TodaysNews

 

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Service Information can be found on the Obituaries Page

* Delmira Oatman, 89, of Broken Bow formerly of Ainsworth 10:30 a.m. Jan. 20

* Allen R. Baragar, 58, of Ainsworth 10:30 a.m. Jan. 20

* Meeting reports located below for:

Jan. 13 Ainsworth City Council

Jan. 11 Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors

Jan. 11 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

Dec. 22 Brown County Commissioners

* Stout appointed as Rock County Board chair Tuesday

(Posted 2:30 p.m. Jan. 19)

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Rock County Commissioners, Jim Stout was selected as the board chair for 2022, with Glen May to serve as vice-chair.

As part of its annual reorganization, the board approved holding meetings on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 9 a.m. The Rock County Leader was named the official newspaper for county publications. The board approved Union Bank & Trust, the Tri-County Bank, Sandhills State Bank and NPAIT as depositories for county funds.

The board approved its annual roads department wage and equipment rental scale, and appointed Lloyd Smith with Niobrara Valley Consultants of Valentine as the county’s highway superintendent.

The board met with Sheriff Jim Anderson, County Attorney Avery Gurnsey and roads foreman Darrell Olson regarding a section line dispute between Sections 34 and 35 of Township 30 North, Range 18. Gurnsey was asked by the board to contact the affected property owners to try and find a solution.

In another roads department item, the board approved a $108,000 quote from Caterpillar to refurbish the county’s Caterpillar 143-H motor grader.

Weed Superintendent Mitch Dean presented the commissioners with the annual weed department report. The board approved the weed report as presented.

The commissioners approved a Highway 20 Interlocal Law Enforcement agreement as presented by Anderson.

The board tabled closing the county’s KBRC 911 Fund, the Emergency Management Fund and Emergency Management Capital Fund after the dissolution of the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency.

The commissioners approved updates to the county’s employee handbook as presented by Treasurer Mona Davis.

The board received correspondence from the Audubon of Kansas regarding a conservation easement in Rock County. The board approved referring the item to the Rock County Planning and Zoning Commission.

The commissioners approved a home health care license renewal application as presented by Rock County Hospital Administrator Stacey Knox.

In a final action item Tuesday, the commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding between the county and the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs.

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

* Rehabilitation funds available for homeowners

(Posted 1:15 p.m. Jan. 19)

The Central Nebraska Housing Developers announced the availability of funds to rehabilitate owner-occupied homes located within the municipal boundaries of communities in the 14-county region, which includes Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties.

Low- to no-interest loans are available to income-eligible households for rehabilitation activities, including, but not limited to: weatherization, roof and foundation repairs, plumbing, electrical, painting/siding, and accessibility.

For more information, or to request an application, call Judy Petersen at 402-340-0106 or Kelli Mosel of CDS Inspections and Beyond at 402-582-3580.

Household income limits apply. Fair Housing Act policies apply. Residents of the area are urged to take advantage of the low- to no-interest loan programs while funds are still available.

* Vaccinated Nebraskans 11 times less likely to be hospitalized

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

Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services State Epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Donahue and his team completed an in-depth analysis of COVID vaccination rates correlated to hospitalizations.

The analysis concluded that individuals who received the COVID vaccine, but not the booster, were 11 times less likely to be hospitalized. More dramatically, individuals who got the booster shot were 46 times less likely to be hospitalized.

Another analysis estimated the number of hospitalizations and deaths prevented by vaccination. The rate of hospitalization and death among unvaccinated people was calculated and then applied to the population of Nebraska as a whole, to simulate the absence of vaccinations.

“By applying the unvaccinated rate of hospitalizations and deaths to the whole population, we have a stronger understanding of the clear and overwhelming benefit of getting vaccinated,” Donahue said.

A third analysis showed that vaccines are incredibly safe. Nebraska death certificate data shows Nebraskans who were vaccinated are dying at lower rates than Nebraskans who were unvaccinated, regardless of the cause of death.

DHHS urges all Nebraskans who have not done so already to consider getting vaccinated and receive the booster and to consult a doctor if there are questions. Register for the vaccine at vaccinate.ne.gov or call the hotline at 833-998-2275.

* Hafer provides update on school illness protocols

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Jan. 19)

Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer discussed the increased presences of several illnesses, including COVID, that have been seen in the school during recent weeks.

Hafer urged parents to keep kids home if they feel unwell, as the school is striving to keep staff and students healthy and the buildings open.

The full report is located below.

* Lions Club hears update on childcare center

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Jan. 19)

During its meeting Monday, the Ainsworth Lions Club Board heard an update from Karen O’Hare on the planned Ainsworth Childcare Development Center. O’Hare discussed the status of the project. The group is in the process of purchasing the Technologent building, then trading it for The Connection building, which will be remodeled to accommodate the needs of a childcare center.  Financial arrangements are being finalized, with a capital campaign to be initiated later in February.

A workday was held Dec. 4 to move Lions Club equipment and supplies from the Mundhenke Agency to a storage room provided by KBRB, with 13 Lions Club members assisting with the project.

The faded Lions Club sign on south Highway 7 has been replaced with a new sign. New signs had previously been installed along Highway 20, just east and west of Ainsworth.

A discussion was held regarding securing additional borders needed for the playground equipment in the city parks in order to finish up the project. The club is also investigating the purchase of additional bags of crumb rubber to place under the playground equipment. The previous purchase of crumb rubber was arranged with the assistance of the North Central Development Center to secure a grant.

The club approved the payment of the 2022 organizational membership dues of $100 to the Chamber.

* Weekly COVID cases surpass pandemic high for NCDHD

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 494 new COVID-19 cases in the district during the past week, which represents the highest number of confirmed cases since the pandemic began. The previous weekly case rate was 320 cases confirmed during the week of Dec. 13-20, 2020.

There have been 750 confirmed cases in the nine counties served by the North Central District Health Department during the past two weeks, with 128 recoveries and one death attributed to the virus.

Free at-home Rapid Antigen COVID-19 tests are available by going online to www.covidtests.gov. Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order four free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. There is no shipping cost and you do not need to enter a credit card number. Orders will usually ship in 7 to 12 days. The health department encourages residents to order the at-home tests now so they are available when needed.

A vaccination clinic is available from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday in the North Central District Health Department office at O’Neill. There are clinics next week in the Ainsworth Conference Center and the Greater Sandhills Family Healthcare clinic at Bassett on Jan. 26.

* Ainsworth speech team opens season at Valentine

(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 18)

The Ainsworth speech team competed Saturday in the first meet of the season at Valentine.

Individual results from the meet are as follows:

Entertainment

Ben Flynn – Third

Extemporaneous

Alyssa Erthum – Second

Libby Wilkns – Third

Emma Kennedy – Fourth – Novice

Humorous Prose

Eden Raymond – Sixth

Informative

Hannah Beel – Second – Novice

Persuasive

Alyssa Erthum – Third

Poetry

Alyssa Erthum – First

Serious Prose

Taylor Allen – Second 

Dakota Stutzman – Fourth

Gavin Olinger – Third – Novice

* Elks holds annual hoop shoot Sunday for youth

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

The Ainsworth Elks Lodge hosted its annual hoop shoot Sunday for shooters ages 8 to 13. Winners of each division advance to the district hoop shoot Jan. 22 at Cozad.

Blake Hansmeyer hit 11 of 25 free throws to win the boys 8-9 division, with Julieta Carranza winning the girls 8-9 division. Kimberlyn Doke finished second in the girls 8-9.

Payton Sears hit 6 of 25 free throws to win the girls 10-11 division, with Tinley Buechele finishing second at 5 for 25.

Andrew Johnson sank 8 of 25 free throws to win the boys 10-11 division, with Zaine Evans second at 4 for 25 and Nathan Fernau third making 3 of 25.

Jaxon Rucker won the boys 12-13 division making 20 of 25 free throws. Bear Rea finished second at 7 for 25, followed by Bateson Raymond third at 4 for 25 and Damian Hernandez fourth at 3 for 25. There were no girls shooters Sunday in the 12-13 year division.

The district hoop shoot is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Cozad High School. Winners of that competition advance to the state hoop shoot.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 6;45 a.m. Jan. 17)

January 9

  • Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after posting bond.
  • The Ainsworth Fire Department returned multiple times throughout the day to monitor a house fire that ignited on January 8th.
  • During a traffic stop, a citation was issued for possession of an open alcohol container.

January 10

  • Responded to a request for a welfare check on an Ainsworth resident. Individual was located and reported safe.
  • Responded to a two vehicle accident at the junction of Highway 20 and Main St. No injuries were reported.
  • Responded to a noise complaint near Maple or Walnut st in Ainsworth. Deputies were unable to locate the complaint at this time.

January 11

  • Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail for a court commitment.
  • Responded to a welfare check request near Long Pine. Subject was located and transferred to a mental health facility.

January 12

  • Responded to a report of an unauthorized off road vehicle driving in Long Pine at excessive speeds, with no helmet, disregarding road signs. The subject received a verbal warning to be removed from the street.
  • The Ainsworth Fire Department was paged to a grass fire 4 miles West of Ainsworth near mile marker 237.
  • Responded to a deer and one vehicle collision 6 miles north of Ainsworth. No injuries were reported.
  • During a traffic stop, a citation was issued for misuse of a school permit, and improper or defective vehicle lighting.

January 13

  • During a traffic stop, a citation was issued for speeding 11-15 mph over the posted speed limit.
  • Responded to an Ainsworth resident who reported damage to their vehicle.

January 14

  • Responded to a motorist on Hwy 7 near MM 16 in need of fuel.
  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing near mile marker 202 on Highway 183.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association were paged for two separate 911 calls and transferred both individuals to the Brown County Hospital. Later that day a transfer was also provided from Ainsworth to Sioux Falls, SD.
  • Booked a subject into the Brown County Jail for a court commitment.

January 15

  • Responded to a two vehicle accident on Main St in Ainsworth. No injuries were reported.

Weekly Summary:

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

          0-Handgun Permits Applied For

13-Incident Reports Were Taken

6-Paper Services Were Served

149-Phone Calls Were Received

9-911 Emergency Calls Received

0-Titles Were Inspected

* Agenda for Brown County Commissioners meeting Tuesday

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

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 18
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

5:15 p.m.             Roll Call;

Approve minutes of the 1-4-2022 Commissioner meeting.

                                    Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

5:30                            Scott Erthum – Annual Reports – Erthum

5:35                            Tom Jones – Resolution for Planning Commission Appointments – Jones

                                    Commissioners approve and sign Preliminary Engineering services supplemental/No 1 between Brown County, Nebraska and Miller & Associates Consulting Engineers, PC & Resolution

                                    Acknowledge 2022 Mileage rate of 0.585 cents – Hobbs

                                    Brown County Hospital-Home Health, annual renewal form

                                    Cost of Living increase for, courthouse custodian, county weed superintendent, county zoning administrator, veterans service officer, emergency manager & county road employees – Hardy

6:00                            Open Reorganization meeting: D/A Reorganization meeting – Official Banks, Radio, Newspaper, Website; Set 2022 Holiday dates, BOE and Commissioner meeting dates, appoint Commissioner Chairman & Vice Chairman, appoint county surveyor, appoint County Highway Superintendent and committee representatives – Hobbs

Acknowledge Ambulance contact list

                                    Closed Session to discuss a Brown County Employee’s job performance – Taylor

                                    Closed Session pursuant to 84-1410 to Discuss Legal Consequences of the County Grievance Procedure

* Recent cases from Brown County District Court

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

During Brown County District Court proceedings Tuesday, El Paso Jimmy One Feather, age 26, of Ainsworth, was found guilty on four felony counts. One Feather was found guilty of first degree sexual assault, a Class II felony; incest, a Class IIA felony; child abuse, a Class IIIA felony; and attempted visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct, a Class II felony. One Feather will be sentenced April 13 in District Court.

Robert Barkwill, 30, of Ainsworth, pleaded guilty to three counts, including a Class IV felony count of possession of a controlled substance. The other guilty pleas were for infractions that included possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce. Barkwill will be sentenced March 8 in District Court.

Trenton Kinney, 40, of Ainsworth, was sentenced Tuesday to two years of probation with 60 days in jail after previously pleading no contest to refusing to submit to a chemical test, third offense.

* City Council to bid new garbage truck

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Jan. 13)

The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday discussed the purchase of a new Heil brand garbage truck and containers after receiving a $483,253 quote.

After opting to keep garbage pickup service in-house during its December meeting and pursuing the purchase of a new truck and containers, the city received a quote from Macqueen Equipment Group of $413,914 for the new truck and $69,339 for 750 containers.

Mayor Joel Klammer said the money to purchase the new truck and containers was included in the city’s current budget.

“The council made the decision to purchase a truck and keep the service,” Klammer said. “Tonight we are trying to decide whether to order the new truck. It would be delivered this fall.”

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the company had two trucks available now. To get them outfitted would lead to delivery to the city in August or September. If those two trucks are sold, it would likely be 2023 before the city would receive delivery of a new garbage truck.

Audience member Rod Worrell questioned why the city would not have to go out for bids for the new truck due to the cost.

City Attorney Rod Palmer agreed, saying the truck should probably be bid.

“If there is a highly specialized area and only one outfit that does this, that might be a different story,” Palmer said. “It is a short period of time to advertise for bids, it shouldn’t set you back that much.”

Schroedl said Heil is the only brand that makes a garbage truck with both a rear load and side arm.

The council opted to have the city put together specifications for the new truck and go out for bids.

In other business Wednesday, the council opted to remove a splash pad and fountain from a proposed Main Street redevelopment design plan prepared several years ago by RDG Planning and Design in anticipation of the Nebraska Department of Transportation renovating Highway 7 through downtown Ainsworth.

Schroedl said the original plan was put together by RDG Planning and Design in 2011, and she wanted guidance from the council on what to pursue from that plan.

Councilman Brad Fiala said improving the vision for motorists entering Main Street from the side streets was important.

“I don’t think we want trees or anything that obstructs vision or gets in the way of snow removal,” Fiala said.

Schroedl said the design included “bump-outs” which would keep vehicles from parking as close to the intersections. She said there would be approximately six fewer total parking spots available on Main Street with the new design.

The council also discussed lighting and different colored material for crosswalks. Schroedl said the main decision she needed from the council was whether to include the fountain and splash pad at the mini park. The council indicated it was not interested in either of those options as the estimated cost for those items was more than $300,000.

Schroedl said the city would plan to replace the water and sewer lines under Main Street during the renovation project.

Fiala said the NDOT would replace all the sidewalks on Main Street in addition to the street, curb and gutter. The council discussed having an open house to allow the public a chance to comment on the renovation plan.

During a public hearing Wednesday, LB 840 Citizen Advisory Review Committee member Marcus Fairhead told the council the LB 840 program had a clean bill of health from an oversight standpoint.

“Both of the loans through LB 840 are current,” Fairhead said.

He said the CARC was working with a steering committee on the ballot initiative this year to renew the LB 840 program for another 15 years.

Brian Delimont with Three River provided the council an update on the fiber installation project continuing in the city.

Delimont said about 150 customers have already been connected to the new fiber high-speed service, and the company had between 200 and 300 drops to houses left to complete. He said the company is having the drops placed at every residence in the city that looks inhabitable.

“We have been hooking up cable internet customers first and new customers as we can,” Delimont said. “The installation has been going well.”

Karen O’Hare and Nancy Steinhauser provided the council with an update on the planned Ainsworth Child Development Center.

O’Hare said the project was starting to move along since the last time the group updated the council.

“We are in the process of purchasing the Technologent building and swapping that for The Connection building with the Nazarene Church since Technologent did not have any green space available with it,” O’Hare said. “The purchase and swap should be completed by the end of the first quarter.”

O’Hare said the state fire marshal and electrical inspectors have already been in The Connection building so the group knows any updates that would be needed for a daycare.

“We have met with contractors, and we are expecting cost estimates by the end of January,” O’Hare said. “We are waiting for those estimates so we know what our goal is for the capital campaign. The Brown County Foundation has awarded us $20,000 to kick off that campaign.”

She said the group met with the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education to see if the district, through Lunchtime Solutions, would be willing to supply meals to the facility once completed as it does with the Little Paws Preschool. She said a partnership with the school for meal service would save the group a substantial amount from having to build a commercial kitchen and hire its own cook.

Once completed, the child development center would have a capacity of 46 children with the potential of hiring up to 10 full-time staff members.

Steinhauser said the group has the amount of green space it requires next to The Connection building, but it would be interested in purchasing additional space from the city mini park if that was possible.

The council Wednesday approved a recommendation from the city’s committee on housing for a $20,000 loan application through the city’s CDBG Housing Rehabilitation Loan Fund.

Schroedl said there is $125,000 remaining in the housing loan fund that is available for low-income homeowners interested in making improvements to their home.

“It is a good program for people on fixed incomes,” Schroedl said. She said anyone interested in more information on the program may contact the city office.

The council approved moving the February meeting from Feb. 9 to Feb. 16 at 5 p.m. Klammer said he had a conflict and would not be able to attend a Feb. 9 meeting.

The council approved appointments for the remainder of Klammer’s term as mayor. Those included Dr. Mel Campbell as the city’s physician, Palmer as city attorney, Andy Taylor as prosecuting attorney, Bruce Papstein as chief of police, Schroedl as city administrator/clerk/treasurer, Brad Miller as water and sewer superintendent, Kevin Shaul as street foreman and Lloyd Smith as street superintendent.

The council approved West Plains Bank, Homestead Bank, Union Bank & Trust and the Nebraska Public Agency Investment Trust as city depositories, and the Ainsworth Star-Journal and KBRB Radio for publications.

The council also approved the mayor’s recommended reappointments of Shari Luther to the Cemetery Board and Tree Board, Lance Schipporeit to the City Planning Commission, Delimont to the City Park Board, and Heather Lutter and alternate Josh Titus to the Board of Adjustment. All the appointments are for three-year terms.

During her report, Schroedl said the city completed the cross connection water surveys with 100 percent response. She thanked Miller and Lendi Goochey for their work tracking everyone down to get the surveys completed.

Schroedl said she was informed by Nebraska Fire and Safety that the replacement fire suppression pump for the conference center the city ordered was now no longer available, and alternate options were $5,000 higher than the original quote. She said the company is looking with other vendors for a replacement pump.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Feb. 16.

* Care Center Board votes to increase private pay rates

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Jan. 11)

The Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors on Monday approved increasing the rate for residents paying privately to stay in the facility by $75 per day.

Administrator Penny Jacobs said the care center’s private pay room rates have not increased since August of 2018.

“A lot of places increase rates up to 10 percent annually,” Jacobs said. “Expenses have skyrocketed.”

Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said the current rate the center charges for residents paying privately is now below the Medicaid reimbursement rate. He said Medicaid has increased the rates it pays to nursing homes in the past two years.

Board member Dr. Mel Campbell said, if the nursing home does not raise rates on private pay residents to at least match what Medicaid reimburses, there is a risk the facility’s Medicaid rates could drop.

“The private pay rate needs to be at least equal if not slightly above Medicaid,” Campbell said.

Jacobs said the care center’s accounting firm brought that to her attention as well. She recommended a flat $75 per day increase in private pay rates.

Campbell asked if it would be reasonable for the board to approve having the private pay rate be 110 percent of the Medicaid reimbursement rate so the rates could stay with the Medicaid rate moving forward.

The board approved Jacobs’ recommendation of raising the private pay rate by $75 per day. Jacobs said the new rate would go into effect April 1, as by law families must receive 60-day notice prior to a change in rates.

In other business Monday, Jacobs told the board the facility’s new agency director of nursing would begin working in the facility the following day.

“The interim DON will move into the new rental house when it is up and going,” Jacobs said.

The director of nursing is under contract for 13 weeks as the facility continues to try and find a permanent nursing director.

The board approved the lease agreement at $1,500 per month for the property owned by Casey Jones. The board will then charge agency staff rent who stay in the home as a potential preferable option to staying in a hotel. Up to three agency staff members could stay in the home. Jacobs said two agency nurses are coming in January, and one had already spoken for one of the rooms along with the director of nursing.

Jacobs said there are two referrals pending. She said the director of nursing will look at the files, but it looks like they were residents the nursing home would be able to accept.

“We are hoping to have those new residents move in by the end of the week,” Jacobs said.

She said there were currently 18 residents in the facility, with no admissions or discharges during December.

The care center generated $194,208 during December, which included $61,873 in grant funding received. Expenses for the month were $198,122, which led to a loss for the month of $3,913. The facility paid $80,553 for agency staffing during December. Jacobs said $8,500 of that total were invoices from November that one agency did not submit until December.

She said the care center’s new activities director will begin work in mid January, and one housekeeping and laundry position has been filled. She said the nursing home still needs a permanent director of nursing, a business office manager, charge nurses and CNAs.

Jacobs reported the new hot water heater had been installed and is up and running. The board had previously approved the water heater replacement at a cost of $11,259.

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

* School Board discusses how to utilize federal funding

(Posted 7:15 a.m. Jan. 11)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education during Monday’s meeting discussed whether to use federal ESSR funding to replace the heating and air system in the elementary school.

Superintendent Dale Hafer said the heating and air project was a needed upgrade for the elementary school, and something that would need to be done at some point no matter where the funds come from.

Board member Brad Wilkins said the new system would be much more flexible than the current boiler and chiller, and would allow the elementary school to switch from heating to air conditioning in the same day if necessary.

“They would be independent units, and they would bring in fresh air,” Wilkins said.

The proposal calls for the installation of a new heat pump and air exchange unit to ventilate each room as well as the installation of air deionizers that would kill viruses and bacteria.

Board member Jim Arens said the new system would be much more energy efficient and the cost to operate it would be much less than the current boiler and chiller system.

Hafer said the new unit would be 98 percent energy efficient. He said the estimated cost of the project from Conditioned Air Mechanical of Grand Island is $270,000, which would trigger additional reporting within the ESSR program because of the size of the project.

“To use ESSR III funding, we would need to engage an engineer to provide specifications for the project,” Hafer said. “Then we would advertise for bids. It is going to be more of a challenge using ESSR III for this project, but the funds are there.”

Hafer said, while there would be some additional costs involved using ESSR funds for the project since the district would have to engage an engineer, he believed the project could be funded using the federal dollars.

“In the end, this is very doable,” the superintendent said. “We could also consider breaking the project up into two projects, and that would get us under the $250,000 threshold for the additional reporting requirements.”

Wilkins said, if it becomes burdensome to use ESSR III funding for construction, the board could opt to use that funding for things like replacing the district’s math curriculum if it makes sense.

“There would be fewer hoops to jump through,” Wilkins said.

Hafer estimated the cost to replace the district’s math curriculum, which will need to be done regardless, is around $150,000. The district will also have to soon replace the laptop computers for teachers, which he estimated would be another $100,000. He said ESSR III funding could be used for both those expenditures.

The district has been allocated $531,000 from the federal government through the ESSR III program as part of the American Recovery Act. The funds must be used by September 2024.

Arens said he liked the idea of using the ESSR III funds for things the district would have to purchase anyway. Using the funds for the laptops and math curriculum would keep the district from the burden of having the additional engineering costs to use the funds for the heating and air project.

Hafer said, if the district used the ESSR III funds for the math curriculum and laptops, it could use the general fund money it saved there to put into the district’s depreciation fund to pay for the heating and air project.

The board did not take action on the item Monday.

In other business, Wendy Allen and Amanda Ganser updated the board on the district’s five-year strategic plan. Allen and Ganser lead a committee that updates the plan to show the measures that have been implemented in each target area and identifying the additional areas that need to be prioritized.

Hafer said the goal of providing the board with periodic updates on the strategic plan is to identify where the district is with its priority goals.

“There are quite a few items already in place,” Hafer said. “The goal is to see where we are making progress, and where we need to focus more attention.”

Ganser said there are five main strategies in the strategic plan, but there are 90 guiding principles within those five strategies.

“We are still compiling all the things we have already put in place, so we have not yet gone through and identified the areas where we need to improve and focus more resources,” Ganser said.

Allen said the group’s priority is to take the areas that have been identified as the highest priority and focus the most attention there.

“When we get the information out on what we already have in place, we will look to see if there are other areas where we need to prioritize,” Allen said.

The five-year strategic plan runs through 2026. Hafer said the group wants to be deliberate about how the district moves forward and not just constantly adding things to the strategic plan.

“It is a living, breathing document,” Hafer said. “We want to be able to find the holes in the priority one areas and focus our attention there.”

Wilkins said it would be excellent for the district to be able to show 10 priority items that have been identified and show the progress made in those areas, then focus on the next 10 priority areas.

In action items Monday, the board accepted the resignation of second grade teacher Pamela Peterson, who wrote she plans to retire after 47 years in education, the final 32 of those years spent with the Ainsworth district.

The board undertook its annual reorganization. Arens was reelected president of the board. Mark Johnson was reelected as board vice president and Scott Erthum was reelected as the board’s secretary and treasurer.

Laurie Witte, Dedra Stoner and Hafer were appointed as recording secretaries for board meetings.

The board opted to keep committee assignments the same for 2022, and will continue to use the Ainsworth Star-Journal for its official publication of legal notices and West Plains Bank, Homestead Bank and Union Bank & Trust as depositories for district funds. Meeting dates will remain the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. from November through March and at 8 p.m. from April through October.

The board Monday approved the 2020-21 audit report as presented. Hafer said one finding was again the lack of segregation of duties on the financial side due to the district’s limited staff. He said all smaller districts receive that finding.

Following an executive session, the board approved contracts for K-6 principal Ben Wright and Secondary Principal Steve Dike for the 2022-23 school year.

During his report, Dike said he is pleased with the progress he has seen through the district’s intervention process, which has reduced the number of students failing classes. He said three high school students and seven junior high students failed a class during the first semester. While he said he would always want that number to be zero, it is a major difference from a few years ago before the current interventions were implemented.

Hafer provided updates on the district’s COVID procedures. He said the isolation time has been shortened for COVID exposure from 10 days to five days. He said the goal is to continue to work with families and keep asymptomatic students in school.

“Each situation has its own set of circumstances,” Hafer said. “We are seeing a lot of stomach flu right now. The concept is going to continue to be, if you don’t feel well, stay home. That is working.”

Hafer said Ainsworth hosts Southwest Conference Wrestling this year, and the conference moved the day of the conference tournament up by a day as it was scheduled on the same day as district girls wrestling. He said the SWC meet would now be on a Thursday instead of a Friday. Classes are not held when the school hosts the meet.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education was moved up to 5:30 p.m. Feb. 14 instead of the regular 7 p.m. meeting time.

* NCDHD area sees spike in confirmed COVID cases

(Posted 7:15 a.m. Jan. 11)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 256 new COVID-19 cases in the district during the past week. There have been two deaths attributed to the virus during the past week, with 278 people in the district deemed to have recovered from the virus.

Vaccination clinics are scheduled from 9 until 11:15 a.m. and from 1 until 4:15 p.m. Wednesday in the Greater Sandhills Family Healthcare clinic at Bassett, and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday in the North Central District Health Department office at O’Neill.

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination updates:

The timeframe has shortened from six months to five months between the completion of primary vaccination of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and receiving a booster dose.

Pfizer booster doses have been approved for individuals 12 and older by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration through Emergency Use Authorization.

The isolation period for positive individuals and the quarantine period for exposed individuals have also been updated.

If you test Positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status:

Stay home for at least five days

If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving after five days, you can leave your house.

Must continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days.

If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.

If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, are fully vaccinated and have received your COVID-19 booster dose if eligible:

Wear a mask around other for 10 days.

Test on day five, if possible.

If you develop symptoms stay home and consider getting a test.

If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are not fully vaccinated:

Stay home for five days. After that continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.

If you can’t quarantine you must wear a mask for 10 days.

Test on day five if possible.

If you develop symptoms stay home and consider getting tested. 

* Fire Saturday destroys unoccupied house in Ainsworth

(Posted 8:15 a.m. Jan. 10)

An unoccupied house on the southwest side of Ainsworth was completely destroyed by a Saturday night fire.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, a house on South Street was reported on fire. Fiala said the house, owned by Ann Weeks, as well as a garage and a shed were completely engulfed in flames upon the fire department’s arrival.

Fiala said a strong north wind pushed heat and embers south and caused minor damage to a neighboring house owned by Pat Preble.

The Weeks house was unoccupied at the time of the fire and was completely destroyed, as were the shed and garage. The cause of the fire is being investigated by the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s office.

Fiala said firefighters were on scene until 12:30 a.m. Sunday, then returned on several occasions Sunday morning to clean up hot spots.

The Brown County Ambulance Association responded to the call along with the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department, and the Brown County Sheriff’s Department provided traffic control on South Street.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

January 2

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred a flight crew to the Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient.
  • Responded to a call at an Ainsworth business regarding an individual being held against their will. Pursuit was ensued with the suspect’s vehicle and was terminated through the Long Pine Hills.  The victim was contacted by the Brown County Sheriff’s Office and reported safe.  Bright Horizons was called to assist the victim.

January 3

  • Received a complaint of money being stolen from an Ainsworth individual. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing on Highway 7 near 877th Rd.
  • The Brown County County Ambulance Association transferred a rural Brown County resident to the Brown County Hospital.

January 4

  • Received a report of vehicle damage that occured at an Ainsworth business parking lot.
  • Received a complaint regarding an individual receiving mail from an unwanted source.

January 5

  • Responded to a disturbance on S Main St in Ainsworth. One subject was issued a citation for assault by strangulation, domestic assault, assault, criminal mischief, and resisting arrest. This individual was booked into the Brown County Jail. 
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred an Ainsworth resident to the Brown County Hospital.

January 6

  • Received a call reporting a domestic assault. One subject was issued a citation for aggravated assault and booked into the Brown County jail.
  • Responded to a report of criminal mischief in Ainsworth.
  • Responded to a request for a civil standby on South Main St in Ainsworth. All individuals on the property were found to not have permission to be there and were required to leave.
  • Responded to a request for an individual to be removed from a residence in Ainsworth. This individual was removed from the residence and issued a verbal warning that they can be cited with disturbing the peace if returned back to the property.

January 7

  • Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.
  • Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after posting bond.
  • Booked an individual into the Brown County Jail for a court commitment.
  • Responded to a call for help regarding an individual in an Ainsworth residence that someone had broken into their home and had attempted to stab the reporting party. This is an ongoing investigation.

January 8

  • Responded to a report of a break in occurring at an Ainsworth residence. Deputies were unable to locate any criminal intent at this time.
  • Received a complaint regarding a juvenile driving a dirtbike at excessive speeds, without a helmet, in Long Pine. Deputies were unable to make contact with this individual.
  • The Ainsworth Fire Department and the Brown County Ambulance association responded to a house fire in Ainsworth.

Weekly Summary:

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

          2-Handgun Permits Applied For

12-Incident Reports Were Taken

2-Paper Services Were Served

145-Phone Calls Were Received

7-911 Emergency Calls Received

7-Titles Were Inspected

* NDOT to advertise for bids for Meadville Avenue bridge

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Jan. 6)

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners, Board Chairman Buddy Small provided an update on the Meadville Avenue bridge project over the Sand Draw Creek.

The box culvert at the site was damaged during flooding in March of 2019 and then destroyed by flooding in September of the same year. Traffic on the heavily used Meadville Avenue has been detoured 1 mile to the west since the box culvert was damaged.

Small reported he was notified by Paul Kieper from the Nebraska Department of Transportation that the NDOT will advertise for bids for the bridge construction project Jan. 18, with a Feb. 10 bid opening date. A bid would potentially be awarded for the project approximately one week after the bids are opened.

In other business during a brief meeting Tuesday, the commissioners approved a resolution setting salaries for elected officials for the 2023 to 2027 term. Those seeking elected office pay a filing fee based on a percentage of the salary the office pays. During its previous meeting, the board agreed to set the salaries at $60,000 for the assessor and the treasurer, $63,000 for the clerk, $69,100 for the sheriff and $87,100 for the county attorney with a $1,500 increase in each of the following three years of the four-year cycle. The three commissioners will each be paid a salary of $30,000 with an annual increase of $750.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Jan. 18.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 2 p.m. Jan. 6)

Recent cases from Brown County Court

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

Kenneth J. York Jr., 29, of Omaha, charged with violating hunting or fishing regulations, fined $100.

Bradley C. Minard, 30, of Omaha, violating hunting or fishing regulations, $100.

Troy K. Hartvigsen, 48, of Blair, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Travis R. Newgard, 27, of Lincoln, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Natasha J. Romero, 28, of Albuquerque, N.M., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Michael A. Douglas, 19, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Justin W. La Pointe, 19, of Mission, S.D., first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; no valid registration, $300; no operator’s license, $300.

Suzy J. Wentworth, 55, of Springview, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Helen B. Jefferson, 61, of Lyons, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.

Karsyn L. Irwin, 23, of Long Pine, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for one day served, driver’s license revoked for six months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; improper or defective vehicle light, $25.

Brandon S. Wicks, 22, of Casper, Wyo., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Jaden W. Dexter, 19, of Grand Island, attempting a Class 1 misdemeanor, $300; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50; minor in possession of alcohol, $100.

Andrew S. Walker, 57, of Norristown, Pa., possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce and less than 1 pound, $500; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Vernon D. Moody, 78, of Scotia, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Tyrone S. Mizner, 22, of Mission, S.D., possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Kaylee S. Harvey, 24, of O’Neill, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

David J. Wells, 61, of Tulsa, Okla., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Isaac C. Watkins, 42, of Longmont, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

John C. Flor, 74, of Gretna, violation of Game and Parks Commission regulations, $50.

Ronal W. Samayoa Rowan, 47, of Omaha, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Tenaj T. Combs, 32, of North Platte, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Kyle A. Hollenbeck, 20, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Anthony B. Dannatt, 59, of Ainsworth, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $100; overweight on capacity plates, $75.

Jose Rebollar Hernandez, 42, of Colorado Springs, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

* Vehicle stolen, fleeing suspects pursued in separate incidents

(Posted 3:30 p.m. Jan. 4)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department was active during the holidays, investigating a vehicle theft and being involved in a high-speed pursuit on Highway 20 in separate incidents.

According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, on Christmas night, a vehicle was stolen from the Ainsworth Motors lot off Highway 20. Papstein said another vehicle, reported stolen from Wisconsin, was recovered on the Ainsworth Motors lot.

The following day, one suspect was apprehended at Sheridan, Wyo., and two additional suspects were arrested at Blackfoot, Idaho, and the stolen vehicle was recovered in Idaho. Papstein said the three suspects are in custody and awaiting extradition to Brown County to face auto theft charges.

At 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 2, a 911 call was made from Pump and Pantry from a woman who reported she was being held against her will. Papstein said the 19-year-old woman from Sioux City, Iowa, reported she was being held against her will by the occupants of a vehicle parked at Pump and Pantry.

Papstein said deputies responded and the vehicle fled the scene, nearly striking a deputy as it did. He said deputies pursued the vehicle at a high rate of speed before discontinuing the chase in the Long Pine hills. The sheriff said law enforcement was on standby in Rock County and South Dakota but the motorists evaded capture.

Papstein said the woman was unable to identify the people she had been riding with, and the department was not able to obtain the license plate number of the out-of-state vehicle. He said the department does not have many additional leads to pursue at this time.

* CDC updates guidance for quarantining if exposed to COVID

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Jan. 4)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 159 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in the nine-county district during the past week.

Vaccination clinics are scheduled from 1 until 5 p.m. today (Tuesday) in Mid-Plains Community College at Valentine, from 2 until 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Butte Community Center, and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday in the North Central District Health Department office at O’Neill. All brands of approved COVID vaccines and boosters are available during each of those clinics.

The Greater Sandhills Family Healthcare clinic is also hosting vaccinations from 1 until 4 p.m. today.

There have been updates for quarantine and isolation guidelines. If you test Positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status:

Stay home for at least five days

If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolved after five days, you can leave your house.

You must continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days.

If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.

If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, are fully vaccinated and have received your COVID-19 booster dose if eligible:

Wear a mask around others for 10 days.

Test on day five, if possible.

If you develop symptoms stay home and consider getting a test.

If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are not fully vaccinated:

Stay home for five days. After that continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days.

If you can’t quarantine you must wear a mask for 10 days.

Test on day five if possible.

If you develop symptoms stay home and consider getting tested.

The Cherry County Hospital is offering free rapid COVID-19 testing from 2 until 3 p.m. each Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. To register, call the Cherry County Hospital at 402-376-2525.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

December 26

  • Received a report of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. A report was made and transferred to the Brown County Attorney.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth, transfer was not needed.
  • Regarding the vehicle theft from 12/25, arrest warrants were issued for theft by unlawful taking $5000+, Class 2A Felony and theft by unlawful taking $1500-$4,999, Class 4 Felony. Two of the suspects were arrested in Bingham County Idaho, and one suspect was arrested in Sheridan Wyoming.  They are currently in custody and awaiting extradition court.

December 27

  • The Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a grass fire 8 miles north of Ainsworth on Meadville ave and 1 mile West.
  • The Ainsworth Ambulance Association responded to two separate 911 calls for Ainsworth residents and provided transfer to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Received a report regarding a possible protection order violation. A report was made and transferred to the Brown County Attorney.

December 28

  • Transferred an individual who was placed into emergency protective custody to the Faith Regional Hospital in Norfolk, NE.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth and transferred the individual to the Brown County Hospital

December 29

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred a flight crew to the Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check for an individual sleeping in their car at the Long Pine State park. The individual was contacted and reported safe.

December 30

  • Received a request for a civil standby at a home in Long Pine for a homeowner and previous tenant dispute.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred an air crew to the Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient.

December 31

  • Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.
  • Received a request for a welfare check on a juvenile in Long Pine. The juvenile was located and reported safe.
  • Received a report of a juvenile from rural Brown County reported as a runaway. The juvenile was later located in Madison County and was returned to a guardian.
  • During a traffic stop, the driver of the vehicle was issued a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol and booked into the Brown County Jail. A passenger was issued a citation for possession of an open container.

January 1

  • Released an inmate after posting bond from the Brown County jail.
  • Responded to a report of an altercation that took place at a Main Street business in Ainsworth. A report was made and transferred to the Brown County Attorney.
  • Received a request for a welfare check on juveniles in Ainsworth. Juveniles were located and reported safe.
  • Responded to a report of a missing person from Ainsworth.

Weekly Summary:

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

3-Handgun Permits Applied For

15-Incident Reports Were Taken

15-Paper Services Were Served

175-Phone Calls Were Received

10-911 Emergency Calls Received

4-Titles Were Inspected

December Monthly Summary:

3– Accidents

8-Arrests

47– Calls for Service

26– Citations were issued

2– Defect Cards issued

8– Handgun permits issued

33– Paper Service served

611– Phone calls were received

32– 911 emergency calls received

21- Titles inspected

* Nebraska sets unemployment rate record in November

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 29)

The Nebraska Department of Labor announced Nebraska’s preliminary unemployment rate for November is 1.8 percent, seasonally adjusted. The rate is down 0.1 percentage points from the October 2021 rate of 1.9 percent and down 1.6 percentage points from the November 2020 rate of 3.4 percent. Unemployment data goes back to 1976, and the November rate is the lowest on record for Nebraska and any state.

“The number of unemployed workers in the labor force reached a historical low of 18,127 in November, while the number of employed workers was above 1 million for the third straight month,” said commissioner of Labor John H. Albin.

The counts of employed and unemployed in the labor force are based on a survey conducted by the Census Bureau regarding employment status. Both individuals who are claiming unemployment benefits and those who are not claiming can be counted as unemployed based on their survey responses. 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.

“Nebraska has beaten our own national record for the lowest unemployment rate—now at 1.8 percent,” said Gov. Pete Ricketts.  “This historic achievement is a sign of the unwavering resilience and work ethic that define us as Nebraskans.  It’s clear for all of America to see: Nebraskans just don’t quit!”

Nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was 1,029,895 in November, up 1,447 over the month and up 30,510 over the year. Private industries with the most growth month to month were trade, transportation, and utilities (up 4,121); manufacturing (up 867) and professional and business services (794). Private industries with the most growth year to year were leisure and hospitality (7,275), professional and business services (up 6,627), and trade, transportation, and utilities (5,176).
The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for November 2021 is 4.2 percent, down 0.4 percentage points from the October 2021 rate of 4.6 percent and down 2.5 percentage points from the November 2020 rate of 6.7 percent.

In the area, Brown County’s unemployment rate in November was 1.2 percent. Keya Paha County dipped below 1 percent with a jobless rate of 0.9 percent, and Rock County’s rate was even lower at a miniscule 0.6 percent of its labor force claiming unemployment. Cherry County’s jobless rate was also below 1 percent at 0.8 percent, as was Holt County’s rate at 0.7 percent. Boyd County’s unemployment rate for November was 1.1 percent, and Blaine County had the highest unemployment rate in the area at 1.7 percent, which was still below the state average.

* NCDHD confirms 101 COVID cases during past week

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 101 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the district during the past week.

A vaccination clinic is scheduled from 2 until 5 p.m. today (Tuesday) in the Ainsworth Conference Center. All three brands of vaccine will be available for those seeking their initial shot or a booster shot.

Everyone age 18 and older can get a COVID-19 booster shot. To be eligible after the Pfizer or Moderna primary two-dose series, an individual needs to wait at least six months after completion of the second vaccine dose. To be eligible after a Johnson and Johnson primary dose, an individual needs to wait at least two months after the initial shot.

Persons may choose to receive any authorized or approved vaccine booster dose currently available regardless of which primary series they received.

Pfizer booster doses are approved for 16- and 17-year-olds.

The Cherry County Hospital offers free rapid COVID-19 testing Tuesday and Thursday this week from 2 until 3 p.m. To register, call the Cherry County Hospital at 402-376-2525.

* Christmas Eve grass fire burns more than 2,500 acres

(Posted 8 a.m. Dec. 27)

A grass fire on Christmas Eve burned in excess of 2,500 acres of rangeland in southern Brown County.

According to incident commander Tony Ruhter, the fire was reported at approximately 1:15 p.m. Friday 3 miles north of the Calamus River and 7 miles east of Highway 7.

The cause of the fire is still being determined, but Ruhter said a heavy fuel load and strong northwest winds pushed the fire quickly to the southeast. After starting on property owned by Dylan Lackaff, the fire spread to a school section and then onto property owned by Sally Mauch.

Ruhter said the fire was contained to pasture land, but structures to the southeast were evacuated due to the heavy fuel load and the strong wind. He said firefighters stopped the fire approximately 1 mile northwest of inhabited structures and a large tree grove.

Firefighters from the Raven, Calamus, South Pine, Long Pine, Ainsworth and Brewster volunteer departments responded, and a plane out of Broken Bow was utilized. Ruhter said the fire burned between 2,500 and 2,800 acres but was contained to rangeland and fences. No structures were damaged.

Ruhter said the final truck left the scene at approximately 6 p.m. Friday. Crews returned Saturday to perform mop-up work, as a cottonwood tree that had burned was releasing embers. Additional crews performed further mop-up work Sunday.

Ruhter praised the work of the volunteer departments for assisting and getting the fire stopped before it reached any structures.

“There was great communication between the departments the entire time,” Ruhter said.

* Summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

December 19

  • During a traffic stop on West Highway 20, a citation was issued for speeding 16-20 mph over the posted speed limit.
  • Issued a citation for possession of marijuana 1 oz or less, first offense and also possession or use of drug paraphernalia.

December 20

  • Received information regarding an Ainsworth business receiving a $100 counterfeit bill. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing at the Highway 183 and 20 junction.
  • During a traffic stop, a citation was issued for speeding 11-15 MPH over the posted speed limit, Possession of marijuana 1 oz or less-1st off, Possession or use of drug paraphernalia.

December 21

  • Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.
  • During a traffic stop, a citation was issued for speeding 21-35 mph over the posted speed limit, failure to renew registration, and no proof of insurance.
  • Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail for time served.

December 22

  • The Ainsworth Ambulance association was dispatched for two separate 911 calls on this day, both were taken to the Brown County Hospital for emergency care.
  • Responded to a report involving suspicious activity at a Long Pine business.
  • Two arrest warrants were served for failure to appear. Both individuals were cited and released on bond.
  • During a traffic stop, a citation was issued for speeding 1 to 5 mph over the posted speed limit, and no operator’s license.

December 23

  • An arrest warrant was served for failure to appear. The individual was cited and released on bond.
  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing near Norden Ave on Highway 20.
  • During a traffic stop, a citation was issued for speeding 16-20 mph over the posted speed limit. In total, 3 citations, 8 warnings were issued for speeding on this day.
  • Issued a citation for minor in possession of alcohol.

December 24

  • Released an individual for time served from the Brown County Jail.
  • Received a report of a grass fire approximately 6 miles East off of MM17 on Hwy 7. Raven Fire, Calamus Fire, South Pine Fire, Ainsworth Fire, Brewster Fire responded.  Casey Williams of Arrow Aviation from Broken Bow also assisted with the efforts of extinguishing the fire.  Broken Bow Fire provided a tanker to fill the aircraft also.

December 25

  • Issued two citations for speeding 11-15mph over the posted limit and one citation for 16-20 mph over.
  • During a traffic stop, one passenger was issued a citation for possession of an open alcohol container. The driver of the vehicle was issued a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol-2nd offense, driving under suspension, possession of an open alcohol container, and driving left of center.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association provided a transfer for a flight crew to pick up a patient at the Brown County hospital.
  • The Raven Fire Department responded to the fire site from Friday afternoon on South Hwy 7 to extinguish some flare-ups.
  • Received a report of a stolen vehicle from an Ainsworth business. This is an ongoing investigation.

Weekly Summary:

       0-Burn Permits Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)

       1-Handgun Permits Applied For

                 12-Incident Reports Were Taken

       5-Paper Services Were Served

       104-Phone Calls Were Received

       6-911 Emergency Calls Received

       5-Titles Were Inspected

* Rock County Commissioners set officials’ salaries for 2023

(Posted 3:30 p.m. Dec. 22)

During its meeting Tuesday, the Rock County Commissioners set officials’ salaries for the upcoming four-year cycle that begins in January 2023.

The commissioners are required to set the salaries for elected officials prior to the upcoming four-year election as those seeking office are required to pay a filing fee based on the salary offered for the position they seek.

The board approved setting the salary for 2023 for the Rock County clerk, assessor, attorney, treasurer and sheriff at $53,500. The commissioners also approved a cost of living raise of $1,000 for each of the following three years plus a 2.25 percent salary increase annually for 2024 through 2026.

The commissioners set the salary for board members at $20,000 with a cost of living increase of $1,000 annually for the following three years.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners appointed Jan Kemp to serve as Rock County’s representative on the Nebraska Area Agency on Aging for the three-year term.

Sheriff Jim Anderson met with the commissioners along with Clerk Daunnita Buoy and Treasurer Mona Davis regarding payment of E-911 claims. Anderson reported late fees are being incurred as the KBRC is no longer an entity for E-911. The E-911 Board will meet in January and Anderson will address the issue with that board. Commissioner Glen May also serves on the E-911 Board.

After meeting with Bassett City Clerk Kristy Beard and Bassett Economic Developer Emily Shook, the commissioners again tabled taking action on a joint membership to the North Central Development Center between the county and the city of Bassett. The item will be discussed during a future meeting.

Shook, Beard, Homer Buell, Sonny Corkle and Dennis Swanson met with the board to provide an update on a planned community center for Rock County. The ground where the community center is planned will need to be deeded from the county to the city of Bassett to qualify for a potential $350,000 grant. The board approved having County Attorney Avery Guernsey draw up a Memorandum of Understanding between the county and the city contingent upon the Rock County Agricultural Society signing off on the location.

Roads Foreman Darrell Olson discussed obtaining bids for iron to make auto gates, and the board approved advertising for iron bids. May discussed progress the county is making with FEMA for reimbursement of 2019 flood damage repairs.

The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 4.

* Board approves $2.55 million bid for Meadville Avenue

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 22)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a $2.55 million bid from Western Engineering of Harlan, Iowa, to renovate the asphalt on Meadville Avenue.

Kevin Petross with Miller and Associates said the county received two bids for the asphalt renovation project, which were opened Dec. 16. Western Engineering submitted a bid of $2.55 million, and Werner Construction of Hastings entered a bid of $2.71 million on the project.

Petross said the low bid was 9.4 percent higher than the engineer’s estimate of $2.33 million. Petross said, to get closer to the engineering estimate, the county could opt to either shorten the length of the asphalt renovation or cut down on the thickness of the asphalt from 4 inches to 3-3/4 inches.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus asked if reducing the thickness of the asphalt would support heavy truck traffic. Petross said it would, but the road may wear a little quicker than it would have otherwise.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said he would hate to see part of the asphalt work not get completed.

Treasurer Deb Vonheeder said, with the money allocated from the roads department’s highway buyback funds and the money bonded for the project, the county was within $65,000 of the amount of the low bid.

Both Wiebelhaus and Commissioner Denny Bauer said the county would be able to find that money in a budget without having to change the initial scope or the specifications of the project.

“I would rather get this done right the first time,” Wiebelhaus said.

Commissioner Buddy Small said he too was not concerned with accepting the low bid if the county was that close to having the funds needed.

Petross recommended accepting the bid from Western Engineering, as future bids would likely come in higher the way things were trending if the county rejected this round of bids.

“If you wait, it will likely cost even more down the road,” Petross said.

The commissioners unanimously approved the low bid from Western Engineering. The asphalt overlay will be undertaken sometime in 2022.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners adopted salaries for elected officials for the next four-year election cycle beginning January 2023. Those running for elected office pay filing fees based on a percentage of the salary paid for the office they seek.

Small said, for 2022, the assessor, clerk and treasurer will each receive a salary of $54,100. The sheriff will earn $61,100, the county attorney $81,100 and the commissioners receive a salary of $26,250 with the chairman of the board earning an additional $1,000.

Small proposed the salaries for 2023 begin at $60,000 for the assessor and the treasurer, $63,000 for the clerk, $69,100 for the sheriff and $87,100 for the county attorney with a $1,500 increase in each of the following three years of the four-year cycle. Small proposed a salary of $30,000 for each commissioner with an annual increase of $750.

“There is a lot of responsibility with these offices,” Small said.

Bauer said Brown County is listed in Tier 2 with the Nebraska Association of County Officials’ recommendations for elected office. NACO recommends a range of $56,400 to $78,500 for elected officials.

“We are still on the lower end,” Bauer said. “I think we need to pay a reasonable rate to get good people to run for office.”

Wiebelhaus asked if the county was competitive with what other area county officials received. Bauer said Cherry County is in Tier 3 of NACO’s classification, and Keya Paha and Rock counties were both in Tier 1.

Wiebelhaus said, “These salaries have gone up a lot over the last 12 years.”

Small said the Madison County Commissioners each receive $47,000 annually.

Following the discussion, the board unanimously approved Small’s recommended salary structure for elected officials beginning in January 2023.

In other action items Tuesday, the board approved a utility easement requested by Jason Vaisvilas with KBR Rural Public Power. Vaisvilas said the easement would run 3,000 feet, and the utility would bury the power line under the roadway. The easement would be under Ponderosa Road west of Long Pine.

“We will try to stay under the road and out of the ditch in case you ever need to pull up the ditches,” Vaisvilas said.

He said it would take KBR less than a day to bury the power cable.

The board approved the easement.

The commissioners approved a bid from Greg’s Heating and Air for heating and air conditioning units for the assessor’s office and the county attorney’s office. The cost for the assessor’s office is $13,324, with an additional $4,917 for the county attorney’s office. The project would give those offices their own temperature control settings. The work includes three units for the assessor’s office and one unit for the county attorney’s office.

The board approved an annual contract for lawn care services with Paulson’s Lawn Care Service at a cost of $7,500. Jerry Paulson has had the contract to maintain the courthouse grounds for numerous years.

The board approved a resolution to accept grant funding from the Brown County Foundation to be used toward the construction of the community fishing pond on the south side of East City Park on property owned by the county.

The Ainsworth Lions Club is leading the pond project. Representative Graig Kinzie said the Brown County Foundation had approved $20,000 for the project in this fiscal year and an additional $20,000 in the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, the foundation could not provide funding to a member-based organization, which is how the Lions Club is classified. The foundation can make a donation to a public entity, and the commissioners agreed to have the county accept the funding and use it toward the pond’s construction.

Emergency Manager Traci Ganser told the board she was able to use hazard mitigation funding to pay for Orion Management Software that would help the roads department map its operations and allow her office to map disaster management. Turpin had been looking at software options to map the county roads with all work the roads department had completed.

The Orion software serves that purpose with the cost covered through hazard mitigation grant funding.

During his report, Turpin said the roads department had its first snow-related work of the winter season recently, with the department sanding and salting the hills and curves on paved roads in the county. He said there wasn’t enough snow to have to remove it from gravel roads, and he would rather those roads absorbed the moisture so the department could blade them.

He said the department was working on the second stretch of Richardson Road, and had removed trees from Pine View Road. Small said the roads department’s work on Richardson Road was impressive.

Vonheeder reported the county had received the $140,000 check from The Nature Conservancy for the Fairfield Creek bridge replacement project. She said she put the $140,000 into the county’s inheritance tax fund.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Jan. 4.

* Hospital Board approves proceeding with USDA application

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

Following a public hearing Monday, the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees approved submitting a grant application to the USDA to complete a Covid treatment wing and install generators for the Ainsworth Family Clinic and for the CT scan equipment at the hospital.

Chief Financial Officer Tad Stearns told the board the USDA has allocated Covid relief funding for rural hospitals in each state.

“We have worked on this for a while on ways to put those funds to work,” Stearns said.

Stearns said the hospital has already been using one of its existing wings for Covid patients. The grant would allow the hospital to provide negative pressure to each room of the wing, which keeps air from recirculating to other rooms.

Stearns said neither the clinic nor the CT scan equipment currently have backup generators, so adding generators would help both continue operations during power outages.

The grant application is for $871,336, which would cover 75 percent of the $1.16 million project. The hospital would be responsible for $290,446. Stearns said the hospital has been awarded $358,000 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that could be used to offset the hospital’s portion of the project cost. With the CDC funds, the hospital is required to spend the money and then request reimbursement.

Stearns said the hospital received $3.2 million from the federal government in previous Covid funding as a critical access hospital. The hospital used those funds to purchase three UV cleaning units, seven mobile nursing stations, PPE, as well as upgrading the hospital’s laptop computers and telehealth system. The hospital received additional smaller grants of $81,000 and $50,000 during the pandemic.

If awarded, the hospital’s Covid wing would be able to accommodate eight patients.

Stearns said the guidelines of the grant are flexible once the funds are awarded.

Following the hearing, the board, with Trustee Jim Walz absent, approved proceeding with the application to the USDA.

* Agenda for Brown County Commissioners meeting Tuesday

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

5:15 – 5:20             Roll Call;

Approve minutes of the 12-7-2021 Commissioner meeting;

5:20                            Gary Steele review/discuss/accept/reject bids for Meadville Road project – Gary Steele

                                    Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

                                    Update on GIS tab/Orion System – Kenny Turpin/Traci Ganser

5:30                            Jason Vaisvilas w/KBR Rural Public Power Re: Utility easement – Vaisvilas           

             Open sealed bids for Heating/Air conditioner units – Taylor

Lawn Care Contract between Brown County and Paulson Lawn Care Services – Taylor

                                    Set Elected Officials wages for the January 2023- January 2027 official terms – Hobbs

                                    Resolution regarding grant funding for community fishing pond project – Taylor

                                    Sign Permit #802002437NB, Renewal, KBR Solid Waste, land located on the North side of Highway 20 East of Ainsworth, Land owned by Nebraska Public Power District– Hobbs

                                    Homestead Bank 2022 ACH Calendar – Hardy

                                    Public Comment

                                    Approve Claims

Closed session pursuant to 84-1410 NRS to discuss legal consequences of the County Grievance procedure – Taylor

* Confirmed COVID cases decline during past week in area

(Posted 3:15 p.m. Dec. 20)

The number of new COVID-19 cases confirmed in the nine counties served by the North Central District Health Department declined during the past week, with 88 new cases confirmed. That’s down from close to 200 cases per week over the past few weeks. 

During the past week, 173 people have been deemed to have recovered from the virus, with two deaths attributed to the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services now recommends for the prevention of COVID-19, a clinical preference is for individuals to receive an initial mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series from Moderna or Pfizer over receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This is recommended following a review of the latest evidence on vaccine effectiveness, vaccine safety and rare adverse events. Receiving any vaccine is better than being unvaccinated, but the CDC is encouraging Moderna or Pfizer vaccination series for those who have not gotten any COVID-19 vaccines yet.

Everyone ages 18 and older can get a COVID-19 booster shot. To be eligible after the Pfizer or Moderna primary two-dose series, an individual needs to wait at least six months after completion of the second vaccine dose. To be eligible after a Johnson and Johnson primary dose, an individual needs to wait at least two months after the initial shot.

Persons may choose to receive any authorized or approved vaccine booster dose currently available, Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson, regardless of which primary series they received.

Pfizer booster doses are approved for 16- and 17-year-olds. Individuals 16- or 17-years old who received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination series may get a Pfizer COVID-19 Booster, if desired, six months after their second dose of their series.

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for children aged 5-11 years old. NCDHD will offer youth doses during NCDHD sponsored vaccine clinics. A second dose is required 21-42 days after first dose to attain maximum immunity. NCDHD requires children under 12 years of age to have a parent, guardian, or other trusted family member/friend over age 19 accompany them to the clinic, and a parent or guardian must sign the child’s vaccination form.

The next area vaccination clinic is scheduled for 1 until 5:30 p.m. Dec. 28 in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

A total of 75.3 percent of those 16 years of age and older in the nine counties served by the NCDHD are fully vaccinated, with 27,041 people completing the vaccination series. Another 6,431 people have received one dose in a two-dose series.

The Cherry County Hospital offers free COVID-19 testing on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 2 until 3 p.m. Call the Cherry County Hospital by noon on the day of the test at 402-376-2525 to get on the schedule. 

* Arens, Engles graduate from UN-L

(Posted 7:15 a.m. Dec. 20)

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln conferred 1,344 degrees during commencement exercises Dec. 17 and 18 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

The 1,316 graduates are from 41 countries, 43 states and the District of Columbia, and more than 150 Nebraska communities.

The arena hosted a ceremony for students earning graduate and professional degrees Dec. 17 and one for those earning bachelor’s degrees Dec. 18.

In addition, the Class of 2020, as well as May and August 2021 graduates who were unable to attend their ceremonies, were celebrated during December commencement. About two dozen returned to be recognized.

Shane Farritor, Lederer Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Nebraska, delivered the undergraduate commencement address. Sarah Gervais, Susan J. Rosowski Professor of psychology at Nebraska, spoke to the graduate and professional degree earners.

Area graduates include:

Ainsworth

Jack Ritter Arens, College of Engineering, Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering with highest distinction.

Valentine

Kennedie Michelle Engles, College of Education and Human Sciences, Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

(Posted 4:30 p.m. Dec. 19)

December 12

The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred a
Long Pine resident to the Brown County Hospital.
Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing at the
intersection of Highway 183 and 20.

December 13

Provided civil standby for Ainsworth residents.
The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred a
Long Pine resident to the Brown County Hospital. This
patient was later transferred by the Brown County
Sheriff’s office to Faith Regional Hospital.
The Ainsworth Fire department responded to a dumpster
fire in Ainsworth city limits. The fire was contained to the
dumpster and no citation was issued at this time.
Received a vehicle parking complaint for an Ainsworth
residence. The vehicle owner was contacted and the
vehicle was towed.
The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred an
Ainsworth resident to the Brown County Hospital.

December 14

Booked an individual into the Brown County Jail for a
District Brown County court commitment for possession
of a controlled substance.
The Brown County Ambulance Association provided a
transfer to Brian East Hospital in Lincoln.

December 15

Responded to a one vehicle accident involving a pickup
attached to an enclosed trailer on Highway 183. No
injuries were reported, and the vehicle was towed. High
winds were a contributing factor.
National Weather Service issued a high wind warning
which was paged to Ainsworth Fire & Rescue

December 16

Responded to a two vehicle accident on Main St. No
injuries were reported, and one vehicle was towed.
Provided civil standby for DHHS and an Ainsworth
resident.

December 17

Received a report of a downed stop sign at the corner of
3rd & Walnut. Ainsworth City Roads Dept was advised.
Assisted an Ainsworth resident with steps to take to serve
and eviction notice on a tenant.
Responded to multiple calls of a dead deer in the roadway
in the Long Pine hills. The deer was removed from the
roadway. Initial vehicle making contact with the deer was
contacted and no accident report was needed at this time.
Received report of an erratic driver eastbound in eastern
Brown County. Called ahead to RCSO to notify of
incoming possible impared driver.

December 18

Booked an individual into the Brown County Jail for a
Brown County Court commitment for DUI-alcohol 1st
offense.

Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing Highway 7 at
Richardson Rd.
Provided traffic control for the funeral procession from
Hoch’s to the South Cemetery.
Responded to a report of an object hovering above an
Ainsworth business. No contact was made as the object
was no longer there when an officer responded.

Weekly Summary:

5 -Burn Permits Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)
0 -Handgun Permits Applied For
8 -Incident Reports Were Taken
5 -Paper Services Were Served
117 -Phone Calls Were Received
5 -911 Emergency Calls Received
6 -Titles Were Inspected

* Seven tornadoes reported in Nebraska Wednesday

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 16)

The National Weather Service has reports of seven tornadoes that touched down in Nebraska Wednesday as a fast-moving front took temperatures from the 60s to the 30s in less than two hours and brought straight-line wind gusts in excess of 90 mph.

The first tornado reported on the ground Wednesday came at 1:56 p.m. 3 miles west of Glenvil in south central Nebraska. That was followed closely at 2:14 p.m. with a tornado confirmed on the ground 1 mile south of Edgar.

At 2:30 p.m. north of the first two locations, a tornado was spotted on the ground 3 miles northeast of Marquette north of the Platte River. Farther north and east, at 3:04 p.m. a tornado took the roof off a house near Columbus. A second tornado touched the ground close by at 3:13 p.m. 2 miles southeast of Humphrey.

At 3:37 p.m. a tornado snapped numerous large trees and uprooted others two miles northeast of Davey in eastern Nebraska. A tornado was confirmed by a local fire department on the ground at 3:40 p.m. in northeast Nebraska near Beemer.

Three additional tornadoes were confirmed just across the Missouri River in western Iowa southeast of Sioux City between 4:15 and 4:30 p.m. A total of 10 tornadoes were confirmed on the ground in Iowa as the front exited Nebraska and moved to the northeast.

In addition to the tornadoes, an extreme rarity for Nebraska in December, hail between three-quarters of an inch and 1 inch in diameter was reported in St. Paul and Hastings, causing damage in both communities as it struck with the gusting wind.

Straight line wind gusts in excess of 90 mph were recorded in south central and southeastern Nebraska.

A gust of 93 mph was recorded at 3:30 p.m. 4 miles northwest of Lincoln. At 3:44 p.m. a recording station at Bennet picked up a gust of 92 mph and nearby at Eagle a gust of 90 mph was recorded. Offutt Air Force Base recorded a peak gust of 81 mph at 4:22 p.m.

The gusts weren’t as strong in north central Nebraska. Valentine recorded a peak gust of 61 mph at 5:29 p.m. A 64 mph gust was recorded at 6:30 p.m. 5 miles southwest of Bassett. O’Neill recorded a peak gust of 58 mph at 4:55 p.m.

Wind damage was reported in numerous locations across Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa from the straight-line winds.

* Recent cases from Brown County District Court

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Dec. 16)

During Brown County District Court proceedings Tuesday, Joseph S. Ward, 40, of Ainsworth appeared for sentencing after having been found guilty on charges of possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce.

Ward was sentenced Tuesday to 60 days in the Brown County Jail on the felony possession of a controlled substance count, and was fined a total of $400 on the two misdemeanor counts.

* Area students named Academic All-State by NSAA

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

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

Each year the NSAA and the NCPA recognize students during fall, winter, and spring seasons who are nominated by their schools for their individual academic excellence, leadership, and significant contributions in their NSAA activity.

Area Academic All-State Award winners are:

Ainsworth
Ben Flynn and Ty Schlueter in boys cross country, Maren Arens and Alyssa Erthum in girls cross country, Caleb Allen and Riggin Blumenstock in football, Haley Schroedl and Allison Taylor in girls golf, Alyssa Erthum and Elizabeth Wilkins in play production, and Eden Raymond and Elizabeth Wilkins in volleyball.

Keya Paha County
Daisy Frick in girls cross country, Ryan Painter in football and Jenna Hallock in volleyball.

Rock County
Mason Hagan and Ben Klemesrud in boys cross country, Mariah Ost in girls cross country, Dolan Pospichal in football, Kyra Anthony in play production, and Brooklyn Buell in volleyball.

Stuart
Katilynn Kaup in girls cross country, William Paxton and Cameron Sattler in football, Grace Alder and Taya Schmaderer in play production, and Cadence Kramer and Lexi Schroder in volleyball.

West Holt
Carter Gotschall and Tyler Jelinek in boys cross country, Maddie Davis and Rylee Poessnecker in girls cross country, Caid McCart and Nate Wallinger in football, Sadie Jarecke and Landyn Mlady in girls golf, Landyn Mlady and Nate Wallinger in play production, and Maci Nemetz and EmiLee Walnofer in volleyball.

Sandhills
Miriam Ganoung in girls cross country and play production, Reece Zutavern in football, Courtney Swisher in play production and volleyball.

* Arens to graduate from honors program at UN-L

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 15)

Eighteen graduating seniors have completed the requirements of the University Honors Program at Nebraska.

To graduate from the Honors Program, students must maintain at least a 3.5 grade-point average, complete a culminating senior project or research thesis, and fulfill other curricular requirements.

These students join the 195 students who graduated from the Honors Program in May and August. It is the most honors graduates in a calendar year in the program’s 34-year history.

Among the 18 honors program graduates is Jack Arens of Ainsworth in the College of Engineering.

* Sandhills Care Center dealing with staffing shortage

(Posted 1 p.m. Dec. 14)

The Sandhills Care Center received a more than $40,000 federal stimulus payment in November, helping the facility offset a month that saw more than $44,000 spent on agency staffing.

Administrator Penny Jacobs reported the care center received $40,041 during the latest round of federal stimulus paid to medical facilities during the pandemic.

Coupled with $150,249 in revenue generated in November, the grant softened what would have otherwise been a month deep in the red. Expenses during November totaled $208,198 for a net loss of $17,907 for the month. Jacobs said the facility would receive some retroactive Medicaid reimbursement after one resident transitioned from private pay to Medicaid.

Staffing remains an issue for nursing homes across the region, and the Sandhills Care Center spent $44,849 on agency staffing to fill open shifts.

In an effort to help agency staff with living arrangements while they work for the care center, the board discussed renting property and recouping the cost by charging the agency staff rent.

Board member Shawn Fernau presented a proposal from Casey Jones for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home he has available for rent.

Fernau said Jones proposed charging $1,500 per month for the furnished property, with all utilities, lawn care and snow removal included in that cost. The care center can place up to three agency staff members in the home and charge those agency staff members to rent the property.

Fernau said having a place for agency staff to stay was a much better option than a hotel, as the property had a full kitchen and living room in addition to each person having a private bedroom. He said the property also was equipped with a washer and dryer as well as being fully furnished.

The board also discussed renting a unit from Trailside Apartments. Those two-bedroom units cost $775 per month with the renter also responsible for paying utilities.

Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said the idea would be for the care center to rent the property then collect from the agency staff staying there.

“We can have Penny talk to those staff members and see if they would be more willing to come here and stay if this option was available,” Fuchs said. “It is a way to facilitate getting staff here and still covering our costs. With the situation we are in with as many agency staff members as we have, this could help recruit that staff.”

Jacobs said it would be beneficial to have that option available for agency staff members. She said the nursing home currently employed six agency staff members, two nurses and four CNAs.

Many agency staff members currently stay in a hotel during their committed time to the nursing home, with costs for a hotel room running $425 per week.

The board approved a three-month trial of renting the property from Jones at a cost of $1,500 per month. The care center will then charge rent to any agency staff who chooses to stay there.

Jacobs reported five or six staff members were taking advantage of the new health insurance premium benefit being offered by the care center. She said there were two or three additional staff members now on insurance who had not been previously.

“It is nice to be able to offer that benefit,” Jacobs said. “It gives us a fighting chance.”

Staffing remains an issue, as Jacobs said the care center is again in need of a director of nursing. The previous director is no longer with the care center, but since the employee was there for more than 90 days, the care center does not receive any rebate from the $17,000 it paid to a recruiting company to hire that position.

In addition to a DON, the care center is short a registered charge nurse, a business office manager, housekeeping, laundry and dietary positions. She said the care center did hire an activities manager.

While they have enough CNAs thanks to agency staffing, the facility could use in-house certified nurses assistants.

She said state surveyors were in the building Monday after receiving complaints regarding the care center’s nursing staff levels. She said the state director did not flag the facility as being in immediate jeopardy, but the care center has to provide a plan of correction regarding its nursing coverage. That starts, she said, with getting a director of nursing hired. She said the care center has an agency director of nursing hired to arrive in mid January but the facility may be out of compliance until that time unless it can find someone willing to serve as an interim nursing director.

Board member Dr. Mel Campbell said the care center was obviously not the only medical facility struggling to find staff.

Board member Tom Jones said nurses get paid much more to work for these agencies, so that is where they go. Campbell said even the agencies are having trouble finding enough staff.

Jacobs reported to the board the nursing home is now out of quarantine and is open again for families to visit.

She said the care center admitted four new residents during the past month, all from a Valentine facility that recently closed. Four residents died during the past month, leaving 18 current residents. Of those, seven are paying privately and 11 are receiving Medicaid assistance. She said the nursing home planned to keep resident levels where they are until the staffing situation improves.

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

* Child center finalizing purchase of Technologent building

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 14)

Representatives from the non-profit Ainsworth Child Development Center provided the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education with an update Monday of the group’s effort to open a childcare center in the community.

Nancy Steinhauser told the board the group was in the process of completing the purchase of the Technologent building, and will then exchange that building with the Church of the Nazarene for The Connection. Steinhauser said the group hoped to close the purchase by the end of the year.

“We went with The Connection because we needed green space for a playground,” Steinhauser said. “The church was willing to work with us. They won’t have to make many changes to the Technologent building.”

Steinhauser said the non-profit received a $200,000 grant from the Scott Foundation to move forward with the purchase of the building. She said the group also received $10,000 per year for the next three years from the Community For Kids organization, and was awarded $20,000 from the Brown County Foundation.

Devyn France said the total project cost to establish the child development center was estimated at $1.5 million. She said the non-profit would begin a capital campaign next year.

Superintendent Dale Hafer asked when the group planned to begin serving kids.

Steinhauser said, by this time next year, the group hoped to be open and operating. France said the plan is to be able to accommodate 46 children, including 12 infants, 12 toddlers up to age three, and then have additional rooms for three-year-old and four-year-old children.

Board member Brad Wilkins said he hoped employers would get behind the project.

“They will be the real beneficiaries,” Wilkins said.

Steinhauser broached the possibility of working with the school and Lunchtime Solutions to provide breakfast and lunch to the facility once opened. She said it would be much more cost effective to work with the school for meal service instead of trying to build a commercial kitchen in the building and employ a cook.

In other business Monday, Hafer reported the Niobrara Valley Conference members had denied the school’s application for entry into the NVC. The school needed 12 votes in favor to become a member. Just seven of the 16 districts voted in favor, with nine schools voting against Ainsworth’s admittance.

“The reasons varied, but the schools that voted against cited the size of our school and the distance to travel,” Hafer said. “We are an active member of the Southwest Conference for now. We will keep our eyes open for other opportunities.”

In action items Monday, the board approved the 2022-23 negotiated agreement with certified staff. The agreement will result in an approximately 4 percent increase in total compensation for certified staff for the 2022-23 year.

Wilkins said, “This fell in line with what other schools were doing. Health insurance went up 5.4 percent. I felt we had fair negotiations with the staff.”

Board member Scott Erthum said he appreciated the open discussion the board’s negotiating team had with representatives of the staff.

Hafer said the district falls right in the middle of the array of similar schools with the compensation package it offers.

The board approved the second reading of a policy regarding fiscal management internal controls as recommended by the Nebraska Association of School Boards. Hafer congratulated Wilkins on being elected as the NASB State President during the recent state conference.

In a final action item, the board approved an option enrollment request from Jessie Winter to allow her third-grade son Everett Wietjes to attend Rock County Public School. Hafer said the family moved to Long Pine but has connections to Bassett.

The board held an executive session to discuss the superintendent’s evaluation and contract for 2022-23. Following the executive session, the board approved a contract with Hafer to serve as superintendent for the 2022-23 school year.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 10.

* NCDHD reports increasing number of vaccinated residents

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 194 new COVID-19 cases in the district during the past week, with 400 cases confirmed in the past two weeks.

The number of vaccinated residents in the nine-county district continues to rise, with 26,393 people fully vaccinated representing 73.5 percent of those age 16 and older. Another 5,917 people have received one dose in a two-dose series.

Everyone ages 18 and older can get a COVID-19 booster shot. To be eligible after the Pfizer or Moderna primary two-dose series, an individual needs to wait at least six months after completion of the second vaccine dose. To be eligible after a Johnson and Johnson dose, an individual needs to wait at least two months after the shot.

Those getting a booster may choose to receive any authorized or approved vaccine booster dose currently available, regardless of which primary series they received.  

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for children aged 5-11 years old. NCDHD is offering dose for that age group during NCDHD sponsored vaccine clinics. A second dose is required 21-42 days after first dose to attain maximum immunity. NCDHD requires children under 12 years of age to have a parent, guardian, or other trusted family member/friend over age 19 accompany them at clinic. A parent or guardian must sign the child’s vaccination form.

The only vaccination clinic in the area this week is scheduled from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday in the North Central District Health Department office at O’Neill. The next clinics in the area will be after the holiday, Dec. 28 in the Ainsworth Community Center from 1 until 5:30 p.m.

* Area students to graduate Friday from UNK

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Dec. 13)

Graduate and undergraduate degrees will be conferred for 387 winter graduates at University of Nebraska at Kearney commencement exercises at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 17, in UNK’s Health and Sports Center.

Area students scheduled to graduate from UNK include:

Ainsworth – Britley Schlueter, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education and special education. Schlueter is graduating Summa Cum Laude.

Stuart – Kelsey Kaup, a Master of Arts degree in education, curriculum and instruction – instructional effectiveness.

Atkinson – Amanda Torpy, a Bachelor of Science degree in sociology.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

(Posted 6 a.m. Dec. 13)

December 5

  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing East of Ainsworth on Hwy 20.
  • Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after posting bond.

December 6

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred an Ainsworth resident from rural Brown County to the Brown County Hospital. They also transferred this patient to Rock County Hospital and back to Brown County Hospital due to maintenance on an imaging machine.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred an Ainsworth resident to the Brown County Hospital.

December 7

  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing on West Highway 20.

December 8

  • Received a phone notification for a security alarm going off for a Brown County residence. This was found to be a false alarm.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check on an Ainsworth resident. This individual was contacted and reported safe.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred an air crew from the Ainsworth Regional Airport to pick up a patient at the Brown County Hospital.
  • Received an animal neglect complaint for a Long Pine residence.

December 9

  • Received complaints of a dog at large on 2nd st. The owner was contacted to return the dog to it’s home.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check on three juveniles living in Ainsworth. Juveniles were located and reported safe.
  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing on South Highway 7.
  • An Ainsworth resident was served an arrest warrant for domestic assault. They were booked into the Brown County Jail and released after posting bond.
  • During a traffic stop a Long Pine resident was issued a citation for speeding 11-15 mph.

December 10

  • Responded to a 911 call involving a Rock County resident. A pickup with one passenger lost control with icy road conditions, and collided with a powerline pole East of Ainsworth on Highway 20.  No injuries to report, damage did occur to the pole, and the vehicle was towed.
  • Received a report of a disturbance that occurred at the Conoco Speedee Mart. One individual was given a verbal warning to not return to the business.  This is an ongoing investigation.

December 11

  • During a traffic stop a Cherry County resident was issued a written warning for speeding.

Weekly Summary:

8-Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts) 

          3-Handgun Permits Applied For

11-Incident Reports Were Taken

3-Paper Services Were Served

154-Phone Calls Were Received

11-911 Emergency Calls Received

4-Titles Were Inspected

* Theft of equipment reported in Rock County

(Posted 1 p.m. Dec. 9)

The Rock County Sheriff’s Department is asking the public for information regarding two recent thefts that occurred in rural Rock County.

Sometime in September or October, someone stole a Midsota 22-foot flatbed trailer from 9 miles south of Bassett. Also, on Oct. 1, a red and black Bush Hog was stolen north of Bassett near Road 885 and 452nd Avenue.

Anyone with information on either theft is asked to contact the Rock County Sheriff’s Department at 402-684-3811.

* NPPD Board approves having no rate increase for 2022

(Posted 1 p.m. Dec. 9)

Nebraska Public Power District wholesale and retail customers will see no overall increase in electric rates for 2022, in addition to receiving the same production cost adjustment credit as in 2021.

On Thursday, the NPPD Board of Directors voted to keep wholesale and retail rates stable for 2022. This means there will be no overall increase in rates for retail customers for the ninth consecutive year, as well as no overall increase for wholesale customers (public power districts and municipalities) who purchase electricity from NPPD for the fifth straight year. While no overall increase in wholesale rates will occur, changes are being proposed to certain rates to better reflect the cost of providing these services. The approved 2022 wholesale rates will go into effect on February 1, 2022.

“No increase in our electric rates is good for the economy of Nebraska and the people who live and work here,” said NPPD President and CEO Tom Kent. “The NPPD team is constantly working to maintain rate competitiveness on a regional and national scale and being able to provide another year of rate stability is something we’re proud of.”

On the wholesale side, rural public power districts and municipalities will continue to see a PCA credit on their bill. NPPD’s Board voted to return $74.2 million in rate stabilization funds back to its wholesale customers, 38 municipalities and 23 rural public power districts and rural cooperatives, through the PCA which will run from February 2022 to January 2023.

NPPD benchmarks its wholesale rate with roughly 800 members of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation’s on a yearly basis.  Several years ago, NPPD established a goal of being in CFC’s lowest quartile (below the 25-percentile mark) and accomplished that goal, sitting at the 23.2-percentile mark in the most recent benchmarking conducted in 2020. “This is a great achievement for NPPD and our customers, as we strive to deliver reliable, low-cost and sustainable energy” added Kent.

NPPD will enter a ninth year without a base rate increase for its retail customers which includes residential, commercial and industrial customers in 79 communities in NPPD’s service territory. Those NPPD retail customers who receive a bill directly from NPPD will continue to see a PCA credit on their monthly bill between February 2022 through January 2023.

In addition to keeping base rates stable for 2022, NPPD also offers a separate RateWise Time-of-Use rate to retail customers, which allows them to see some potential savings benefits if they shift the bulk of their energy usage to certain times of the day. Learn more about this program at https://www.nppd.com/rates/for-your-home

* Council votes to pursue keeping garbage service in-house

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 9)

After months of discussion, the Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday voted to keep having the city provide garbage service to the community and pursue the purchase of a new truck and totes instead of contracting with a private company for garbage pickup service.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the city office had received calls or letters from 28 residents, 22 of whom preferred the city keep providing garbage service while six preferred contracting with J&J Sanitation.

Council members Brad Fiala and Vance Heyer said the sentiment was about 50-50 from the residents who had spoken to them about the issue. Councilman Schyler Schenk said he heard from three community members, two of whom wanted the city to keep the service and the other preferring to go with a smaller private company in either Atkinson or Valentine for the service.

Heyer said he heard more from people wanting the city to continue to offer alley pickup instead of moving to all curbside.

An audience member asked why garbage could not continue to be picked up in the alley under either proposal.

Schroedl said overhead power lines in the alleys would create an issue with a new side-dump garbage truck that lifts totes up into the top of the box instead of the current rear-load truck.

Heyer said picking garbage up in alleys also causes wear and tear on both the garbage truck and the alley. Alley service will continue to be offered on both sides of Main Street, where the alleys are paved.

Audience member Spencer Shifflet said this issue came up a couple years ago in the community he was previously living in. He said after contracting for garbage service, the costs went up and the service went downhill.

“Any time you can keep something local, it is better,” Shifflet said.

Heyer said he spoke with three communities who were satisfied with the service provided by J&J Sanitation.

Fiala said he spoke with residents in Rock County who indicated they were happy with J&J.

“I have been back and forth on this several times,” Fiala said. “I lean toward locking in our costs, but I would like to keep it in house.”

Heyer said, by contracting the pickup service to J&J, the city knows what it will pay over the period of the contract.

“A contract removes the risk,” Heyer said. “Staffing is an issue. It will take fewer people to run the new truck, but we sacrifice the productivity of other departments to run the garbage truck.”

Heyer said, if the council opted to keep providing the service, he believed the service should pay for itself and the city should not use debt service to reduce costs.

“We should use those funds for other infrastructure projects,” Heyer said.

Schenk said, if the city used debt service to help pay for the new truck, it would not have to raise rates as high as the current proposals. He said the city could also look at dropping rates after the new truck is paid off.

Schroedl said the city has access to grant opportunities that a private business does not.

“That sales tax is there to service debt,” Schroedl said. “It is a tool that can be used.”

Audience member John Halbersleben asked if the council would include an opt-out for residents who would prefer to simply haul their garbage to the transfer station themselves.
“I only have to put garbage out about once every five or six weeks,” Halbersleben said. “I recycle everything I can. I think there should be an opt-out provision. I was on the council in the 90s when we set up the transfer station, and the idea was to set up a recycling center and try to recycle what we could.”

Fiala said, if the city provided an opt-out on garbage pickup service, there would be a lot of people who would opt out and that would push costs higher for those who stay on the service.

“Some people would let their trash pile up before they take it out themselves,” Fiala said.

Halbersleben asked if there could be some kind of incentive provided to residents who recycle their cardboard, paper, tin and aluminum.

“It is now $32 per ton for the tipping fee to Lexington,” Halbersleben said. “The transfer station just got $200 per bale for cardboard. I want to keep that going out there.”

He estimated only about 50 percent of cardboard is currently recycled.

KBR Solid Waste Committee member Bruce Papstein said logistics were an issue with providing incentives for recycling, but there could be a way to provide some kind of credit incentive.

“It is just tough to figure out an easy way to do that,” Papstein said.

He said the KBR Solid Waste Transfer Station has had a good run recently on prices for cardboard, newspaper, tin and aluminum, but that was not always the case.

“We kept aluminum for two years before we got a decent price,” Papstein said. “That revenue does help us out. It lets us replace equipment, but there has to be a market for that material.”

Mayor Joel Klammer said the discussion was turning from the original issue.

“The question we need to answer tonight is, is the city going to do it or contract it?” Klammer said.

Fiala asked how long it would take for a new truck to arrive if the council opted to order one.

Schroedl said the company had trucks available the last time she inquired about a month ago.

Heyer said, though he was initially in favor of contracting for the service, if there was the potential to work with KBR Solid Waste on potential staffing resources, he would be open to the city keeping the service.

Fiala moved to have the city pursue retaining the service and get specific prices on the cost of a new truck and totes. Schenk seconded the motion and, by a 3-0 vote with Councilman Shawn Fernau absent due to illness, the council approved pursuing having the city retain garbage pickup service in-house.

In other business Wednesday, Shifflet, the new feed operations manager for the Central Valley Ag feed mill, introduced himself to the council and produced information on a recent inspection by the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy that found no environmental violations.

“During my second day on the job, I was made aware of a potential air quality issue,” Shifflet said. “I spoke with the Department of Environment and Energy representative and gave him a full tour of the feed mill.”

Shifflet said the Central Valley Ag Board had voted to put $1.5 million of improvements into the feed mill next summer.

“We are replacing the cyclones with new variable drive fans that can run at different speeds based on the type of feed we are making,” Shifflet said.

Fiala said he has not seen any of the yellow dust in the past couple weeks. Fiala said it appears the dust originates from the pellet mill vents.

Audience member Ann Fiala said the past year has not been good.

“I appreciate your attention to this,” she said. “It does seem to have calmed down considerably since the issue was brought up.”

Klammer thanked Shifflet for visiting with the council, and said he appreciated that the company was working to eliminate the issue.

Dan Spier addressed the council about Highway 7 detour routes for the next carnival and the upcoming highway renovation project.

“Where will the detour be for Highway 7 when it undergoes construction?” Spier asked. “Has that process been started? What happens when if a concrete street we had to help pay for is damaged by truck traffic from a detour route?”

Schroedl said it will be the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s decision on which detour route to use. The NDOT will work with the city on selecting options and then hold a public hearing before choosing a route.

“The city has used First Street to Osborne Street, and South Street to Oak Street,” Schroedl said. “We don’t know at this point how far out water and sewer replacements are going to go.”

Heyer said the county road south of Ainsworth that goes east to the Cemetery Road and onto Pine Street is the best route. The issue was whether the county road running east and west was wide enough to accommodate the potential of two semis meeting each other after the county worked to deepen the ditches on that stretch of road.

“We have some time to work on that route before we need to use it,” Heyer said. “We can work with the county between now and then to widen that county road. We have time to get a solution.”

Spier said he wanted to be a part of the conversation before the decision is made.

In other action items, the council approved signing the year-end certification of City Streets Superintendent Lloyd Smith with Niobrara Valley Consultants of Valentine. Schroedl said Smith serves as the city’s streets superintendent and prepares the city’s one- and six-year streets plan. By having a certified streets superintendent, Schroedl said the city receives an incentive payment from the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

The council approved a resolution allowing the mayor to sign a retainer agreement with Heather Sikyta to serve as the city’s LB 840 attorney. Schroedl said Sikyta has been serving in that capacity, and there were no changes from last year’s agreement. The fee would also stay the same as the past year.

The council voted to declare several vehicles and pieces of equipment as surplus items and will auction the items through Big Iron. The surplus items include a 1986 Chevy flatbed pickup, a 1998 Elgin street sweeper, a 1994 John Deere loader, a 1994 International dump truck, a 1956 Ford tractor, a 1992 Ford garbage truck, a 1998 John Deere rotary mower, a 1978 John Deere 770 Patrol, and a 2010 Woods rotary mower.

The council also approved ratifying action taken by Schroedl as the city’s representative to the League Association of Risk Management from its meeting Oct. 22, 2020, including the election of nominees to the LARM Board. Schroedl said she serves as the city’s LARM representative and also as the representative for KBR Solid Waste. She said LARM annually asks councils to ratify the actions taken by their representative during the meeting.

During her report, Schroedl told the council the Conference Center gym floor repairs had been completed, but the city was withholding $1,000 from the final payment until some finish work was completed by the contractor.

She said the city was still trying to get cross connection surveys completed by residents. Schroedl said Water Superintendent Brad Miller had contacted businesses and has those surveys completed, but as of a few days ago there were about 380 residences that still needed to complete the mandatory survey.

Schroedl reported the new street sweeper has been delivered and the streets department was out running the machine ahead of potential snowfall later this week.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for Jan. 12.

* Schroedl discusses garbage options council will consider

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

Ainsworth City Administrator Lisa Schroedl discussed the options the City Council will consider Wednesday as it determines whether to purchase a new garbage truck to continue to offer pickup service or whether the city will contract with J&J Sanitation.
After discussing the issue during the past two meetings, the council is likely to take action Wednesday.
To hear the conversation, listen to the link below.

* Agenda for Ainsworth City Council meeting Wednesday

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

Ainsworth City Council
Meeting 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 8
Ainsworth Conference Center
Agenda

  • Call to Order
  • I. Routine Business
    • Announcement of Open Meetings Act
    • Roll Call
    • Pledge of Allegiance
  • II. Consent Agenda – All items approved with the passage of one motion
    • Approve minutes from the November 10, 2021 regular meeting
    • Approval of claims
    • Treasurer’s report
    • Department head reports
    • Cemetery certificates
  • III. Mayor’s Appointments and Report
    • Mayor’s Report
    • Mayor’s Appointments:
      None
  • IV. Public Hearings
    • None
  • V. Old Business
    • Discuss and consider options for city garbage service
  • VI. Regular Agenda
    • CVA update on air quality issues – Spencer Shifflet
    • Request for discussion of Nebraska Highway 7 construction detour proposed location and carnival detour – Dan Spier
    • Discuss and consider Resolution #21-16: Signing of the year-end certification of city street superintendent 2021
    • Discuss and consider Resolution #21-17: Authorizing the Mayor to sign the retainer agreement for Heather Sikyta to act as the LB840 attorney for the City of Ainsworth
    • Consider a motion to ratify all actions of Lisa Schroedl, City of Ainsworth LARM representative, identified in the minutes of the LARM Virtual Annual Members’ Meeting of the League Association of Risk Management on October 22, 2020, including the election of nominees to the LARM Board of Directors
    • Consider Resolution #21-18: Regarding the declaration of surplus property and offering of property for sale by bid
    • City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Report
  • VII. Adjourn

* Agenda for Brown County Commissioners Tuesday meeting

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

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 7
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

05:15 – 05:20             Roll Call;

                                    Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

                                    Year-end Certification of County Highway Superintendent for determining Incentive Payment and Resolution – Turpin

05:30                          Susan Cook; Acting Supervisor – Niobrara Scenic River Event – Cook

                                    Service Agreement between Village of Johnstown and Brown County – Taylor

Lawn Care Contract between Brown County and Paulson Lawn Care Services – Taylor

                                    Set Elected Officials wages for the January 2023- January 2027 official terms – Hobbs

                                    Chandra Plate University of Nebraska Extension Inter local agreement with Brown, Rock & Keya Paha counties – Plate

                                    Resolution regarding grant funding for community fishing pond project – Taylor

                                    Memorandum of Understanding between Holt, Boyd, Wheeler & Brown Counties for Diversion Program – Taylor

                                    Sign Permit Renewal – Hobbs

                                    Resolution – Budgeted Transfer from Highway Buyback Fund to Highway Bond Fund, $117,859.58 – Vonheeder

                                    Board approval to pay County Highway Bond payment, Hospital Bond payment and to pay Brown County Solid Waste for surplus equipment sold with Big Iron Auction – Vonheeder

                                    Budgeted Transfer from Miscellaneous General within General to Reappraisal of $8,000.00 – Hardy

* NCDHD counties top 70 percent fully vaccinated

(Posted 3:45 p.m. Dec. 6)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 206 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in the nine-county district during the past week.

Everyone ages 18 and older can get a COVID-19 booster shot. To be eligible after the Pfizer or Moderna primary two-dose series, an individual needs to wait at least six months after completion of the second vaccine dose. To be eligible after a Johnson and Johnson primary dose, an individual needs to wait at least two months after the shot.

Persons may choose to receive any authorized or approved vaccine booster dose currently available, regardless of which primary series they received.

There are several vaccination clinics available this week for those who want to receive their primary vaccination or a booster dose.

On Tuesday, vaccinations are available from 9 until 11:30 a.m. and from 1 until 4:30 p.m. in the Greater Sandhills Family Healthcare clinic at Atkinson, and from 1 until 5 p.m. in Mid-Plains Community College at Valentine.

Wednesday, children 5 to 11 can receive a vaccine dose from 9 until 11:30 a.m. and from 1 until 4:15 p.m. in the Greater Sandhills Family Healthcare clinics at Bassett and Atkinson.

A vaccination clinic for everyone is available from 2 until 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Butte Community Center.

On Thursday, vaccinations will be administered from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. in the North Central District Health Department office at O’Neill, and the Moderna vaccine is available from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Thursday in the Cherry County Hospital specialty clinic at Valentine.

A total of 25,237 people in the nine counties served by the North Central District Health Department are now fully vaccinated, which represents 70.3 percent of the population. Another 5,005 people have received one dose in a two-dose vaccine series.

The Cherry County Hospital is offering free rapid COVID-19 testing on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 2 until 3 p.m.. To register, call the Cherry County Hospital at 402-376-2525.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

(Posted 6:15 a.m. Dec. 6)

November 28

  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing, South on Highway 7, starting at the Elsmere road.
  • Provided assistance at the Ainsworth High School for an uncooperative student.

November 29

  • Released an inmate on bond from the Brown County Jail.
  • Provided civil standby in Long Pine.
  • Received a report of vandalism that occurred to a vehicle in Johnstown.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20, East of Ainsworth, an out of state female was issued a citation for Drive left of center, No proof of insurance, Possess or use drug paraphernalia, and Fail to renew registration.

November 30

  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing on Highway 7, South of Ainsworth.
  • Received a traffic complaint for an erratic driving Minivan that was Eastbound on Highway 20 in Rock County. All information was passed to the Rock County Sheriff’s office.
  • Received a report of an assault that occurred to an Ainsworth resident. This is an ongoing investigation.

December 1

  • Booked an individual into the Brown County Jail for a court commitment.
  • Released an individual from the Brown County Jail for completion of a court commitment.
  • Responded to a one vehicle deer accident, with no injuries. The vehicle was towed.

December 2

  • Responded to a report of a juvenile shooting a pellet rifle inside city limits.
  • Provided a civil standby on Main St for a tenant to remove their property from a rental.

December 3

  • Booked an individual into the Brown County Jail who was issued a citation for assault by strangulation.

December 4th

  • During a traffic stop, a South Dakota female was issued a citation for Possess/consume open alcohol container, DUI-alcohol-2nd offense, Commit child abuse negligently/no injury, No operator’s license.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association provided transfer for a flight crew from the airport to Brown County Hospital.
  • Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.

Weekly Summary:

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

            4-Handgun Permits Applied For

9-Incident Reports Were Taken

4-Paper Services Were Served

149-Phone Calls Were Received

5-911 Emergency Calls Received

4-Titles Were Inspected

November Monthly Summary:

4– Accidents

9-Arrests

62– Calls for Service

15– Citations were issued

1– Defect Cards issued

15– Handgun permits issued

30– Paper Service served

707– Phone calls were received

43– 911 emergency calls received

16- Titles inspected

* Submit nominees for Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame

(Posted 6:15: a.m. Dec. 6)

Nominations for the 2022 Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame are due by December 31. Started in 2006, the Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame recognizes the men and women who have made a lasting contribution to the Sandhills and the cowboy way of life.

Nomination forms are available by contacting any board member or Executive Secretary Rod Palmer at PO Box 127, Ainsworth, or calling 402-387-2212. Nominees must be 50 years or older or deceased. The nominee must fit the following criteria: “The Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the western lifestyle or horse culture in the area of competition, business, or support of rodeo in the Sandhills of Nebraska. This includes rodeo, ranching, rodeo stock contractors, western arts, western entertainment and special achievement awards.”

Online nomination forms are located at the website: www.sandhillscowboys.com  

* Omicron COVID variant found in Nebraska

(Posted noon Dec. 3)

The Department of Health and Human Services, the Nebraska Public Health Solutions District, and the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory have detected six cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 among Nebraska residents.

The first case was likely exposed during international travel to Nigeria, returned on November 23, and became symptomatic on November 24. The five remaining cases were likely exposed through household contact with the first case. Only one of the six cases were vaccinated. None have required hospitalization.

DHHS Acting State Epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Donahue said, “Coronavirus will continue to be with us forever. The identification of the latest variant, Omicron reinforces the importance of Nebraskans to get vaccinated. The more Nebraskans are vaccinated, the less opportunity new COVID variants will have to take hold in the state. With delta, which is the current predominant variant, unvaccinated Nebraskans are filling hospitals at a rate 10 times higher than vaccinated Nebraskans. We are doing our part to find new variants when they emerge and arrive in the state, older Nebraskans have done their part in getting vaccinated at high rates; we need younger Nebraskans to keep stepping up to protect themselves and each other by choosing to get vaccinated.”

DHHS has built and maintains a strong statewide genomic surveillance program that includes a consortium of local and state epidemiologists, and laboratory experts: the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory, Creighton University, and the UNMC College of Public Health. For this identification, the patient self-identified their travel history, sought testing, and alerted the local health department. The local health department promptly investigated and coordinated testing for sequencing to identify a variant, and sequencing was rapidly completed through NPHL. Dr. Peter Iwen and Dr. Baha Abdalhamid at NPHL identified the Omicron variant of COVID using the Clear Labs next generation whole genome sequencer and the identification was made available for public health response immediately. Testing platforms will still produce a “positive” result for the Omicron variant (and other variants). The state of Nebraska has fully vaccinated 62.4% of eligible residents. The state boasts an 87% vaccination rate of adults 65 plus.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 10 a.m. Dec. 2)

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

Skylar A. Marshall, age 32, of Gregory, S.D., attempting a Class 4 felony, fined $1,000; also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Loren R. Sheets, 51, of Morrison, Colo., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Kahler L. Addison, 27, of Valentine, defective signal equipment, $25.

Dustin C. Ouellette, 25, of Peyton, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Trisha L. Wicks, 56, of Waukee, Iowa, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Carlos Lopez, 39, of Loup City, no operator’s license, $75.

Joseph R. Calvo, 24, of Bassett, first offense driving under the influence, $500, six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; attempting a Class 1 misdemeanor, $1,000 and six months of probation.

Molly Salzman, 19, of Ainsworth, minor in possession, $300.

Drake D. Harrington, 24, of Mineola, Iowa, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Shawn M. Englin, 41, of Batle Lake, Minn., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Emily L. Cowles, 27, of Albuquerque, N.M., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Gregory F. Paul, 48, of Ord, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

George W. Chamberlain, 18, of Ainsworth, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

James A. Hadden, 32, of Spofford, N.H., possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Eugene L. Hodge, 35, of Johnstown, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Alfonso Hilario, 30, of Ainsworth, first offense willful reckless driving, $500; failure to use a turn signal, $25.

Nathaniel Clark, 49, of Somerswet, Ky., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Katelyn R. Fanta, 19, of Dannebrog, first offense reckless driving, $500; minor in possession, $100; driving left of center, $25; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Jayden D. Garrett, 21, of Springview, taking possession of fish without a permit, $100.

Philip Boampong, 31, of Denver, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

James A. Raymond, 42, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, seven days in jail, driver’s license revoked for six months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; refusal to submit to a pretest, $100.

Michael L. Mahoney, 60, of St. Charles, Mo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Thomas E. Smith, 64, of Deforest, Wis., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Suzanne R. Fox, 32, of Warren, Ohio, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

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