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* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 2 p.m. June 30)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Marcus J. Gulley Jr., age 20, of Moorhead, Minn., charged with two counts of attempting a Class 4 felony, fined $1,000 on each count; also charged with possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100; minor in possession, $300.
Joseph M. Roberts, 45, of Highmore, S.D., possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100; speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Jacob Nelson, 24, of Ainsworth, procuring or selling alcohol to a minor, sentenced to two days in jail.
Skyler M. Cook, 19, of Ainsworth, minor in possession of alcohol, sentenced to perform 20 hours of community service.
Wallace E. Wiebesiek, 60, of Ainsworth, two counts of having a dog running at large, $25 on each count and also ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution.
John P. Stotz, 49, of Chicago, Ill., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Christopher A. Cover, 30, of Carter, S.D., taking or possessing fish without a permit, $100.
Jacob W. Hartzel, 34, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Leonard R. Holladay, 60, of Greeley, Colo., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.
Patrick J. Hohn, 31, of Ainsworth, driving under suspension, $100.
* Area students named to UNMC dean’s list
(Posted 11 a.m. June 30)
The University of Nebraska Medical Center announced its spring 2022 dean’s list for students enrolled in programs of nursing, dentistry, pharmacy and the allied health professions.
To qualify for the dean’s list, students must be enrolled for 12 or more hours during the semester and have a grade point average of 3.75 or above.
Area students named to the UNMC dean’s list for the spring semester are:
College of Nursing Northern Division (Norfolk)
Ainsworth — Payton Allen
Newport — Brook Doke
College of Nursing West Nebraska Division (Scottsbluff)
Spencer — Samantha Hipke
Medical Laboratory Science
Atkinson — Devon Dohrman
* Nebraska’s unemployment rate lowest in the nation
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 29)
The Nebraska Department of Labor announced Nebraska’s preliminary unemployment rate for May was 1.9 percent. The rate was unchanged from April and was down 0.6 percentage points from the May 2021 rate of 2.5 percent.
“Nebraskans have an unmatched work ethic, which is reflected in our nation-leading labor numbers,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said. “My administration is committed to making it easy to do business in Nebraska, and communities throughout the state have done great work to attract investment. We’re seeing the fruits of these efforts with impressive growth in the Good Life. Our strong momentum will enable us to build on the historic tax relief of 2022 with even more tax cuts in 2023.”
The May unemployment rate continues to be a record low for Nebraska and ties the record low for any state. Nebraska’s May rate is the lowest rate in the country. The 70 percent of labor-force age Nebraskans who are in the workforce is the best in the nation, as is Nebraska’s employment to total population of 68.7 percent.
“Nebraska has seen 11 straight months of historically high employment levels,” said Commissioner of Labor John H. Albin. “This is the second consecutive month of record employment for the Omaha metro and the third consecutive month for the Lincoln metro.”
Over one million Nebraskans have been employed since August of 2020.
Nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was 1,033,486 in May, up 4,693 over the month and up 21,829 over the year. Private industries with the most growth month to month were leisure and hospitality (up 1,647); education and health services (up 1,080); and mining and construction (up 641). Private industries with the most growth year to year were education and health services (up 5,096); trade, transportation, and utilities (up 4,848); and leisure and hospitality (up 4,154).
The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May is 3.6 percent, unchanged from the April rate and down 2.2 percentage points from the May 2021 rate of 5.8 percent.
* Four youth win bicycles from Ainsworth Fire Department
(Posted 10 a.m. June 27)
The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department handed out four bicycles to youth who entered the bike parade during the alumni parade Saturday.
Winning new bicycles courtesy of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department Saturday were:
Tilden Wright – Boys 3 to 7-year-old group
Kamlyn Archer – Girls 3 to 7-year-old group
Tygan Sisson – Boys 8 to 12-year-old group
Gracyn Sisson – Girls 8 to 12-year-old group
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 8:30 a.m. June 27)
- Received a report of two vehicles that were vandalized near South Main St in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Responded to a report of an abandoned, one vehicle, rollover accident near the 428th Ave and 884th Rd intersection. The vehicle was towed, and also damaged private property. Deputies are attempting to contact the driver.
- Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail for serving two days for a court commitment.
- The Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a vehicle fire near the 200 Block of Osborne St in Ainsworth. The vehicle was extinguished before any structure damage occurred.
- Responded to a request for a welfare check in rural Brown County. One male individual was taken into emergency protective custody and transferred to a mental health facility.
- Responded to a request for a welfare check in Long Pine. One female individual was taken into emergency protective custody and transferred to a mental health facility.
- Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail for an arrest warrant for a Felony, Theft of Services in excess of $5000 charge.
- Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after they posted a $5,000.00 cash bond.
- Provided traffic control on Highway 20 from the Rock County line to 432nd Ave near Ainsworth for a house relocation.
- The Brown County Ambulance transferred one individual to the Brown County Hospital from an Ainsworth facility.
- Responded to a domestic disturbance on 2nd St in Ainsworth. Parties were separated and received assistance from a local organization for a place to stay.
- The Brown County Ambulance crew transferred an air crew from the Airport to pick up a patient at the Brown County Hospital.
- Received a report of two cows on Highway 7, near mile marker 23. The owner was contacted and removed them from the roadway.
- Provided traffic control on Highway 7 from Ainsworth city limits to 877th Rd for a building move.
- Issued a city ordinance removal order for disposing of waste properly.
- Received a request for a welfare check on a juvenile in rural Brown County. The individual was located and found safe.
- The Brown County Ambulance transferred an aircrew from the Airport to the Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient.
- The Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a baler fire near the 429th Ave and 877th Rd intersection. The tractor was saved, but the baler was called a total loss.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 page for a rural Brown County resident. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 7,near mile marker 37, a citation was issued for speeding 80 mph in a 65 mph zone.
0 – Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)
3– Handgun Permits Applied For
16– Incident Reports Were Taken
9– Paper Services Were Served
133– Phone Calls Were Received
7– 911 Emergency Calls Received
5– Titles Were Inspected
* 1964 Mercury wins Peoples’ Choice in annual car show
(Posted 8 a.m. June 27)
Main Street in Ainsworth was awash in classic cars and motorcycles Friday during the annual show and shine hosted by the Ainsworth Does Drove as part of alumni festivities.
The Peoples’ Choice Award in the car show went to a 1964 Mercury Park Lane Marauder owned by Dee and Joel Ferris of Ainsworth. Second was a 2007 Ford Mustang owned by Jay Burrows of Ainsworth, and third place in the car show was a 1964 Corvette Sting Ray owned by Mel Campbell.
The Peoples’ Choice Award in the motorcycle division went to a 2022 Indian owned by Corvin Hinrichs of Ainsworth. Second place was a 2017 Harley Street Glide owned by Chris Osterman of Ainsworth. Third in the motorcycle division went to a 2016 Kawasaki owned by Chad Lower of Ainsworth.
* NDOT provides update on Highway 20 project
(Posted noon June 24)
The Nebraska Department of Transportation provided an update on the Highway 20 construction project in Ainsworth.
A&R Construction plans to pour concrete on Tuesday for the south lane of the highway from Pine Street to Richardson Drive. On Monday, the Cedar Street intersection will open to traffic and the Pine Street intersection will close. Richardson drive will remain open, and A&R Construction plans to open the Walnut Street intersection sometime in the next week.
When the Pine Street intersection closes, drivers needing access to the Brown County Hospital are asked to use Richardson Drive to Second Street, then west to Harrington Street.
The storm sewer contractor is pouring concrete for the inlet boxes on that portion of the project, and the electrical contractor has started to install bases for highway lighting poles.
* Fireworks not allowed at Hidden Paradise
(Posted 11 a.m. June 24)
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala and Long Pine Fire Chief Matt Pozehl announced that fireworks will not be permitted in the Hidden Paradise area this year.
While fireworks may be ignited in the rest of the county, Fiala said the risk of fire in the Hidden Paradise area led to the decision to prohibit fireworks there.
“The fire risk is still very high in that area,” Fiala said.
Burn pits and fire pits are still allowed in the county with a covering screen.
“We are not quite to the point of having to implement a burn ban again,” Fiala said.
Even though fireworks will be allowed in the rest of the county and a burn ban has not been reissued, Fiala encouraged everyone to be cautious of the risk of fire in the county.
Fiala also reported the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department will conduct a training and controlled burn Sunday morning on the north side of East Highway 20 next to Ty’s Taxidermy. The fire department will conduct the training and then burn the house following the training exercise.
* Welcome back Ainsworth Alumni
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 24)
Ainsworth is set to host its annual alumni festivities this weekend. The 25-year honor class of 1997 is the hosting class for this year’s alumni.
The Elks hosts a car show Friday evening, and will serve burgers and fries.
The 402 bar is serving Bloody Mary’s at 9 a.m. Saturday before and after the parade, and will serve burgers and chips following the parade.
Classes are asked to gather at East City Park at 9 a.m. Saturday to line up for the parade, which begins at 10 a.m.
Tours of the Ainsworth Community Schools buildings will be given from 1 until 3 p.m. Saturday.
The alumni banquet is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., and a street dance follows the banquet in The Silver Circle.
* Potential new ambulance building discussed Tuesday
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 22)
Representatives from the Brown County Ambulance Association discussed with the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday the potential to build a new structure to house the association’s ambulances.
Ann Fiala with the ambulance association told the commissioners the group had set aside $117,000 toward the cost of purchasing a new ambulance, but planned to submit an American Rescue Plan Act grant for the ambulance purchase. If the grant is awarded, Fiala said the ambulance association would instead use the funds it has saved for the ambulance to put toward the cost of the building.
She estimated the cost of the new building would range between $360,000 and $400,000.
“ARPA funds are coming out, and ambulances are one of the target areas,” Fiala said. “If we receive the grant for the ambulance, we would request the $117,000 we have for the ambulance be put toward a sinking fund to pay for our own building so the city and the county don’t have to fund it. We would like to try and fund it ourselves.”
Fiala said the ambulance association operates without any tax dollars, and generates enough revenue to pay for its operations budget.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, “You have always been solvent. I have no problem with your plan.”
She said, with the size of the new ambulance, the current barn would not house all of the association’s ambulances.
“When the new ambulance comes in, we will have a fourth ambulance that is still in pretty good shape,” Fiala said. “We will see if there is interest from neighboring counties in purchasing that ambulance.”
She said, if neighboring counties were not interested, the association would put the surplus ambulance up for auction online.
Fiala asked the commissioners if they would have room in one the roads department shop near Ainsworth to house the association’s third ambulance after the new model arrives. She said the association would need to find a spot close to town that is heated to house the third ambulance until the new building is constructed.
The commissioners said they would check with the roads department to see if the ambulance could be housed in the shop.
Following a public hearing Tuesday, the commissioners approved an amendment to the county’s 2021-22 budget. The budget amendment related to additional grant funds received and spent by the Brown County Hospital that were not anticipated when the initial hospital budget was approved. The budget amendment did not affect any tax dollars, it only accounted for the additional grant funding.
North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson provided the commissioners with an update on NCDC activity during the past year and requested the board continue its partnership with the NCDC for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
Olson said, with assistance from the NCDC, more than $320,000 in business improvements were made during the past year, and the NCDC facilitated more than $670,000 in new business loans. She said the organization assisted with several demolition projects to create potential sites for new housing, and was working with potential developers on sites to construct new rental and single family homes.
The commissioners agreed to include a $10,000 contribution to the NCDC for the 2022-23 fiscal year, equal to its 2021-22 contribution.
Clerk Travee Hobbs discussed a new state requirement that counties mail postcards to property owners if any taxing entity increases its property tax asking by 2 percent or more above allowable growth.
The new state mandate could result in substantial added expense to counties, with about 6,000 parcels in the county and a per-parcel postcard cost of 54 cents.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported the roads department has been hauling clay onto the Buechele Road, Moon Lake Avenue and Southwest Road to solidify spots in those roads in western Brown County.
Turpin said the department finished grading projects on both 434th Avenue and 887 Road. He said those grading projects will help farmers in that area and will save the roads department in ongoing maintenance costs.
“We are looking at ways to try and save money where we can with the cost of fuel,” Turpin said. “We are going to try and leave machines when we are working in one part of the county and just run out and pick up the driver. We were doing 10 hours of overtime per week, but we may start to limit that.”
Turpin said the contractor for the Sand Draw Creek bridge project on Meadville Avenue held a pre-construction meeting last week. He said the company may start with dirt work and pouring back walls June 27, but the girders for the new bridge may not be available until the spring of 2023. He said the contractor planned to get as much work on the project completed as possible with the hope the girders can be delivered sooner.
In other action items Tuesday, the commissioners approved resolutions to foreclose on two parcels that had not paid property taxes in several years. County Attorney Andy Taylor said the resolution was required so the county could move forward with a tax sale.
The commissioners acknowledged the new IRS mileage reimbursement rate of 62.5 cents per mile effective from July 1 through the end of 2022. With current fuel prices, the IRS increased the mileage reimbursement rate by 4 cents per mile for the remainder of the year.
The board also approved a transfer of $2,100 from its miscellaneous general fund to the probation budget.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. July 5.
* UN-L announces Deans’ List for spring semester
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 22)
More than 6,200 University of Nebraska–Lincoln students have been named to the Deans’ List for the spring semester of the 2021-22 academic year.
Qualification for the Deans’ List varies among the eight undergraduate colleges and the Explore Center. Listed below are the minimum requirements for each entity and the name of its respective dean or director. All qualifying grade-point averages are based on a four-point scale and a minimum number of graded semester hours. Students can be on the Deans’ List for more than one college.
Area students named to the UN-L Deans’ List for the spring semester are:
Rebecca Anne Taylor, senior, Dean’s List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, environmental science.
Samuel Duane Wilkins, senior, Dean’s List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural economics; Dean’s List, College of Engineering, agricultural engineering.
Logan Kenneth Hafer, sophomore, Dean’s List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, biochemistry.
Jillian Mckenna Buell, sophomore, Dean’s List, College of Journalism and Mass Communications, advertising and public relations.
Brandie Rae Messersmith, sophomore, Dean’s List, College of Arts and Sciences, classics and religious studies.
Peyton Alder, senior, Dean’s List, College of Arts and Sciences, biological sciences and psychology.
Dani Leigh Laible, senior, Dean’s List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural and environmental sciences communication.
Madison Stracke, junior, Dean’s List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural education.
Morgan Wallinger, junior, Dean’s List, College of Business, accounting and agribusiness.
Lindsey Kate Jelinek, junior, Dean’s List, College of Education and Human Sciences, elementary education.
Will Thiele, junior, Dean’s List, College of Education and Human Sciences, secondary education.
Melissa Sextro, senior, Dean’s List, College of Arts and Sciences, English.
Shyanne Dawn Urbin, sophomore, Dean’s List, College of Engineering, biological systems engineering.
Logan Michael Cate, junior, Dean’s List, College of Business, supply chain management.
Ryan OKief, sophomore, Dean’s List, College of Business, finance.
Skyler Reagle, junior, Dean’s List, College of Business, management.
* NDOT provides update on Highway 20 project
(Posted 10:30 a.m. June 20)
The Nebraska Department of Transportation provided an update on the Highway 20 construction project in Ainsworth Monday.
A&R Construction plans to close the Oak Street intersection and open the Maple Street intersection this afternoon. Preparations for placing concrete from Oak Street to Pine Street are scheduled for Tuesday morning.
A&R plans to skip over Ash Street so that intersection will remain open, but expect some delays when they are paving in that area. The required concrete for Tuesday’s pour is 660 cubic yards. After placement of Tuesday’s concrete, the contractor will begin preparations to grade Pine Street to Richardson Drive. They anticipate opening the Main Street and Woodward Street intersections later in the week.
The storm sewer contractor expects to finish placing the final pipes for the first phase of the construction this week. They will be placing the pipes for the next phases as the deliveries arrive to the project.
The NDOT reminds drivers who need access to the Brown County Hospital from Highway 20 must still use Pine Street to Zero Street.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 9:30 a.m. June 20)
Brown County Sheriff’s Office Weekly Summary
- Responded to a report of a juvenile making terroristic threats to another juvenile.
- A subject wanted on a Brown County warrant was arrested in Barnes County, North Dakota. While awaiting extradition after the active arrest warrant was served, the subject posted bond that was set at $2,500 and was released from their custody.
- A citation was issued for failure to license dogs in the city of Ainsworth.
- The Brown County Ambulance was paged after receiving a 911 call for response to an Ainsworth home. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
- Responded to a report of an abandoned camper in Long Pine. Deputies have made contact with the owner and arrangements are being made to have the camper removed.
- Responded to a request for a welfare check on a Long Pine individual. The individual was found safe.
- A citation was issued for 3rd degree Domestic Assault after responding to a 911 call at an Ainsworth home. One male suspect was booked into the Brown County Jail and bond was set at $1,500.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call for lift assistance in rural Brown county. The individual denied any further transportation.
- Responded to a report of an unauthorized individual on a property in rural Brown County. Deputies made contact with that individual and advised them to leave the property.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call for an Ainsworth resident and transported one individual to the Brown County Hospital.
- Responded to an abandoned vehicle on the 400 Block of Walnut St in Ainsworth. The owner was contacted and removed it from the roadway.
- Responded to an open door on Main St in Ainsworth. The building was cleared and no criminal activity was found.
- Responded to a report of a barking dog on the 100 block of Elm St. The owner was contacted and the situation was remedied.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call for an Ainsworth home. The individual declined transportation.
- The Brown County Ambulance provided transportation for an aircrew to the Brown County Hospital and back to the airport. Then, they were paged for a 911 call and transferred one individual to the Brown County Hospital. And lastly, on this day, provided lift assistance where no transportation was required.
- One male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail for a court commitment.
0– Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)
1– Handgun Permits Applied For
16– Incident Reports Were Taken
7– Paper Services Were Served
126– Phone Calls Were Received
19– 911 Emergency Calls Received
6– Titles Were Inspected
* Merritt’s main boat ramp to close temporarily June 22
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 20)
Users of the Main Ramp Area at Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area should be aware of repairs scheduled from June 22-24 that will result in temporary closures.
Water draining from the pull-through near the ramp area has caused erosion undermining the sidewalk attached to the boat ramp, and immediate repairs are needed.
The boat ramp will be closed temporarily while concrete deliveries are being made. These closures will be brief, and the ramp will open once the delivery is complete.
Boaters may arrive at the ramp and find their boat launching is delayed. Once the work is complete, repaired areas will be marked with traffic cones while the materials are setting. Visitors should not disturb these areas.
Other boat ramps available at Merritt are at Beeds Landing and Powderhorn.
Funding for the repairs is made possible through the Capital Maintenance Funds and Sportfish Restoration Motorboat Access Funds.
* Hanson wins Lick Tub Challenge Peoples’ Choice
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 20)
The inaugural North Central RC&D Lick Tub Challenge took place during the Sandhills Ranch Expo at Bassett with 14 entries.
Haylee Hanson of Valentine entered her pig and won People’s Choice and $125 sponsored by Suther Feeds, Scott Ruzicka of Verdigre.
“The really fun part of the People’s Choice was to see every single entry get votes for this esteemed award,” RC&D Director Kim Burge said.
Winning the Adult Commercial Potential first place ribbon and $100 was Delores Ruzicka. Delores entered a set of two end tables perfect for any deck or back yard.
First place, for the Adult Home Use project went to Shane Keller. Keller used his upcycled tubs to safely hold net wrap when pulling the wrap off bales. Keller said he appreciated not having the net wrap blowing around, catching in the wheels of his tractor or the fence.
First place for both the 16 and under Commercial Potential and 16 and under Home Use went to John Connell of Long Pine. After consulting with his grandpa Karl, Connell came up with both a vet table that makes things easier when the vet has to make a ranch call and a wooden planter.
Each of these winners received $100 in prize money donated by Rio Nutrition, Shane and Karen Keller of Valentine and First Star Recycling of Omaha. Vitalix Feed, Travis Schauda of Broken Bow, sponsored two first-place awards.
* Southwest Conference wins all-star volleyball showcase
(Posted 9:30 a.m. June 16)
The New West All Star Volleyball games were held Wednesday with the Southwest Conference winning the championship match over the Fort Kearny Conference in three sets 25-16, 20-25, 25-18. The Loup Platte Conference won the consolation match over the Republican Plains Activities Conference 25-23, 25-16. In the first round, the FKC beat the RPAC, 25-17, 25-14, 25-22. The SWC won over the LPC 25-15, 21-25, 25-16, 25-20. Chelsea Fisher of Pleasanton and Kaitlyn Scott of Broken Bow were the MVPs.
Kaitlyn Nelson, Madelyn Goochey and Summer Richardson represented Ainsworth High School on the Southwest Conference All-Star team, and Grace Kelber and Tessa Krolikowski from Valentine were also part of the champion Southwest Conference squad.
The All-Star basketball games are set for tonight with the FKC squaring off against the RPAC with the girls game at 5 p.m. and the boys game to follow. The SWC will play the LPC with the girls game at 5p.m. in the Minden high school gym with the boys game to follow.
Goochey, Nelson and Bria Delimont will represent Ainsworth on the Southwest Conference All-Star girls basketball team, and Ainsworth’s Caleb Allen is a member of the Southwest Conference boys all-star team.
* County, city approve additional funds to care center
(Posted 10:15 a.m. June 14)
The Brown County Commissioners and Ainsworth City Council on Monday voted to provide additional funding to the Sandhills Care Center and move forward with placing a property tax levy question on the November General Election ballot that would provide additional funding to the facility.
During a packed special session in the Ainsworth Conference Center Monday, the commissioners unanimously voted to provide up to $250,000 in additional funding to the Sandhills Care Center to assure operations are funded until voters can decide in November whether to provide additional long-term financial support to the facility.
The commissioners will provide the entire $250,000 up front, with the City Council then voting to repay the county for the city’s half of that total over a period of time.
With the city and the county jointly owning and operating the facility, discussion of the November ballot language centered on how to place the funding question in front of voters.
Brown County Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said one general levy would unduly burden agricultural property owners, since a great majority of property value in the county was encompassed in agricultural land.
Wiebelhaus suggested two levy questions be placed on the ballot, one for city of Ainsworth voters and one for all voters in the county.
To provide an equal amount of property taxes through the additional levy, city of Ainsworth voters would be asked to approve an additional 8-cent levy, while all voters in the county would be asked to approve a 2-cent levy.
“A 2-cent levy for the county and an 8-cent levy for the city would raise about $340,000 per year,” Wiebelhaus said.
Both the Brown County Commissioners and the Ainsworth City Council will vote during upcoming meetings on placing a property tax levy question on the November General Election ballot that would allow voters to decide whether to provide the additional long-term funding.
Care Center Board Chair Phil Fuchs opened the meeting addressing the recent financial difficulties experienced by the care center due to inflated agency nursing expenses.
“We are here today because of our concern for the continued operation of the care center, the concern we have for our residents and for our employees,” Fuchs said. “We have had residents move elsewhere because of the uncertainty, and new residents aren’t interested in moving in until they know we are going to stay open.”
Fuchs said the board projected it would need an additional $180,000 to get through the month of October on top of the $320,000 already provided by the city and the county to complete their-five-year initial funding commitment.
The care center has been operating since 2016 and went three years without having to seek any additional funding from the city or the county until agency nursing expenses began eating away at the facility’s reserves in the past year.
“It boils down to we have to have a way to eliminate agency nursing costs,” Fuchs said.
Board member Dr. Mel Campbell said the nursing home has to pay agencies more than double what it would cost to have in-house nurses, and at times the agency cost is closer to triple.
Fuchs reported the 30 percent wage increases passed by the board resulted in the facility filling all of its open Certified Nurse Aide positions.
Administrator Penny Jacobs said the facility has received interest from nurses, but they were waiting to see if the care center had the funding stability needed to stay open before deciding whether to accept a full-time nursing position.
“We have not been fully staffed in nursing since I have been here,” Jacobs said. “We have one full-time nurse now. We need four. We have been approached by three nurses with interest. If we can provide assurance that we will stay open, we have a lot of interest there because of the wage increases.”
Audience member Susan Stec said there is now not a single nursing home facility in Cherry County. She asked if the group could work with Cherry County on a smaller levy to support one facility.
“You are talking about human life here, not a convenience store or some other business,” Stec said. “If my dad leaves this facility, he won’t make it. This is his home. What percent of levy can we put on a human life?”
Stec said, when the Mullen nursing home closed, many of the residents there didn’t make it two months after having to move to other facilities.
“We pay taxes on a whole lot of things – community colleges, ag societies, natural resources districts,” Stec said. “My folks pledged money when the care center reopened as a lot of people here did. We are very passionate about this.”
Fuchs said the board needed to hear that.
“I want to see our facility succeed,” the board chair said. “We were gaining ground. There were circumstances we couldn’t foresee with COVID. We have used the COVID funding we received since November trying to fill the budget gap, but the agency nursing issues only got worse.”
Audience member Rod Palmer said it is the wrong mindset to have to think that a nursing home has to break even or make money.
“I think we need to look at it as we are subsidizing a needed service for our residents so they don’t have to go somewhere else to die,” Palmer said. “In 2021, nine nursing homes closed and more than 250 residents were displaced.”
Palmer said residents of the county pay for the sheriff’s department, which provides safety but does not break even. It is a service to the people. The county spends $2 million on its roads, which provides a service but does not break even.
“What detrimental effect would closing have on the hospital?” Palmer asked. “There are costs to the community if this closes. Maybe we need to think about that instead of what it will cost to subsidize it.”
Audience member Janelle Guericke said she travels three hours to Ainsworth to visit her father in the Sandhills Care Center. She said her brothers also travel to Ainsworth to visit.
“I don’t want to have to try and find a way to take my mom two hours away to see my dad somewhere else,” Guericke said. “We come here for Christmas. The western store loves us, we drop a couple grand at that store in December. We stay at the hotel, we go out to eat.”
Guericke said she teaches at the Mitchell S.D. Technical Institute and numerous businesses sponsor the cost of college for prospective employees. She said the business pays for the student’s tuition, and the student agrees to work for that business for three years after college. The business gets a guaranteed employee, and the student gets their college paid for and a guaranteed job after they graduate.
Guericke said her father receives fantastic care in the Sandhills Care Center, and her family pays $10,000 per month for her father to be in there.
“You don’t know what this is like until you need a nursing home,” Guericke said. “This is about your families. You need to work together to keep it going. Shame on those of you who are talking about whether you will be able to keep it open.”
Audience member Troy Peters said he doesn’t like paying taxes any more than anyone else does, and the valuation on his agricultural ground just increased by more than $900,000.
“But this is an essential service, and I would be willing to pay a levy to keep it,” Peters said.
Discussion turned to how the city and county would potentially fund the facility should levies be approved by both voters in the city of Ainsworth and Brown County. If the levies are approved, the facility would not see the actual funding until 2024. That would leave the city and the county responsible for funding any additional shortfalls for all of 2023.
An audience member said, if the city and the county can’t pay to keep the facility open until a levy would begin to be collected, then everyone was just wasting their time. Another audience member expressed concern that there were no concrete numbers given on what exactly it would take to keep the facility operating.
Mayor Joel Klammer said it is difficult for the city to try and budget because it hasn’t received hard numbers on what is needed.
Campbell said budget projections are just that, projections, and what the center actually needs to operate in the next year will be determined by how it can operate moving forward if people know it will stay open.
Brown County Commissioner Dennis Bauer said the county needed to have an idea of how many dollars it would take from the city and the county to keep the facility going until an additional levy would be collected.
Fuchs said it would take an additional $180,000 to get through October with the way the finances are trending, but more would likely be needed to get through 2023.
“If we don’t offer stability, it is over,” Fuchs said. “That is what we are dealing with now. That instability doesn’t give us any opportunities to move forward. If we don’t get the confidence level up, the resident level up and nursing positions hired, we would continue to need about $60,000 per month.”
Campbell said, with the positive support from the city and the county, he believed the facility could improve resident numbers and eliminate some of the contract nursing.
“If we can hire the nurses we may be able to hire if they know we are going to be open, we could potentially get back to breaking even and not need as much funding,” Campbell said.
Jacobs said, with the current uncertainty, the referrals the care center was receiving from the assisted living and hospital in Valentine dried up.
“If people know we are going to stay open, we could have a major draw for new residents because of the other facilities around us that have closed, instead of our residents potentially having to leave,” Jacobs said.
Audience member Graig Kinzie said the city and the county both had some room in their general levies to increase them on a one-year basis to supply the needed funds to the facility for 2023 if voters approve the additional levy for the following four years.
“The city’s current levy is about 45 cents, and the city can go up to 50 cents,” Kinzie said. “The county would potentially have even more room. The county’s levy is only about 30 cents.”
If both the city and the county informed the public that they planned to increase the levy for one year to sustain the facility in 2023 if voters approve the bond issues, Kinzie said they should be able to come up with the funds needed to support the facility until the bond funds come in.
Bauer said an additional 5-cent levy in the county for one year would raise between $440,000 and $450,000.
“If you own 500 acres of farm ground, it would cost an extra $500,” Bauer said. “For a 4,000-acre ranch, it would cost $1,700. That levy would raise taxes about $1.80 per acre for farm ground and 43 cents per acre for pasture.”
Following the discussion, the commissioners agreed to provide $250,000 in additional funding to the care center, contingent upon the city agreeing to eventually pay the county back for half of that amount. Wiebelhaus said that would give the city additional time to budget and pay back the county over a period of years.
The City Council then voted to approve the county’s offer and pay back the $125,000 to the county over time. Councilman Brad Fiala said it would be his preference to try and find the funds within the city’s current budget to pay the county instead of having to extend the payback period.
Several audience members said they were waiting to see the results of Monday’s meeting before making a decision on whether to move a family member, and the actions taken by the council and the commissioners reaffirmed their commitment to keeping their loved one in the care center.
Audience member Cindy Buckles said, “We have a good staff and a lot of positives. Let’s make this work. My husband is in the care center, and my mom will be coming in there soon.”
Audience member Shari Luther said she has talked to several of the traveling nurses, who all indicated the Sandhills Care Center provides the best care of any of the facilities in which they have worked.
Campbell said the board would commit to doing all it could to recruit both nurses to eliminate the agency staffing costs and residents to help provide additional revenue so the facility would not need all the money it was currently requesting.
Fuchs thanked the commissioners, the council and the audience members for their support.
“We are working hard to try and make this work,” Fuchs said. “We will work to put a committee together to get the positive things out there.”
Following the special meetings of the council and commissioners, the Care Center Board conducted its regular business, approving a transfer of $65,035 from its reserve account.
During May, the care center generated $165,523 in revenue with expenses of $270,707 for an operating loss for the month of $105,183. Agency nursing expenses in May were $136,071.
Business manager Dawn Pierce said the care center was able to collect on some past-due accounts so the amount that needed to be transferred to meet expenses was not as high.
“There had been a lack of confidence about whether we would be able to stay open,” Pierce said. “I think today will help exponentially when that word gets out.”
Board member Shawn Fernau said he believed a lot of positive changes could come about after the positive moves by the city and the county Monday.
Fuchs said, now that the funding commitment has been made and with the 30 percent wage increases the board previously approved, maybe the facility can generate interest in the open LPN and RN positions.
Jacobs said she had talked to a couple agency nurses who were interested in full-time positions with the care center, but they wanted to see that there would be stability before deciding to leave an agency and come work full-time for the care center.
Jacobs reported there are currently 16 residents, with six paying privately and 10 receiving Medicaid assistance. She said three residents were discharged to other facilities in the past month due to the previous uncertainty, and one resident passed away.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 11.
* Hafer provides update from Monday School Board meeting
(Posted 7 a.m. June 14)
Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer provided an update on Monday’s Board of Education meeting. The board hired Loreece Thornton to teach math for the 2022-23 school year.
Listen to the conversation below.
* Work begins on Highway 7 north of Bassett
(Posted 10:45 a.m. June 13)
Work is underway on Highway 7 north of Bassett from milepost 73 to milepost 77, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
Western Engineering Company of Harlan, Iowa, is the prime contractor for the project. Repair work to the Niobrara River bridge on Highway 7 is underway, with asphalt resurfacing to follow later this summer. Traffic will be maintained with a lane closure controlled by a traffic signal. A 10-foot width restriction will be in effect. Anticipated competition is November.
Motorists are reminded to drive cautiously in and near work zones, to buckle up, and to put phones down.
* Northeast announces President’s List, Dean’s List students
(Posted 7 a.m. June 13)
Northeast Community College announced the President’s Honor List and Deans’ Honor List for both full and part-time students for the spring semester.
To be named to the President’s Honor List, students must earn a grade point average of 4.0 and be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours. Students named to the Deans’ Honor List must have earned a grade point average of 3.75 or above and be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours.
President’s Part-Time list students attained a 4.0 grade point average while taking at least six credit hours, and students named to the Deans’ Part-Time list earned a grade point average of 3.75 or above while taking at least six credit hours.
PRESIDENT’S HONOR LIST – Full-Time, Spring
Bassett – Brendan Bussinger
Stuart – Wade Paxton
Atkinson – Ellie Burkinshaw
DEANS’ HONOR LIST-Full-time, Spring
Long Pine – Oren Pozehl
Stuart – Jenny Forker
Atkinson – Reghan Kerkman
Valentine – Geoffrey Fisbeck
PRESIDENT’S HONOR LIST – Part-time, Spring
Ainsworth – Benjamin Flynn, Eden Raymond, Summer Richardson, Tylan Schlueter, Haley Schroedl
Long Pine – Allie Cosgrove, Gavin Olinger, Jayden Swett
Bassett – Kyra Anthony, Benjamin Barrow, Carson Shaw, Tatelyn Smith
Atkinson – Lily Fischer, Leah Jockens
Naper – Natasha Zeisler
DEAN’S HONOR LIST Part-Time, Spring
Ainsworth – Maren Arens, Madelyn Goochey
Johnstown – Lila Lewis
Springview – Jenna Hallock
Atkinson – Caid McCart
* Kronhofman, Evans named top rib cookers Saturday
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 13)
Joe Kronhofman was judged to have the best traditional rib recipe Saturday during the annual Ribfest hosted by the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department. Kronhofman took home the top prize for the traditional ribs, while Kaden Evans took home first place for ribs cooked on a pellet grill.
Chase Marbry finished second among the traditional rib cookers, with Trent Kinney taking third. Jenny Rutherford placed second and Joe Kronhofman third in the pellet grill rib contest.
Following the judging, ribs were served to the public along with fries and baked beans, and the Order of Eastern Star provided homemade ice cream.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 6:30 a.m. June 13)
- Received a report from an individual regarding property dispute.
- Received a report of a stolen vehicle from north Oak St in Ainsworth. The stolen vehicle was later found in O’Neill, NE. This is an ongoing investigation.
- The Brown County Ambulance transported an individual from a rural Brown County residence to the Brown County Hospital.
- Responded to a Welfare check on an individual in the Long Pine State park area. Individual was later transported to the North Platte Great Plains Hospital.
- Received a report from an owner missing 4 black calves out on the highway. The owner later advised he found them and returned them to the pasture.
- Received a phone call from a NE State Patrol officer reporting cattle out on Hwy 183 near Keller State Park. The NSP officer did advise he put the cattle back into their pasture.
- Received report of a barking dog complaint on east 7th St in Ainsworth.
- Brown County Ambulance responded to a Life Alert call for a resident in Long Pine needing lift assistance. No transport was needed.
- Responded to a Disturbance of the Peace at a residence in Long Pine.
- Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing at the Hwy 183 & Hwy 20 junction.
- Responded to a request for assistance at a rural Brown County residence regarding a domestic dispute.
- The Ainsworth Fire Chief issued a burn permit to a rural Brown County resident 5mi north of Ainsworth.
- Brown County Ambulance Association provided standby for the Rodeo Bible Camp at the Brown County Fairgrounds in Johnstown.
- Issued a warning to a local Ainsworth resident regarding a City Ordinance violation regarding dogs.
- Responded to a welfare check on a local Ainsworth resident who was found to be okay.
- Rural Brown County resident burning for the 2nd day 5mi north of Ainsworth.
- Brown County Ambulance Association provided standby for the Rodeo Bible Camp at the Brown County Fairgrounds in Johnstown.
- Received a report of lost property found in Rock County. Owner from Brown County was notified.
- Responded to a report of City of Ainsworth Ordinance violation. The neighbor reports trash blocking the alleyway on north Ash St. Upon responding the officer discovered more ordinance violations and the owner was given a warning to correct the issues or receive citations the next day.
- Brown County Ambulance Association responded to a residence in Ainsworth. Patient was transported to Brown County Hospital then later to the hospital in Kearney.
- A Brown County Officer transported two individuals to Johnstown from the Cherry County line. They had been in an auto accident involving a deer. No injuries were reported.
- Received a report of cattle out on Hwy 7 south of Ainsworth near Mile Marker 28. The owner was notified.
- Assisted a Long Pine resident with an opossum problem by contacting the Animal Control officer in Long Pine who could assist.
- Calamus, Raven, Johnstown & Ainsworth Firemen respond to a fire west of Enders Lake. The grass fire was successfully extinguished.
- Issued a citation to a TX motorist for speeding 84mph in a 65mph zone.
- Issued a citation to a NE motorist for speeding 90mph in a 65mph zone.
- Responded to a report of a barking dog on east 7th St. Owner was notified and took care of the situation.
- Received a report of 6+ black cattle out on Hwy 7 near Mile Marker 27. Owner notified who did go get the cattle back in.
- Burn permit was issued by Johnstown Fire Chief for a rural Brown County resident southeast of Johnstown.
- Received a report of a “bunch” of cattle out on north Wilson St. Owner was located and put the cattle back in.
- Received a report of a dead deer in the southbound lane on Hwy 183 near Mile Marker 200. The NE Dept of Roads removed the carcass.
- Received notice that the Central Valley Ag located at the Jct of Hwy 183 & 20 will be burning off their incinerator. Wanted to notify us in case we received reports of smoke in that area.
- Provided traffic assistance for cattle crossing near Jct of Hwy 183 & Hwy 20.
- Received report of harassment at a local Ainsworth residence. Investigation is ongoing.
- Received a report of an auto in the ditch south of Ainsworth on the 876th Rd. An officer responded to the scene but was unable to make contact as the auto had already left the scene.
- Received a report of a small dog on the highway in Johnstown, NE. The Village Chairman was notified to assist in the location of the dog.
- Received a request for a phone number to a local Ainsworth locksmith. Phone number provided.
- An officer responded to a report of a local Ainsworth resident causing a disturbance at a local Ainsworth business. The individual was requested not to return to that business again per the manager.
- The Brown County Ambulance Association transported an individual from the intersection of 2nd and Main to the Brown County Hospital.
- An officer responded to a report of fireworks being fired off on south Woodward St. Owner of the residence was asked to stop and they complied.
- The Brown County Ambulance Association transported an individual from their residence south of Ainsworth to the Brown County Hospital.
3 – Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)
0 – Handgun Permits Applied For
16 – Incident Reports Were Taken
0 – Paper Services Were Served
169 – Phone Calls Were Received
5 – 911 Emergency Calls Received
2 – Titles Were Inspected
* NDOT provides update on Highway 20 project
(Posted 11 a.m. June 10)
The Nebraska Department of Transportation provided an update on the Highway 20 construction project in Ainsworth Friday. The NDOT announced A&R Construction placed concrete to the intersection of Main Street.
Access to Highway 20 has been switched back to Osborne Street, where the new concrete has cured. Woodward Street is now closed.
The Main Street intersection remains under construction. To manage traffic flow, the all-way stop signs will remain in place. Traffic on both Highway 20 and Main Street will come to a full stop before proceeding through the Main Street intersection.
Storm sewer installation continues from Elm Street to Oak Street.
Other street closures remain as previously released. People needing access to the Brown County Hospital from Highway 20 must use Pine Street to Zero Street.
While the D.C. Lynch Carnival is located on Main Street now through Sunday night, Highway 7 traffic approaching Highway 20 will be diverted west on South Street and then north on Ulrich Street to Highway 20.
* Chamber draws carnival ride pass winners
(Posted 11 a.m. June 10)
The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce drew the names of several winners for one-day unlimited ride bracelets to the D.C. Lynch Carnival, which opens at 6 p.m. Friday and continues through Sunday night.
Bracelet winners are Izzy Painter, Rainy Painter, Emery Hladky, Zaine Evans, Adriana Arellano, Sutton Ziegler, Adaline Doke, Nikki Ashcraft, Nicole Johnson, Heather King, Margo Lehn and Adeline Hladky.
Winners can pick up their bracelets from the chamber office on Main Street from 5:30 until 6 p.m. Friday, or from 7:45 until 9:30 a.m. Saturday in front of The Grand Theater.
* Council continues poultry ordinance debate
(Posted 7 a.m. June 9)
Chickens were again a hot topic Wednesday for the Ainsworth City Council. Continuing a discussion that began during May’s meeting, the council Wednesday discussed a draft ordinance put together by a committee that looked at poultry ordinances utilized by other communities.
Mayor Joel Klammer said the committee established following May’s council meeting looked at several ordinance examples from other communities. Some, he said, were more detailed than others, and the committee utilized some of those guidelines while crafting a draft ordinance for the council to consider.
“I thought we could address a few of the items tonight and then vote on the ordinance next month,” Klammer said.
The draft ordinance would allow residents to have up to six egg-laying hens if their lot was less than 10,000 square feet. For lots larger than 10,000 square feet, residents could have up to 12 hens.
Councilman Brad Fiala said he believed the ordinance needed to keep all residences at six hens regardless of lot size. Councilman Shawn Fernau said he agreed on the six-hen limit.
Councilman Schyler Schenk said he liked the ordinance the way it was written, allowing larger properties to have up to 12 hens.
“Larger lots should be able to have more as long as the coop meets the setbacks,” Schenk said. “I don’t see a problem with letting people have 12.”
City Attorney Rod Palmer said six laying hens would produce more than enough eggs for a family to consume.
Selling eggs is prohibited, so egg-producing hens would be for a family’s consumption only.
Audience member Gerhard Gous said his family’s residence on the north end of the city is zoned for agriculture, and the property included 5 additional acres. He questioned if the six-hen limit would apply to his property since it is zoned for agricultural purposes.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the ordinance would apply to all residences inside the city limits.
“The ordinance would allow for hen chickens only, no other poultry or fowl and no roosters,” Schroedl said. “Residents would need an annual $20 permit issued by the city.”
Schroedl said the permit application would include the number of birds and a description and location of the coop. The application would show where the coop would be placed and its dimensions.
“A coop could not be located in a front yard, and it could not be located within 20 feet of a neighboring residence,” Schroedl said.
The council also discussed whether to allow broilers in addition to laying hens, and whether the ordinance should prohibit the slaughter of chickens inside city limits.
Fiala said he didn’t believe chickens should be slaughtered in town, because the remains would just end up in the garbage and the city’s garbage personnel would have to deal with it.
Klammer said the ordinance would likely be more palatable to residents if it only allowed for laying hens and not for broilers.
Fernau said he didn’t have a problem with people butchering a few chickens if they aren’t doing it out in their front yard for everyone to see.
“It is no different than people going hunting and cleaning those birds in town,” Fernau said.
Though absent from Wednesday’s meeting, Councilman Vance Heyer submitted written comments based on the draft ordinance. Heyer wrote he did not believe the ordinance needed to address slaughter, taking the same position as Fernau that people who hunt clean their birds in town.
Heyer wrote he believed six laying hens was sufficient for each residence, but if someone had enough space they should be able to request the council approve them to have additional birds.
Fiala said he would like to see the ordinance allow a small number of birds to start, and the ordinance could be adjusted in the future if needed.
Following the discussion, the council agreed to take action on the ordinance during its July meeting.
In other business Wednesday, Jean Hunt approached the council about vicious dogs in the community.
“For the first 20 years living here, I never had a dog problem,” Hunt said. “In the last 12 months, I have had five incidents with aggressive dogs that were threatening.”
Hunt said she believed there have been at least four dogs euthanized in the city for either attacking people or other dogs.
“That seems like a lot for a small town,” Hunt said.
Several other audience members indicated they had issues with threatening dogs while walking in the community.
Schroedl said many of the problem dogs seem to have the same few owners.
“Dogs are dealt with the way the ordinance lays out,” Schroedl said. “We go through the due process and handle it.”
Schroedl said there is nothing in city ordinance to stop that problem dog owner from just going out and getting another dog if they own a dangerous dog that is euthanized. She said owners are cited for having dogs running at large.
Schenk said he believed the council needed to address repeat offenders in the ordinance.
“If the dog is dangerous, we need to have a way to get it out of here,” Schenk said.
Audience member Graig Kinzie asked if a resident who repeatedly has dangerous dogs could be prohibited from receiving a dog license from the city. Schroedl said many of the problem dogs aren’t licensed.
Kinzie said that at least gives the city another enforcement tool if a resident is not allowed to have a dog licensed and then has a dog anyway that causes a problem.
Fiala said, judging by the number of incidents audience members were describing, he believed the council needed to look at the ordinance and discuss creating stiffer penalties.
“If we change the ordinance, I think we should also address the number of dogs and cats people are allowed to have in town,” Fiala said.
The council Wednesday approved becoming a member of the League Insurance Government Health Team (LIGHT), which creates a group health insurance pool of cities that are members of the League of Municipalities.
Schroedl said the group health insurance plan through LIGHT would be nearly identical to the city’s current health insurance plan. While the city currently pays a monthly premium of $22,000 through its United Health Care plan, the LIGHT group plan through Blue Cross/Blue Shield would be approximately $15,000 per month.
She said the group plan would save the city about $59,000 per year and would save employees about $10,000 in a year on their portion of the premium. Schroedl recommended the council become a LIGHT member, with the new insurance plan starting July 1. She said employees would be given credit for expenses they have incurred toward reaching their current year’s deductible.
Fiala said it sounded like the group plan was a benefit for both the city and its employees.
The council approved becoming a member in the League Insurance Government Health Team.
Representatives from the Ainsworth Child Development Center approached the council about the potential for the city to surplus a 25-by-100 foot lot on the north end of the mini park for potential purchase by the group for a playground.
Nancy Steinhauser said the development center has completed the purchase of The Connection building and was starting to work on the building. She said the property includes a 25-by-100 foot lot south of the building currently, which could suffice for a playground, but it would be a much nicer playground space if the group could add the additional 25-by-100 foot lot.
Schenk said he was excited for the project, but his concern was the mini park was donated to the city under the premise that it be maintained as a green space.
Schroedl said the mini park includes three lots. While the south two lots were deeded as a green space, the north lot was not.
Fiala said he was in favor of helping provide more playground space for the group.
“I think the city would want to get ownership of that space back if the facility closes 10 years down the road,” Fiala said.
Klammer said the city could only surplus the lot and offer it for sale by bid. There would be no guarantee that the center would be the high bidder.
Audience member Rod Worrell asked about the possibility of the city simply leasing the space to the child development center.
“Then, you wouldn’t lose ownership or risk that it is sold to a different bidder,” Worrell said.
The council agreed leasing the lot to the development center would be the preferable option.
In a final action item, the council approved a special designated liquor license application for The Silver Circle for June 25 and a request to close the alley behind the bar from 3 p.m. June 25 until 2 a.m. June 26.
The council approved several committee appointments Wednesday. Jason Nelson was reappointed and Ty Shelbourn was appointed to the Committee on Housing for three-year terms.
Phyllis Leach and Stacey Gilliland were reappointed to the Ainsworth Public Library Board of Directors for four-year terms.
The council reappointed Carolyn Schipporeit and appointed Brian Johnson to three-year terms on the Sellors-Barton Cabin Advisory Board, and approved the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce’s recommendation to appoint Lacey Marbry to a four-year term on the LB 840 Citizen Advisory Review Committee.
During her report, Schroedl said the new garbage totes have been delivered to the city and assembled. She said the new truck is still being worked on but should be finished soon.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 13.
* Rock County Commissioners approve right-of-way permit
(Posted 3 p.m. June 7)
The Rock County Commissioners on Tuesday approved allowing KBR Rural Public Power for a right-of-way occupancy permit to allow the utility to place a power cable in the road ditch near Road 870 and 446 Avenue.
Jason Vaisvilas from KBR Rural Public Power requested the line be buried under the middle of the road, but the commissioners approved the permit for the road ditch in the area requested.
The commissioners approved a lease agreement with Dale Caskey that will allow the Rock County Roads Department to store road equipment and material in the southeast quarter of Section 33, Township 26 North, Range 19 West on property owned by Caskey.
Roads foreman Darrell Olson met with the board to provide an update on roads projects and conduct evaluations for roads department employees. Recommendations for wage increases will be addressed during the board’s June 21 meeting.
Clerk Daunnita Buoy and Emergency Manager Traci Booth reported the county has two roads reimbursement projects pending approved of FEMA reimbursement and an additional project in progress with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency that is awaiting FEMA funding to complete.
The work in the Twin Lakes area will be identified moving forward as Eagle’s Nest Avenue to eliminate confusion with paperwork at the state and federal level. The county is waiting for approval from the FEMA regional administrator for that site to be added to the county’s approved disaster inventory.
The deadline to complete a Community Development Block Grant application is June 10.
Deputy Sheriff Ben Shelbourn provided the commissioners with an update on equipment for the sheriff’s department and Rock County Courthouse and jail. Shelbourn reported laptop computers and dash camera systems have been purchased for the department’s patrol vehicles, as have body cameras for the officers. Shelbourn reported he is continuing to work on a grant to help with the cost of the upgrades. Shelbourn reported the courthouse security cameras are outdated, and he would provide quotes for a new camera system during a future meeting.
The commissioners approved a subdivision application submitted by Holly Pospichal for a subdivision in the northeast quarter of Section 20, Township 31 North, Range 19 West.
Two residents met with the commissioners regarding concerns of having box stores open in the community and the effect that will have on other small businesses in Bassett. They requested the commissioners approve a resolution declaring a moratorium on the establishment or expansion of box discount stores. The commissioners tabled the item until June 21.
The board approved renewing liability insurance through the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Association for an annual premium of $71,694.
Assessor T.J. Ellermeier met with the commissioners regarding a cement replacement project at the Rock County Courthouse. Ellermeier reported three companies were contacted to provide quotes for the project. The only company to submit a quote was Seadore Masonry. Ellermeier reported he would contact Seadore Masonry to also provide a quote on replacing an additional portion of sidewalk.
County Attorney Avery Gurnsey held an executive session with the board regarding potential litigation. No action was taken following the executive session.
The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 21.
* West Holt students receive Seal of Biliteracy
(Posted 8:30 a.m. June 7)
The Nebraska Department of Education and the Nebraska International Language Association awarded 145 Seals of Biliteracy to 144 Nebraska students this semester.
Among the students receiving the seals were Ella Goeke-Schulte and Sadie Jarecke of West Holt High School. Both Goeke-Schulte and Jarecke received the seal in Spanish.
The Nebraska Seal of Biliteracy is a collaboration between the Nebraska Department of Education and the Nebraska International Language Association recognizing high school students who have achieved a high level of proficiency in English and at least one other language.
Students apply for the Nebraska Seal of Biliteracy after demonstrating proficiency based on the Nebraska World Language Standards structured around communication, cultures, connections, communities, and cognition within a language other than English.
* NDOT provides update on Highway 20 project
(Posted 3 p.m. June 6)
The Nebraska Department of Transportation provided another update Monday on the Highway 20 construction project in Ainsworth.
A&R Construction placed concrete at the Osborne Street intersection and is continuing to work its way east from Osborne Street to Main Street. After the concrete has cured later this week, A&R Construction will switch Highway 20 access from Woodward Street to Osborne Street and will close Woodward Street. Storm sewer installation continues from Cedar Street to Ash Street.
Work will begin as early as Tuesday on the Main Street intersection with Highway 20. The intersection will be constructed to maintain two-way traffic. However, to manage congestion and improve traffic flow the NDOT will install stop signs in all directions to create all-way stops on both Highway 20 and Main Street at that intersection.
Other street closures will remain as previously announced. Drivers needing access to the Brown County Hospital from Highway 20 will are asked to use Pine Street to Zero Street.
* Schlueter named KBRB Athlete of the Year
(Posted 1:45 p.m. June 6)
Ty Schlueter has been named the 2021-22 KBRB Athlete of the Year for his performance both on and off the field and court.
Voted on by the head coaches, faculty and A Club at Ainsworth Community Schools, the KBRB Athlete of the Year is awarded to a senior at Ainsworth High School who has excelled in sports and in the classroom.
Schlueter was a 12-sport athlete during his high school career, competing in cross country, basketball and in track and field during all four years.
Cross country coach Jared Hansmeyer said Schlueter kept improving throughout his career. After a modest freshman season, Hansmeyer said Schlueter began to make big leaps in the sport as a sophomore, finishing seventh at the Cross Country State Championships.
As a junior, Schlueter was the district champion and finished second at the state meet. Schlueter was then unbeaten as a senior, winning every race in which he competed and culminating in a Class D State Title. He became one of only three Bulldog male runners to finish with an undefeated season and a state title.
Schlueter also received the cross country team player award, given to the person who best exemplifies a great teammate.
During basketball, coach Jake Nelson said Schlueter was a key contributor to a team that finished 17-9 during his senior season and reached a district championship game.
During track and field, Schlueter finished with three state meet medals, including two during his senior season. Schlueter finished third in the 3200 meters in Class C as a junior, and placed third in the 1600 meters and fourth in Class C in the 3200 meters during his senior season.
For being named the KBRB Athlete of the Year by the coaches, faculty and A Club, Schlueter receives a $500 scholarship from KBRB Radio, which he will put to use while attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the fall.
Schlueter visited with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie on his athletic achievements and plans for the future. That conversation is located below.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 6:30 a.m. June 6)
- The Brown County Ambulance transported a flight crew from the airport to the hospital to pick up a patient.
- The Long Pine Fire Department was paged for a response to reports of heavy smoke coming from the Long Pine Creek Canyon area. The Ainsworth and South Pine Fire Departments were also paged for help in extinguishing the fire.
- A loose dog was brought into the Brown County Sheriff’s Office. The owner was notified and came to pick up their dog.
- The Brown County Ambulance were paged for lift assistance in Long Pine. No injuries were reported.
- Received a complaint regarding water washing around a storm drain along Highway 183, near the Bone Creek area. This information was passed along to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
- Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing on Highway 20, near mile marker 227.
- The Brown County Ambulance provided standby for the Johnstown Rodeo Bible Camp.
- The Long Pine Fire Department responded to a severed gas line in Long Pine.
- Responded to a domestic disturbance in Ainsworth. Both parties were able to reconcile their differences.
- Received a report of 15-20 head of cattle out on Highway 7, near the Blaine and Brown county line. The owner was able to be quickly notified to remove them from the roadway.
- Responded to a report of a loose dog near the Pump & Pantry gas station in Ainsworth. The dog was picked up and taken to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic, where the owner later picked up the dog.
- Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.
- Responded to a report of theft that occurred near Willow Lake, in southern Brown County. An assortment of tools were found to be missing from a construction trailer. This is an ongoing investigation.
- The Brown County Ambulance provided standby for the Johnstown Rodeo Bible Camp.
- The Brown County Ambulance provided standby for the Johnstown Rodeo Bible Camp.
- Responded to a report of soliciting at a gas station in Ainsworth. Deputies were unable to make contact with any suspects.
- Responded to a request for assistance in Johnstown from the Nebraska State Patrol. A Valentine, NE male was served an arrest warrant for a 3rd Degree Assault charge for Cherry County. He was booked into the Brown County Jail and released on a personal recognizance bond.
- Responded to reports of harassment in Ainsworth. One individual was contacted and issued a verbal warning.
- Responded to a traffic complaint regarding a vehicle driving recklessly in Ainsworth. The driver of the vehicle was contacted and issued a verbal warning.
- Received a report of a lost dog in Ainsworth. The dog was later found and picked up by the owner.
- Responded to a report of two loose dogs near the area of North Walnut St in Ainsworth. The owner of the dogs was located and picked up the dogs.
- Received a report of financial abuse of an elderly individual from rural Brown County. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Responded to a domestic dispute in Long Pine. Both parties were separated and one male subject was issued a citation for 3rd Degree Domestic Assault.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 245, a Florida driver was issued a citation for speeding 89 mph in a 65 mph speed zone.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 240, a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for speeding 48mph in a 35 mph speed zone, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
- Responded to a civil disturbance on Cedar St in Ainsworth.
- A male subject was arrested in Barnes County North Dakota on an active Brown County warrant. He is currently in their custody awaiting extradition.
- The Brown County Sheriff’s Office and the Brown County Ambulance responded to a report of an unattended death in rural Brown County. No foul play is suspected and it’s believed they died of natural causes.
- The Brown County Ambulance provided standby for the Roughstock challenge held in Johnstown.
7 – Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)
2 – Handgun Permits Applied For
18 – Incident Reports Were Taken
1 – Paper Services Were Served
139– Phone Calls Were Received
10 – 911 Emergency Calls Received
3 – Titles Were Inspected
74– Calls for Service
18– Citations were issued
7– Verbal & Written Warnings issued
0– Defect Cards issued
18– Paper Service served
656– Phone calls were received
41– 911 emergency calls received
18– Titles inspected
6– Handgun permits issued
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 2 p.m. June 2)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Jackson Furlong, age 29, of Rosebud, S.D., charged with speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, fined $50.
Traven Croghan, 18, of Battle Creek, careless driving, $100.
Brenda Berenice Martinez Flores, 30, of Bassett, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Adam Kraker, 30, of Kenesaw, Ga., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Robert Reynolds, 16, of Ainsworth, speeding 36 mph or more over the limit, $300.
Joanne L. Baldwin, 46, of Littleton, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Christopher Fernandez, 46, of Ainsworth, disturbing the peace, $50.
Jonathon P. Klintworth, 31, of Ainsworth, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Michael R. Spotted Bear, 22, of Ainsworth, disturbing the peace, $50.
Jody L. Rodkey, 39, of Westminster, Md., violating Game and Parks regulations, $50.
Chase J. Brooke, 18, of Woodbine, Md., violating Game and Parks regulations, $50.
Michael Douglas, 19, of Johnstown, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; no valid registration, $25.
Wilondja Walengamina, 31, of Fargo, N.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Kyle L. Schlag, 22, of Little Falls, Minn., possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.
Daniel R. Johnson, 72, of Ainsworth, no valid registration, $25.
Allen L. Stirling, 62, of Newell, S.D., reciprocity – no trip permit, $35; failure to have or carry a fuel permit, $100; no splash aprons, $25; defective signal equipment, $25; commercial brake audible air leak, $25; commercial vehicle brake violation, $50.
* Paving work progresses on Highway 20 south lane
(Posted 6:30 a.m. June 2)
The Nebraska Department of Transportation provided an update Wednesday on the progress of the Highway 20 renovation project in Ainsworth. A&R Construction placed concrete on the south shoulder on the west end of the project Wednesday and plans to continue working from the west toward Main Street.
With the rains over the weekend saturating the soil, A&R Construction is opening Woodward Street to traffic and closing Osborne Street to pave from Wilson Street to Court Street on Friday.
The storm sewer contractor has moved to the Cedar Street vicinity and plans to continue installation to the east.
Street closures remain as previously released with the exception of Woodward Street opening to traffic and Osborne Street closing. Motorists needing access to the Brown County Hospital from Highway 20 need to use Pine Street to Zero Street.
* Ainsworth school offering free summer lunches to kids
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 1)
As part of its efforts to ensure kids have access to healthy meals during the summer months, Ainsworth Community Schools announced its summer meals site will serve kids and teens. Now through June 30, all kids ages 1 to 18 can receive lunches free of charge. No application, registration or proof of residency is required.
Lunch will be served Monday through Thursday from 11:45 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Adult meals will also be available for $4.50. Due to changes at the federal level, grab & go meals are no longer available.
The summer meal program is funded by the USDA and run by school districts and local organizations. Sites can be found across the US. Stopping by a summer meal site with your family not only saves you time and money spent grocery shopping and meal prepping, it also helps support the school.
* April unemployment lowest in Nebraska, nation’s history
(Posted 1 p.m. May 31)
The Nebraska Department of Labor announced Nebraska’s preliminary unemployment rate for April is 1.9 percent. The rate is down 0.1 percentage points from the March rate of 2.0 percent and down 0.7 percentage points from the April 2021 rate of 2.6 percent. The rate is an all-time low for Nebraska for the second straight month and ties the record low for any state. Nebraska’s April rate is tied for the lowest rate in the country with Utah.
“The number of employed workers in the labor force has been at historically high levels since July of 2021,” said Commissioner of Labor John H. Albin. “The Omaha metro reached a record high employment level at nearly half a million in April, and the Lincoln metro has seen record highs for two straight months.”
Nebraska leads the nation in per capita employment, with 69 out of 100 adults actively working. That compares with a national rate of 60 out of 100 adults employed. The state’s employment to population ratio of 68.6 percent is the best in the nation.
“We saw record-setting State revenues and our highest-ever employment in April,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said. “These strong signs of growth reflect the creation of plentiful great-paying jobs for Nebraskans. There’s never been a better time to be a graduate looking to start a career in the Good Life.”
Brown County’s April unemployment rate of 2.0 percent is slightly above the state average. The highest unemployment rate in the area is in Blaine County at 2.7 percent.
Rock County leads the area, with just 1.1 percent of its labor force receiving unemployment benefits. Wheeler County, at 1.0 percent, was the only county in the state with a lower unemployment rate in April.
Cherry County had a jobless rate of 1.3 percent in April, followed by Holt County at 1.4 percent.
Keya Paha County had an April unemployment rate of 1.6 percent, and Boyd County’s rate of 1.8 percent was also below the state average. The highest unemployment rate in the state in April was 3.1 percent in Thurston County.
The counts of employed and unemployed in the labor force are based on a survey conducted by the Census Bureau regarding employment status. Individuals who are not working and are not seeking work are not considered part of the labor force and are not included in the unemployment rate calculation.
Nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was 1,028,675 in April, up 10,245 over the month and up 25,052 over the year. Private industries with the most growth month to month were mining and construction (up 2,957), leisure and hospitality (up 2,664), and professional and business services (up 1,541). Private industries with the most growth year to year were trade, transportation, and utilities (up 7,262); leisure and hospitality (up 5,828); and education and health services (up 3,818).
The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April is 3.6 percent, unchanged from the March rate and down 2.4 percentage points from the April 2021 rate of 6.0 percent.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 6:30 a.m. May 31)
- Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call to Cottonwood Villa; the patient did not require transport.
- The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued a burn permit.
- Responded to a civil dispute at a Long Pine residence.
- Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a chimney fire in Ainsworth.
- Responded to a civil dispute at a Johnstown residence.
- Provided notification to Ainsworth residence of a family member with an emergency.
- Assisted a motorist who ran out of fuel near Johnstown.
- Responded to a civil dispute in Ainsworth on north Main.
- Long Pine Rural Firemen assisted a trucker with a tire on fire in the Long Pine hills. Later a local tow company assisted towing the truck back to Ainsworth.
- Received report of cow/calf pair out on the old highway south of Long Pine. Owner was located and notified
- Received report of gas drive off from RoadRunner gas station. Officer unable to locate the motorist.
- Responded to request for civil standby to residence in Long Pine.
- Brown County Ambulance transported a patient to Kearney hospital.
- Responded to a report of a possible intoxicated driver westbound on Hwy 20. Driver in Cherry County and they were notified.
- Received a report of cattle out west of Johnstown on Hwy 20. Owner was located and neighbors helped get the cattle back in.
- Assisted an Ainsworth resident who reports a hit and run on her vehicle.
- Forwarded a fraudulent fax to the Attorney General Fraud Fax line.
- Received report of two large dogs on main street. Stray dogs were not located.
- Ainsworth Fire & Rescue, Black Hills Gas, and a Brown County officer responded to a report of a gas meter hit at a local Ainsworth residence. Gas meter was turned off and no fire was reported.
- Responded to a report of a motorist pulling a trailer with one wheel on its rim only. Motorist was notified.
- Responded to a report of animal neglect in rural Brown County.
- Responded to a two vehicle accident without injury on east Hwy 20 in Ainsworth.
- Responded to a disturbance at an Ainsworth Residence.
- Received report of a missing dog. Dog was later reported by a motorist deceased along Hwy 7. Owner notified.
- Several traffic stops were made for speeding drivers. Warnings were issued.
- Received a report of a stray dog near Ash Street. Officers were unable to locate the dog in question.
- Local Ainsworth resident was booked into Brown County jail on an arrest warrant. Inmate later bonded out.
- Long Pine Rural Firemen & Ainsworth Firemen responded to a fire in eastern Brown County. Fire was contained and successfully put out.
- Issued a warning for speeding to a motorist south of Ainsworth on Hwy 7.
- Received a report of pivot watering the roadway south of Long Pine. Owner was notified.
- Received a report of possible smoke in the Meadville area. Keya Paha and Johnstown Firemen searched but were unable to locate smoke or fire.
- Assisted a rural Brown County resident report a power outage lasting over 30 minutes to KBR Rural Electric.
- Traffic stop on Hwy 20 near Ainsworth resulted in a motorist being cited and released.
- Received a report of cattle out on Hwy 7. Owner was notified.
- South Pine Rural Firemen responded to a mutual aid fire call North of Rose in Rock County.
- Several traffic stops were made for speeding drivers. Warnings were issued.
- Brown County Ambulance responded to a local residence for reports of a sick individual. The individual did not need to be transported.
- Assisted a motorist locked out of their vehicle by calling a locksmith for them.
- Brown County Ambulance were paged for a 911 response to a rural Long Pine address. Patient was transported to Brown County Hospital.
4 – Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)
1 – Handgun Permits Applied For
15 – Incident Reports Were Taken
1 – Paper Services Were Served
150 – Phone Calls Were Received
21 – 911 Emergency Calls Received
9 – Titles Were Inspected
* Paving work moves to west side of Ainsworth
(Posted 2:30 p.m. May 25)
The Nebraska Department of Transportation reported A&R Construction has now switched traffic on Bomgaar’s driveways and placed concrete for the opening in the highway segment.
The west entrance to Bomgaar’s is now open, and A&R Construction plans to place the east Bomgaar’s driveway and the east shoulder section later this week.
The contractor has now moved the paver to the west end of the project, and is preparing the grade to pour concrete in the south lane on that segment later this week.
Storm sewer installation continues progressing from Osborne Street east to Main Street. They are pouring concrete for the junction boxes as the pipe installation is completed
Street closures remain as previously released. Drivers needing access to the Brown County Hospital from Highway 20 are reminded to use Pine Street to Zero Street. Also, access to Big John’s Restaurant, Dollar General, Pizza Hut and the Super 8 Hotel is available from Plainsman Drive on the south side of those businesses.
* Brewer discusses legislative session
(Posted 8:15 a.m. May 25)
Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer visited with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie following the completion of the Nebraska Unicameral session. To hear the conversation, use the links below.
* Chimney fire Sunday results in smoke damage to home
(Posted 1 p.m. May 23)
A chimney fire Sunday caused smoke damage to an Ainsworth home and prompted the response of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.
According to Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at approximately 8:20 p.m. Sunday at 542 N. Main St., a chimney fire was reported in a home owned by Randy and Katie Rau. Fiala said wood burning in a fireplace ignited debris inside the chimney, causing the fire.
Firefighters placed a ladder on the north side of the home and ran a brush up and down the chimney to extinguish the flames. Fiala said the fire did cause some smoke damage to the home, but the fire was extinguished before it could cause additional damage.
The fire chief said firefighters were on scene for approximately an hour Sunday.
* ACDC completes Technologent building purchase
(Posted 10:45 a.m. May 23)
The Ainsworth Child Development Center announced it recently completed the purchase of the former Technologent building on Main Street in Ainsworth in its effort to establish a childcare center for infants through preschool-aged children.
After closing on the Technologent building on May 18, the Ainsworth Child Development Center then made a swap with the Church of the Nazarene for the Connection Building. The Connection is now under the ownership of the child development center. The purchase was made possible through a grant received from the William and Ruth Scott Foundation.
The board of directors has worked over the past two years to make this part of its vision come true. The group is now raising funds to begin construction. A silent campaign has begun, and several board members have met with business owners, individuals, and other potential donors to kick off the campaign. The Ainsworth Child Development Center has partnered with Wilkins Architecture Design Planning of Kearney and The Lund Co. of Omaha for project management. The board is actively researching grants and matching funds as they become available.
The group has scheduled an informational session from 2 until 4 p.m. June 5 in the Ainsworth Community Center. The session will also be streamed live on Facebook.
* NDOT provides Highway 20 project update
(Posted 7 a.m. May 23)
In the latest update from the Nebraska Department of Transportation on the Highway 20 renovation project, A&R Construction started placement of the new concrete pavement east of Richardson Drive. Plans are to open the west entrance to Bomgaars Monday for public access. Tuesday A&R Construction plans to fill in the open area of the south lane concrete pavement on the east side of the project.
The storm sewer contractor continued installation of the concrete pipe from Wilson Street to the east last week. They advised they will temporarily close Osborne Street intersection access to Highway 20 Monday morning, closure is anticipated to be approximately three hours. The intersection will be reopened after the installation is completed.
Street closures will remain as previously reported. People accessing the Brown County Hospital from Highway 20 need to use Pine Street to Zero Street. Access to Big Johns, Dollar General, Pizza Hut and Super 8 is available from Plainsman Drive to the south but not from Highway 20.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 6:45 a.m. May 23)
- During a traffic stop in East City Park in Ainsworth, a citation was issued for possession of marijuana 1 oz or less, drug paraphernalia, and an open container.
- Ainsworth and Raven Fire Departments assisted at Clear Lake with a controlled burn.
- Received a report of a one vehicle collision with a deer that occurred outside of Brown County.
- Responded to a report of a speeding vehicle on 1st St in Ainsworth. The owner of the vehicle was contacted.
- Received a report of a vehicle parked in an unauthorized area in southern Brown County, on Highway 7. The owner of the vehicle was contacted to have it removed.
- Responded to a request for a welfare check for an individual in Ainsworth. The Brown County Ambulance was paged and transferred one individual to the Brown County Hospital.
- Responded to a report of a vehicle parked in an unauthorized area in Ainsworth. Deputies were able to locate the owner and the vehicle was moved.
- Responded to a report of harassment occurring to an Ainsworth individual. The suspected parties were issued a verbal warning for no further contact.
- Received a report of a one vehicle collision with a deer on Highway 7, near mile marker 13.
- The Brown County Ambulance were paged to an Ainsworth home, and transferred one individual to the Brown County Hospital.
- The Brown County Ambulance were also paged on this day for a 911 response to the Ainsworth Community Schools. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
- Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 233, a citation was issued for speeding 21-35 mph over the posted speed limit.
- Received a report of juveniles speeding, not stopping for stop signs, and riding in the pickup bed in Long Pine. Deputies were unable to make contact with any of the reported drivers.
- Deputies picked up a loose dog, with no tags, near the corner of 2nd St and N Osborne St in Ainsworth and transported it to the Ainsworth vet clinic.
- While attempting to make a traffic stop on Highway 20 near mile marker 240, a Stanton County plated vehicle fled westbound. The subject vehicle was later stopped in Cherry County. One male from McCook, NE was issued a citation for operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest, motor vehicle theft, driving during revocation, and speeding 21-35 mph over the posted speed limit. The male subject was booked into the Cherry County Jail and received a $10,000 cash bond.
- Provided civil standby in Johnstown and Long Pine for property disputes.
2– Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)
1– Handgun Permits Applied For
22– Incident Reports Were Taken
4-Paper Services Were Served
149– Phone Calls Were Received
10– 911 Emergency Calls Received
3– Titles Were Inspected
* Area students named to Dean’s List at UNK
(Posted 8:45 a.m. May 20)
The University of Nebraska at Kearney announced students who earned a place on the Dean’s List for the spring 2022 semester.
Students who are on the Dean’s List must have completed 12 credit hours or more of classes with a 3.5 grade-point average or better on a 4.0 scale.
Area students named to the Dean’s List at UNK for the spring include:
Ben Arens, Liz Salzman, Raven Stewart and Tate Fernau
Chris Schaaf and Jordyn Laible
Benjamin Slaymaker, Alexis Monasterio and Kelsi Jo Williams
Heather Atkinson and Sydney Atkinson
Elli Springer, Rhiannon Painter and Anna Perrett
* RC&D collects 11,000 pounds of electronics waste
(Posted 7 a.m. May 20)
The North Central RC&D held its annual electronics collections this spring, collecting 11,079 pounds of electronics waste. There were three satellite collections with electronics brought to either Valentine or O’Neill’s collection sites. The collections started April 29 at the Atkinson Community Center parking lot. Waste was collected April 30 at the O’Neill Community Center. The final collections were held May 10 at the Turbine Mart in Springview, the Bassett city office parking lot.
By weight, 7,427 pounds were captured for recycling at Valentine and 3,652 pounds at O’Neill.
All items containing data, such as hard drives, SSDs, tapes, disks, and CDs were removed and destroyed onsite. Everything else was then sorted into different recyclable categories & materials. Electronics contain raw materials such as gold, silver, copper, tin, zinc, palladium, iron, aluminum, cobalt and platinum, but also contain some hazardous materials such as mercury, lead, and arsenic that has to be disposed of properly.
Once everything is disassembled, sorted, and packed into different categories, it is sent off to different recycling facilities to be turned into new products. The list of products made from recycled electronics includes bicycles, lawn chairs, car parts, dental appliances, new microchips, subway tiles, ammunition, plumbing and even the medals used in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
* Recent cases from Brown County District Court
(Posted 2:15 p.m. May 17)
During Brown County District Court proceedings May 10, Eric Daniel, age 24, of Ainsworth, entered a guilty plea to a Class IIA felony charge of violating the sex offender registration act.
As part of an enhancement hearing, the court determined Daniel was previously convicted of violating the sex offender registration act in October 2021. Daniel will be sentenced in District Court Aug. 9.
Allen “AJ” Privett Jr., 23, of Ainsworth, entered a guilty plea in District Court May 10 to a Class IIIA felony count of violating the sex offender registration act. Privett Jr. will be sentenced in District Court Aug. 9.
* Worker killed Monday in explosion at new home site
(Posted 4 p.m. May 16)
A construction worker died Monday in an explosion east of Bassett that destroyed a new home under construction.
According to Bassett Fire Chief Jim Stout, at 8:33 a.m. Monday, firefighters were dispatched to a report of an explosion and smoke coming from the site of a new house under construction approximately 6 miles east and 2 miles south of Bassett.
Stout said, when firefighters arrived on scene, the home had been blown to pieces and was on fire. Firefighters extinguished the flames and initiated a search for survivors.
Stout said there was a victim found who had died at the scene. The man was believed to be a construction worker who was working on the house when the explosion occurred. Stout said the man was believed to be the only person at the site at the time.
Additional details on the victim have not yet been released pending notification of relatives.
While Stout said the exact cause of the explosion and fire is under investigation by the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s office, construction on the new house, owned by Monte and Stacy Strelow, was nearly complete and the house was hooked up to propane.
Stout said the Newport Volunteer Fire Department assisted the Bassett department at the scene. He said responders arranged for a life flight helicopter to make its way to the scene until a search of the site revealed no survivors and the life flight was cancelled en route. The Rock County Ambulance Association also responded.
Stout said firefighters returned to their respective fire halls at approximately 2:30 p.m. Monday. Additional details on the cause of the explosion and the identity of the victim will be released at a later time.
* Firefighters respond to Friday fire near Johnstown
(Posted 10:15 a.m. May 16)
All six fire departments in Brown County were called to a grass fire Friday afternoon west of Johnstown that burned into the Plum Creek Wildlife Management Area.
According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at approximately 2:15 p.m. Friday, a fire was reported on the Beel Ranch southwest of Johnstown. Fiala said a UTV checking fence ignited dry grass. Gusting winds pushed the fire into the Plum Creek Wildlife Management Area.
Fiala said two of the Ainsworth department’s trucks were on the scene of an earlier grass fire southwest of Wood Lake, but that fire was under control by the time the call went out southwest of Johnstown and several of the units working near Wood Lake responded to assist.
In addition to the Ainsworth, Long Pine, South Pine, Johnstown, Calamus and Raven departments, the Wood Lake and Valentine fire departments also provided mutual aid.
With steep slopes in the Plum Creek valley, Fiala said the single engine air tanker stationed at Valentine provided assistance by dropping three loads of fire retardant.
“The SEAT plane was a great asset to have on that fire,” the fire chief said. “That plane is usually not available until July, but they brought it to Valentine early because of all the fires we have had this year already.”
Fiala said the fire burned a total of approximately 350 acres, and firefighters remained on scene until approximately 8 p.m. Friday. He said Nebraska Game and Parks Commission personnel were on scene Saturday working on tree removal in the wildlife management area.
* Area students graduate from UN-L
(Posted 8:15 a.m. May 16)
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln conferred a record 3,612 degrees during commencement exercises May 13 and 14.
The 3,523 graduates are from 58 countries; 45 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico; and more than 250 Nebraska communities.
Area students who received degrees from UN-L are:
Maria Harthoorn, Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics.
Dani Laible, Bachelor of Science in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication.
Ariel Larsen, Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics.
Brandon Jelinek, Bachelor of Science in Grassland Ecology and Management.
Jenae Osborne, Bachelor of Journalism.
Riley Ellwanger, Bachelor of Science.
Heidi Saner, Bachelor of Science in Animal Science.
Caven Belville, Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences.
Jordan Kelber, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
* Area students selected for Youth Institute
(Posted 8 a.m. May 16)
More than 200 high school juniors and seniors, sharing an interest in agriculture, will gather at Lincoln in July to develop leadership skills, explore career opportunities and learn more about the state’s number one industry. In its 51st year, the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute is the longest-running program of its kind in the nation.
Sponsored in part by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, the institute will be held July 11-15 at Lincoln on the University of Nebraska’s East Campus.
Area students chosen to participate in the annual youth institute are Elizabeth Wilkins of Ainsworth, Brooklyn Buell of Bassett, Hannah Linse of Springview, Samantha Connell of Newport, Sadie Jarecke of Stuart, and Landyn Mlady, Lana Hooey and Luke Olson all of Atkinson.
“NAYI provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity for Nebraska’s high school students to connect agriculture with people,” said NDA Director Steve Wellman. “NAYI has introduced delegates to the diversity of options available in Nebraska’s agriculture industry for years and will provide delegates with a chance to network with current and future agricultural leaders.”
This year’s theme is ‘Cultivating Connections’ and delegates will be able to participate in agriculture policy discussions, agricultural career explorations, and group discussions during the week-long event.
Motivational speakers, a farm management program, and a media experience will help delegates develop leadership potential, strengthen their pride in Nebraska’s agricultural industry and enable them to help tell the story of agriculture.
Since its inception in 1971, the institute has shared the importance of agriculture with more than 6,750 youth from across Nebraska. Delegates attend free of charge, thanks to donations from agricultural businesses, commodity groups and industry organizations.
* Apparent murder-suicide in Custer County investigated
(Posted 7:45 a.m. May 16)
The Nebraska State Patrol, with assistance from the Custer County Sheriff’s Department and Broken Bow Police Department, is investigating a suspected murder-suicide that occurred between Thursday night and Friday morning.
At approximately 1:45 a.m. Friday, the State Patrol was requested by local law enforcement to investigate a homicide at Broken Bow. The victim, Angie Miller, 45, was found dead inside her home in the 800 block of N. 13th Street at Broken Bow.
Investigators developed a suspect, identified as Ryan Miller, 47, who was the ex-husband of Angie Miller. Investigators learned of a location near Anselmo where Ryan Miller often went. At approximately 4:45 a.m. Friday, troopers located Miller in a pasture at that location near Anselmo. Miller was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
This incident remains an ongoing investigation.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 6:30 a.m. May 16)
- Received a request for a welfare check on an individual in Ainsworth. The individual was reported safe.
- Johnstown and Ainsworth Fire Departments were paged to a grass fire in the Fairfield Creek area, north of Johnstown near the Keya Paha county line.
- Responded to a suspected burglary of an unoccupied building on Main St. in Ainsworth. The building was searched and no criminal activity was found at this time.
- Received a motorist complaint from an Ainsworth resident. Deputies were unable to locate the suspected vehicle, but received an accurate vehicle description to monitor for future activity.
- Hotel staff from an Ainsworth business reported an individual, occupying a room, to be unresponsive. Upon arrival, a deceased twenty-nine year old male from North Platte was found. The male was found to be traveling alone and no foul play is suspected at this time. An autopsy was completed.
- Responded to a report of a dog attacking another dog. The owner of the dog was issued a citation for dog at large.
- An inmate housed at Brown County Jail for Blaine county was released to Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Collins, Colorado for extradition on active felony warrants.
- Received a report of a theft of a handgun that possibly occurred in Kearney, NE.
- Received a report of cattle out on Meadville Ave. The owner was contacted and removed them from the roadway.
- The Brown County Ambulance provided transportation to Norfolk, NE and picked up an aircrew from the Ainsworth airport to take to Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient and go back to the airport.
- Responded to a disturbance in Long Pine. Both parties were able to reconcile their differences.
- Received reports of two loose dogs in Ainsworth that had attacked another dog. The dogs were captured and returned to the owner.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 236, a citation was issued for driving under the influence of alcohol, and speeding 11-15 mph over the posted speed limit. The individual was booked into the Brown County Jail where they later posted their bond and were released.
- Initially Johnstown and Ainsworth Fire Departments were paged for mutual aid to a fire South West of Woodlake. Then Ainsworth, Johnstown, Long Pine, South Pine, Raven, Calamus Fire Departments were all paged for a grass fire near SouthWest road and Plum Creek area. Woodlake and Valentine Fire Departments also provided mutual aid.
- Received a motorist complaint regarding another vehicle following too closely on Highway 20 near mile marker 229. Deputies were able to make contact with the vehicle on South West Rd. The individual was cited for driving under the influence of alcohol, criminal trespass, and disturbing the peace. This suspect was booked into the Brown County Jail and waiting to receive their bond amount.
2– Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)
2– Handgun Permits Applied For
17– Incident Reports Were Taken
0-Paper Services Were Served
158– Phone Calls Were Received
6– 911 Emergency Calls Received
3– Titles Were Inspected
* Fernau, Jacobs discuss care center on Open Line
(Posted 10 a.m. May 13)
Sandhills Care Center Administrator Penny Jacobs and board member Shawn Fernau appeared on KBRB’s Open Line program Friday to discuss the Sandhills Care Center’s operations and finances.
To hear the conversation, use the audio link below.
* Council discusses separate legal entity for care center
(Posted 7 a.m. May 12)
The Ainsworth City Council Wednesday discussed the creation of a separate legal entity for the Sandhills Care Center that would allow its Board of Directors to place a property tax levy question to support care center operations on the General Election ballot.
Mayor Joel Klammer said the City Council met in April with the Brown County Commissioners and the Care Center Board, and creating the new legal entity was one of the topics discussed.
Currently, the city of Ainsworth and Brown County jointly own and operate the care center. In its current structure, both the city and the county would have to request separate initiatives be placed on the ballot, one creating a levy for owners of property in the entire county, and another creating a levy for owners of property only inside city limits.
Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor said the $80,000 annually pledged for the first five years of operation no longer met the care center’s financial needs. He said he had drafted an agreement as instructed in April to create a separate legal entity for the care center.
Commissioner Buddy Small told the council the commissioners tabled the matter last week due to concern that a new legal entity that received property tax would put 80 percent of the funding burden on rural property owners instead of the current 50-50 split between the city and county.
Small said the care center had spent $507,498 on agency staffing in just the past four months.
“That is not sustainable,” Small said. “If we have to continue hiring nurses through agencies, the care center will be broke in three months.”
Councilman Shawn Fernau said he believed the city and county needed to find a way to keep the care center afloat until the citizens of the county have the chance to vote on how they want to proceed.
Klammer said he understood that position, but the two groups may have missed the window to allow the issue to get in front of voters.
Fernau said the increased wages offered by the care center were already having an effect, as the facility had hired three CNAs in just three days since the increases were announced.
“Hiring three positions in three days tells me there is hope,” Fernau said. “We haven’t filled three positions out there in three months.”
Small said the Care Center Board wanted to make sure families of residents had enough time to make other arrangements if there was to be a closure.
“None of us want to do that, but I don’t know how we can continue,” Small said. “TO keep the care center open would cost the city and the county between $500,000 and $1 million per year. Agencies are killing nursing homes.”
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl asked how either entity could come up with that kind of funding.
“When we have not budgeted for these kind of expenses, we would potentially have to amend our budget and go through that process,” Schroedl said. “You would have to cut other services.”
Klammer suggested the city and county set up another special meeting with the Care Center Board to make a decision on how to proceed.
The council did not take any official action.
In other business Wednesday, Cory Griebel with Brahmer Construction addressed the council regarding the repairs that were made to the city street shop addition following its initial construction.
“We can all agree we had a water leak after I finished the building,” Griebel said. “I went back several times trying to find where it was coming from and I couldn’t find it. Brahmer Construction offered to replace the entire roofing system for free to take care of the problem.”
Griebel said the council tabled his offer to replace the roof, and then made a decision to have the building fixed by another contractor.
“That $112,354 repair cost decision was made by the council after I had offered to make the repairs for free,” Griebel said. “I want the citizens to know we stand by our work, but we were not given that opportunity. I’m dead in the water if the community thinks I don’t back up my work.”
Councilman Brad Fiala said an inspection from a Behlen Buildings representative indicated there were more problems with the building than just the roof.
“Behlen told us the walls also needed to be replaced,” Fiala said.
Klammer said the entire situation was tough.
“I hear what you are saying,” Klammer told Griebel. “The report we had showed there were several issues, but I appreciate you coming in.”
The council discussed making changes to the city ordinance that bans residents from raising poultry or other fowl inside city limits.
Councilman Vance Heyer said he placed the item on the agenda because numerous communities of similar size allow poultry.
“Even Lincoln and Omaha allow poultry, within reason,” Heyer said. “I am seeing people get into the police report over having chickens. Disregarding an ordinance is not the way to go about it, but I think we can come to some form of agreement that is palatable to everyone.”
Klammer said the council addressed the ordinance in 2014.
“At that time, a motion was made to allow for a small number of birds, but it died for lack of a second at the time,” the mayor said.
He said the main complaint eight years ago was the potential for disease issues with allowing poultry to be raised in town.
Klammer read a statement supporting changing the ordinance from Councilman Schyler Schenk, who was absent from Wednesday’s meeting. Klammer said the letter in favor of allowing poultry indicated Schenk was agreeable to allowing up to 30 birds if they did not create a nuisance or environmental issue.
Heyer said he was up to 30 birds in his small flock outside town, and said he believed 30 was way too many for town.
“I was thinking maybe six,” Heyer said.
Fiala said he was not opposed to residents having six to eight total birds.
“I would like to see people have to register with the city,” Fiala said.
Audience member Rod Worrell said, if he had to pay the city to license a dog, then there should be some fee to license and raise chickens.
Fiala asked why the current ordinance is not being enforced if people in town already have chickens.
“Our ordinances need to be enforced if we are going to have them,” Fiala said.
Heyer said the city has to finalize its ordinance books for printing in August. He said he would like to see the matter on the June agenda for the council to make a decision and then hold three readings of any changes to the ordinance so it could be completed by that August time frame.
The item will be placed on the council’s June agenda for consideration.
The council Wednesday cleaned up an item from its April agenda. Klammer said the city misplaced an additional bid that was received for the surplus metal from the streets shop. Two of the bids opened in April tied for the high bid at $1,200, and the city had contacted those two bidders about submitting a second bid to break the tie.
However, Klammer said an additional bid had been submitted that had slipped through the cracks and was not opened during April’s meeting.
Prior to opening the two additional bids submitted by the April high bidders, the council opened the bid that had been overlooked, which was a $2,552 bid from Walter Larson of Springview.
Klammer said the other two bidders had been notified that the city had misplaced an additional bid prior to the April bid opening. With that bid coming in higher, the council approved the bid from Larson.
Schroedl said the city office was going to implement a different process for accepting future sealed bids.
The council approved using South Street to Ulrich Street as the detour route for the upcoming Middle of Nowhere Days carnival in June. With the carnival closing Main Street for three days, the council creates a detour route for Highway 7 traffic.
With construction underway on Highway 20, Klammer said the Nebraska Department of Transportation and the city streets department agreed the South Street route to Ulrich Street was the best route to use for the detour. Ulrich Street intersects with Highway 20 west of the construction.
Audience member Chris Osterman, who lives along Ulrich Street, asked the council to place additional speed limit signs on Ulrich Street during the detour.
“No one drives 25 mph on that street,” Osterman said.
Klammer said the city could also talk to the sheriff’s department about additional patrols on the route during the detour.
By a 2-1 vote with Fernau against, the council approved the suggested route.
The council opted to table an agenda item that would have placed stop signs on streets intersecting with Fifth Street for the duration of the Highway 20 construction project. Klammer said the sheriff’s department received a couple calls early in construction due to added traffic on Fifth Street.
“There have been no calls since,” the mayor said.
Klammer, Fiala and Fernau each indicated they have traveled Fifth Street and there did not appear to be any increased traffic from people avoiding Highway 20. Fiala suggested the council table the item and could address it again if more calls are received.
The council heard a recommendation from the LB 840 Loan Committee to award a $4,761 façade grant to H&R Food Center to replace windows on its building.
Schroedl said the application shows the building’s front windows would be replaced along with two additional windows in the back of the building.
Fiala said the council had been consistent that façade included the front of a building only. The council approved the project without including the two back windows, providing a façade grant to the business in the amount of $3,783, which represents 50 percent of the cost of the improvement.
The council approved a subdivision requested by Casey Jones for a portion of property he owns just east of the city on the north side of Highway 20.
Jones said, when he bought the property for his business, a survey wasn’t done. He said 14 feet of the property on the east side was actually on Wolfe ground, and 11 feet on the opposite side was actually on Lutte ground. Jones said he had worked with the other two property owners after a survey was completed to purchase those few feet.
Klammer asked if the neighbors were all happy with the result of the survey.
Jones said they were, as it cleaned everything up.
The council approved a land lease agreement with Three River Telco, providing the company with a lease of land for $1 annually, with the company agreeing to supply free internet to the city offices, the Ainsworth Public Library, the Ainsworth Fire Hall, the city streets shop, the water department building and the wastewater treatment plant.
The council also discussed a tower lease ground proposal from Tower Alliance requesting seven additional five-year terms on the current lease the company has for approximately 1 acre of city-owned ground where a tower stood.
The company currently pays the city a lease of $450 per month, with the current agreement running through 2040. Schroedl said the $450 monthly payment had been in place since 2010 or prior.
Fiala said $700 per month seemed reasonable going forward since there had not been an annual increase in the lease. Heyer said that would equate to about a 3 percent increase per year since the contract was started.
Schroedl said the company was offering a $7,500 sign-on bonus if the city extended the current agreement for the additional seven five-year terms at $450 per month.
The council approved making a counter offer of two additional five-year terms that would extend the lease to 2050 at a monthly rate of $700 per month with a 3 percent annual increase beginning the month after the new agreement is signed.
In a final action item Wednesday, the council authorized Schroedl to proceed with a pre-application for Public Assistance funding through the Community Development Block Grant program. Schroedl said the CDBG funds were being made available in the aftermath of the 2019 flooding, and could potentially help the city pay for the 5 percent of the flood repair costs it had to cover.
During her report, Schroedl said the tire amnesty offered by the city was successful, netting just shy of 200 tons of scrap tires, which was the quota for the event.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 8.
* Pillen, Blood to contend for governor in November
(Posted 7 a.m. May 11)
November’s race for Nebraska governor will pit Republican Jim Pillen against Democrat Carol Blood after Pillen survived an expensive Republican Primary Tuesday and Blood cruised to the Democratic nomination.
Pillen, an agribusiness owner from Columbus, edged Charles Herbster by about 7,000 votes to capture the Republican nomination. Pillen received just over 33 percent of the vote in the nine-deep Republican ticket, finishing with 85,076 votes. Herbster captured about 30.5 percent of the Republican vote Tuesday and carried Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties. Herbster collected 78,031 votes. Brett Lindstrom picked up 26 percent with 66,743 votes cast in his favor. Theresa Thibodeau finished a distant fourth with 6 percent of the vote.
Blood meanwhile had no trouble in the Democratic primary, scoring 88.5 percent of the vote to 11.5 percent for Roy Harris. Looking at the uphill climb the state senator has ahead of her, there were 255,996 votes cast in the Republican Primary for governor, and 92,667 cast by Democrats in the governor’s race.
In other state races, incumbent Secretary of State Bob Evnen survived a challenge from two fellow Republicans Tuesday. Evnen earned just shy of 44 percent of the vote. Robert Borer secured 32 percent of the Primary votes, about 25,000 fewer than Evnen, while Rex Schroder picked up 24 percent of the vote.
In a somewhat closer race, incumbent State Treasurer John Murante secured the Republican Primary with 56.8 percent of the vote compared to 43.2 percent for challenger Paul Anderson. Murante’s margin was about 28,000 votes.
Mike Hilgers cruised in the Republican Primary race to replace Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson. Hilgers, who served as the speaker of the Legislature, nabbed 67 percent of the Primary vote compared to 33 percent for Jennifer Hicks.
Current Lt. Gov. Mike Foley scored more than 73 percent of the vote in his effort to get his former job back as state auditor. Foley served as auditor prior to running as Pete Ricketts’ lieutenant governor in 2014. Larry Anderson received 26.5 percent of the Republican vote in the auditor’s race.
None of the victorious Republicans for those state offices will face a Democratic Party candidate in November.
Incumbent Republican Adrian Smith beat back a Primary challenge from Mike Calhoun as he attempts to retain his Nebraska Third District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Smith scored 76 percent of the vote Tuesday.
Smith will face Democrat David Else in November, as Else edged Daniel Wik by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin in the Democratic Party Primary. There were 16,627 votes cast by Democrats in the Third District, with 116,776 votes cast in the Republican Party.
Second District Rep. Don Bacon cruised in the Republican Primary Tuesday, winning more than 77 percent of the vote. In November, Bacon will face State Sen. Tony Vargas, who earned 70 percent of the Democratic Party vote compared to 30 percent for Alisha Shelton.
Republicans cast 64,223 votes in the Second District Primary, compared to 41,191 Democratic Party votes in the district.
State Sen. Mike Flood grabbed almost 74 percent of the Republican votes in the First District Congressional race Tuesday. Incumbent Jeff Fortenberry, who resigned from Congress after he was convicted of lying to the FBI over an illegal campaign contribution, was still on Tuesday’s ballot and finished second in the five-Republican field with 12 percent of the vote.
Flood will face fellow State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks in November. Pansing-Brooks piled up about 87 percent of the Democratic Party vote in the First District Tuesday in her race against Jazari Kual Zakaria. There were more than double the votes cast in the Republican Primary, with 79,467, compared to 34,828 Democratic Party votes in the First District.
In other races, Kevin Stocker edged incumbent Republican Mary Ridder Tuesday in a three-way Primary race for Nebraska Public Service Commissioner for District 5. Stocker received 43.5 percent of the vote, winning the race by fewer than 1,500 votes over Ridder, who garnered 40.6 percent of the vote. Dakota Delka picked up 15.8 percent of the Republican vote.
Elizabeth Tegtmeier was the leading vote-getter in the non-partisan race for Nebraska State Board of Education for District 7. Tegtmeier advanced to the November General Election with 62.4 percent of the vote, with incumbent Robin Stevens advancing to November with 20.3 percent of the vote. Pat Moore was eliminated from the race Tuesday, finishing third with 17 percent of the vote.
Matt Williams and Kathy Wilmot will advance to the General Election in the race for University of Nebraska Board of Regents for District 7. Williams, a state senator, received 46 percent of the non-partisan vote for Board of Regents, while Wilmot picked up 41.5 percent of the vote. Nolan Gurnsey was eliminated from the Regents race Tuesday with 12.5 percent of the vote.
With four of the 1,323 precincts in the state yet to fully report results, a total of 395,450 votes were cast in the Primary Election. That represents 32 percent of the 1,237,672 registered voters in the state.
Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties were well above the state turnout average, with 61 percent of registered Brown County voters casting a ballot, 63 percent of Rock County voters, and 70 percent of Keya Paha County voters.
* Sybrant, Smith take Rock County Commissioner spots
(Posted 10 p.m. May 10)
Colby Sybrant and write-in candidate Faye Smith emerged from a crowded field Tuesday in the race for two seats on the Rock County Board of Commissioners.
Sybrant led the six Republican candidates running for the two seats with 293 votes, and Smith captured 288 write-in votes to finish second in the field. With no Democrats running, Sybrant and Smith will be seated in January barring a write-in campaign during the General Election.
Incumbent Commissioner Glen May finished third in the commissioner race with 261 write-in votes, followed by Douglas Fox with 122 votes, 121 for John Arrowsmith and 65 for JW Ogier.
Republican voters also chose Benjamin Shelbourn to be the next Rock County Sheriff, again barring a write-in campaign during the General Election. Shelbourn received 446 votes in his effort to replace retiring sheriff James Anderson. Joshua Severin finished second in the sheriff’s race with 103 votes, and Matt McHale earned 58 votes for third.
In statewide races, Rock County Republicans sided with Charles Herbster in the race for governor. Herbster picked up 277 votes in Rock County compared to 155 for Jim Pillen, 89 votes for Brett Lindstrom and 62 for Theresa Thibodeau.
Rock County Democrats gave Carol Blood the nod in the governor’s race by an 18-11 margin over Roy Harris.
Rock County Republicans sided with incumbent Secretary of State Bob Evnen. Evnen received 185 votes compared to 141 for challenger Rex Schroder and 126 for Robert Borer.
Incumbent Republican State Treasurer John Murante earned 250 votes in Rock County, compared to 188 for challenger Paul Anderson.
Mike Hilgers scored 261 votes among Rock County Republicans compared to 183 for Jennifer Hicks in the race for Nebraska attorney general.
Mike Foley scored a more than 3 to 1 margin in Rock County for state auditor, 344 to 105 for challenger Larry Anderson.
Republican Third District Rep. Adrian Smith cruised in Rock County Tuesday, earning 462 votes compared to 99 for Primary challenger Mike Calhoun. Daniel Wik edged David Else on the Democratic U.S. House of Representatives ticket in Rock County, 14-10.
Incumbent Mary Ridder won Rock County in her bid for another term on the Public Service Commission for District 5. Ridder received 233 votes in Rock County, compared to 123 for Kevin Stoker and 38 for Dakota Delka.
Voter turnout in Rock County was 63 percent, with 673 total ballots cast among the 1,056 registered voters in the county.
* Dailey, Bauer win Brown County Commissioner seats
(Posted 9:45 p.m. May 10)
Jeremiah Dailey and incumbent Dennis Bauer were the top vote-earners in a six-way Republican race for Brown County Commissioner during Tuesday’s Primary Election.
Dailey led the Republican field with 601 votes, while Bauer retained his seat with 485 votes. Retiring Sheriff Bruce Papstein and Tom Bejot finished a close third and fourth in the six-way Republican race. Papstein received 438 votes, with Bejot earning 428 votes. Rick Irwin finished fifth in the Primary with 186 votes, followed by William Welke with 57 votes.
Brent Deibler scored 633 votes in the Republican Primary in the race to succeed Papstein. Deibler earned 633 votes to 515 for Zach Welch.
In another race to succeed a retiring county official, Bruce Mitchell won a three-way race in the Republican Primary to replace longtime Brown County Treasurer Deb Vonheeder. Mitchell picked up 476 votes, with Jeanie Norton receiving 352 votes and 317 Republicans opting for third-place finisher Amber Happold. Just 159 votes separated first from third in the county treasurer race.
In the Republican Primary race for Brown County Assessor, Peggy Gross unseated incumbent Assessor Terri Van Houten. Gross received 718 votes among Republicans, with 432 cast in favor of Van Houten.
In another local race, Long Pine voters narrowed the field from five candidates to four for two seats on the Long Pine City Council. Linda Alberts, Kelsey Carroll, Mike Collatos and Gayle Buoy advanced to the November General Election. Alberts and Carroll led the race, with Alberts edging Carroll 62 to 61. Collatos earned 52 votes to advance, and Buoy finished fourth with 23 votes to move on to the General Election. Gloria Husarek received 10 votes among Long Pine voters and was eliminated from the race Tuesday.
In statewide races, Brown County Republicans sided with Charles Herbster in the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Pete Ricketts. Herbster picked up 510 votes among Brown County Republicans, compared to 298 for Jim Pillen, 208 for Brett Lindstrom and 79 for Theresa Thibodeau.
Incumbent Bob Evnen edged both Robert Borer and Rex Schroder among Brown County Republicans in the race for secretary of state. Evnen received 323 votes in the county, compared to 306 for Borer and 305 for Schroder.
Incumbent John Murante edged Paul Anderson in the Republican Primary race for state treasurer. Murante picked up 472 votes to 435 for Anderson.
Mike Hilgers won Brown County Republicans for attorney general to succeed Doug Peterson. Hilgers picked up 550 votes in the county, compared to 384 for Jennifer Hicks.
Mike Foley handily defeated Larry Anderson, 706 to 222, in the Repubican race for state auditor.
Adrian Smith had no trouble in Brown County in his bid for re-election to the Third District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Smith picked up 799 votes to 278 for challenger Mike Calhoun.
In the race for Public Service Commissioner, incumbent Mary Ridder won Brown County with 512 votes, compared to 236 for Kevin Stocker and 131 for Dakota Delka.
In the race for a seat on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, Nolan Gurnsey won Brown County with 410 votes, compared to 333 for Matt Williams and 278 for Kathy Wilmot.
On the Democratic side, David Else edged Daniel Wik among Brown County Democrats, 18 to 16, to represent the party in the General Election for the third district seat on the U.S. House of Representatives.
Carol Blood picked up 33 votes among county Democrats for governor, with Roy Harris receiving just eight votes in the county.
A total of 1252 votes were cast during Tuesday’s Primary Election in Brown County, representing 61 percent of registered voters in the county. There were 1,159 votes cast by Republicans, 43 by Democrats, 48 non-partisan ballots and two from the Libertarian Party.
* Nilson, Frederick win Keya Paha County Commissioner races
(Posted 9:15 p.m. May 10)
A solid 70 percent of registered voters cast a ballot during the Primary Election in Keya Paha County.
In contested county races, incumbent Corey Nilson won the Republican Primary for Center District Commissioner. Nilson received 59 votes, compared to 37 for Joe Caulfield and 35 for Keith Mizner. Barring a write-in campaign in the fall, Nilson will run unopposed in the General Election for an additional term.
In the East District race for Keya Paha County Commissioner, John Frederick unseated incumbent Bruce Ritterbush. Frederick earned 97 votes from Republicans in the East District, while Ritterbush picked up 47 votes. Frederick will run unopposed in November barring a write-in candidate.
Republican Clerk/Assessor Suzy Wentworth was reelected by party voters, garnering 235 votes in Keya Paha County to 190 votes for challenger Paula Larsen.
Keya Paha County Republican voters preferred Charles Herbster in the race for governor. Herbster picked up 239 votes from Keya Paha County, compared to 89 for Jim Pillen and 47 from Brett Lindstrom. Theresa Thibodeau garnered 24 votes in Keya Paha County.
In the Secretary of State race, Robert Borer outgained incumbent Bob Evnen among Keya Paha County Republicans, 132 votes to 110. Rex Schroder received 77 votes in that race.
Incumbent Republican State Treasurer John Murante won Keya Paha County Tuesday, with 169 votes compared to 144 for challenger Paul Anderson.
Mike Hilgers outgained Jennifer Hicks in Keya Paha County in the Republican race for Nebraska Attorney General to replace Doug Peterson. Hilgers earned 201 votes to Hicks’ 120 votes.
Mike Foley handily won Keya Paha County for the Republican State Auditor nomination, receiving 229 votes to 92 for Larry Anderson.
Third District Rep. Adrian Smith cruised in Keya Paha County, winning 292 votes from Republicans compared to 93 for challenger Mike Calhoun.
Incumbent Mary Ridder edged challenger Kevin Stocker in Keya Paha County for Public Service Commissioner. Ridder received 140 votes among Keya Paha County Republicans to 123 for Stocker and 38 for Dakota Delka.
Only 11 ballots were cast on the Democratic side in Keya Paha County Tuesday, with Carol Blood earning 10 of those 11 votes for the Democratic nomination for governor. David Else edged Daniel Wik among Keya Paha County Democrats, six to five, for the Third District nomination for the House of Representatives.
* Erthum named Fine Arts Student of the Year
(Posted 9:30 a.m. May 10)
Ainsworth Community Schools held its annual Fine Arts Awards Night Monday. Alyssa Erthum was named the Harriet Hughes Fine Arts Student of the Year.
Erthum also received the David Streich Mock Trial Award, and in speech received the Senior Oratory Award and the Jess Duden Speech Team Member of the Year Award.
Gavin Olinger won three major awards Monday, receiving the John Phillip Sousa Award in band and the National Choral Award. Olinger was also named the Thespian of the Year.
Allison Taylor received the Patrick S. Gilmore Award in band.
* Hafer recaps ACS Board of Education meeting
(Posted 8:15 a.m. May 10)
Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer visited with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie Tuesday to recap action taken during Monday’s Board of Education meeting, which took place concurrently with the Sandhills Care Center Board meeting.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.
* Care Center Board votes to raise nursing wages 30 percent
(Posted 7:15 a.m. May 10)
In an effort to draw more interest in vacant nursing positions, the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors Monday unanimously voted to increase wages for registered nurses, LPNs and CNAs by 30 percent across the board.
Administrator Penny Jacobs told the board having an in-house CNA on staff costs the care center 35 percent of what it has to pay an agency for one of its CNAs to fill open shifts. She said the agencies only pay their CNAs about $10 per hour, but with the incentives they provide such as stipends for food and housing, the CNA makes about $35 per hour with an agency.
Jacobs said the care center pays its in-house CNAs between $18 and $23 per hour, depending on their experience and time with the facility. The facility also offers insurance benefits, though only four current employees are taking advantage of that benefit. She said the care center pays agencies $55 to $60 per hour for CNAs.
Board member Shawn Fernau said increasing wages by 30 percent many be enticing enough to get some people to apply, especially on the CNA side.
“Adding 30 percent would make it about $26 per hour for a CNA,” Fernau said. “I know it may still be tough even if we raise wages with the uncertainty.”
Jacobs said the facility also offers a $3,000 sign-on bonus for new employees. She recommended the care center also offer a $3,000 referral bonus for employees who recruit new workers to the care center.
“We have a CNA class starting this month,” Jacobs said. “I am not sure how many are signed up for it and how many might be interested in coming to work for us.”
Fernau said he liked the idea of offering a referral bonus and giving an incentive for current employees to potentially recruit people they know.
Jacobs said the health care industry has been hit hard with additional regulations and mandates since the pandemic.
“We have to do all these extra things to keep our license,” the administrator said.
Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said he believed the care center needed to try and increase wages, add the referral bonus, and also increase the pay differentials for staff working night and weekend shifts.
Jacobs said she would increase the shift differential from 75 cents per hour to $1 per hour in extra wages for working a weeknight shift from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The differential for working a weekend day shift would move from $1.50 per hour extra to $2, and working a weekend night shift would go from an extra $2.25 per hour to $3.
Board member Dr. Mel Campbell said attracting more staff is the only real solution to solving the care center’s current financial problems.
“Raising wages is probably the best way to try and do that,” Campbell said. “We need to be as aggressive as we can, take the risk and hope for the best – that we can attract new staff.”
Fuchs said, with the current finances, the care center has about three months of operating expenses available.
“We don’t have a lot of time,” Fuchs said. “If we can’t recruit new staff, we will likely have to close in three months. That’s how much operating expense we have left.”
Audience member and former board member Leanne Maxwell asked how the board planned to keep operating until November when a property tax levy could be requested of voters?
“You can’t raise pay if you are out of money,” Maxwell said. “You have to be able to assure people that you can stay afloat. No amount of money will draw people if you can’t answer that.”
Fuchs said, based on current revenue and expenses, the care center would not have enough funding to get to the November election.
“Do we move up that election?” Fuchs asked. “We have to make sure we stay open long enough for residents to make other arrangements.”
Board member Buddy Small said, while everyone would like to be as optimistic as possible that the current staffing situation improves, he said the board also has to look at it realistically.
“I think we have to try one more time to raise pay rates and see if we get any results,” Small said.
He asked Jacobs for information regarding where the 20 current residents of the facility resided before moving into the nursing home.
Jacobs said seven residents were from Ainsworth, two were from Long Pine, four were from rural Brown County, and seven residents lived outside the county before moving in to the facility.
Following the discussion, the board voted to increase wages for all RNs, LPNs and CNAs by 30 percent, continue with the $3,000 sign-on bonus and offer current employees a $3,000 referral bonus.
In a related item, Small said the Brown County Commissioners voted to table a resolution that would have created a separate legal entity for the care center and would allow that entity to place a property tax levy question on the November election ballot.
Small said his motion to approve the resolution did not receive a second. He said board members were concerned that if a separate entity was created, a property tax levy would fall disproportionately on rural property owners, whereas the current structure has the city and the county paying an equal amount to support the care center’s operations.
“The commissioners did not take action because they did not want to put an extra burden on rural property owners,” Small said.
In its current structure, both the commissioners and the Ainsworth City Council would have to request the property tax question, which runs the risk that one group of voters could approve the levy while one could vote against it.
Looking at April’s operating revenue and expenses Monday, the care center generated $161,484 in revenue. Expenses for the month were $247,059 for an operating loss of $85,574. The facility paid $156,054 in agency staffing costs during April, an amount just shy of the facility’s total revenue for the month. Office manager Dawn Pierce said approximately $20,000 of that agency staffing total were previous invoices from January and February, but she said all the agency billing was now current.
The board voted to transfer $113,710 from its interlocal backup account to its operations account, leaving the board with just over $6,000 remaining in its backup account. The care center is anticipating $80,000 in funding from the county and an additional $80,000 from the city, which had previously been allocated by both entities but had not yet been requested by the board.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 13.
* Hughes service attendees asked to monitor
(Posted 6:30 a.m. May 9)
Hoch Funeral Home was informed that a family member who attended the visitation, funeral and meal following Doris Hughes’ funeral has tested positive for COVID-19.
Those who attended Dorie Hughes’ visitation, service and meal and especially those who had close interactions with members of the family, are encouraged to monitor for any symptoms.
Anyone with questions may contact Hoch Funeral Home.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 6:30 a.m. May 9)
- During traffic stops on Highway 7, one written warning was issued for driving left of center and no operator’s license. Two written warnings were issued for speeding. One citation was issued for speeding 105 mph in a 65 mph speed zone as well.
- Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail for time served for a district and county court commitment.
- Received a report of an individual receiving lewd messages on their cell phone.
- During a traffic stop near the 4th St and Richardson Drive intersection, a citation was issued for speeding 11-15 mph over the posted speed limit and no operator’s license.
- The Brown County Ambulance was paged to an Ainsworth facility and transferred one individual to the Brown County Hospital.
- Provided traffic control on Highway 20 near mile marker 243 for a semi with a load of hay that was stuck on the shoulder of the road in a construction zone.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth and transferred one individual to the Brown County Hospital.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20 near mile marker 245, a citation was issued for speeding 92 mph in a 65 mph speed zone.
- Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail for a court commitment.
- Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing on Highway 7, near mile marker 36.
- Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.
- The Brown County Sheriff’s Office in South Dakota served a Brown County Nebraska bench warrant for possession of a controlled substance and possession of one ounce to one pound of marijuana. The subject posted bond and received a court date.
- Responded to a report of animal neglect in Long Pine. The owner was contacted and ownership was transferred to another individual.
- The Brown County Ambulance were paged for a 911 call at an Ainsworth business. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
- The Brown County Ambulance were paged for response to an Ainsworth home. One individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
- Received reports of water running over the road near the intersection of 880th rd and Meadville Ave. The county road department was contacted and barriers were put into place.
- Received reports of a grass fire in Southwest Brown County. The Ainsworth, Raven, and Calamus Fire departments were paged. The Long Pine and South Pine Fire Departments responded to a fire Southwest of Rose as well. Fortunately the rain greatly helped in extinguishing these fires.
- During a traffic stop in Ainsworth at the intersection of Main St and Highway 20, the driver of the vehicle was issued a citation for speeding 11-15 mph over the posted speed limit and procuring alcohol to a minor. A passenger in the vehicle was issued a citation for minor in possession of alcohol.
10– Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)
2– Handgun Permits Applied For
14– Incident Reports Were Taken
7-Paper Services Were Served
153– Phone Calls Were Received
8– 911 Emergency Calls Received
3– Titles Were Inspected
* Area students set to graduate May 13 from NECC
(Posted 8:30 p.m. May 7)
Northeast Community College will celebrate the success of its graduates next week. The College will hold three commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 13, in the Cox Activities Center on the Norfolk campus.
Ceremonies will be held at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. At 9 a.m., nursing graduates will receive their nurse pins and participate in commencement. The ceremony at noon will award credentials to graduates in Applied Technology and Health and Public Services programs, while graduates in Science, Technology, Agriculture and Math and Business and Humanities will receive their degrees, diplomas and certificates at 3 p.m.
As of May 5, some 840 graduates, including those earning more than one degree, and those who completed their studies this past summer and fall, are to be listed in the commencement program.
Area students scheduled to graduate from Northeast Community College are:
James Polen with an Associate of Science degree, and Weston Haskell with an Associate of Applied Science degree in building construction
Miah Wiebelhaus with Associate of Nursing and Associate of Science degrees
Brendan Bussinger with an Associate of Science degree
Ty Thurlow with a diploma in welding
Caetlin Krysl with an Associate of Arts degree, Tyler Steinhauser with an Associate of Applied Science degree in agribusiness, and Alissa Gubbels with an Associate of Applied Science degree in administrative professional, and Austin Nachtman with a diploma in welding
Lily Fischer with an Associate of Arts degree, Nyah Kellner with an Associate of Arts degree, Ellie Burkinshaw with an Associate of Science degree, Taylor Schaaf with an Associate of Science degree, Daniel Clemens with an Associate of Applied Science degree in auto body repair technology, Hannah Brotsky with an Associate of Applied Science degree in business and a certificate in banking, and Ellie Burkinshaw with a diploma in practical nursing
Bethany Sharpfish-Bader with an Associated of Applied Science degree in early childhood education, Brayden Fowler with an Associate of Applied Science degree in HVAC, Chase Olson with an Associate of Applied Science degree in HVAC, and Geoffrey Fisbeck with a certificate in information technology
Kelsey Sextro with an Associate of Science degree
* Sheriff’s department investigating theft of pressure washer
(Posted 3:15 p.m. May 6)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information from the public regarding a recent theft. According to the sheriff’s department, sometime between the night of Friday, April 24, and the morning of Saturday, April 25, an Alkota pressure washer was stolen from a residence 4 miles south of Johnstown.
The pressure washer was a larger model with four flat tires and an orange tank on the bottom. Access was gained through a window into the shop and storage shed.
A tractor at the shop was used to load the pressure washer onto a vehicle. Pictures of the tracks left by the thieves have been fired. The pressure washer was valued at approximately $1,500.
Anyone who may have seen the type of pressure washer described above being hauled by a vehicle is asked to contact the sheriff’s department at 402-387-1440 or call Crime Stoppers at 402-382-3121. All callers can choose to remain anonymous.
Information leading to the recovery of the pressure washer could result in a cash reward.
* Several Highway 20 south side intersections closing
(Posted 9:45 a.m. May 6)
Several intersections on the south side of Highway 20 in Ainsworth will be closed beginning today (Friday) as construction work on the south lane of the highway continues.
According to Carl Hart with the Nebraska Department of Transportation, those accessing the Brown County Hospital from Highway 20 will need to use Pine Street, as the Harrington Street intersection is closed.
Other streets intersecting with Highway 20 from the south that will be closed for the first phase of construction are, from west to east, Wilson Street, Woodward Street, Walnut Street, Elm Street, Cedar Street, and Harrington Street.
Motorists entering Highway 20 from the south can use Osborne Street, Main Street, Oak Street, Ash Street, Pine Street and Richardson Drive.
A&R Construction will put in a temporary drive for the weekend to access Big John’s, Pizza Hut and Dollar General. Next week, customers wanting to access those businesses will need to come in from the south on Plainsman Drive.
After the new concrete is poured and has time to cure, those intersections will open to traffic and the intersections that are currently open will close.
Hart said the NDOT plans to keep the Highway 20 intersection with Main Street open during the entirety of the construction, with concrete at that intersection poured in sections to keep a portion open at all times.
The NDOT will continue to provide information to the public as work progresses on the Highway 20 rehabilitation project.
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 10:45 a.m. May 5)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Jessica Serrano, age 26, of Gainesville, Ga., charged with attempting a Class 4 felony, fined $1,000; also charged with no proof of insurance, $300; no valid registration, $300.
Lysa B. Henson, 24, of Ainsworth, speeding 1-5 mph over the limit, $10; also charged with no operator’s license, $75.
Norman Alley, 20, of Plattsmouth, disturbing the peace, $100.
Cara J. Unruh, 35, of Pierre, S.D., no operator’s license, $100.
Jodi M. Polacek, 19, of Butte, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Joe McBride, 57, of Ainsworth, first degree criminal trespassing, $1,000 and sentenced to one year of probation.
Bryson K. Mazur, 20, of South Range, Wis., 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.
Justice J. Noel, 19, of Fargo, N.D., 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.
James A. Ferguson, 56, of Johnstown, first offense driving under the influence, $500, six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Paul T. Roberts, 36, of Lakewood, Colo., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Bo A. Slingsby, 25, of Arcadia, driving under suspension, $100; speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Elizabeth A. Devine, 42, of Long Pine, first offense refusing to submit to a test, $500, six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Gregory C. Irwin, 40, of Ainsworth, domestic assault, sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Brett L. Johnston, 25, of Ainsworth, third-degree assault, sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for two days served; first offense resisting arrest, sentenced to 10 days in jail.
Dillon R. Bacon, 21, of Ainsworth, domestic assault, sentenced to six months of probation.
Joshua L. Zeigler, 27, of Ainsworth, no valid registration, $25.
Michaela N. Goins, 28, of Sterling, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Geoffrey W. Meyer, 21, of Winner, S.D., failure to have or carry a fuel permit, $100; no registration, $100.
* Area students set to graduate from UNK
(Posted 9:15 a.m. May 5)
Graduate and undergraduate degrees will be conferred for 682 spring graduates at University of Nebraska at Kearney commencement exercises 10 a.m. May 13 in UNK’s Health and Sports Center.
Area students scheduled to graduate from UNK are:
Ainsworth – Seth Taylor, a Master of Business Administration degree
Long Pine – Jezrae Peacock, a Bachelor of Education degree in early childhood education, graduating Summa Cum Laude
Springview – Lucas Wroblewski, an Education Specialist degree – school superintendent, and Alanna Hoover, a Master of Science in Education degree in school counseling pre-kindergarten through eighth grade
Bassett – Aubrey Kroll, a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, and Aaron Sybrant, a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, graduating with honorable mention distinction
Newport – Braydon Caldwell, a Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science, graduating with honorable mention distinction
Brewster – Paige Martindale, a Bachelor of Science degree in agribusiness
Stuart – Christopher Schaaf, a Bachelor of Science degree in cyber security operations, graduating summa cum laude
Atkinson – Chase Harrison, a Bachelor’s degree in general studies
Valentine – Macey Mathis, a Master of Science in Education degree in speech language pathology; Anna Perrett, a Bachelor of Science degree in social work; Shirley Turgeon, a Bachelor’s degree in general studies; and Carolyn Bullock-Moore, a Master of Business Administration degree in business administration – human resources
* NDOT provides update on Highway 20 work
(Posted 6:45 a.m. May 5)
The Nebraska Department of Transportation provided a weekly update on the Highway 20 construction project in Ainsworth. Barricades have been set up for the first phase of the project, with traffic diverted to the northernmost two temporary lanes of Highway 20 while work commences on the south portion of the project.
Traffic will remain on the north side of the highway through mid-summer. A&R Construction has started saw cutting the roadway and intersections for removal of the existing surfacing. Removal of the south side of Highway 20 began Wednesday.
Alternating intersections throughout phase 1 will be open with either crushed rock, crushed concrete, or asphalt millings placed as temporary surfacing for access to city streets. Most driveways and alleys will be closed and access will be maintained through access to city streets. If alternate access is not possible a temporary surface will be installed.
Rutjens Construction is scheduled to be on site beginning Monday to install the new storm sewer system starting on the west side of the city.
Drivers are reminded to use caution while in the construction zone. Use of cell phones is prohibited in all state highway construction zones.
* Commissioners table action on care center legal entity
(Posted 6:45 a.m. May 5)
The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday discussed creating a separate legal entity for the Sandhills Care Center.
Since it was reopened in 2016, the Sandhills Care Center has been operated as a joint venture between the city of Ainsworth and the Brown County Commissioners. The care center is planning to ask voters for a property tax levy to support operations. In its current structure, both the commissioners and the city council would have to approve placing the tax levy question on an upcoming ballot. That opens up the possibility of the measure being approved by one set of voters but not approved by the other. That form would also place two levies on property inside the Ainsworth city limits.
By creating a separate legal entity for the care center, the care center board could vote to place one tax levy question on an upcoming ballot.
After discussion Tuesday, the commissioners voted to table the matter.
In other business Tuesday, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin asked the board to declare a 2006 Freightliner truck and a 1982 Caterpillar motor grader as surplus equipment. The board approved the surplus item declaration and will auction the two pieces of equipment through Big Iron.
The commissioners approved leaving deductibles and employee contributions unchanged for the county’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance policy for the 2022-23 plan year.
The board approved a pair of resolutions, transferring $200,000 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the county highway fund and transferring $5,000 from the miscellaneous general fund to the election fund.
In a final action item Tuesday, the board conducted the highway superintendent’s annual evaluation and voted to provide Turpin a 6.5 percent salary increase effective April 29.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. May 17.
* Area students named Academic All-State by NSAA
(Posted 3:45 p.m. May 4)
The Nebraska School Activities Association and the Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association recognized students who have been nominated by their schools, based on their individual academic excellence, leadership, and significant contributions made to their NSAA spring activity.
Since its inception, the Academic All-State program has grown at a steady pace with 2,838 students earning the award in 2006-07 when the program began to 6,813 students recognized during the 2020-21 season. A total of 2,325 students were recognized for their academic excellence and contribution to a spring activity.
Area students named Academic All-State by the NSAA are:
Gavin Olinger and Allison Taylor in music, Caleb Allen and Ty Schlueter in boys track and field, and Maia Flynn and Eden Raymond in girls track and field
Keya Paha County
Ryan Painter in boys track and field, and Marly Gross in girls track and field
Ben Klemesrud in boys golf, Brooklyn Buell and Carson Shaw in music, Dolan Pospichal in boys track and field, and Brooklyn Buell in girls track and field
Anthony Heiser and Schuyler Mustin in boys golf, Cameron Sattler and Taya Schmaderer in music, Luke Ludwig and Hunter Tubbs in boys track and field, and Cadence Kramer and Lexi Schroder in girls track and field
Lucas Olson in boys golf, Landyn Mlady and Maci Nemetz in music, Isaac Pistulka and Nate Wallinger in boys track and field, and Landyn Mlady and Maci Nemetz in girls track and field
Lindsay Cody and Miriam Ganoung in music, Reece Zutavern in boys track and field, and Taylor Weber in girls track and field
Logan Muirhead and Sean Springer in boys golf, Gunnar Battershaw and Dylan Haase in boys track and field, and MaKenzie Long and Becca McGinley in girls track and field
Haylie Carson in music, Adrien Baer and Carson Haun in boys track and field, and Amelia Hoffman and Natasha Zeisler in girls track and field
* Ainsworth school to offer summer meals to kids
(Posted 7:15 a.m. May 3)
As part of an effort to ensure kids have access to healthy meals during the summer months, Ainsworth Community Schools announced its summer meals site will serve children. Starting May 31 and continuing through June 30, all kids ages 1 to 18 can receive lunches free of charge. No application, registration or proof of residency is required.
Lunch will be served Monday through Thursday from 11:45 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Adult meals will also be available for $4.50. Due to changes at the federal level, grab and go meals are no longer available.
The Summer Meals program is funded by the USDA and run by school districts and local organizations. Stopping by a summer meal site with your family not only saves you time and money spent grocery shopping and meal prepping; it also helps support the school and the community.
* Burn ban temporarily lifted in Brown County
(Posted 12:45 p.m. May 2)
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala reported Monday that, due to the amount of moisture the area received over the weekend, the burn ban in effect for Brown County has been temporarily lifted.
A burn permit is still needed for open burning in the county, but those permits will be reviewed and approved on a case-by-base basis while conditions allow.
Brown County received more than 2 inches of rain over Friday and Saturday, with Ainsworth Weather Observer Jim Baker recording 3.45 inches.
With the burn ban lifted, the Ainsworth Irrigation District plans to conduct a controlled burn Tuesday on the canal from 5 miles east of Ainsworth to just west of Johnstown.