newest members of Nebraska’s premier two-year agricultural leadership development program are involved in production agriculture and/or agribusiness in Nebraska.  

“I am excited to get started with them as it appears that Class 41 is filled with outstanding individuals from throughout our state. Our task will be to prepare and motivate them for future leadership roles in their community, our state, and beyond,” Hejny said. 

LEAD Fellows will participate in 12 monthly three-day seminars across Nebraska, a 10-day national study/travel seminar and a 14- to 16-day international study/travel seminar. The goal of the program is to develop problem solvers, decision makers, and spokespeople for Nebraska agriculture and beyond. 

Seminar themes include leadership assessment/potential, natural resources, energy, communication, agricultural policy/finance, international trade, Nebraska’s political process, social/cultural issues, agribusiness and marketing, information technology, advances in health care, the resources and people of Nebraska’s Panhandle and other areas designed to develop leaders through exposure to a broad array of current topics and issues and how they interrelate.

* West Nile detected in Holt County mosquito pool

(Posted 9:15 a.m. Sept. 8)

The North Central District Health Department reported West Nile Virus has been detected in mosquitoes in Holt County near O’Neill.

Residents should take precautions to protect themselves from mosquitoes by limiting time spent outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants if outdoors at dusk or dawn, applying mosquito repellant (DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus), and getting rid of standing water where mosquitoes may breed.

A mosquito dashboard with more information is maintained at www.ncdhd.ne.gov

* Meadville Avenue asphalt project delayed until spring

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 7)

The Brown County Commissioners learned Tuesday the Meadville Avenue asphalt overlay project will likely not begin until the spring of 2023.

During his written report Tuesday, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin indicated Western Engineering would most likely not be able to get started on the paving project this fall, as was initially agreed to when the bid was awarded.

Commissioner Denny Bauer said having the work done next spring instead of this fall might not be a bad thing, as the Sand Draw Creek bridge project was scheduled for March. If the bridge work gets completed first followed by the paving, then the bridge approaches would be in better shape as opposed to those approaches likely needing to be redone if the paving work had been done ahead of the bridge work.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus agreed.

“It will be better if the bridge is done first,” Wiebelhaus said. “We can keep the same contract with them but just not enforce the late penalty.”

Turpin also reported the roads department has been conducting some cold-mix overlay and patching work on both Meadville Avenue and South Pine Avenue. He reported the department is mixing some additional cold-mix asphalt with the money the commissioners put back into the roads department budget that the board initially cut.

In other business Tuesday, Bauer reported on courthouse building issues, including leaks into the basement and bats getting into the building.

“It baffles me where the water is coming from,” Bauer said. “It hasn’t rained, and the water is not coming from the sprinkler system.”

The commissioners discussed the possibility of there being a leaking water pipe somewhere that is creating the water issue. Bauer said EPP Concrete from Lincoln will inspect the courthouse Oct. 26 and make recommendations on what needs to be done. The board will then go out for bids on a repair project.

Bauer said he had been turned down by two companies when trying to find someone to come take care of the issue with bats getting into the courthouse. A bat was recently discovered in the judge’s chambers.

Bauer said he was waiting for a return call from another company that specializes in bat issues. Commissioner Buddy Small told Bauer to also check with Olson’s Pest Control.

The board Tuesday locked in 2,000 gallons of propane through a contract with Madison’s Great Western. By paying 10 cents per gallon up front, the county locked in a price of $1.99 per gallon for the propane.

The commissioners approved a resolution to conduct a delinquent tax sale on 34 parcels after the owners had not paid property taxes for at least three years. The 34 parcels have a total of $7,396 in delinquent taxes.

The board approved providing burial expenses for a county resident, and approved authorizing Small to sign an agreement with the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission to allow those applying and reapplying for liquor licenses in the county to apply online.

The commissioners discussed a $26,296 claim from the Nebraska Department of Transportation for work completed on the Sand Draw Creek bridge project on Meadville Avenue. Small indicated the money should come from either the county’s disaster fund or the inheritance tax fund.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Sept. 20. That meeting will include the 2022-23 budget hearing and property tax request.

* Week 2 Football Contest ends in a first-place tie

(Posted 2 p.m. Sept. 6)

Week 2 of the KBRB Football Contest featured some close matchups in the high school and college ranks and a couple of upsets. No perfect cards were submitted, and those who missed two of the 14 games on the card were in the running for the weekly prize certificates.

Five contestants missed two games on the Week 2 Football Contest card, which sent us to the tie-breaker, Nebraska’s 38-17 home victory over North Dakota.

Three Ainsworth contestants, including Doug Walton, Mike Schrad and Kathy Bennett, missed two games, as did Kim Shaw of Bassett and Derek Swan of Springview.

All five picked the Huskers to win. Swan missed the total by 22 points with his 52-25 prediction. Bennett missed by 13 points, picking the Huskers, 28-14. Walton missed the total by 11 with his 42-10 guess.

That left Shaw and Schrad, who were both extremely close to the actual score. Shaw guessed a 42-17 final, hitting North Dakota’s score precisely and missing the Husker total by just four. Schrad had the Huskers picked perfectly and missed North Dakota’s score by just four with his 38-13 prediction.

With the two contestants tied, both will receive a $40 first-place certificate this week.

Winners may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios or make arrangements for the KBRB sports crew to drop off cards if unable to make it to Ainsworth. Certificates may be redeemed from any of the KBRB Football Contest Card sponsors.

Week 3 KBRB Football Contest cards are available now from Buckles Automotive, AKRS Equipment and Speedee Mart in Ainsworth; from Circle B Livestock and the Tri County Bank in Bassett; from West Plains Bank in Springview; from the Tri County Bank in Stuart; and from Speedee Mart and the Tri County Bank in Atkinson.

The deadline to submit football contest cards this year is 4 p.m. Thursday if dropping off at the studio or the cards must carry a Thursday postmark if mailed.

* Oak Street, Ash Street intersections to close Tuesday

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 6)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation provided an update on the Highway 20 construction project in Ainsworth.

A&R Construction plans to close the Ash Street and Oak Street intersections today (Tuesday) in preparation for pouring concrete Wednesday. A&R Construction will pour 315 cubic yards of concrete Wednesday on that portion of the center lane.

The contractor also plans to complete the final segment of pavement at the Main Street intersection today. The four-way stop will remain in place until the work is complete.

* Brown County Commissioners agenda for Tuesday

(Posted 4 p.m. Sept. 5)

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

5:15              Roll Call.

Acknowledge posting of Open Meetings Law.

Pledge of Allegiance.

Approve minutes of the 8-2-2022 Commissioner meeting.

Approve minutes of the 8-29-2022 Special Commissioner meeting.

Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

Discuss & Update on Meadville Avenue Paving Project – Turpin

Approve 2022-2023 Inventories – Hobbs

Resolution for County Tax Sales – County Treasurer and Delinquent Taxes Report – Treasurer

Resolution to approve payment for County burial expenses for Elizabeth Pike – Taylor

Basement Water leakage issue – Bauer

Pest control – Bats – Bauer

Liquor control commission epayment authorize Chairman Small to sign – Hobbs

Acknowledge First Concord Non-Discrimination Testing & Fees

Processing Nebraska Department of Transportation Claim – Hardy

Propane Contract with Madison’s Great Western – Small

Acknowledge Central Nebraska Economic Development District Annual Report – Hobbs

Approve Claims

Budget Discussion/Revision if needed – Hobbs

County Website – Hobbs

Public Comment

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 4 p.m. Sept. 5)

August 28

  • Released two inmates from the Brown County Jail on bond.
  • Responded to a center pivot watering the roadway on Meadville ave. Owners were contacted to resolve the issue.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol and possession of a controlled substance. The subject was booked into the Brown County Jail and later posted bond and was released.
  • A second traffic stop on Highway 20, a Illinois driver was issued a citation for speeding 88mph in a 65 mph zone.
  • The Long Pine Fire Department was called to extinguish a campfire that was left unattended in the Long Pine State Park.

August 29

  • A loose dog was reported at 2nd and Oak St in Ainsworth and taken to the Vet Clinic.
  • Provided civil standby on Wilson St in Ainsworth for a property owner.
  • Issued verbal warnings to two Ainsworth residents for unauthorized parking.
  • Responded to a traffic complaint on Highway 20 for a reckless driving vehicle. Deputies made contact with the driver and a warning was issued for driving over the shoulder.
  • Responded to a two vehicle accident in a business parking lot in Ainsworth. Both vehicles had minimal damage, and no injuries were reported.

August 30

  • Received a report of child abuse/neglect in Ainsworth. All information was transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services, and no charges are being issued at this time.
  • Responded to two center pivots watering the roadway complaints and both owners were contacted to resolve the issue.

August 31

  • Responded to a report of an individual burning weeds in the Ainsworth city limits. The homeowner was issued a verbal warning to not start anymore fires, and reminded we are in a burn ban.
  • Responded to a suspicious vehicle activity on Highway 7. The vehicle in question was unable to be located.
  • During a traffic stop on highway 20, a citation was issued to a Nebraska driver for speeding 45mph in a 35 mph zone and possession of drug paraphernalia.

September 1

  • Issued 4 city ordinance violations notices to Ainsworth homeowners.
  • The Brown County Ambulance were paged for a 911 call from an Ainsworth home. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Assisted a stranded motorist on Highway 183 in need of fuel.

September 2

  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, a Colorado driver was issued a citation for speeding 79 in a 65 mph zone.
  • Responded to a traffic complaint of an individual not stopping at the posted signs in the construction zone at the 4th and Main St intersection. One Nebraska driver was issued a citation for failure to obey a traffic control device. 
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for speeding 77mph in a 65 mph zone. Both driver and passenger were also issued citations for open containers.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for speeding 81 in a 65 mph zone.
  • The Brown County Ambulance transferred a flight crew from the Airport to pick up a patient at the hospital.
  • Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail for a court commitment.

September 3

  • Responded to a request for a welfare check for a male subject recklessly operating a vehicle with an unrestrained infant passenger in rural Brown County. Deputies made contact with the driver and the infant was found safe.  The driver of the vehicle was booked into the Brown County Jail and issued citations for driving under the influence of alcohol, child abuse/neglect, resisting arrest, and open container.
  • The Brown County Ambulance provided standby for the Brown County Fair and Rodeo.
  • During a traffic stop on Richardson Drive in Ainsworth, a male driver was booked into the Brown County Jail and issued a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding 21-35 mph over the posted speed limit.
  • The Brown County Ambulance transferred a patient from the Brown County Hospital to Kearney, NE.

Weekly Summary
20 – Incident Reports Were Taken
128– Phone Calls Were Received
3 – 911 Emergency Calls Received
2 – Titles Were Inspected
2 – Handgun Permits Applied For
4 – Paper Services Were Served

August Summary
4– Accidents                              
8– Arrests
74– Calls for Service
17– Citations were issued
11– Verbal & Written Warnings issued
1– Defect Cards issued
19– Paper Service served
581– Phone calls were received
36– 911 emergency calls received
20– Titles inspected
6– Handgun permits issued

* Options for public to report potential school threats

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 2)

As the new school year is now in full swing, the Nebraska State Patrol and Nebraska Department of Education are reminding parents, students, and school officials of the options available to report school or student safety issues.  

“The safety of our schools is vital to everyday life in Nebraska,” said Colonel John Bolduc, Superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol. “It takes partnership from teachers, students, parents, and the community to keep our schools safe. If you become aware of a threat of school violence, report it immediately.”

The Nebraska State Patrol has multiple options available for people to report threats of school violence or any suspicious activity surrounding Nebraska’s schools. Those incidents can be reported to the State Patrol’s Nebraska Information Analysis Center by calling 888-580-6422 or online at sars.nebraska.gov. Reports or tips can be made anonymously.

The Nebraska Department of Education also has multiple tools available to help keep schools and students safe. The Safe2Help program is another way to report threats of school violence, but Safe2Help can also handle a broader array of school issues, such as bullying or behavioral concerns. The Safe2Help program can be found at safe2helpne.org or by calling 833-980-SAFE.

Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis or who may be having suicidal thoughts is urged to contact the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 on any phone.

“There is tremendous cooperation already in place between our schools, law enforcement agencies, and other partners to ensure the safety of Nebraska’s schools,” Bolduc said. “Let’s all work together to make this a safe and successful school year across the state.”

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Sept. 1)

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

Waylin Fajardo Sarceno, age 30, of Des Moines, Iowa, charged with speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, fined $75.

Owen D. Clark, 19, of Papillion, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Stacy Reed, 43, of Atkinson, violation of probation, probation revoked and sentenced to 10 days in jail.

Kevin Evans, 35, of Ainsworth, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Gavin R. Larson, 24, of Ord, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Tamela J. Ritter, 51, of Haymarket, Va., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Leon Hood, 36, of Fresno, Calif., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $25.

Jonah J. Krause, 42, of Aberdeen, S.D., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Michael A. Walsh, 32, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

James M. Horvatich, 20, of Gretna, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Caleb M. Munger, 20, of Moorehead, Minn., two counts of attempting a Class 4 felony, fined $1,000 on each count; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100; minor in possession, $300.

Ashley Happold, 27, of Ainsworth, two counts of third-degree assault, sentenced to six months of probation on each count.

Curt G. Stufft, 59, of Ainsworth, first degree criminal trespassing, sentenced to 15 days in jail.

* Ainsworth Board of Education recognized Wednesday

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 1)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education was recognized with the Nebraska Association of School Boards Excellence Award during the NASB area membership meeting Wednesday at Valentine.

To qualify for the award, all board members must be active participants in ongoing professional development in board leadership and service. Board members must be active on the state level with leadership opportunities in addition to going above and beyond monthly board meetings on the local level. 

Superintendent Dale Hafer said the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education has engaged with and provided opportunities to district stakeholders related to student data, facilities, budget, curriculum, and many other aspects of leadership through the strategic planning process.

The crystal plaque presented to the Board states:  “In recognition of their commitment to achieving excellence in board leadership through continuing education, the Nebraska Association of School Boards recognizes the efforts of the members of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education.”

Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education members are Jim Arens, Frank Beel, Scott Erthum, Mark Johnson, Jessica Pozehl, and Brad Wilkins.

* Nebraska jobless rate remains low in July

(Posted 10 a.m. Aug. 31)

The Nebraska Department of Labor announced Nebraska’s preliminary unemployment rate for July is 2.0 percent. The rate is up 0.1 percent from the June rate and is down 0.5 percentage points from the July 2021 rate of 2.5 percent. Nebraska’s July rate is the second lowest rate in the country.
Only Minnesota had a lower unemployment rate in July at 1.8 percent. Nebraska, New Hampshire and Utah each had a 2.0 percent rate in July to tie for the second lowest rate in the country. The highest unemployment rate in the nation was 4.5 percent in July shared by New Mexico and Alaska.
Brown County’s unemployment rate in July was 2.8 percent, above the state average. Blaine County had the highest unemployment rate in the area in July at 4.0 percent. Keya Paha County and Boyd County, both at 2.4 percent, also had July rates above the state average.
Rock County enjoyed the lowest unemployment rate in July at 1.6 percent. Cherry County and Holt County followed closely with rates of 1.7 percent in July.
Thurston County had the highest unemployment rate in the state in July at 5.2 percent. The lowest rate, at 1.2 percent, belonged to Wheeler County.
Over 1 million Nebraskans have been employed since August of 2020. Nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was 1,033,296 in July, down 8,898 over the month and up 19,861 over the year. Private industries with the most growth month to month were leisure and hospitality (up 1,948), professional and business services (up 1,862), and manufacturing (up 584). Private industries with the most growth year to year were professional and business services (up 6,196); leisure and hospitality (up 5,294); and trade, transportation, and utilities (up 4,188).
“The manufacturing industry in Nebraska has been showing strong growth, adding 2,733 jobs over the year,” Commissioner of Labor John H. Albin said. “With employment at nearly 103,000, this is the largest employment number since January of 2003.”
The national unemployment rate for July is 3.5 percent, down 0.1 percent from the June rate and down 1.9 percentage points from the July 2021 rate of 5.4 percent.

* Burn bans remain in effect for KBR counties

(Posted 1:15 p.m. Aug. 30)

Due to dry conditions and warm temperatures, Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala reported Tuesday the burn ban in Brown County will remain in effect until conditions improve.

“We have started getting calls from people wanting to burn,” Fiala said. “I don’t see the burn bans being lifted anytime soon.”

Fiala reported Brown County remains extremely dry, and conditions are present that would cause fires to spread rapidly. The fire chief said he discussed the conditions with the fire chiefs in both Rock County and Keya Paha County, and burn bans will remain in effect for both those counties as well.

* City Council approves applying for CDBG paving grant

(Posted 1 p.m. Aug. 30)

During a special meeting Monday, the Ainsworth City Council voted to proceed with a grant application for a street improvement project on North Main Street to coincide with the renovation of Highway 7 in downtown Ainsworth.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the city would like to replace all water and sewer lines under Main Street all the way to the wastewater treatment plant when the Nebraska Department of Transportation renovates Highway 7 in Ainsworth.

While the state is replacing the Main Street pavement to Highway 20, the cost to update the Main Street water and sewer lines north of Highway 20 and then replace the street surface will be the sole responsibility of the city.

The Community Development Block Grant application to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development would potentially provide $433,000 in grant funding to the city to assist with replacing the street on North Main Street following the installation of new water and sewer lines.

Schroedl said the cost of the paving project on Main Street from Highway 20 north three blocks to Seventh Street is estimated at $659,904.

The grant, if the application is approved, would cover roughly two-thirds of the cost of the pavement.

While the application indicates the street would go back to an asphalt surface after the water and sewer work was completed, Councilman Brad Fiala asked about the potential of pouring concrete for the first block north from the Highway 20 intersection to the Ainsworth Library at the Fifth Street intersection. If the city could time the project to coincide with a concrete plant being in the city to pave the rest of the Highway 7 project downtown, Fiala said pouring concrete might make more sense for that first block north of Highway 20.

“Depending on where the mixing plant is, concrete might not be much more expensive,” Fiala said.

A representative from the Central Nebraska Economic Development District said the city could proceed with the current application that calls for asphalt, and if needed could amend the application after it is awarded if the council believes the costs would be attractive to place concrete on a portion of the project.

Following a public hearing, the council, with Councilman Vance Heyer absent, approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to sign an application for Community Development Block Grant funds.

In a related item, the council approved an analysis conducted as part of the CDBG application process that assesses the number of limited English proficiency speakers in the community and lays out a language assistance plan for documents related to the application. The survey estimated just 3 percent of the city’s population had limited English proficiency.

The council met with Jess Hurlbert from Olsson Associates regarding the design and lighting for the downtown portion of the NDOT’s Highway 7 renovation project in Ainsworth, scheduled for construction in 2024.

Hurlbert discussed decorative light pole options for the council to consider as well as the color for Main Street crosswalks.

Hurlbert said the renovation plan included 31 light poles between South Street and Highway 20, with 21 of the light poles located between First Street and Highway 20.

The council looked at several examples and selected a decorative light pole black in color for the 21 light poles between First Street and Highway 20, with the other 10 poles being standard design that will be funded by the NDOT.

On all 31 poles, the council approved adding banner brackets, festoons and flagpole holders. The city is responsible for the cost difference between the standard light pole and the upgraded decorative poles.

Schroedl said the standard light poles for the Highway 20 project cost $7,975 each, which was paid by the NDOT with the council responsible for the added costs of banner brackets, flag poles and festoon outlets.

Fiala said he would like to see the decorative light poles extend a block north of Highway 20 to the Ainsworth Public Library, though the cost of added lighting on that block would be the responsibility of the city.

“I would like to see us tie in the library block with that lighting,” Fiala said. “We only get one chance to do all of this. I would hate to miss out on making Main Street look really nice.”
Mayor Joel Klammer said the added cost for upgrading the lighting in those blocks would be about $50,000.

“For downtown beautification, we could potentially talk to the Brown County Foundation and the Ainsworth Betterment Committee for some help getting that done,” Klammer said.

Hurlbert also discussed options for the crosswalks and curbs. Following discussion, the council approved placing charcoal grey colored concrete on the crosswalks at the Main Street intersections of First, Second and Third streets as well as the Highway 20 intersection.

The council then approved sandblasting areas behind the curbs and bump-outs to provide a color contrast between the rest of the street and sidewalks.

The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sept. 14.

* Keya Paha County sweeps KBRB Football Contest

(Posted 10:15 a.m. Aug. 30)

The annual KBRB Football Contest is underway, and two misses among the 13 games on the Week 1 card took home the top spot.

Jacque Richey of Springview missed two games on the high school side, but was perfect on all seven college games on the Week 1 card. Richey was the only contestant to miss two games on the Week 1 card and takes home the $40 first-place certificate.

Six contestants missed three games, which sent us to the Week 1 tiebreaker, Nebraska’s 31-28 loss to Northwestern. All six picked Nebraska to triumph, so were likely as disappointed as the Husker fans who made the journey to Dublin, Ireland for the game.

Since all six missed the winning team, the next criteria is closest to the actual score. Kurtis Mizner of Springview had the Huskers picked to win, 35-30, missing the total score by eight points. That was the closest of the six tiebreaker scores and earns Mizner the $10 second-place certificate and gave Keya Paha County a clean sweep of the Week 1 prizes.

Terry Allen of Ainsworth, Lois Kaup of Stuart, Donnie Tielke of Atkinson, and Crystal Stout and Hazel Chase of Springview also missed three games on the Week 1 card.

Winners may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios or make arrangements for the KBRB sports crew to drop off cards if unable to make it to Ainsworth.

Week 2 KBRB Football Contest cards are available now from Buckles Automotive, AKRS Equipment and Speedee Mart in Ainsworth; from Circle B Livestock and the Tri County Bank in Bassett; from West Plains Bank in Springview; from the Tri County Bank in Stuart; and from Speedee Mart and the Tri County Bank in Atkinson.

The deadline to submit football contest cards this year is 4 p.m. Thursday if dropping off at the studio or the cards must carry a Thursday postmark if mailed.

* Commissioners approve ballot question for care center

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 30)

After discussing a ballot question that would provide additional funding to the Sandhills Care Center for one year, the Brown County Commissioners during a special meeting Monday opted instead to place a question on the November General Election ballot asking voters if they want to approve a 1-cent property tax levy for the care center for a five-year period.

Following lengthy discussion during its meeting Aug. 16, the board indicated it preferred asking voters for the 1-cent levy for just one year. The city of Ainsworth, which jointly owns and operates the Sandhills Care Center with Brown County, opted during its August meeting to request 10 cents in levy for a period of five years on property inside the city limits.

Each entity is asking voters for close to $100,000 annually on the ballot questions to support ongoing operations at the care center. To raise that amount, the city had to ask voters for an additional 10-cent levy while the county, due to much higher total property value, only has to ask for 1 cent in additional levy.

Commissioner Denny Bauer Monday said he would still prefer to have the proposal to county voters be for one year, but he said he also did not want to confuse voters since the city approved asking for the additional levy for five years to support the care center’s operations.

Commissioner Buddy Small said he felt the commissioners have discussed the issue at length over the past several months.

“We had decided to go with one year and if the care center was doing well we may not need to do another one,” Small said. “If we went with five years and the nursing home doesn’t need the money, we could rescind the action later.”

Small said the voters should make the decision on whether they want to continue to support the care center.

“We will do what they decide,” Small said.

Bauer said he was to the point that if 1 cent in additional county levy was not enough to keep the facility going, then he probably wouldn’t support it further.

“I do look at the number of employees, their kids, having enough people in town to keep other professionals going,” Bauer said. “The nursing home has an impact on the hospital.”

County Clerk Travee Hobbs asked the board what it planned to do if it asked for a one-year tax levy and both the county and city levies were approved by voters.

“What happens after that one year, are we going to have to go back for another special election?” Hobbs asked. “It cost $3,000 for the last special election the city held, it would cost more for a county-wide special election.”

Bauer said the county would have to ask for another levy request if the board approved just a one-year request for November’s ballot.

Small said he would be agreeable to asking county voters for the 1-cent levy for five years instead of the one year the commissioners had previously discussed.

County Attorney Andy Taylor had prepared two resolutions for the commissioners to consider Monday, as the deadline to place a question on the November General Election ballot is Thursday, Sept. 1.

With Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus absent, the board voted 2-0 to ask county voters for a 1-cent levy to support Sandhills Care Center operations for a period of five years, matching the length of the city’s request.

In other business during Monday’s special meeting, the board received an update from budget preparer Caleb Johnson indicating the county had more room in its budget to stay under the 2 percent allowable growth and avoid having to have a public hearing following a new law passed by the Legislature in 2022 requiring taxing entities to hold a public hearing to explain tax increases above 2 percent.

Initially, the commissioners were told their tax asking could not increase by more than $61,355 or it would exceed that 2 percent threshold. Johnson wrote to the commissioners that valuations for the year had now been finalized, and with substantial growth in property valuation in the county, the commissioners now had $239,284 they could increase property tax asking if they chose to and would remain under the allowable increase.

Bauer and Small both indicated they had no desire to raise the county’s tax asking by the full allowable amount. Johnson indicated the county’s tax asking would be $69,712 more than the 2021-22 fiscal year based on the county’s recent budget workshop.

Total property valuation in the county increased from $845 million to more than $994 million. While some of that increase was attributable to new construction and other improvements, the vast majority of the substantial increase in property value came from increased valuation on existing agricultural property.

Small said the county did have some additional wiggle room in its budget that the commissioners did not think they would have when holding their budget workshop.

The board made several cuts to requested budgets during the recent budget workshop in an effort to stay under that 2 percent increase in tax asking.

Hobbs suggested the county increase its miscellaneous general fund budget a little, since that is the only line item the county can use to pay for unforeseen expenses. She said the county had dropped the miscellaneous general fund line item to $125,000 for the 2022-23 fiscal year. The commissioners agreed to add $25,000 to that line item.

The commissioners also agreed to add $30,000 back into the roads department budget after making several cuts there during the budget workshop.

Bauer said Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin had requested funds to perform armor coating on 15 miles of asphalt roads in the county. The board had cut that request to 12 miles.

With the $55,000 added back from previous cuts made, the preliminary budget numbers show the county may ask for around $125,000 in additional property tax for the 2022-23 budget. The budget will not be finalized until following a public hearing in September. Even with the additional tax dollars requested, the county’s property tax levy will likely decrease substantially due to the value of total property in the county jumping by almost $150 million.

Small said the commissioners had several potential large-ticket repair items at the Brown County Courthouse, including roof issues and foundation issues that were both leading to water getting into the building.

“We don’t know where the leak is coming from, and we can’t hardly get someone to even come look at it,” Small said. “The judge found a bat in his office recently, that’s not good. We have been dealing with that issue for a while.”

Small said the commissioners planned to use COVID relief funding the county received to address some of the issues with the courthouse building.

The next regular meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Sept. 6.

* More concrete being poured this week on Highway 20

(Posted 4 p.m. Aug. 29)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation provided an update on the Highway 20 construction project in Ainsworth. A&R Construction began placing concrete Monday from Main Street east to Oak Street in the center lane of the highway.

Tuesday, A&R Construction plans to begin working on concrete for phase two of the intersection with Main Street. The Department of Transportation will have a four-way stop implemented at the Highway 20 intersection with Main Street until the work is completed.

Sub-grade preparation for the center lane of Highway 20 from Ash Street to Pine street began Monday, with concrete paving for that stretch scheduled for Thursday. A total of 390 cubic yards of concrete will be poured Thursday.

Access to Road Runner will move from the west entrance to the east side of the business, and Pine Street access will be restricted to right turns only.

Concrete paving from Oak Street to Ash Street in the center lane will complete Phase II of the renovation project.

Drivers needing access to the Brown County Hospital from Highway 20 will need to use Harrington Street.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Aug. 29)

August 21

  • Responded to a report of a civil dispute on 3rd St in Ainsworth. Parties had already separated when officers arrived.
  • Responded to a report of vandalism on 4th St in Ainsworth.
  • Ainsworth Fire Department was called to a report of a gas meter struck on 2nd St. Gas meter was turned off and Black Hills Energy was contacted.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported a patient from rural Brown County to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Responded to a report of an assault on 4th St in Ainsworth. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital by the Brown County Ambulance. One individual was arrested and booked into the Brown County Jail. One individual had self admitted to the Brown County Hospital before officers arrived at the incident.

August 22

  • Responded to a 911 call in Long Pine as a welfare check. Individual was determined to be fine.
  • Transported an inmate to Cherry County on an Arrest hold.
  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity on Elm St in Ainsworth.

 August 23

  • Responded to a report of animal neglect in Long Pine.
  • Transported an inmate back from the Cherry County line as he was bonded out.

 August 24

  • Received a report of theft of fuel in rural eastern Brown County.
  • Assisted the Ainsworth Ministerial Association with a traveler getting a voucher for food and fuel.

 August 25

  • Received a report to be on the lookout for a missing juvenile from Holt County. Later in the day the juvenile was reportedly found.
  • Received a report of suspicious activity on Elm St in Ainsworth.
  • Received a report of terroristic threats in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.

 August 26

  • Responded to a request for civil standby at a residence on 1st St in Ainsworth.
  • Received a report of vandalism on Maple St in Ainsworth.
  • Responded to a request for assistance at Brown County Hospital with possible emergency protective custody.
  • Received a report of deer hit on Hwy 20 west of Ainsworth. There were no injuries and the vehicle did not need to be towed.
  • Responded to a request for investigation of assault at East City Park in Ainsworth.

 August 27

  • Brown County Ambulance responded to a request for ambulance service in Long Pine. The patient did not need to be transfered.
  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity on south Main St. An investigation complete and satisfactory explanation was given.
  • Individual released from Brown County Jail with Time Served.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check on an individual on east 4th St. in Ainsworth.
  • Received a request for extra patrols on north Main St. due to suspicious activity.

Weekly Summary
*Burn Ban in Effect for All Fire Districts
15 – Incident Reports Were Taken
132 – Phone Calls Were Received
6 – 911 Emergency Calls Received
3 – Titles Were Inspected
4 – Paper Services Were Served
1 – Handgun Permits Applied For

* Highway 20 sewer manhole to be removed Thursday

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Aug. 24)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation reported Tuesday there will be one-lane traffic on Highway 20 Thursday evening.

According to the NDOT, a sanitary sewer manhole in the middle of the Highway 20 and Main Street intersection is being abandoned. The contractor plans to work to remove the manhole beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday in an effort to minimize impacts to traffic.

During that time, traffic will be maintained by flaggers who will guide motorists around the work area at that intersection. Work is anticipated to take between three hours and five hours to complete.

* Highway 20 center lane concrete to be poured Wednesday

(Posted 4:15 p.m. Aug. 22)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation provided an updated Monday on the Highway 20 construction project in Ainsworth. The NDOT reported A&R Construction is preparing the center lane for concrete from the west end of the project to Main Street.

A&R Construction plans to pour 675 cubic yards of concrete Wednesday from the west end of the project to Main Street. All intersections in the area will be right turns only, with no left-turn traffic or pedestrian crossings.

NDOT reported the intersections and drives from Harrington Street east to the east end of the project should open to traffic later this week.

Those needing access to the Brown County Hospital from Highway 20 are asked to use Harrington Street.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

August 14

  • Investigated a report of vandalism. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Ainsworth resident contacted regarding a City Ordinance Violation.
  • Welfare check on a motorist sitting on Hwy 7. Tow truck already en route.
  • Investigated a report of Hit & Run on the USPS outside mail drop box.
  • Removed stray dog from Ainsworth residence.
  • Responded to a report of a smoking pickup in Ainsworth. Was determined to be overheating and not a fire.
  • Received report of assault on Ainsworth resident. Individual was referred to Rock County where the incident took place.
  • Responded to a report of an intoxicated driver in Johnstown. Driver was located safe at home in Keya Paha Co.
  • Responded to a report of an individual in dark clothing walking on Hwy 7. Individual was transported into town and advised not to walk on the highway in the dark.
  • Received a report of water overflowing the Kiddie pool at East City Park. Manager was contacted and water was turned off.

August 15

  • Responded to a report of something smoldering on Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth. At the time the officer responded nothing was smoldering.
  • Previous City Ordinance Violation was found to be corrected upon follow-up.
  • Several Ainsworth residents and businesses contacted regarding City Ordinance Violations.
  • Forwarded a report of a speeding driver heading into Rock County to Rock County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Responded to a two vehicle accident without injury near Ainsworth Community Schools.

 August 16

  • Received a report of baby pigs out on Hwy 20 near Johnstown. Owner was contacted and the piglets taken care of.
  • Provided traffic control for cattle crossing on 888th Road.

 August 17

  • Received a report of an Ainsworth resident disturbing the peace. Resident was contacted and asked to stop yelling at people on the street.
  • Responded to Civil matter at Ainsworth residence.
  • In cooperation with the Keya Paha County Sheriff’s office a search warrant was executed. 2 individuals were taken into custody.  This is an ongoing investigation.

 August 18

  • 1 male individual booked into the Brown County jail for arrest on a warrant.
  • Provided standby for fire alarm tests at Ainsworth Community Schools.
  • Received a report of a scam text message. Caller advised to report to Attorney General Fraud Line 1-800-727-6432.
  • Responded to a report of dogs in distress on Osborne St. Unable to locate the dogs.
  • Responded to a report of 1 vehicle accident without injury on Hwy 20 in a construction zone. No damage reported to the construction area nor the vehicle.
  • Received a report of civil disturbance. Both individuals contacted and advised to stay clear of each other.
  • Assisted an individual with a report of identity theft. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Ainsworth business contacted regarding a City Ordinance Violation. Violation was corrected.
  • Responded to a fall alert for an Ainsworth resident. Resident was found fine outside visiting her neighbor and was an accidental alert.
  • Received a report of cattle out near the Hwy 183 & 20 Jct. Owner was contacted.
  • Responded to a report of a possible intoxicated driver on Hwy 20. Unable to locate the vehicle.

 August 19

  • Received a report of a cow out at the Hwy 183/20 Jct. Owner was contacted.
  • Received a report of a UTV accident with minor injury in eastern Brown County. Reporting party transported the individual to the Brown County Hospital. 
  • Received a report of a vehicle swerving in the eastbound lane on Hwy 20. Officers unable to locate.
  • Responded to a report of possible stolen electronics at the Ainsworth Community Schools. This is an ongoing investigation
  • Responded to a report of a stray dog in Ainsworth. Dog was transported to Ainsworth Vet Clinic.
  • Responded to a report of dogs barking on Walnut St. Officers in the area did not find barking dogs.

 August 20

  • Responded to a civil disturbance in rural Brown County.
  • Brown County Ambulance responded to a call for service on Hwy 7 & Elsmere Road. No ambulance transport was needed but the individual was transported to Brown County Hospital by Deputy for minor injuries.
  • Received a report of Sheep out on Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth. Owner was contacted.
  • Received a report of stolen property in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report of cattle out on Norden Ave north of Johnstown. Owner was contacted.
  • Received a report of a Charolais bull out on Hwy 183 south of Bassett near Rose. Information taken and given to Rock County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Received a report of cattle out on 888th Ave near Hwy 183. Owner was contacted.
  • Brown County Ambulance transported a patient to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Received a report from a motorist that they had a generator fall off their trailer which could cause an accident.
  • An individual called to report finding the generator on the side of Hwy 7 and the owner was notified.
  • Responded to a report of an intoxicated pedestrian in Ainsworth. Officer unable to locate the individual.
  • Provided backup to the NE State Patrol executing a traffic stop on Hwy 20.

Weekly Summary:

*Burn Ban in Effect for All Fire Districts
19 – Incident Reports Were Taken
132 – Phone Calls Were Received
14 – 911 Emergency Calls Received
08 – Titles Were Inspected
01 – Paper Services Were Served
01 – Handgun Permits Applied For

* Commissioners approve care center ballot question

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Aug. 18)

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Brown County Commissioners voted to place a question on the General Election ballot in November asking voters for 1 cent of property tax levy to support the operations of the Sandhills Care Center.

While the Ainsworth City Council voted last week to ask voters for a 10-cent property levy for a period of five years to support the care center’s operations, the commissioners Tuesday opted for the 1-cent levy for just one year.

One cent of levy on all property in the county will raise just shy of $100,000, while it will take a 10-cent levy to raise the same amount on property inside the city limits. With the city and county sharing ownership of the facility, each entity is responsible for raising half of the anticipated amount needed to assist the care center’s operations.

The city and county each agreed to provide $80,000 in annual funding for the Sandhills Care Center when the entities agreed to resurrect the nursing home in the community after it had been closed by the former private company that operated the facility.

That $80,000 funding commitment from both the city and the county was agreed to for a period of five years, which has now expired. The ballot questions from each entity in November will ask voters to approve close to $100,000 from the city and $100,000 from the county to support operations, but the $80,000 in funding each entity had been taking from its general fund will no longer occur. A vote in favor of the proposals would provide the care center with $40,000 in added support from what had previously been provided by the city and county.

If approved by voters, the 10-cent city levy and 1-cent county levy would fall outside the general fund levies for both entities.

With the commissioners approving a ballot question asking voters to approve 1 cent in levy for one year, the board will act on a resolution with the official ballot language during a special meeting Aug. 29.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved an interlocal agreement with Rock County for maintenance of a shared county road, with each county sharing in material costs and each county agreeing to maintain the entirety of the road for six months.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reviewed the job performance of roads department employee Nakoa Fletcher with the commissioners. Following the review, the board approved a $1 per hour raise for Fletcher.

Following a workshop with budget preparer Caleb Johnson, the board on Tuesday approved a resolution providing the tax allocation for miscellaneous taxing districts in the county and approved a resolution increasing the county’s restricted funds by 1 percent. The board also approved a resolution authorizing petty cash funds for various departments.

The commissioners will hold a public hearing and adopt the 2022-23 fiscal year budget during a meeting in September.

* Rock County approves $55,000 gravel purchase

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Aug. 17)

The Rock County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved the purchase of $55,000 of gravel for the roads department. The commissioners voted to fund the purchase from the county’s inheritance tax, with the funds being paid back to the inheritance tax account when available.

In another roads item Tuesday, Ed Hall discussed issues with a county road north of Bassett. The board did not take official action on the matter.

Sheriff Jim Anderson reported Deputy Gardner has completed all law enforcement classes, and asked that the deputy’s salary be raised to 80 percent of the sheriff’s salary. The board approved raising the deputy’s salary to 80 percent of the sheriff’s pay. By state statute, a deputy cannot earn more than 80 percent of the elected official’s salary. Anderson reported another officer has been hired for the department and would begin law enforcement training Aug. 28.

The commissioners approved a budget item, Resolution 2022-11, allowing a 1 percent increase in the county’s restricted funds, and approved a resolution reauthorizing petty cash funds. An additional resolution was approved for the tax allocation of miscellaneous districts, and the board voted to adjust the road bond fund line item in the county budget to reflect payments made by the treasurer from that fund.

Clerk Daunitta Buoy reported the county is having a difficult time renewing its federal SAM number to receive federal grant payments. The county at one point apparently had more than one number, and the federal site is backlogged with entities having issues getting their SAM numbers renewed. Buoy said she would contact NACO about applying for one new number for the county to be able to receive grant funding.

Buoy also discussed legislation with the commissioners requiring the county’s ballot box to be handicap accessible by the November General Election.

The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 6.

* District governor addresses Lions Club Board Monday

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Aug. 16)

During its meeting Monday, the Ainsworth Lions Club Board welcomed District Governor Jeannie Grandzinger.

Grandzinger told the club there are leadership openings for 1st and 2nd Vice-District Governor and for a zone chairperson for the north central Nebraska region. She also provided updates on the Lions Club Foundation, which has awarded the Ainsworth Lions Club grants twice in the past 10 years. The local Lions Club received $10,000 from the foundation in 2012 to assist with wildfire relief efforts, and the club received $10,000 in 2019 to assist with local flood relief efforts.

The club was informed that Evan Evans had made two wooden plaques for the recognition of Lion of the Year and Melvin Jones Fellowship recipients. The plaques have been placed on the wall in the meeting room at Canyon Creek, along with the original Ainsworth Lions Club Charter dated in 1953. In addition, Maryanne Allen donated Jerry Allen’s Lions Club shirt and numerous Lions Club pins in memory of his 65 years as a member of the Ainsworth Lions Club.  Evans placed the shirt, with the pins attached, in a glass enclosed frame for display along with the plaques. The board approved reimbursing Evans for his expenses on the display items.

Dave Spann announced the Lions Club Bob Kulek Memorial Shelter at East City Park had been painted by Park Superintendent J.C. Clopton and summer employees.

Connie Lentz has planned an Adopt-A- Highway roadside cleanup on Highway 20 for 10 a.m. Saturday, October 8.   

Jim Arens, chair of the county fair concessions project, will send out a work schedule for the three-day event Sept 3-5. Members are asked to contact him if shift preference is different than last year.

Jerry Ehlers will send an e-mail worksheet seeking volunteers for the ticket takers at home Ainsworth Bulldog football games.

Membership awards were presented to Larry Rice for 55 years and to Jim Arens for 25 years. 

Connie Lentz reported ESU 17 health screenings will start Sept. 14.  The Lions Club provides the camera for sight screening operated by Connie and Bill Lentz.

President Dale Hafer addressed the club regarding a change in the evening meeting time for the rest of the year.  The board approved that future evening meetings begin at 5:30 p.m.

Nebraska Lions Foundation is conducting a raffle to raise funds for the foundation.  Ehlers will provide information to club members via e-mail. The winners of the District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund have been announced, with the Ainsworth Lions Club being the recipient of two winning tickets in the amount of $175. The board approved donating the $175 to the Ainsworth Food Pantry.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club is scheduled for noon Sept. 19.

* Brown County Commissioners agenda

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

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

5:15 p.m.                Roll Call.

                                    Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

                                    Review Job Performance evaluation for Nakoa Fletcher and merit raise – Turpin

                                    Interlocal agreement between Brown & Rock County for shared road maintenance – Turpin

                                    Review Care Center Funding/election question

                                    Letter to Middle Niobrara Natural Resource District – Small

                                    County burial application for Elizabeth Pike

                                    Approve Claims

                                    Public Comment

                                    Budget Workshop

                                    Miscellaneous District Resolution – Hobbs

                                    1% Increase Restricted Funds Resolution – Hobbs

                                    Petty Cash Resolution – Hobbs

* MNNRD reps discuss added irrigated acre availability

(Posted 8:45 a.m. Aug. 15)

Representatives from the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District visited with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie to discuss the recent decision by the MNNRD Board of Directors to open up 3,000 acres of new groundwater irrigation permits.
To hear the conversation, click on the audio clip below.

* Harthoorn, Alder graduate from UN-L

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 15)

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln conferred 632 degrees during a combined graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremony Friday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

The 626 graduates are from 34 countries, 39 states and more than 70 Nebraska communities.

Area graduates from the summer term at UN-L include:

Ainsworth
Austin Harthoorn, Graduate Studies, Master of Science.

Stuart
Peyton Di-Ann Alder, College of Arts and Sciences, Bachelor of Science with highest distinction.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

August 7

  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 243, a Washington licensed driver was issued a citation for speeding 16-20 mph over the posted speed limit.
  • Received reports of suspected dog neglect in Ainsworth and Johnstown. Both residences were checked on and owners were contacted.  No citations were issued at this time.
  • Responded to a traffic complaint involving a vehicle following too closely and exceeding speed limits on 1st St in Ainsworth. The driver of the vehicle was stopped and received a verbal warning for no registration.

August 8

  • Responded to a one vehicle accident near 432nd Ave and 875th Rd intersection. No injuries were reported, but the vehicle was unable to drive away from the scene.
  • The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call at a business in Ainsworth. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Provided a civil standby for an individual to collect their belongings.
  • Responded to a complaint of non-street legal dirt bikes that were operated on unauthorized property and city streets. No contact was able to be made at this time with the drivers.
  • The Brown County Ambulance transferred a flight crew from the Airport to the hospital to pick up a patient.

 August 9

  • Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail after they received a 30 day commitment for Driving under the Influence, 2nd offense. Another individual was sentenced to the Nebraska Department of Corrections in Lincoln and was transferred there by the Brown County Sheriff’s Office.

 August 10

  • Received a report of a fraudulent check being cashed. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • The South Pine Fire Department responded to a baler fire in their district.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check on an Ainsworth individual. The individual was located and reported safe at this time.

 August 11

  • Responded to a two vehicle accident on Hwy 20 near mile marker 244. No injuries were reported and both vehicles had minor cosmetic damage.
  • Provided civil standby at an Ainsworth business for a possible disturbance.
  • Received a theft report involving approximately 800 gallons of diesel that was stolen from a rural Brown County farm. This is an ongoing investigation.

 August 12

  • Responded to a request for a civil standby for a property dispute in Ainsworth.

 August 13

  • Responded to a traffic complaint of a Nebraska plated vehicle driving erratically on Highway 7, near mile marker 25. Deputies made contact with the vehicle and no citations were issued at this time.

Weekly Summary

*Burn Ban in Effect for All Fire Districts

13 – Incident Reports Were Taken

105 – Phone Calls Were Received

 6– 911 Emergency Calls Received

7 – Titles Were Inspected

8 – Paper Services Were Served

0 – Handgun Permits Applied For

* Sheriff’s department seeks information on saddle theft

(Posted 3:15 p.m. Aug. 11)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking the public’s help in retrieving a saddle stolen from an Ainsworth residence.

According to the sheriff’s department, sometime on Friday, Aug. 5, a saddle was stolen from the garage of 253 N. Wilson St. The 14-inch Heart of Texas saddle had brown or black stitching at the swells. Stirrups are black and had blue turquoise inlays with small jewels. The seat of the saddle was brown rough out.

The saddle was valued at $750 to $850. A two-colored brown saddle pad was also stolen from the garage of the residence.

Anyone with information on who is responsible for this theft is asked to contact the Brown County Sheriff’s Department at 402-387-1440 or Crime Stoppers at 402-382-3121. Information leading to the recovery of the saddle could result in a cash reward.

* KBRB’s Vonheeder named Salesperson of the Year

(Posted 9 a.m. Aug. 11)

KBRB’s Angie Vonheeder was named the 2022 Dick Chapin Nebraska Radio Salesperson of the Year by the Nebraska Broadcasters Association Wednesday during the NBA’s annual convention in the Embassy Suites at Lincoln.

One of three finalists named previously, Vonheeder on Wednesday received the Nebraska Radio Salesperson of the Year Award over two radio sales representatives from large radio company NRG Media out of Kearney and Omaha.

KBRB congratulates our very own Angie Vonheeder on the state award! In the photo above, Vonheeder was announced the winner and received the Dick Chapin Award from Nebraska Broadcasters Association President Jim Timm.

* Concrete in center lane of Highway 20 to be poured Friday

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 11)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation reported A&R Construction plans to begin placing concrete Friday on the center lane of Highway 20 in Ainsworth.

Sidewalk work continues on the south side of the highway, and the storm sewer contractor continues installation of the connecting pipes for the second phase of construction.

Osborne Street will be closed Friday and Wilson Street will be opened for crossing and left-turning traffic.

People needing access to the Brown County Hospital from Highway 20 are asked to use Richardson Drive.

* LB 840 renewed; council approves care center ballot language

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 11)

Tuesday’s special election saw an overwhelming percentage of city of Ainsworth voters casting a ballot in favor of renewing the LB 840 one-half cent sales tax for another 15 years.

While overall turnout of registered voters in the city was just over 18 percent, of the 185 votes cast, 168 were in favor with just 17 against. Almost 90 percent of the votes cast were in favor of renewing the economic development program.

The Ainsworth City Council Wednesday heard a six-month report from the LB 840 Citizen Advisory Review Committee. CARC member Marcus Fairhead said the committee was pleased with the support the LB 840 program received from voters, and the committee will now work on its policies and procedures to make sure they are accurate for 2023 when the program officially renews for another 15 years. All new items included in the plan will be covered by the committee in its internal policies.

Fairhead reported all loans that have been made from the LB 840 program are current on their payback schedules, and the committee welcomed new members Jennifer Schuett and Lacey Marbry recently.

The council Wednesday spent a lengthy amount of time discussing ballot language that would appear on the November General Election ballot asking voters to approve an additional property tax levy to support the operations of the Sandhills Care Center.

Brad Slaughter with Piper Sandler & Co. discussed options for the council to consider. Discussion Wednesday centered on whether to place another question on the ballot asking city voters to allow the city to take out bonds to cover expenses in the short term until the additional property tax would be collected in 2024.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the council needed to consider how it would be able to provide funding to the care center from now until additional property taxes would be collected, as the city did not have room in its general fund to cover 50 percent of losses if the care center continued at its recent pace.

Slaughter said a 10-cent levy would generate about $93,000 in property tax based on the city’s current valuation of approximately $93 million. A bond on top of that could be requested in the short term to allow the city to meet the facility’s financial needs until the levy is collected, if it is approved by voters.

Audience member Graig Kinzie asked Slaughter, instead of adding a third ballot question in November that would likely only confuse voters, could the ballot question read that the $100,000 in additional levy collected would go to support the care center’s operations and/or repay debt incurred by the city to support the care center’s operations. Kinzie said that would remove much of the confusion but give the city the ability to service any short-term debt incurred to support the facility with the long-term levy funds.

Following the discussion, council members Brad Fiala and Vance Heyer indicated they did not believe bond funds would be needed if voters approve the additional tax levy.

“This gives people the chance to vote and tell us if this is something they want,” Heyer said. “About $200,000 is historically realistic on what it will take. If this was a countywide 2-cent levy and one ballot issue, it would have a much better chance.”

Heyer said that was the initial plan when the council met with the Brown County Commissioners in April. However, after that meeting, the commissioners’ position became that each entity provide 50 percent of the funding which meant two ballot questions and a much larger levy ask from city of Ainsworth voters.

One cent of levy countywide generates close to $100,000 based on the county’s total valuation, while one cent of levy on property inside the city limits of Ainsworth generates less than $10,000 in property tax.

Councilman Schyler Schenk said he may be more optimistic than he should be, but with the nearest facility west of the Sandhills Care Center being almost 150 miles away, he said he believed the facility would probably be able to survive.

The council voted to approve a resolution calling for a proposition on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot asking city voters to allow the city to exceed its maximum levy by an additional 10 cents for a period of five years to support ongoing operations of the Sandhills Care Center and payback potential bonded indebtedness, but opted to table any action on asking voters for short-term bond funding on a separate ballot question.

In other business Wednesday, following months of discussion, the council approved the first reading of City Ordinance 1551 that would allow residents of the city to raise up to six laying hens while requiring residents to obtain a permit for the hens from the city and follow guidelines for confinement and cleanliness.

Mayor Joel Klammer recommended the council have all three readings of the ordinance for three consecutive meetings before it is adopted instead of forgoing the three readings.

Fiala asked who would be responsible for enforcing the six-hen limit and ensuring that confinement and sanitary regulations are followed.

Schroedl said the city would likely wait to hear a complaint then turn the information over to the sheriff’s department to investigate. Schroedl said residents will apply for a permit for hens through the city office, and Bill Carr would handle inspections for the city.

Residents of the city will soon receive new totes for their garbage, as the council Wednesday approved a seven-year lease purchase agreement for a new side-loading garbage truck and bins at a total cost of $483,253.

After indicating during the July council meeting that staff was concerned the box on the new truck might not have been aligned properly, an inspection by the company selling the truck as well as an inspection by Frontier Diesel staff found no issues.

“It just drives a little differently than we are used to,” Schroedl said. “It is a larger truck. I think we should move forward and get the totes circulated.”

When the new totes are distributed and the new truck is put into service, all garbage will be picked up streetside. There will be no more alley pickup other than on the east and west sides of Main Street in downtown Ainsworth.

Schroedl said, now that the lease-purchase agreement had been approved, the city would begin advertising for a garbage truck driver.

The council approved renewing its liability, workman’s compensation and property insurance through the League Association of Risk Management for a cost of $108,583. That total includes a 5 percent discount for approving a three-year contract with LARM for the coverage along with a 180-day notice if the city plans to go out for bids on the insurance in the future.

The council also approved the preliminary draft of the revised municipal code book. Schroedl said the code book was last revised in 2007, so having a company add ordinances passed since then and revise the code book was needed.

City Attorney Rod Palmer asked why the city’s zoning ordinances were not included in the revised code book. Schroedl said the city would have to find a third party to revise and update the city’s zoning ordinances, as the company that revises the ordinance books does not handle the zoning portion of city code books.

During her report, Schroedl said Aug. 16 is the final day the Ainsworth Swimming Pool will be open for the season. She said season pass revenue was up for the year, while attendance at the pool was probably down slightly from last year. She said the city did not incur any major repair costs at the pool this year.

Schroedl reported she was working with the Central Nebraska Economic Development District on potential grant funds for the infrastructure projects during the Highway 7 improvement project. She said she was also working with engineering firm Olsson Associates on design plans for water and sewer replacement projects during the Highway 7 renovation as well as lighting options to present to the council.

The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sept. 14. That meeting will include the city’s annual budget hearing and property tax request.

* Backpack Program available for families in need

(Posted 9:15 a.m. Aug. 9)

The Backpack Program at Ainsworth Community Schools is designed to help families stretch their food supply over the weekends when students are not participating in the school lunch program.

To apply for the backpack program, an adult in the home must indicate they want the students in their family to participate.

An application is available on the school’s web site, or a paper copy of the application is available in the school office.

Each Friday, at the end of the school day, one student from each family will receive a plastic bag containing food and a grocery store voucher. A new bag will be filled and delivered the following Friday. If the last day of the school week is a day other than Friday, the bag will be sent home that day.

The first backpacks will be sent home with students on Friday, August 19. The application form will remain available until all available spots in the program are filled.

* Sandhills Care Center sees financial rebound in July

(Posted 9 a.m. Aug. 9)

After numerous months of running in the red, the Sandhills Care Center experienced a financial rebound in July, with the facility seeing a net margin of $102,799 for the month.

With as many as 23 residents in July, the care center generated $307,924 in revenue with expenses of $205,124. Though still elevated, the $79,265 paid in agency nursing for July was $60,000 less than in previous months.

Administrator Penny Jacobs told the Board of Directors Monday agency expenses should continue to decline, though until the facility finds an in-house director of nursing it will keep having at least some agency expense.

Board member Dr. Mel Campbell said the director of nursing in all medical facilities is a difficult position to fill, as it is one of the most thankless jobs in medicine.

“It is a very difficult job,” Campbell said.

Jacobs said the director of nursing is responsible for making sure the facility is following all regulations, and there are a lot of new regulations that are going into effect. The DON is responsible for making sure all required nursing shifts are staffed, and if those shifts are not staffed it is the director’s responsibility to provide that coverage.

Jacobs told the board agencies are now reaching out hoping to find work for their contracted nurses, LPNs and CNAs. Jacobs said it has been nice to tell those agencies the facility doesn’t need additional agency help.

Jacobs reported the July census got up to 23 residents at one point, but there are currently 20 residents in the care center. She said, since the July meeting, the care center admitted five residents. Two residents passed away, two were discharged back home and one resident is currently hospitalized but should return to the facility from the hospital.

“We just received another active referral from Valentine who is currently in the hospital there and will either be a private-pay resident or on Medicare,” Jacobs said.

She said there were four residents in July who received Medicare assistance, which pays between two and three times more per day than Medicaid.

Jacobs said the facility still needs a director of nursing, a business manager, one or two dietary staff and one or two CNAs once school restarts.

Board member Shawn Fernau reported the newly formed publicity committee has been working on facility activities like a recent fishing trip for residents. He said the group would continue to work to promote the facility and its importance.

In an action item Monday, the board approved a 15 percent salary increase for Jacobs. Board member Tom Jones said the board held a performance review with Jacobs during July. He said, after the board provided 30 percent wage increases for all nursing staff, it determined a 15 percent increase for the administrator was appropriate. Jones said the board would conduct another performance review in three months.

Campbell said the administrator’s salary is still significantly below the salaries of administrators in facilities of similar size.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors was moved from the normal second Monday of September due to Jacobs being gone for a conference. The meeting will be held at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16.

* School Board hears update on emergency plan

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 9)

Representatives from the safety committee updated the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education Monday on the draft of the district’s Emergency Operations Plan the committee has been working on since June of 2021.

School Counselor Lisa Schlueter, who serves on the committee, told the board the state is moving to emergency operations plans that address weather events and natural disasters, as well as other threats to the school.

Schlueter said the committee has been meeting monthly, and includes representatives from Brown County Emergency Management, fire and rescue, and the sheriff’s department.

“The Emergency Operations Plan focuses on four areas – prevention, preparedness, response and recover,” Schlueter said. “The plan lays out how we respond to threats and hazards, and outlines everyone’s responsibilities.”

Superintendent Dale Hafer said school safety has been on the forefront of people’s minds.

“We have a solid foundation, and we are engaging in additional emergency operations planning,” Hafer said. “The bottom line is, when we make any adjustments to the plan, we have you approve it and we collaborate with county personnel.”

Elementary Principal Ben Wright, another member of the committee, said he recently took part in 40 hours of additional training on emergency preparedness.

“We are way ahead of where a lot of districts are with our plan,” Wright said. “This group has put in a lot of work. We need to be prepared for anything.”

Schlueter said, in any emergency, the goal of the plan is to protect life, prevent injury, protect property and prepare the school for emergency evacuations or extended stays.

The board approved the draft Emergency Operations Plan, which Hafer said is a working document and will be continually updated.

In other business Monday, the board approved a payment of $15,032 to Walton Construction using depreciation funds for concrete work on the south side of the school building. Hafer said this was the fourth concrete project undertaken during the past two summers.

“Benny Burdick completed the first three projects,” Hafer said. “Bob Walton honored his bid from last summer for the fourth project. During the project, we ran into some additional curb work as well as an area with a lot of mud where they had to haul significant dirt.”

Hafer said the district budgeted for the concrete project using depreciation funds.

In a related item, the board approved a recommendation from Hafer to move $150,000 from the district’s general fund to its depreciation fund to be used toward future concrete, roofing or other facility maintenance projects.

Hafer said moving money from the district’s general fund to the depreciation fund is done in August each year, and the board had moved a similar amount the past two years. He said, while there were more projects completed during the past year, he believed the $150,000 would be sufficient to handle any projects next year.

In setting a budget workshop for 8 p.m. Aug. 25, Hafer said the district was in good financial shape and would likely be able to maintain current programs and efforts without increasing the district’s tax request. By not increasing the actual tax dollars requested, coupled with a substantial increase in valuation in the county, Hafer said the district’s property tax levy should drop again significantly.

“We are not about holding our levy just to go get more tax dollars when valuations go up,” Hafer said. “There should not be any extra burden to taxpayers with next year’s budget.”

The district’s 2022-23 budget hearing and property tax request are set for 8 p.m. Sept. 12, followed by the board’s regular meeting.

The board Monday approved its annual contributing partnership with the North Central Development Center in the amount of $10,000. Hafer said the contribution has been in place for several years to help support economic development efforts.

Board member Brad Wilkins, who serves as the school’s representative on the NCDC Board of Directors, said the goals of the school align with the goals of the economic development group. He said the group has been working on housing and assisting with the daycare project, two immediate needs for the district’s employees.

NCDC Director Kristin Olson thanked the district for being a contributing partner. She said the NCDC is gearing up for potential housing projects, as the state has allocated a large amount of funding to the rural workforce housing program.

“Housing is something we are really trying to address,” Olson said. “There may also be some ARPA funds that could help with security projects, so we could help you with some applications there. There are also some playground grants available that would cover 65 percent of the cost of playground upgrades.”

The board also approved the second reading of policy updates as recommended by the Nebraska Association of School Boards based off legislation passed in 2022. There will be a third reading of the policy updates before they take effect.

The board approved an option enrollment request from Tailer Rogers to allow her kindergarten student to option in to the Ainsworth district from the Keya Paha County district.

A second option enrollment request, from Brenda Konkoleski to allow her kindergarten student to option out of the Ainsworth district and in to the Keya Paha County district, also received board approval. Hafer said Konkoleski works in Keya Paha County but lives in the Ainsworth district.

During his report, Hafer said the district had hired Stephen Pierce and Mindy Van Sickle as para professionals, but was still searching for an ELL para as the district now has about 30 ELL students.

Elementary Principal Ben Wright told the board kindergarten roundup was held Monday, with a total of 26 projected students in the kindergarten class.

“The kids were really excited, it was good to see,” Wright said. “A lot of families showed up, and there are a lot of newer parents. Having them come in today, they should remember some of the things when class starts Friday.”

Wright said, having kindergarten roundup just ahead of classes starting instead of holding it the prior spring, should help make the kindergarten students more comfortable when they come in for their first day of school.

Activities Director Scott Steinhauser reported there were preliminarily 30 athletes participating in football, 18 in volleyball, four in girls golf, and eight in cross country including five girls and three boys.

Thirty of the 55 total boys in the four high school classes are currently out for football, the largest number of players in several years. Steinhauser said the new wind screen purchased by the Booster Club has been secured to the back of the bleachers at the East City Park football field. He said several people went through training on the new video board in McAndrew Gymnasium.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education will be a budget hearing and property tax request at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12, followed by its regular meeting.

* Alder graduates from UN-L Honors Program

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 9)

Seven graduating seniors have completed the requirements of the University Honors Program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

To graduate from the Honors Program, students must maintain at least a 3.5 grade-point average, complete a culminating senior project or research thesis, and fulfill other curricular requirements. The August graduates join 242 students who graduated from the Honors Program in May — the largest class in the program’s 36-year history.

Among the students graduating from the Honors Program is Peyton Alder of Stuart, from the College of Arts and Sciences.

* Portions of area parks to close after Labor Day

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

Access to certain areas of parks in north central Nebraska and the Panhandle will be temporarily closed to make way for improvements.

Mike Morava, regional superintendent for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said each of the projects is being started early enough in the fall to be finished before visitation peaks next year.

Portions of three area state parks and recreation areas will be closed after Labor Day.

Keller Park State Recreation Area near Ainsworth — The campground will be closed from Sept. 6 through May 2023 as workers upgrade the electrical service to the campsites. Following the upgrade, all 24 electrical sites at Keller will have 50-amp service.

Smith Falls State Park near Valentine — Access to Nebraska’s tallest waterfall, Smith Falls, will be closed Sept. 6 through May 2023 as workers replace the aging wooden walkway that leads to it. The 500-foot walkway will be replaced with durable composite decking on a steel frame.

Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area near Valentine — The Cedar Bay Campground will close Sept. 6 through May 2023 for an electrical upgrade. When complete, all 37 electrical sites at the campground will have 50-amp service. The park’s seven other campgrounds will be available during the project.

* BKR 4-H holds inaugural livestock sale Friday

(Posted 12:45 p.m. Aug. 8)

Friday marked the inaugural BKR 4-H youth livestock auction, held during the Rock County Fair.

4-H youth from Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties either sold the animals they raised or received a premium from area businesses and other buyers if they planned to take their animals on to the Nebraska State Fair to show.

The results of the sale:

Konnor Shifflet – Grand Champion Market Steer sold for a $4,000 premium to Rock County Agronomy.

Olivia Beel – Reserve Champion Market Steer sold for a $3,000 premium and a $1,820 base price to H&R Block of Valentine.

Ariat Albrecht – Grand Champion Market Heifer sold for a $2,000 premium and $1,738 base price to May’s Repair and Manufacturing.

Kaden Shifflet – Grand Champion Market Wether (goat) sold for a $750 premium and $182 base price to Husker Meats.

Kyleigh Shifflet – Reserve Champion Market Wether sold for a $1,000 premium and $156 base price to Western Select Genetics.

Atwood Albrecht – Grand Champion Market Doe (goat) solid for a $500 premium to A&B Cattle.

Caden Ferris – Grand Champion Market Barrow sold for a $1,700 premium and $184 base price to Recidio Consulting.

Olivia Beel – Grand Champion Market Gilt sold for a $5,000 premium and $184 base price to Rock County Agronomy.

Newton Smidt – Charolais Breeding Heifer Champion Pen of 3 sold for a $2,250 premium to Bassett Livestock.

Emma Smidt – Charolais Breeding Heifer Champion Pen of 3 sold for a $1,750 premium to the Tri County Bank.

Caden Ferris – Breeding Heifer Reserve Champion Pen of 3 sold for a $300 premium to Bassett Livestock.

Kaden Shifflet – Grand Champion Breeding Beef Female solid for an $800 premium to the Shifflet Ranch.

Konnor Shifflet – Reserve Champion Breeding Beef Female sold for a $900 premium to Central Valley Ag.

Ariat Albrecht – Grand Champion Breeding Doe (goat) sold for a $300 premium to the Smith Angus Ranch.

Clayton Ferris – Market Gilt sold for a $1,500 premium and $184 base price to Husker Meats.

Eli Beel – Market Gilt sold for a $2,500 premium to Bassett Livestock.

Atwood Albrecht – Market Steer sold for a $3,500 premium and $1,915 base price to KBRB Radio.

Emma Smidt – Market Steer sold for a $1,000 premium to Roger Wilson.

Newton Smidt – Angus Breeding Heifer sold for a $600 premium to the Bowen Ranch.

Kyleigh Shifflet – A Market Wether (goat) sold for a $400 premium and $199 base price to the Shifflet Ranch.

Eli Beel – A Bucket Calf sold for a $1,250 premium to the Smith Angus Ranch.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 5 p.m. Aug. 7)

July 31

  • Responded to a disturbance near 4th St and Ash St in Ainsworth. One male subject was released to family custody and transferred to an addiction treatment center.
  • Responded to Johnstown for an animal neglect complaint. Two horses were found to be in good care, with food and water.  No citations were issued.

August 1

  • The Brown County Ambulance and the Sheriff’s Office responded to a request for a welfare check in Long Pine. The individual was taken into emergency adult protective custody and transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • The Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a report of electric lines sparking near the 800 block of 2nd St. The department monitored the scene until the power company arrived, no fire occurred.
  • Responded to a traffic complaint of a reckless driving vehicle on Highway 20, near mile marker 240. Deputies made contact with the vehicle and one Nebraska male driver was issued a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol and driving while revoked, then booked into the Brown County Jail.

August 2

  • Responded to a report of a juvenile firing a gun inside Ainsworth city limits. Deputies were unable to locate the juvenile.
  • Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after they posted bond.
  • The Brown County Ambulance transferred an individual from a facility in Ainsworth to the Rock County Hospital.

August 3

  • Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.
  • Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after they received a time served sentence.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 241, a citation was issued for speeding 79 in a 65 mph zone.

August 4

  • Responded to a loose dog complaint near South Main St in Ainsworth. The dog was taken to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic.
  • The Sheriff’s Office and the Brown County Ambulance responded to a motorcycle accident on Highway 20 near mile marker 231. No injuries were reported, and the driver and vehicle were able to drive away from the scene.
  • Ainsworth, Long Pine, and Johnstown fire departments were paged for mutual aid assistance to Cherry County. After heavy rains all departments were able to return back to Brown County.

August 5

  • The Brown County Ambulance transferred a flight crew from the Airport to the Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient.
  • Responded to a domestic disturbance in Ainsworth. Both parties were separated.
  • The Brown County Ambulance responded to a medical alert activation in Ainsworth. The alarm was falsely activated and no transport was needed.
  • Ainsworth and Johnstown Fire Departments responded to a report of a grass fire 6 miles west of Ainsworth.

August 6

  • During a traffic stop on Highway 7, near mile marker 42, a citation was issued to a Colorado male driver of the vehicle for possession of marijuana, no operator’s license, and speeding 11-15 mph over the posted speed limit. Passengers in the vehicle were issued citations for possession of controlled substances, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 7, near mile marker 41, a citation was issued to a SD driver and passenger for possession of a controlled substance, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia.
  • During a traffic stop on Harrington St in Ainsworth, a citation was issued for speeding 16-20 mph over the posted speed limit to a Washington driver.

Weekly Summary:

Burn Ban in Effect for All Fire Districts

19 – Incident Reports Were Taken

4– Paper Services Were Served

148 – Phone Calls Were Received

10– 911 Emergency Calls Received

1– Titles Were Inspected –

2– Handgun Permits Applied For

* Arrest made in Thursday homicides at Laurel

(Posted noon Aug. 5)

The Nebraska State Patrol has arrested a suspect in connection with four homicides that occurred in Laurel early Thursday morning. The investigation included two scenes on Elm Street in Laurel. Each scene included a residence with a fire.

Once fire suppression efforts were complete at a residence at 503 Elm Street, State Patrol Crime Scene Investigators were able to examine the scene. Investigators located three deceased victims at that location, each with suspected gunshot wounds. The victims have been identified as Gene Twiford, 86, Janet Twiford, 85, and Dana Twiford, 55. All three were residents of the home.

One deceased victim was located at 209 Elm Street, also with suspected gunshot wounds. That victim has been identified as Michele Ebeling, 53. She was a resident at that home.

Physical evidence located at both scenes led investigators to identify a suspect as Jason Jones, 42, who is a resident of Laurel. Investigators developed information to believe that Jones was inside his home at 206 Elm Street in Laurel. The State Patrol SWAT Team was activated, and an arrest warrant was obtained for Jones. Following repeated attempts to have Jones exit the home voluntarily, the SWAT Team made entry into the home and located Jones in a bedroom, with severe burns.

Jones was flown to St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Lincoln for treatment of his burn injuries. He is in custody at the hospital.

The investigation remains ongoing. Several agencies have been involved in the response and investigation, including the volunteer fire departments of Laurel, Wayne, and Beldon, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Cedar County Attorney, the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, as well as the Laurel Police Department, Cedar County Sheriff’s Office, and the Nebraska State Patrol.

* State Patrol investigating 4 deaths at Laurel

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Aug. 5)

The Nebraska State Patrol, working with several public safety partners, is investigating the deaths of four people, at two different scenes in Laurel.

The first incident occurred shortly after 3 a.m. Thursday, when an explosion was reported at a residence in the 200 block of Elm Street in Laurel. Local volunteer firefighters responded and located an individual inside the home. That victim was found to be deceased. At that point, the Laurel Police Department and Cedar County Sheriff’s Department responded and requested assistance from the Nebraska State Patrol.

As investigators were on scene at the first residence, a second fire was reported a few blocks away, at a residence in the 500 block of Elm Street. Fire crews and law enforcement responded immediately. Three individuals were located deceased inside the residence.

At this time there are no identified suspects, however, the Nebraska State Patrol is seeking the public’s assistance in locating a vehicle that was seen leaving Laurel shortly after the second fire. That vehicle is described as a silver sedan that was seen traveling westbound out of Laurel on Highway 20. According to a witness report, the vehicle may have picked up a passenger before leaving Laurel. Fire investigators believe that anyone inside either residence at the time of the fires may have suffered burns.

After fire suppression efforts were successful Thursday afternoon at the scene in the 500 block of Elm Street, investigators examined the crime scene and determined that gunfire is suspected to have played a part in the incidents at both homes. Fire investigators also believe that the fire in the 500 block of Elm Street may have started around the same time as the reported explosion in the 200 block of Elm Street. However, indications of that fire weren’t visible outside the home for hours. Both incidents are now believed to have occurred shortly after 3 a.m. Thursday.

Based on that time frame, the State Patrol is requesting anyone who may have seen anything out-of-the-ordinary at Laurel between midnight and 4 a.m. Thursday to report it immediately. Tips can be reported to 402-479-4921.

Additionally, based on the focused time frame of the fires, investigators now believe the previously sought silver sedan reported by a member of the public may have left Laurel much later after the incidents than previously thought.

Response has included the volunteer fire departments of Laurel, Wayne, and Beldon, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Cedar County Attorney, as well as the Laurel Police Department, Cedar County Sheriff’s Department, and the Nebraska State Patrol.

Anyone who sees out-of-the-ordinary activity should call 911 immediately. This is an active investigation. Additional details will be released when possible.

* Rock County voters will decide on electing surveyor

(Posted 12:30 p.m. Aug. 4)

Rock County voters will be asked whether they want to have the county surveyor position be an elected office, as the Rock County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a resolution placing the question on the General Election ballot in November.

The ballot question will ask Rock County voters, “Shall Rock County elect a county surveyor to carry out the responsibilities of the county surveyor as provided in Section 23-1901 of Nebraska State Statutes.”

In other business Tuesday, the board approved making repairs to the Rock County weed superintendent’s pickup using inheritance tax funding, with the county paying back the inheritance tax fund when additional funds are available.

The commissioners approved the 2021-22 Rock County Library inventory as presented.

In a final item, Denny Macomber with the state of Nebraska’s Chief Jail Standards Division reported the Rock County Jail was in full compliance with state standards when it was inspected June 29. The commissioners Tuesday performed their quarterly inspection of the jail.

The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 16.

* Lightning sparks 2 fires Tuesday in Rock County

(Posted 10:15 a.m. Aug. 4)

Lightning from a thunderstorm Tuesday evening sparked two fires in Rock County, one of which burned into a creek canyon.

According to Bassett Fire Chief Jim Stout, two fires were started by lightning at approximately 9 p.m. Tuesday in northern Rock County, one on the Ritterbush Ranch and another on property owned by Kurt Leonard.

Stout said a total of 16 trucks from the Bassett, Newport and Springview Volunteer Fire departments responded. The fire on the Ritterbush Ranch burned into a canyon on Oak Creek.

Firefighters were on scene until 9 p.m. Wednesday, and the Single Engine Air Tanker made two aerial drops Wednesday to help suppress the canyon fire.

Stout said a total of about 10 acres burned on the Ritterbush Ranch, and about 40 acres burned on the Leonard property. No structures were damaged.

* Rural Fire District requests levy increase

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

Representatives from the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District requested a 1-cent levy increase Tuesday from the Brown County Commissioners for the 2022-23 budget.

Rural fire district representative Jeep Cozad said, in addition to its operating budget, the rural fire district planned to build a new fire hall for the South Pine Department in the upcoming year.

“We have been at 2-1/2 cents in levy for the past two years,” Cozad said. “We are asking to go to 3-1/2 cents.”

Cozad said the city of Ainsworth also planned to provide 3-1/2 cents in levy. The two entities must have matching levies at least once every three years to receive MFO funding from the state.

Cozad said the rural fire district would plan to go back to 3 cents or 2-1/2 cents the following year.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus asked how much cash reserve the rural fire district had in CDs and sinking funds.

The rural fire district has approximately $846,000 in cash reserves, but Cozad said they were planning to use some of those reserves to help construct the new building for the South Pine Department.

Commissioner Denny Bauer asked if the district could also use some of its cash reserves to support its operating budget for the upcoming year.

“I don’t know if you need three quarters of a million dollar cash reserve,” Bauer said.

Cozad agreed too large a cash reserve could pose a problem, but suggested the fire district did need to keep between $400,000 and $500,000 in reserve.

Fire district representative Doug Davis said the rural board cut budget requests from the individual rural departments by about $60,000 when formulating its budget.

“We have 119 firemen in the county,” Davis said. “We need to update some of our bunker gear, and it is very expensive. It costs about $3,500 for one set of gear.”

Wiebelhaus asked, with valuations increasing substantially across several sectors of property in the county, if anyone knew what 3-1/2 cents in levy would generate for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Cozad said the rural board based its 3-1/2-cent budget request based on the previous year’s valuation in an effort to generate approximately $280,000 in revenue.

Bauer said the commissioners could see how much levy would be needed to generate the $280,000 the fire department requested, since it could be less than 3-1/2 cents.

The board will allocate a final property tax levy to the rural fire district during its Aug. 16 budget workshop.

In other business Tuesday, Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor told the commissioners they needed to make a decision on the ballot language for the Sandhills Care Center property tax levy request soon.

“Both the city and the county need to start working on the ballot language,” Taylor said. “The latest we can submit a ballot issue is 60 days before the election. That is coming quickly the first of September.”

Taylor said details on the ballot language need to be worked out by both the Ainsworth City Council and the commissioners in the next couple weeks so he and City Attorney Rod Palmer would have enough time to prepare the ballot language.

“We did not change the interlocal agreement, so it will have to go on the ballot as two separate issues, one for the city and one for the county,” Taylor said.

Bauer said the commissioners should probably try and schedule a meeting with the City Council during its regular meeting next week to get things ironed out.

The board settled on seeing if the City Council was willing to hold a special meeting Aug. 16 to coincide with the next commissioner meeting.

Brown County Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum reported Tuesday weed management groups Brown County is a part of received substantial grant funding through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Erthum said the various weed control groups in the state usually have about $700,000 in grant funding to share. With an allocation of ARPA funding, those groups had $2.7 million to share for this year.

Erthum said the Middle Niobrara Weed Awareness Group requested several grants that were approved, including $40,000 for an 8×8 Argo amphibious vehicle.

“It is an amazing machine,” Erthum said. “It can be used in areas that are otherwise difficult to get to.”

He said the unit would be equipped with spraying equipment. The group also received $10,000 in grant funding to purchase four drones for aerial surveillance of potential noxious weed sites, another $10,000 for the group’s chemical cost share program with landowners, $10,000 for spraying equipment, and $50,000 to spray portions of the Niobrara River valley.

Total grant funding for the year for the Middle Niobrara Weed Awareness Group reached $125,000. Erthum said he was training to get a license to operate the drones.

He also reported the Sandhills Weed Management Group, which Brown County is a part of along with 20 other counties, received $140,000 in grant funding to purchase a Bobcat unit equipped with a tree trimmer. That weed management group received a total of $500,000 in grant funding for the year.

Erthum said the groups tried to focus on equipment purchases with the extra funding instead of just applying for grants to spray larger areas. The reason being, Erthum said, was if the funding was only going to be available for one year, spraying larger areas would require additional funding in future years to be effective and that funding would likely not be available.

The commissioners Tuesday heard the annual review from Brown County Emergency Management Director Traci Booth. Booth recapped the training she had conducted and the equipment she had purchased during the past year. She reported Brown and Rock counties were awarded between $65,000 and $70,000 in grant funding to support emergency management for the year.

Booth said the counties were required to have a deputy emergency manager and Rock County suggested an interlocal agreement to share one full-time deputy instead of each county hiring its own part-time deputy. If agreeable by the commissioners, she said she would advertise and interview for the position with a goal of having a deputy in place by Jan. 1.

Commissioner Buddy Small told Booth said had provided more emergency management service to Brown County in one year than Region 24 did in all the years the county was a member.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin provided the board with an update on roads department activity during the past week. Turpin reported the roads department had been hauling armor coat gravel to both the Ainsworth and Long Pine shops ahead of armor coating work being undertaken on several asphalt roads in the county.

Armor coating work will be undertaken this fall on South Pine Avenue, 433rd Avenue, 432nd Avenue, 430th Avenue, and 423rd Avenue.

The highway superintendent reported he received a copy of an updated interlocal agreement with Rock County for maintenance of the shared Bar 25 Road. Turpin said Rock County would assist in the cost of signage and the replacement of the McCullough Bridge on the Bar 25 Road. The maintenance agreement had Brown County maintaining the road from May 1 to Nov. 1, and Rock County maintaining the road for the other six months.

The commissioners will vote on the interlocal agreement during their Aug. 16 meeting.

County Clerk Travee Hobbs discussed correspondence she received from the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office encouraging counties to upgrade their cyber security. She said Applied Connective, who already works with the county’s computer system, will provide the county a quote for enhanced cyber security.

In a final action item Tuesday, the commissioners approved a $9,000 transfer from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the reappraisal fund.

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

 

 

 

 

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