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* Funeral Service notes: (see more on the obituaries page) 

* Theresa M. Krysl, 89, of Stuart 10:30 a.m. May 4

* Beulah Focken, 92, of rural Newport 2 p.m. May 1

* Verny Krieger, 79, of Bassett 10:30 a.m. May 1

* Herris Lambley, 82, of Herrick, S.D. 10:30 a.m. April 30

* Meeting reports located below for:

April 21 Brown County Commissioners

April 14 Ainsworth City Council

April 13 Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors

April 13 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

April 7 Brown County Commissioners

March 31 Brown County Planning Commission special meeting

* All-Sports Tailgate Party returns after year absence

(Posted 7 a.m. April 28)

After missing a year due to the pandemic, Ainsworth High School athletes were recognized Tuesday during the All-Sports Tailgate Party.

With a meal hosted by the Ainsworth Lions Club, coaches and sponsors recognized their teams and presented year-end awards.

Cheer coach Juli Murphy and Pom coach Caren Fernau recognized their squads. Murphy recognized seniors CeeAnna Beel, Josie Ganser, Adriana Hood, Cailin Orton, Elizabeth Smith and Madison Welch, all of whom were either three-year or four-year members.

Fernau recognized seniors Moriah Beel, Mila Pozehl, Molly Salzman, Madison Welch and Ellie Welke, all either three-year or four-year members of the team.

Cross country coach Jared Hansmeyer kicked off the fall sports presentations by naming Katherine Kerrigan and Ty Schlueter the cross country most valuable runners. Both were district champions and earned top five medals at the Nebraska State Cross Country Championships.

Hansmeyer recognized senior girls CeeAnna Beel, Moriah Beel and Molly Salzman for being a part of three state championship teams and a state runner-up team during their four years in cross country.

CeeAnna Beel and Ben Flynn were presented with the Team Player awards.

Girls golf coach Heather Lutter named senior Josie Ganser as the team’s most valuable player.

Football coach Jesse Owen recognized Caleb Allen for setting school career records in passing yards at 2,650 and rushing yards at 1,900. Owen named Allen the team’s MVP and the offensive MVP.

Traegan McNally received the defensive MVP award, and Riggin Blumenstock was named the special teams player of the year.

Owen presented a plaque to Cash Reynolds for being voted by his teammates as the Teammate of the Year.

Volleyball coach Jeri Graff recognized team members for setting several season and career records. Katrina Beel set the single season and career digs record. Summer Richardson set the single match set assists school record, as well as assist records for a season and career. Kaitlyn Nelson set the school’s career kills record.

Graff named Katrina Beel the team’s MVP, with Madelyn Goochey receiving the Hustle Award, Cameryn Goochey the Heart Award and Kendyl Delimont the Most Improved Player Award.

Turning to winter sports, wrestling coach Todd Pollock named Mila Pozehl the MVP of the newly created girls wrestling team. Pozehl finished sixth in her weight class at the Nebraska Girls State Championships.

Isaac Hood was named the boys wrestling MVP.

Girls basketball coach Stephen Crile recognized Bria Delimont for setting the school’s single season 3-point record with 50.

Crile named Kendyl Delimont the team’s MVP, with Bria Delimont the Offensive Player of the Year and Kaitlyn Nelson the Defensive Player of the Year. Crile presented Saylen Young and Tessa Barthel with the team’s Most Improved Player awards.

Boys basketball coach Jake Nelson recognized Carter Nelson for setting a school record with 11 blocks in a game.

Carter Nelson was presented with the team’s MVP Award. Caleb Allen received the Defensive MVP Award and Traegan McNally was named the Offensive MVP. Ben Barrow received the team’s Most Improved Player Award.

Ty Schlueter was selected as the recipient of the Bryent Wilkins Most Valuable Teammate Award.

Track and field coach Jake Nelson and boys golf coach Julie Micheel updated the audience on the teams’ seasons. Typically, the spring sports coaches present MVP awards from the previous season, but since those seasons were cancelled last year due to the pandemic there were no awards to present.

Bria Delimont and Kendyl Delimont shared the female Lifter of the Year Award, and Logan Hafer was named the male Lifter of the Year.

Katrina Beel and Moriah Beel were recognized as 12-sport athletes, competing in three sports during all four years of their high school careers.

The John Nelson Sportsmanship Award was presented to seniors Madison Welch and Logan Hafer.

* Two Highway 20 projects delayed, including in Ainsworth

(Posted 3 p.m. April 27)

The Nebraska Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that two projects on Highway 20 have been delayed.

District 8 Engineer Mark Kovar said concrete reconstruction of 1.5 miles in the Ainsworth city limits has been pushed back from this summer to next summer at the earliest.

“We did not receive any bids for that project,” Kovar said. “We have never had a project before that received no bids. I presume the contractors’ schedules were full and they couldn’t build it this year.”

Kovar said the NDOT will let bids for that project again this summer, with construction to commence in the summer of 2022.

With the Highway 20 reconstruction project in Ainsworth delayed until 2022, Kovar said the NDOT made the decision to delay the Highway 20 bridge repair project near Long Pine over Pine Creek until 2023. That project was scheduled to be bid this year for 2022 construction.

“We delayed the bridge project because we didn’t want it under construction at the same time as the project in Ainsworth,” Kovar said. “Most of the gravel for the Ainsworth project will come from the Atkinson area, so we wanted to avoid the contractor having to haul that gravel on a detour.”

Construction for the bridge project is now anticipated to begin in the summer of 2023 instead of the summer of 2022.

A project on Highway 83 through Valentine has also been delayed. That project is scheduled to reconstruct more than a half-mile of Highway 83 from the Highway 20 junction north to the Highway 12 junction.

That work was also scheduled to begin this summer but will instead begin either this fall or in the spring of 2022.

Kovar said the NDOT did receive bids on the Highway 83 project, but the bids all came in higher than the estimate so the bids were rejected.

If the Highway 83 project is awarded this summer following bid letting, the contractor will have the option to begin work on the detour improvements this fall or wait until the spring of 2022 to start the project.

“They could start on the Cherry Street detour route this fall if the project is awarded,” Kovar said.

* Walk-in vaccination clinics available this week

(Posted 6:45 a.m. April 27) 

The North Central District Health Department has walk-in COVID-19 vaccination times available this week.

Anyone age 18 and older who resides in the nine counties covered by the NCDHD may come in for vaccination without an appointment from 3 until 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Rock County High School Gym, from 1 until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Butte Community Center, or from noon until 2 p.m. Friday in the Atkinson Community Center. The clinics use the Moderna vaccine.

The health department was made aware of 10 new COVID-19 cases in the district since last reporting Thursday. Among the new cases confirmed were three in Holt County and one in Cherry County. 

More than 93,284 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered during the past week in Nebraska. As of Sunday, more than 1.27 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Nebraska, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. 

As of Sunday, 601,946 Nebraskans have completed vaccination, which represents 40.6% of residents aged 16 years of age and older. 

Nebraska is scheduled to receive 28,080 first doses and 28,080 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week, and 20,700 first doses and 19,200 second doses of the Moderna vaccine.

* Local Pheasants Forever chapter awards scholarships

(Posted 6:15 a.m. April 23)

The Sandhills Chapter of Pheasants Forever awarded eight scholarships to the graduating class of 2021. Those selected are Ellie Welke and Moriah Beel from Ainsworth High School, Hunter Wiebelhaus and Adyson Linse from Keya Paha County High School, Zack Dickau and Grace Olson from Rock County High School and Michaela Keller and Haley Hesse from Valentine High School.

The Sandhills Chapter started its scholarship program in 2008 and has awarded a total of 63 scholarships for a total of $31,500. The program is able to offer scholarships thanks to the support of the area during its annual banquet.

* Walk-in COVID vaccination clinics available next week

(Posted 6:15 a.m. April 23)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 11 new COVID-19 cases in the district since last reporting Monday. Among the new cases were two in Holt County and two in Cherry County. There were no new cases confirmed in Brown, Rock, Keya Paha or Boyd counties.

With recent public gatherings and school events coming up in the near future, continue to monitor for signs and symptoms for COVID-19. During this time of year many people struggle with allergies, sinus infections, and common colds. If you have any questions regarding symptoms you have developed, call your primary care provider or the health department.

The NCDHD reported 28 people recovered from the virus during the past week. Among the recoveries were nine in Holt County, and one person recovered in Rock, Cherry and Keya Paha counties.

The NCDHD has walk-in vaccination clinics scheduled for next week. Among the clinics available are from 3 until 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 28, in the Rock County High School gym, from 1 until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Butte Community Center, and from noon until 2 p.m. Friday, April 30, in the Atkinson Community Center. Those clinics will dispense the Moderna vaccine.

* Commissioners set public hearing on zoning recommendations

(Posted 7 a.m. April 21)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday set a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. May 4 in the courthouse courtroom to hear comments regarding an updated comprehensive plan and changes to the county’s zoning regulations recommended by the Brown County Planning Commission.

After a public hearing and two subsequent meetings, the Planning Commission recommended changes to the county’s zoning regulations related to environmentally controlled livestock feeding operations, wind towers and other updates. The Planning Commission also recommended the commissioners adopt an updated comprehensive plan.

Zoning Administrator Tom Jones presented the board with those recommended updates, and the board voted to schedule the public hearing during its next regular meeting May 4.

In other business Tuesday, the board approved a request from Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum to allow him to use 15-day noxious weed spray notices to landowners in addition to 10-day notices.

Erthum said the 15-day notice allows for fees to be issued for non-compliance after the 15-day period.

“I only issue two or three notices a year,” Erthum said. “It is not something I like to use.”

The weed superintendent said he was asked to help control noxious weeds in Ainsworth, Long Pine and Johnstown, and he ran into three situations where landowners were not compliant.

“We currently use a 10-day notice for non-compliant landowners,” Erthum said. “After that, we do a force spray and the landowner is charged for the cost.”

He said the 10-day notice does not work well for the small lots in town, and asked the board to allow him to use the 15-day notice that includes a fee for non-compliance. The board approved the request.

Erthum reported a grant was received to have yellow flag iris sprayed on the Long Pine Creek watershed. Though not listed as a noxious weed, Erthum said a lot of yellow flag iris is growing along the creek and it is invasive.

“It chokes off the water,” he said. “It is not good to have it in there.”

Erthum said a helicopter will be utilized through the grant funding to spray the Long Pine Creek watershed to control the plant.

The commissioners approved allowing county-owned land east of the Brown County Hospital to be utilized for the construction of a community fishing pond.

Graig Kinzie made the request to the board, and said he was working with the Ainsworth Lions Club to establish a fishing pond in the community so youth would have close access to a place to fish.

Kinzie said he had already received an outpouring of support from organizations and businesses interested in assisting with the project. He said a site for a supplemental water well was identified, but a waiver from a property owner who has an irrigation pivot near the site would be needed before a shallow well could be developed to provide water to the pond.

“The Lions Club has agreed to handle the funding for the project, and I will pursue grant opportunities on the Lions Club’s behalf,” Kinzie said.

Andrew Glidden from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission discussed design aspects for the project, telling the commissioners one-third of the pond would need to be developed to a depth of 12 feet to ease the threat of winter kill to a fish population the Game and Parks Commission would stock.

He said bentonite or other clay material would be needed to line the sides of the pond to keep seepage to a minimum.

Kinzie said one business owner had agreed to donate some of the excavation work in exchange for the topsoil, and he asked if the county would also be willing to provide some of the excavation and material removal work.

The board indicated its support, and Commissioners Denny Bauer and Reagan Wiebelhaus told Kinzie and Glidden to design the pond as large as possible. Bauer asked that a picnic shelter area also be included as part of the design.

The board approved the use of the site for the project.

During his report, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the roads department had completed a grading project on Meadow Lark Road, and is currently working on areas of Moon Lake Avenue that continue to wash out.

“We are putting cedar trees in there and trying to build it back up,” Turpin said.

Turpin said he visited with the Brown County Rural Fire District Board about placing a diesel fuel tank at the Raven Fire Hall for the roads department to utilize. He asked if the county would assume responsibility for the tank, which the board indicated it would.

The board heard an update by phone from Eric Kamler with Third District Rep. Adrian Smith’s office.

Kamler provided an update on legislation Smith was working on through his committee assignments. He said he had been hearing from numerous counties in the Third District regarding the 30×30 executive order that set a goal of having 30 percent of land under federal environmental protection by 2030.

He said Smith was opposed to the plan, and his office was trying to obtain information from the Department of the Interior on how the administration planned to carry out the directive.

“We are keeping a close watch on it,” Kamler said. “There is likely nothing that is going to happen quickly. They may try to beef up the CRP program. That would get them there. There will eventually be an online public comment period.”

County Attorney Andy Taylor asked Kamler if the congressman had considered holding a town hall of his own to gather comments to present to the departments tasked with carrying out the directive.

“I will share that with the congressman,” Kamler said. “I like the idea. The resolutions a lot of the counties are passing can also be presented.”

Taylor told the commissioners several counties and local governments have passed resolutions condemning the directive.

“If the plan is to seize private property, that is definitely something the county should oppose,” Taylor said. “But, we don’t know what they are planning at this point.”

Taylor recommended the county reserve taking action until its May 4 meeting to see if more details about the directive are released.

Wiebelhaus said any federal land grabs would be in opposition to the county’s comprehensive plan that protects land in the county for agricultural use.

Bauer said the county could probably not step in if it is a situation between a willing buyer and a willing seller.

“I would like to have some kind of resolution May 4,” Bauer said. “I have had a lot of calls wanting us to oppose this.”

The item was placed on the board’s May 4 agenda, as was a decision to install WiFi in the courthouse.

Clerk Travee Hobbs said having the state install WiFi was more expensive than she anticipated, but there may also be options Three River could provide for a wireless network.

Both Bauer and Commissioner Buddy Small said the county needed to provide the wireless network in the courthouse, and asked Hobbs to have a recommendation to the board May 4.

Treasurer Deb Vonheeder presented the board with a sheriff’s department distress warrant report. Vonheeder said all distress warrants had been collected with the exception of one property, which was currently in bankruptcy proceedings.

Vonheeder also said she set up a separate account to handle the federal funds the county received through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Small said the county needed to be careful on how that money is spent or it runs the risk of having to pay it back.

“Some counties are already spending it,” Small said. “If it is not spent on the right things, it has to be paid back.”

Small addressed a potential pest issue, as the courthouse has had an ongoing issue with bats getting into the building.

“If a bat bites someone, it is a liability issue,” Small said. “I talked with Olson Pest Control, but that would be rather expensive. We don’t need to do anything tonight, but do we want to pursue something?”

Wiebelhaus said he didn’t believe the courthouse had an infestation of bats.

“We could throw a lot of money at this and not fix the problem,” Wiebelhaus said.

Bauer said he has seen the guano above the ceiling tiles in the building.

“We could have them at least get us an estimate,” Bauer said.

Prior to adjourning, the board approved an additional list of surplus items to be advertised and sold from the clerk’s office and the BKR Extension office.

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

* Jerry Allen receives Lions Club Member of the Year Monday

(Posted 7 a.m. April 20)

During its meeting Monday, the Ainsworth Lions Club presented Jerry Allen with the Lions Club Member of the Year Award. Allen, who has been a Lions Club member for 60 years, has rarely missed a meeting during that time and has participated in almost all of the club’s volunteer events during the time he has served.

Allen was presented a plaque by the club Monday.

The Board of Directors approved a request from Dave Sherman from the Brown County Agricultural Society to run the concession stand at the fairgrounds during a Rough Stock Rally June 5.

The club also approved a request from member Graig Kinzie to have the Lions Club serve as the sponsoring organization for the construction of a community fishing pond in the Ainsworth area. Kinzie said he would handle any grant applications for the project, and asked if the club would serve as the sponsoring organization on any grant application. Kinzie said his family was donating $5,000 in memorial and estate money to get the project started following the passing of his father Gary Kinzie, a 50-year member of the Lions Club and an avid fisherman.

The Board of Directors approved serving as the sponsoring organization and agreed to handle donations that are made toward the project.

Marcus Fairhead updated the board regarding the upcoming Ainsworth High School All-Sports Tailgate Party. The Lions Club sponsors and serves the meal during the event, which will be held April 27 in McAndrew Gymnasium.

The club also discussed its annual Highway 20 cleanup project east of Ainsworth, with club members asked to meet at 3 p.m. May 2 at the Carquest parking lot.

The board also approved the slate of nominees for officers and directors for the 2021-22 year. Bob Beatty will serve as Club President for the upcoming year, with Dale Hafer the club’s vice president.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club Board of Directors is scheduled for May 17.

* Agenda for Brown County Commissioners meeting Tuesday

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

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

5:15                          Approve Claims                   

 Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Issues

                                    Sheriff Distress Warrant Report – Vonheeder

                      Approval for new fund for American Rescue Plan Act – Vonheeder

                     Highway Superintendent’s performance evaluation – Small

5:30                            Noxious weed issues – Scott Erthum

5:35                            Resolution from Brown County Planning Commission on Brown County Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Regulations & set public hearing – Jones

5:45                Telephonic update from Congressmen Smith – Eric Kamler

                                    Graig Kinzie – Community pond – Kinzie

                                     U.S. Presidential Executive order 14008 (aka “30×30”) – Taylor

                                    Pest control – Small

                                    Declare additional surplus items – Hobbs

                                    Courthouse WiFi – Hobbs

* Vaccination clinic scheduled for Wednesday in Ainsworth

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

The North Central District Health Department has scheduled walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics this week. Walk-in clinics are open from 1:30 until 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Ainsworth Conference Center, and from 10 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Friday in the Evergreen Independent Living Center at O’Neill. The clinics are dispensing the Moderna vaccine. 

Anyone who received a first dose of vaccine through an NCDHD clinic and has not received a call to schedule a second dose is asked to call the NCDHD office to schedule an appointment.

Nearly 30 percent of all residents in the district age 16 and older have been fully vaccinated, and another 3,360 people have received the first dose of vaccine in the two-dose series.

More than 211,057 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered last week in Nebraska, and as of Sunday, 1.27 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in total in Nebraska, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, as of Sunday, 539,061 Nebraskans have completed vaccination, which represents 36.3% of residents aged 16 years of age and older.

The numbers include all vaccinations that took place in Nebraska last week, including through federal entities. The state is currently vaccinating all Nebraskans over the age of 16. Thus far, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for those aged 16 years and older, and the Moderna vaccine has been approved for those aged 18 years and older.

For this week, Nebraska is scheduled to receive 28,080 first doses and 26,910 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 20,700 first doses and 19,200 second doses of the Moderna vaccine.

* Silipo found guilty on six counts Tuesday

(Posted 7 a.m. April 19)

During Brown County District Court Tuesday, Peter Silipo, age 70, of Ainsworth, was found guilty on six counts after entering no contest pleas.

Silipo was found guilty of committing four counts of third degree assault, each a Class I misdemeanor; and two counts of disturbing the peace, each a Class III misdemeanor.

Silipo will be sentenced June 8 in District Court.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 7 a.m. April 16)

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

Derric J. Abbott, age 32, of Monticello, Minn., charged with attempting a Class 4 felony, fined $1,000; also charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Wallace Wiebesiek, 59, of Ainsworth, dog running at large, $25.

Zachary Frazier, 27, of Ainsworth, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200; careless driving, $200; attempting a Class 4 felony, sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Diane D. High, 64, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to two days in jail with credit for two days served, six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for one year, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Jose Medrano Angulo, 34, of Madison, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Yahya M. Hassan, 39, of Grand Island, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Brandon J. Clark, 39, of Ainsworth, procuring or selling alcohol to a minor, sentenced to 20 days in jail; contributing to the delinquency of a minor, sentenced to one year of probation.

Patrick J. Hohn, 29, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for two days served, driver’s license revoked for six months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

William K. Barthel, 32, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; disturbing the peace, $50.

Richae A. Brattain, 31, of Avon, Minn., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75; attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Andrew Jackson, 18, of Kearney, theft by shoplifting, $200, sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay $500 in restitution.

Kyle M. Latour, 30, of Foley, Minn., improper or defective vehicle light, $25; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Justin Dillon, 52, of Johnstown, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Roberto G. Munoz, 35, of Ainsworth, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Loren J. Sherman, 40, of Long Pine, third offense driving under the influence, $1,000, sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for two days served, 18 months of probation, driver’s license revoked for two years, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; driving under suspension, sentenced to four days in jail; no proof of insurance, $100.

Jonathan T. Fogg, 34, of Denver, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Noah M. Grieser, 21, of Long Pine, first offense reckless driving, $500.

Juan S. Munoz Grimaldo, 39, of Ainsworth, 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.

Venessa A. Fernandez, 42, of Ainsworth, dogs running at large, $10.

Kirk D. Haynes, 54, of Gothenburg, 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.

Eric D. Hafvenstein, 29, of Granite Falls, Minn., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Jody V. Kreycik, 35, of Wood Lake, second offense driving under the influence, $1,000, sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for 30 days served, one year of probation, driver’s license revoked for 18 months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; leaving the scene of an accident or failing to furnish information, $100.

Thomas E. Maass, 51, of Ainsworth, disturbing the peace, $100.

Stefano J. Roberts, 22, of Sioux Falls, S.D., no valid registration, $25; no operator’s license, $75.

Miranda M. McKillip, 28, of Ainsworth, attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; refusing to submit to a pretest, $100; improper or defective vehicle light, $25; no valid registration, $25; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Nicole K. Wilson, 21, of Long Prairie, Minn., possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.

Jason H. Hamer, 28, of Ainsworth, domestic assault, sentenced to one year of probation.

Michelle Roeder, 30, of Ainsworth, domestic assault, sentenced to one year of probation.

Monica R. Young, 30, of Chattanooga, Tenn., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Jayden R. Sporleder, 18, of Pierce, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Shevie L. McCuiston, 21, of North Platte, driving left of center, $25; first offense willful reckless driving, $500.

Victoria R. Tilbury-Shetka, 21, of Brainard, Minn., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Spencer M. Lawrence, 25, of Phoenix, Ariz., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Jacob Y. Hammons, 22, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

* Ainsworth Quiz Bowl team wins Southwest Conference title

(Posted 7:30 a.m. April 15)

The Ainsworth High School Quiz Bowl team was crowned the Southwest Conference Quiz Bowl Champion Wednesday at Broken Bow.

Ainsworth finished the pool play round with wins over Gothenburg and Ogallala and a loss to Cozad to earn the top spot in their pool of four teams.

Ainsworth then defeated Valentine in the semifinals to advance to the championship match against Broken Bow. The Bulldogs defeated Broken Bow by a score of 35-30 to win the conference championship.

Ainsworth team members are Seth Anderson, Josie Ganser, Logan Hafer, Cody Kronhofman, Brandt Murphy, Caleb Allen, Gabe Allen, Ben Barrow, Alyssa Erthum, Ben Flynn, Shelly Saner, Haley Schroedl, Libby Wilkins, Cole Bodeman and Mason Titus.

* City Council denies subdivision request Tuesday

(Posted 2 p.m. April 14)

The Ainsworth City Council on Tuesday denied a request by Craig and Mary Smith to subdivide a tract of land in the city so the couple could sell a house but maintain ownership of a detached garage.

Smith said he had a party interested in purchasing the house, but he wanted to maintain ownership of the garage.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the city’s zoning ordinances include a minimum lot size of 9,000 square feet. With the entire home and garage located on approximately that size of lot, subdividing that lot into two would leave both lots out of compliance with the city’s zoning ordinances.

Smith said there were several lots in the city that were smaller than 9,000 square feet. Schroedl said those lots were grandfathered in prior to the zoning ordinance changes in the 1990s that required a 9,000 square foot minimum size.

Board member Brad Fiala said he would hate to split up what is already a small lot and set that precedent.

After tabling the item during its March meeting, the council voted by a 3-1 margin Tuesday to deny the application for the subdivision. Councilman Shawn Fernau cast the vote against denying the request.

In other business Tuesday, the council approved four items related to the issuance of bonds following the completion of a major sewer line improvement project and upgrade to electronic-read water meters.

Three of the items approved called the previously issued bond anticipation notes, as the city issued those to finance the construction before a USDA loan kicked in after the work was completed. The three bond anticipation notes the city recalled totaled $1.46 million.

The city voted to approve an ordinance issuing a sewer revenue bond in the amount of $1.274 million, which will be a 40-year bond to pay for the improvement projects.

Fiala said a 40-year bond seemed like a really long payback period.

“By the time it is paid off, it will need replaced again,” Fiala said.

Schroedl said the 40-year payback period on the bond was a requirement from USDA, though the city could refinance the bonds at a future date to cut down on the payback period.

“The city was required to complete the construction prior to closing the loan,” Schroedl said. “The city opted for this series of bond anticipation notes to pay for the construction, then to call those bonds and issue the sewer revenue bonds for the full loan amount.”

Schroedl said the city implemented a three-year rate increase in sewer rates to pay for the project.

“The rates we receive now are enough to service the debt,” the city administrator said.

In approving the ordinance to issue the 40-year sewer revenue bonds, the council waived the three separate readings to have the ordinance take effect immediately.

In an old business item, the council approved a contract with CDS Inspections and Beyond for housing specialist services and lead-based paint services for the city’s owner-occupied housing rehabilitation loan program.

Schroedl said the council approved the proposal from CDS in March, but the item on Tuesday’s agenda was the formal contract. She said CDS is the company the city has used in the past, but the new agreement was needed after the city folded the remainder of its Community Development Block Grant re-use loan program funds into the owner-occupied housing rehabilitation loan fund.

In a final action item, the council Tuesday approved recommending to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission that an application for an outdoor beer garden submitted by 1700 Ventures doing business as The 402 Bar be approved.

The council approved recommended appointments from Mayor Joel Klammer.

Marcus Fairhead was reappointed to a four-year term on the LB 840 Citizen Advisory Review Committee. Roger Lechtenberg and Mark Kovar were also appointed to four-year terms on the CARC. They replace former committee members Chris Raymond and John Halbersleben.

The council approved the reappointment of Jake Graff and the appointment of Chris Lammers to three-year terms on the city’s Housing Committee. Lammers replaces Reg Pischel on that committee.

The council also reappointed Carol Larson to a three-year term on the Sellors-Barton Cabin Advisory Board.

During her report, Schroedl said the Highway 20 reconstruction project bid letting occurred April 8, but she did not have any additional information on a timeline for construction to begin.

“It will depend on the bids received and contractor availability,” Schroedl said.

Schroedl said roughly 30 residents took advantage of a free tree limb pickup day March 29, and city crews hauled seven full loads of limbs to the transfer station.

The city administrator said she requested $519,000 in flood damage reimbursement from FEMA in February, but the city had not yet received the funding.

“I am not sure what the status is, I have tried to inquire,” Schroedl said.

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

* Care Center Board discusses staff shortages

(Posted 3:30 p.m. April 13)

The Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors and administration discussed the difficulty in finding employees to fill open positions during Monday’s meeting.

After the March financial report showed the care center spent more than $26,500 for agency staffing, Administrator Penny Jacobs said current employees were working long hours and were in danger of burning out.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed that with college graduation and high schools getting out for the summer we can get a few more employees,” Jacobs said. “I give kudos to our staff. They are sticking in there.”

Jacobs said the care center has openings for a director of nursing, a business office manager, a dietary cook, two full-time nurses and one part-time nurse, two day-time CNAs and a night-time CNA.

Jacobs said in addition to a contract with an agency to fill the director of nursing position, the care center is using agencies to fill three CNA positions and one nursing position.

Board member Buddy Small said having difficulty filling open positions is not unique to this area. Business manager Sarah Schipporeit said there were numerous director of nursing positions open at facilities across the state.

Jacobs and Schipporeit discussed a practice the board put in place a few months ago of paying shift bonuses to employees for picking up extra work shifts.

Jacobs said the practice of offering shift bonuses has led to a free-for-all in some locations she has worked.

Schipporeit said the practice was originally intended to fill nursing shifts, but she said former administrator Stephanie Clifton allowed other departments to also qualify for the shift bonuses, which pay a $25 bonus for picking up an unfilled four-hour shift and a $50 bonus for picking up an unfilled eight-hour shift.

Board member Dr. Mel Campbell said the shift bonus was being paid in addition to the employee already receiving time-and-a-half wages for any hours over 40 worked during a week.

“I don’t object to offering a bonus, but if they are getting time-and-a-half they are already getting a bonus,” Campbell said.

Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said the shift bonuses were put in place because it was cheaper to offer the bonuses to current staff to fill open shifts than it was to use agency staffing to fill the open shifts.

Board member Henry Beel asked Jacobs and Schipporeit if the shift bonus system was being abused.

Schipporeit said there may be a question in a department as to whether the department head was offering the open shifts to employees working under them or if those shifts were simply being filled by the department head to earn the bonus.

Schipporeit said the department heads are supposed to provide the monthly schedule first. Then, any open shifts that are filled by current staff receive the shift bonus.

Both Schipporeit and Jacobs said the practice of offering shift bonuses was beneficial, but Schipporeit said she didn’t feel that department heads should be eligible for the bonus as they are already paid at a higher hourly rate.

Fuchs said if the administration requires the department heads to provide the schedule to the business department and the administrator, then opens up any shifts that are unfilled to all employees first, those employees should qualify for the bonus. If no one fills the shift and the department head has to pick it up, Fuchs said he was ok with the department head receiving the bonus.

“It is still cheaper than having to use agency staffing,” Fuchs said.

Campbell said having the administrator ask employees if they were offered the chance to fill open shifts would likely take care of the issue.

Utilizing $26,579 in agency staffing during March, with a large portion of that going toward a contracted director of nursing, the care center finished the month with a loss of $26,088. The facility generated $124,330 in revenue during March with expenses of $150,418.

Jacobs said there are currently 18 residents in the facility, with six paying privately, 10 receiving Medicaid assistance, one resident receiving Medicare assistance and one resident receiving hospice care.

She said there was one admission during March and one resident passed away. Jacobs said the facility is working with a family on a private-pay referral from another facility and could have that person move into the facility either this week or next week.

Jacobs reported all the issues identified during the facility’s recent state survey have been corrected.

Fuchs reported it would likely still be a couple months before the facility’s new generator arrived on site. He said Matt Moody will get as much preliminary work done as he can before the generator arrives.

Prior to entering into executive session to discuss personnel matters, Small thanked Schipporeit for her work with the facility. Schipporeit recently announced her resignation as business manager. Small said the facility would not be where it is without the additional responsibilities Schipporeit took on during recent months.

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

* CDC pauses Johnson & Johnson vaccine

(Posted 9:45 a.m. April 13)

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is pausing administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, following CDC and FDA recommendations.

On Thursday, DHHS, the Douglas County Health Department and Nebraska Medicine consulted with CDC and FDA about a rare and severe type of blood clot diagnosed in a Nebraska resident. On Tuesday, CDC and FDA released a joint statement recommending a pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccinations nationwide while more investigation is completed.

Vaccine safety is closely monitored by healthcare providers and local, state, and federal partners. While only six instances of this severe clotting event have been identified among approximately 6.8 million who have received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine across the US, the pause is a transparent and deliberate decision to allow time for a thorough review and investigation. 

DHHS is communicating the pause to local health departments, healthcare providers, and pharmacies across the state. Any potential adverse reactions to vaccines should be reported into the CDC’s vaccine adverse events reporting system at https://vaers.hhs.gov/

At this time there are no recommendations to pause the use of the other two vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna. Those two vaccines will continue to be provided.

* Agenda for Ainsworth City Council meeting Tuesday

(Posted 8:45 a.m. April 13)

Ainsworth City Council
Meeting 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 13
Ainsworth Conference Center
Agenda

  1. ROUTINE BUSINESS
    1. Announcement of Open Meetings Act
    2. Roll Call
    3. Pledge of Allegiance
  1. CONSENT AGENDA – All items approved with the passage of one motion.
    1. Approve minutes from the March 10, 2021 regular meeting and the March 23, 2021 special meeting
    2. Approval of Claims
    3. Treasurer’s Report
    4. Department Head Reports
    5. Cemetery Certificate
  • MAYOR’S APPOINTMENTS AND REPORT
    1. Mayor’s Report
    2. Mayor’s Appointments
      1. Citizens Advisory Review Committee (CARC) (4-year terms): Reappointment of Marcus Fairhead; Appointments of Roger Lechtenberg and Mark Kovar; all with terms ending 3/8/2025
      2. Committee on Housing (3year terms): Reappointment of Jake Graff and appointment of Chris Lammers with terms ending 4/8/2024
  • Sellors-Barton Cabin Advisory Board (3-year terms): Reappointment of Carol Larson with term ending 4/12/2024
  1. PUBLIC HEARINGS
    1. None
  1. OLD BUSINESS
    1. Discuss and consider an Administrative Subdivision of a tract of land identified as Lot 12, Block 11 of Hall’s Second Addition to the City of Ainsworth, Brown County, Nebraska
    2. Consider contracts for services with CDS Inspections and Beyond for Housing Specialist Services and Lead Based Paint Specialized Services for the Owner-Occupied Housing Rehabilitation Program
  1. REGULAR AGENDA
    1. Discuss and consider a recommendation on an application to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission for addition of outdoor area to The 402 Bar
    2. Consider Ordinance #1547 – Authorizing the issuance of a sewer revenue bond, series 2021, of the City of Ainsworth, Nebraska, in the principal amount of $1,274,000 for the purpose of constructing additions and improvements to the sanitary sewer system of the City
    3. Consider Resolution #21-04 calling sewer utility bond anticipation notes, series 2019, dated July 9, 2019 in the principal amount of $200,000
    4. Consider Resolution #21-05 calling sewer utility bond anticipation notes, series 2020B, dated August 19, 2020 in the principal amount of $1,010,000
    5. Consider Resolution #21-06 calling sewer utility bond anticipation notes, series 2020, dated June 17, 2020 in the principal amount of $250,000

* School Board approves new laptops, concrete work

(Posted 7 a.m. April 13)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education Monday approved spending federal funds to update the school’s laptop computers for high school students.

After receiving $67,000 in initial CARES Act funding, which the district used to purchase new reading curriculum, the school received $237,000 from the second round of COVID-19 stimulus funding.

The board voted Monday to spend $154,067 from that federal funding to purchase 165 Apple MacBook Pro laptop computers for high school students. Superintendent Dale Hafer said the current high school laptops, which are four years old, will be given to middle school students to provide each of those students with a laptop computer.

Hafer said the district would have eventually updated the laptop computers using its own funding, so using the federal funding instead would help the district’s budget going forward.

Though not finalized, the superintendent said the district is expecting to receive an additional $520,000 from the third round of funding recently approved at the federal level through the American Recovery Program.

Hafer said 20 percent of those funds must be spent to address direct learning loss. He suggested the district use some of the funding to update additional curriculum.

“It makes sense to do things that are one-time expenses,” Hafer said. “We have talked about improving HVAC in the elementary. That is allowable for these funds.”

Hafer said the federal funding would substantially help the district’s budget.

“We are planning to use these funds to target improvements we were planning to make anyway,” the superintendent said.

The board also voted Monday to approve the low bid submitted by Burdick Cement Works for three concrete replacement projects.

The $57,550 in concrete work will replace the concrete leading to the east and west entrances to the elementary school as well as the entrance and sidewalk near the main west A entrance to the high school.

Board member Brad Wilkins said the areas targeted for concrete replacement are heavily used, and some spots are getting pretty uneven.

Hafer said the district has had issues at both elementary entrances.

Wilkins said it would be nice to also include the west A entry and sidewalks in addition to the elementary entrances.

Board members Jim Arens and Mark Johnson agreed, saying it made sense to finish the first three concrete projects now.

Using depreciation funds, the board approved the $57,550 in concrete work.

In a final expense item approved Monday, the board voted to purchase FastBridge and EduClimber software that compiles and tracks testing profiles for each student instead of staff having to pull together a student’s individual test scores from the various testing forms the district utilizes. The software costs a total of $23,000 for three years and was purchased using the second round of federal stimulus funding.

In other business, the board approved the resignation of Elementary Principal Curtis Childers effective at the end of the 2020-21 school year, and approved a contract for Ben Wright to serve as the district’s elementary principal for the 2021-22 year.

Childers has served as the district’s elementary principal for three years. He accepted a pre-kindergarten through sixth grade principal position with the Battle Creek Public School District for the upcoming year.

Wright is from Omaha, and was recommended from the four candidates who were interviewed for the position.

“All four candidates were good candidates, and I would have been comfortable hiring any one of them,” Hafer said. “Ben had some of the data experience we were looking for. He is eager to make the transition here.”

This will be Wright’s first principal position, as he is currently a teacher in the Omaha school system.

The board Monday also filled its open language arts position for the 2021-22 school year, hiring Lauren Osborne for the position. She replaces Katelyn McClure, who submitted her resignation effective at the end of the current school year.

The board approved the resignation of longtime math teacher Loreece Thornton. Thornton wrote she was retiring from her position effective at the end of the current school year. Thornton has taught in the Ainsworth school district for 29 years.

In a final action item, the board approved an option enrollment request to allow Bailee Palmer to continue to attend the Keya Paha County School District. Hafer said Palmer moved in to the Brown County district but had previously been attending school at Keya Paha County and wanted to continue to attend school there.

During his report, High School Principal Steve Dike said the district was planning to hold its annual community betterment day April 30. Students on that day go out into the community and undertake beautification and improvement projects.

Hafer reported the district’s white bus was now fixed, and the good news was it was not an engine issue as first feared. He said the bus’s coolant reservoir was replaced, as well as some other minor repairs. The total cost of the work was approximately $4,000, which was much cheaper than it would have been to replace the engine.

Hafer reported there have been no new COVID-19 cases in the school system, and he hoped that would continue for the remainder of the school year.

Childers reported Kindergarten Roundup was scheduled for April 23, and he anticipated there would be 30 students in next year’s kindergarten class. Childers reported summer school would run from June 7 through July 1 for kindergarten through sixth-grade students.

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

* Winning bidders from the Radio Takeover Day Auction

(Posted 2:15 p.m. April 9)

The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce took over KBRB Radio Friday, and had a successful auction of items donated by area businesses and individuals.

Winning bidders and the prices paid for each item are listed below. Winning bidders are asked to pick up and pay for their items in the Chamber Office in the Cassel Executive Offices building on Main Street Friday afternoon or Monday. Anyone with questions may call the chamber office at 402-382-3537.

Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce
2021 Radio Takeover Day
All-Day Auction Items, winning bidders and price paid
Frontier Diesel – A 13-foot rubber tire livestock watering tank
Winning Bidder – Michelle Appelt for $875

KBRB and Husker Meats – A Traeger wood pellet grill and a meat bundle that includes potato sausage, hot dogs, bacon ranch brats, cheddar jalapeno brats, beef cheddar jalapeno summer sausage, regular summer sausage, Husker snack sticks, pork chops, bacon, mussels, cooked brisket, pineapple brats, minute steaks, bacon sausage, regular brats, a whole tri-tip, hamburger, rib-eye steaks and Kansas City strip steaks
Winning Bidder – Jake Maurer for $1,200

First Class Auto – A “Date Night Package”, includes $50 gift certificates to The Elks Club, Canyon Creek, The L Bow Room, Sandhills Lounge and the Ainsworth Golf Course, $30 certificates to Subway, D&B Café, Big John’s, Pizza Hut and the Grand Theater, two large coffees at Ainsworth Flowers & Gifts, and two First Class Auto hats, cups, Koozies, fly swatters and pairs of gloves
Winning Bidder – Mike Pepper for $575

State Farm Insurance, Union Bank & Trust, Ainsworth Vision Clinic, West Plains Bank, Rodeway Inn, First National Bank and April Good with Lashley Land & Recreational Brokers – Outdoor package with two full-length kayaks, two oars, a Nebraska State Park Permit and a full-size cooler
Winning Bidder – Waylon Allen for $1,401

Buckley Steel – One day’s use of a telehandler, excavator, skid steer or lift with delivery up to 10 miles
Winning Bidder – Sherm Goochey for $550

Half-Hour Auction Item Winning Bidders

7 a.m. Hour

Ainsworth Motors – Certificate for a front-end alignment
Winning Bidder – Jeremy O’Hare for $55

Ainsworth Does Drove – A dozen cinnamon rolls
Winning Bidder – Kayla Schmidt for $50

Bomgaars – Ten broiler chicks and a 10-pound bag of feed
Winning Bidder – Ann Weeks for $40

Cassel Executive Offices – A 5-pound bag of Kentucky bluegrass seed
Winning Bidder – Neal Brandt for $17

Devine Healthcare – A 15-minute clinic visit
Winning Bidder – Kristy Frew for $40

Middle Niobrara NRD – 10 golden willow trees
Winning Bidder – Neal Brandt for $15

Cammie and Brad Waits – A pan of scotcharoos
Winning Bidder – Tiff Naprstak for $25

Husker Meats – A roll of cheddar jalapeno summer sausage
Winning Bidder – Jennifer Conroy for $16

H&R Food Center gift certificate
Winning Bidder – Sheri Gann for $48

Rolling Stone Feed Yard – Beef Draft
Winning Bidder – Amanda Brown for $23

8 a.m. Hour

AKRS Equipment – Riding lawn mower inspection
Winning Bidder – Michelle Appelt for $175

Ainsworth Motors – A dozen cinnamon rolls
Winning Bidder – Lexa Ludemann for $45

Mimi’s Sweets – A dozen Kolaches
Winning Bidder – Licia Brandt $15

Cammie and Brad Waits – A pan of scotcharoos
Winning Bidder – Mary Lou Hughes for $20

Husker Meats – A box of frog legs
Winning Bidder – Jeremy O’Hare $100

Middle Niobrara NRD – 10 silver cottonwood trees
Winning Bidder – Neal Brandt for $40

Simple Solutions – A wireless mouse and $25 gift certificate
Winning Bidder – Becky O’Hare for $25

Red and White Market gift certificate
Winning Bidder – Sheri Gann for $23

Ainsworth Does Drove – A dozen cinnamon rolls
Winning Bidder – First National Bank for $56

Husker Meats – Five pounds of crawfish
Winning Bidder – Thomas Maas for $60

Daniels Manufacturing – Two fabricated metal gate closures
Winning Bidder – Craig Smith for $65

The Mundhenke Agency – A handgun safe
Winning Bidder – Clint Painter for $120

Century Lumber – A Dewalt 12-volt drill driver kit
Winning Bidder – Clint Painter for $150

O’Hare Ranch – A pint of homemade salsa and a beef draft
Winning Bidder – Tyler Johnson for $67

Travis Electric – Two 10-packs of 60-watt LED light bulbs
Winning Bidder – Anissa Julius for $40

Madison’s Great Western – A beef draft
Winning Bidder – DJ Hladky for $23

9 a.m. Hour

Cross Fire Forge – A four-piece outdoor cooking set
Winning Bidder – Jessica Glover for $150

Ainsworth Motors – A dozen cinnamon rolls
Winning Bidder – Anissa Julius for $60

Bayer Crop Science – A car safety kit and jumper cables
Winning Bidder – Clint Painter for $70

Ainsworth Community Schools – A 2021-22 activities pass
Winning Bidder – Clint Painter for $40

Middle Niobrara NRD – 10 Austrian Pine trees
Winning Bidder – Neal Brandt for $20

Danielle Witte – A Pampered Chef basket
Winning Bidder – Phoebe McDaniel for $55

Canyon Creek Bar & Grill – A pan of bread pudding
Winning Bidder – Buckley Steel for $55

Cassel Executive Offices – A 10-pound bag of Super Turf seed
Winning Bidder – Nicole Johnson for $30

Central Valley Ag – Gift Certificate
Winning Bidder – Rick Mayfield for $23

Husker Meats – 10 pounds of hamburger
Winning Bidder – Glen Johnson for $80

Daniels Manufacturing – A Daniels sprinkler
Winning Bidder – Karen O’Hare for $101

Office Products – A Callaway golf bag
Winning Bidder – Anissa Julius for $125

Ainsworth Does Drove – A dozen cinnamon rolls
Winning Bidder – Peg Gross for $64

Brown County Hospital – Entry into the hospital golf tournament
Winning Bidder – Tyler Johnson for $160

Palmer Embroidery & Boutique – A cap and Bulldog pullover
Winning Bidder – Clint Painter for $45

Ainsworth Elks Club – A gift certificate
Winning Bidder – Tiffany Barthel for $23

Grand Theater – A gift certificate
Winning Bidder – Melissa Doke for $18

10 a.m. Hour

GJW LLC – A half a hog, fully processed
Winning Bidder – Sherri Johnson for $280

Sandhills Sage – A pillow, table runner and candle holder
Winning Bidder – Brenna Duester for $35

Husker Meats – Eight pounds of mountain oysters
Winning Bidder – Clint Painter for $70

Ainsworth Dental Clinic – An Oral B electric toothbrush
Winning Bidder – Katie Leymaster for $70

Middle Niobrara NRD – 10 swamp white oak trees
Winning Bidder – Dave Fowler for $20

Ainsworth Motors – A dozen cinnamon rolls
Winning Bidder – Brent Johnson for $40

Ainsworth Community Schools – A 2021-22 activities pass
Winning Bidder – Sherm Goochey for $55

H&R Food Center – A gift certificate
Winning Bidder – Sherm Goochey for $48

Rangeland Rehab – A Tens 7000 unit muscle stimulator
Winning Bidder – Ann Weeks for $100

Ainsworth Lions Club – Two tickets to the All-Sports Tailgate Party
Winning Bidder – Jim Pinney for $20

Ainsworth Motors – A dozen cinnamon rolls
Winning Bidder – Diana Schrad for $45

Husker Meats – A box of frog legs 
Winning Bidder – Kurt Johnson for $60

Lovinity Health and Wellness – A CDB basket
Winning Bidder – Licia Brandt for $45

Pizza Hut – A family meal deal
Winning Bidder – Casey Johnson for $40

Ainsworth Elks Club – A gift certificate
Winning Bidder – Becky O’Hare for $23

11 a.m. Hour

Hills & Trails FCE Club – 10 dozen cream cheese mints
Winning Bidder – Hunter Martin for $45

Brown County Ag Society – A weekend pass to the fair
Winning Bidder – Pam Schmitz for $35

AHS Metals Class – Metal laser cut ranch scene
Winning Bidder – Pam Schmitz for $180

Husker Meats – Two packages of snack sticks
Winning Bidder – Kristy Johnson for $20

Devine Health Care – A 15-minute clinic visit
Winning Bidder – Stephanie Kinzie for $40

The Book Peddler – A Gooseberry cookbook
Winning Bidder – Pam Schmitz for $10

Red & White Market – A gift certificate
Winning Bidder – Wes Luther for $23

Canyon Creek Bar & Grill – A pan of bread pudding
Winning Bidder – Steve Salzman for $70

State Farm Insurance, Union Bank & Trust, Ainsworth Vision Clinic, West Plains Bank, Rodeway Inn, First National Bank and April Good with Lashley Land & Recreational Brokers – A family pool pass, animal floats and cooler of freeze pops
Winning Bidder – Melissa Doke for $135

Cassel Executive Offices – 5-pound bag of Kentucky bluegrass seed
Winning Bidder – Dave Fowler for $22

Red Apron Bakery – A dozen jumbo chocolate chip cookies
Winning Bidder – Ronda Theis for $56

Simple Solutions – A wireless mouse and gift certificate
Winning Bidder – Mila Johnson for $30

Travis Electric – Two 10-packs of 60-watt LED light bulbs
Winning Bidder – Gayle Buoy for $25

Ainsworth Elks Club – A gift certificate
Winning Bidder – Mark Johnson for $23

Season’s Restaurant – A gift certificate
Winning Bidder – Ainsworth Flowers & Gifts for $48

Noon Hour

Buckles Automotive – A car wash bucket, soap and detail
Winning Bidder – Lanay Hansmeyer for $20

Pam and Denny Bauer – Six 16-ounce rib-eye steaks
Winning Bidder – Kirk Peterson for $95

Middle Niobrara NRD – 10 black cherry trees
Winning Bidder – Pam Schmitz for $35

Anonymous – A Daniels Sprinkler
Winning Bidder – Mike Rowley for $80

Three River Communications – A portable data storage device
Winning Bidder – Mike Rowley for $30

O’Hare Ranch – A pint of homemade salsa and beef draft
Winning Bidder – Clint Painter for $75

Ainsworth Motors – A certificate for a front-end alignment
Winning Bidder – Glen Johnson for $50

Brown County Ag Society – A weekend pass to the fair
Winning Bidder – Ryan Fowler for $40

Madison’s Great Western – A beef draft
Winning Bidder – Sherri Johnson for $23

Ainsworth Elks Club – A gift certificate
Winning Bidder – Keegan O’Hare for $23

Cammie and Brad Waits – A pan of scotcharoos
Winning Bidder – Brian Cyze for $35

Pizza Hut – A family meal deal
Winning Bidder – Lanay Hansmeyer for $27

Subway – Six coupons for 6-inch sandwiches
Winning Bidder – Glen Johnson for $100

Devine Healthcare – A micro needling session
Winning Bidder – Tate Schipporeit for $75

Daniels Manufacturing – Two metal gate closures
Winning Bidder – Todd Kicken for $50

Cassel Executive Offices – A bottle of Omega gopher bait
Winning Bidder – Cindy McNally for $19

Home Health – A first aid kit
Winning Bidder – Jerry Paulsen for $25

Sandhills Lounge – Two queen prime rib dinners & dessert
Winning Bidder – Sandy Sky for $67

Rolling Stone Feed Yard – A beef draft
Winning Bidder – Venita Hagerman for $23

* Commissioners take first step toward Meadville Avenue project

(Posted 7:15 a.m. April 7)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday took the first step toward potentially rehabilitating the 7-1/2 miles of Meadville Avenue asphalt by approving a resolution to have DA Davison of Kearney prepare highway allocation pledge bonds in an amount not to exceed $2.6 million.

Though not committed to following through with the project at this point, the resolution approved following a public hearing allows the company to prepare the paperwork needed while the commissioners directed Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin to obtain bids for the work.

Paul Grieger with DA Davison said he had two proposals for the county to consider for issuing the bonds for the work. The first was a standard 10-year bond with payback in equal annual increments. The second option allowed the county to make interest only payments for the first four years of the bond until the Brown County Hospital bond payments were complete.

Grieger said the second option would include about $80,000 in additional interest, but waiting until the hospital bonds were paid to begin making principal payments on the new bonds would allow the county to minimize the impact on its property tax levy.

“The average interest rate is around 1 percent,” Grieger said. “Since they are tax-exempt bonds, you can spend the money within three years. If there was an unanticipated delay in the project, you could extend it an additional two years.”

Commissioner Denny Bauer said the hospital bond takes about 4.8 cents of levy per $100 in property value to pay.

“We can lock in the rates now and we don’t have to expend it right away,” Bauer said. “If we take the scenario of just paying interest until the hospital bond is done, the highest the levy would go is 6 cents, so it wouldn’t be much of an increase in the mill levy.”

Bauer said, if the county locked in the low interest rate by June, it would have until June 2024 to spend the money down on the project. He said the county would contract to have the top inch of asphalt milled off Meadville Avenue and 4 inches of new asphalt poured.

“The Department of Roads estimated the cost at $300,000 per mile, and it would be about $350,000 per mile with the engineering fees,” Bauer said.

Commissioner Buddy Small said the hospital bond would almost be exhausted before the new bond payments would go into effect.

“That doesn’t sound too painful to me,” Small said.

Turpin told the commissioners he had $450,000 he had been building from the county’s allotment of the federal funds purchase program that could potentially be put toward the cost of the project.

“We get about $65,000 per year from that,” Turpin said. “We could maybe put in another $86,000 from our regular budget toward it.”

Small said he did not want to see the roads department use its regular budgeted funds for this project.

“I don’t want to put any other roads behind by taking from the roads budget,” Small said.

Bauer said the money the roads department would have otherwise spent on repairs to Meadville Avenue could be used.

Audience member Tate Schipporeit said half the roads in the county were in need of repair.

“Have you looked at how much it would take to get all of those roads back where they need to be?” Schipporeit asked.

Turpin said repairing all roads in the county that needed it would cost more than the roads department’s annual budget.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said he wasn’t against the idea, but taxpayers would otherwise save $432,000 per year when the hospital bond payments were complete if the county did not add another bond.

“If we approve this, we will extend those payments another six years,” Wiebelhaus said. “Starting in 2025, the tax increase would be $500,000 per year because they wouldn’t have been taxed anymore on the hospital bond.”

Audience member Brad Wilkins asked if the county anticipated the cost of construction for the project to go up in the future if it were to be postponed.

Small said the cost would definitely increase.

Wiebelhaus said, at some point, the county should look at roads it could do away with in an effort to lessen the work load on the roads department and focus on the roads that are needed.

“If some people have to drive an extra mile, I am ok with that,” Wiebelhaus said. “I don’t disagree the Meadville Road needs to be redone, but we have other roads that also need fixed.”

Audience member Wil Williams said he did not like the idea of the county closing roads.

Wiebelhaus said he was talking about private driveways that are considered county roads, and minimum maintenance roads that have other access.

“Even if we could identify 5 to 10 percent of them, it would help,” Wiebelhaus said.

Audience member Jason Appelt asked how much in additional property tax revenue the county received when the new hog confinement facility was constructed north of Ainsworth.

“I think it would be wise to go another mile and a half and get to the cemetery road so it is paved all the way to the hog farm,” Appelt said.

Bauer said the new hog facility generated somewhere between $60,000 and $80,000 in additional property tax.

“There is a lot of traffic on that road from that facility and from Rolling Stone,” Bauer said. “We also talked about putting load limits on the road if we fix it. We need to start somewhere. Patching and patching isn’t working.”

Schipporeit said he was in favor of new asphalt and utilizing money when it was cheap to borrow.

“I think we need to get a new overall plan,” Schipporeit said. “We are not getting where we need to be.”

Small said Brown County was in a better position than many counties in that the county did not have to borrow money to repair damage from the 2019 flooding.

“We had about $2 million in our inheritance tax fund,” Small said. “We didn’t have to borrow like some counties did to fix their flood problems.”

Small asked, if the county opted to go out for bonds, and the bids for the project came in higher, what would happen?

Grieger said by approving the resolution the county was approving a maximum bond amount of $2.6 million.

“If the bids come back higher, you would either change the scope of the work or you would issue additional bonds for the remainder,” Grieger said. “You would want to know you were a go on the project before you issue the bonds.”

Grieger said the county was not committing itself to anything by approving the resolution, only setting the stage and allowing DA Davison to move ahead with the paperwork needed.

“You would give us the go-ahead later to sell the bonds,” Grieger said. “This resolution gives you the ability to do so if you choose.”

Wiebelhaus said he wished the timing was better.

“We aren’t in as good a place financially as we were two years ago,” Wiebelhaus said. “I don’t want to throw money at something until I know what it is going to cost.”

Bauer said he had two taxpayers suggest the county borrow even more money while the interest rates were low and get even more problem roads fixed now.

“We won’t know the cost of this project for sure until we get bids,” Bauer said.

Following the hearing, the board approved the resolution, subject to approval by the county attorney, to have DA Davison prepare highway allocation fund pledge bonds for the board to consider, and the commissioners directed Turpin to hire an engineer to do core sampling and produce bid specifications for the project.

In other business Tuesday, Rich Walters from The Nature Conservancy met with the board to discuss the timeline for replacing the Fairfield Creek bridge in northwest Brown County that washed out during the 2019 flooding.

“It affects us huge not having a bridge there,” Walters said. “That is our only access point to some of our ground. We can’t wait another year to get to the animals on those 10,000 acres.”

Small said FEMA continues to ask the county for more and more information, delaying a decision on the county receiving federal and state funding to replace the bridge.

“We have an estimate from Norfolk Contracting of $189,720,” Small said. “That is up about $40,000 from six months ago due to an increase in steel prices.”

Walters said The Nature Conservancy was willing to offer $100,000 to get the project moving more quickly instead of waiting for a decision from FEMA.

Small said FEMA would pay for 75 percent of the bridge replacement if the project was approved, which amounted to $140,000. The county would be responsible for 12.5 percent.

“Is The Nature Conservancy willing to offer that to keep from having to wait on the FEMA process?” Small asked.

After consulting by phone with colleagues, Walters said The Nature Conservancy was willing to approve $140,000 as a donation to the county if the bridge work was expedited. Walters said The Nature Conservancy did not want to own the bridge, but would just make a donation to the county for the money it would have potentially received from FEMA.

Bauer said a timeline would be agreed to between the two parties for completing the project.

Small said he wanted to make sure the county was on legal ground accepting money for 75 percent of the cost of the bridge replacement.

The board agreed to work with Walters and The Nature Conservancy on an agreement to expedite the bridge replacement.

In another bridge item, Turpin said FEMA has obligated $387,305 to the county to replace the Athey Bridge on Goose Creek in southern Brown County. The county would be responsible for $48,000 to replace that bridge, though he said he believed the cost of the replacement would come in lower than that.

“We have three old bridges on Goose Creek,” Turpin said. “If we have one good one, we could build roads to it and get rid of the others if they go bad.”

Wiebelhaus told Turpin to move forward on both replacing the Athey Bridge and a plan to build roads to it that would allow the county to not have to replace other old bridges across Goose Creek.

Turpin reported the roads department had placed more than 1,000 feet of pipe to help alleviate water issues on the West Calamus Road and the Elsmere Road.

The commissioners Tuesday approved a resolution to vacate public roads in the Hidden Paradise area that had previously been approved for vacation following a public hearing.

The board approved a transfer of a small amount of property from Pat Showalter to the county, and approved a list of surplus items as presented by Clerk Travee Hobbs.

Hobbs asked the board to consider installing Wi Fi Internet in the courthouse and courtroom.

“Roxanne Philben asked about Wi Fi for the courtroom when it was shut down due to COVID,” Hobbs said. “We have had more requests from professionals who come in to the courthouse. It might be time to consider it.”

Hobbs said the cost would be under $100 per month to have Wi Fi service available in the courthouse and courtroom on a password-protected network.

The board encouraged Hobbs to get quotes for the cost of the upgrade and present them during the next board meeting.

Audience member Graig Kinzie asked the commissioners if they would get behind an effort to construct a fishing pond near Ainsworth. Kinzie said the project was something the county had previously discussed at length, but had never decided to pursue.

Kinzie said his family planned to use memorial and estate money from his father’s passing to donate $5,000 to the Ainsworth Lions Club to get the project off the ground, and he would work on additional potential funding sources.

The board voiced its support for the project.

Prior to adjourning Tuesday, the commissioners entered into executive session with Turpin to conduct roads department employee job performance evaluations and merit raises.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. April 20.

* More than 23 percent of NCDHD adults vaccinated

(Posted 7 a.m. April 6)

More than 23 percent of the population 16 and older in the North Central District Health Department’s nine-county coverage area has now completed vaccination against COVID-19.

As of Monday, 8,010 adults in the district have either completed both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or received the single dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Another 4,335 residents have received the first dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.

The NCDHD is expected to receive a shipment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. The single-dose vaccine will be administered from 1 until 6 p.m. Thursday in Rock County High School, or from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Wednesday in the O’Neill Armory. Residents may sign up for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine by visiting www.ncdhd.ne.gov and clicking the yellow button on the home page that will take you to the NCDHD COVID-19 Vaccine Sign-Up page.

The health department was made aware of 22 new COVID-19 cases in the district since Thursday. Among the new cases were 11 in Holt County.

NCDHD will transition recovery reporting beginning Thursday. DHHS has indicated that positive cases greater than 21 days are considered to be recovered unless listed as a fatality. Reporting on recoveries will continue to be updated each Thursday.

More than 120,060 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered during the past week in Nebraska. As of Sunday, 948,824 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to those in Phase 1 and Phase 2A priority groups, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

As of Sunday, 372,992 Nebraskans have completed vaccination, which represents 25.1% of Nebraskans aged 16 years of age and older.

The entire state has moved to Phase 2B eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, which includes all Nebraskans 16 and older. This does not mean that every health district will immediately be able to vaccinate any adult.

However, many areas are still working to finish administering vaccines to Nebraskans aged 50 and older. Also, as has been previously indicated, up to 10% of the weekly allocation will be allotted for high-risk medical conditions, regardless of age. The medical community will make the decision of who will be vaccinated with these doses.

For the week ending April 11, Nebraska is scheduled to receive 25,740 first doses and 31,590 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine; 19,200 first doses and 18,400 second doses of the Moderna vaccine, and 10,400 doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine.

Mild side effects like a sore arm and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms with COVID-19 vaccines. While many people will have no symptoms, for others there can be headaches, chills or a fever. These side effects are normal and a sign your body is building protection, and you should feel better within a few days.

Those receiving their first dose are reminded to keep their vaccination record card in a safe place and take it to their second dose appointment.

Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday encouraged Nebraskans to sign up for the coronavirus vaccine.  He noted statewide coronavirus hospitalizations increased last week for the first time in 19 weeks. Ricketts said Nebraska will receive increasing allocations of coronavirus vaccines to aid the state’s vaccination efforts.

“Please continue to use our tools to slow the spread of the virus, such as keeping six feet from people in public, staying home when sick, and washing hands often,” Ricketts said. “We want to make sure all of Nebraska’s communities are getting vaccinated. All of the vaccines are nearly 100% effective at keeping people out of the hospital and preventing severe health consequences. Nebraskans can sign up for vaccination at vaccinate.ne.gov or by calling 833-998-2275. The entire state has moved to Phase 2B, which includes vaccinating all Nebraskans age 16-49.”

Josie Rodriguez, Administrator for the Office of Health Disparities and Health Equity within the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, discussed the disproportionate impact the virus has had on the Hispanic community in the state.  She urged Nebraskans to take action immediately to get vaccinated.

“This pandemic has been difficult for the Hispanic community, just as it has for all Nebraskans,” Rodrigues said. “Many frontline workers in hospitals and meat-packing plants have continued to work, despite the risk, to keep Nebraska running. As a result, a disproportionate number of Hispanics have suffered from the effects of the virus. Since the vaccine became available, DHHS has partnered with several organizations to reach out to the Hispanic community to provide information about the importance and safety of the vaccine.”

The website to sign up for vaccination is vaccinate.ne.gov or people may call the info line to get registered at 833-998-2275.

Shannon Harner, executive director of the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority, provided an update on the emergency rental assistance programs available in Nebraska.

“We want to remind landlords and tenants about the Emergency Rental Assistance Program available to help with rent and utilities for eligible tenants who are struggling with rent or utility payments due to COVID-19 related financial hardship,” Harner said.

Residents living outside of Lancaster and Douglas counties may apply for assistance through the state’s website at coronavirus.nebraska.gov.

* UK COVID-19 variant found in Holt County

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

The North Central District Health Department has received confirmation that the B117 COVID-19 variant is present in Holt County.

Confirmation was received Friday afternoon. The variant is present in a cluster of cases related to a recent large gathering. Residents who have participated in recent gatherings are encouraged to monitor themselves for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. If symptoms develop, get tested and talk with a doctor or call NCDHD with questions.

The B117 variant was initially detected in the United Kingdom and then in the U.S. this past December. This variant seems to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more COVID-19 cases with the potential for increased severity. Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time.

Studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines recognize these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway.

NCDHD residents are encouraged to register to get a vaccine at www.vaccinate.ne.gov. Confirmation of registration will be sent with an immediate opportunity to book a vaccination appointment. Anyone 16 and older may register. NCDHD is currently vaccinating residents 18 years and older.

The North Central District Health Department will receive 400 doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this week. Three clinics have been scheduled to give residents of the nine-county district access to the single-dose vaccine. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine requires just one dose.

A clinic will be held from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Wednesday at the O’Neill Armory, and from 1 until 6 p.m. Thursday in Rock County High School at Bassett.

Several Moderna vaccination clinics are also available this week for appointments and walk-ins. Visit www.ncdhd.ne.gov for more information. People may also complete the screening form from the web site and bring it with them to their appointment to save time. Printed copies of the form are also available from area libraries and senior centers.

* Road work begins on Highway 7 near Brewster

(Posted 7 a.m. April 2)

Work is underway on Highway 7 near Brewster, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

Werner Construction of Hastings Nebraska has the $3 million contract. Work includes bridge deck repair, guardrail replacement, asphalt overlay, culvert pipes, new lighting installed at the junction, and seeding. Traffic will be maintained with flaggers, a pilot car, and temporary traffic signals. During bridge deck repairs, there be a 12-foot lane restriction in place 1 mile north of Brewster. Anticipated completion is November.

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

* Walk-in vaccination clinic available Friday in Atkinson

(Posted 6:30 a.m. April 2)

 The North Central District Health Department has a COVID-19 vaccination clinic available today (Friday) for walk-ins.

Those age 18 and older living in Brown, Rock, Keya Paha, Cherry, Holt or Boyd counties may walk in to West Holt High School from noon until 4 p.m. today to receive a vaccination.

The first step on the way to receiving a vaccine is getting registered at vaccinate.ne.gov. Access to the registry can also be found on the NCDHD homepage at: www.ncdhd.ne.gov.

NCDHD has shifted to online scheduling. Those who have registered or are newly registered should expect an email from: dhhs.no-reply_vras5@nebraska.gov with further instructions on how to self-schedule for an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine when they are eligible.

The health department has administered 19,456 vaccine doses, with 7,267 people in the nine-county district completing both doses of vaccination. That represents 21.28 percent of the 16-and-older population in the district. Another 12,189 people have received their first dose of vaccine.

The NCDHD was made aware of 23 new COVID-19 cases in the district since last reporting Monday. Among the new cases confirmed were eight in Holt County, and one each in Rock and Cherry counties.

NCDHD encourages district residents to continue to wear your mask in public places or where social distancing is difficult as well as practice social distancing while out in public. With recent public gatherings and school events, continue to monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. During this time of year, many people struggle with allergies, sinus infections, and common colds. If you have any questions regarding symptoms, call your primary care provider or the health department.

Test Nebraska clinics are available from 8:30 until 10:30 a.m. on Mondays at the O’Neill Armory.  

* Planning Commission recommends setbacks for facilities

(Posted 9 p.m. March 31)

After not reaching an agreement March 11, the Brown County Planning Commission on Wednesday narrowly approved recommending setbacks on environmentally controlled livestock confinement operations to the Brown County Commissioners.

The setbacks approved by a 4-3 vote Wednesday would utilize an odor footprint tool based on weather data from the North Central Nebraska Automated Weather Data Network.

The commission left at zero the setback requirement for open-lot facilities, as the setback recommendations dealt strictly with environmentally controlled facilities.

The setbacks approved are based on prevailing wind data and vary based on the size of the environmentally controlled confinement operation and the utilization of biofilters and other technology that would mitigate odor created by the operation.

Zoning Administrator Tom Jones said biofilters could be constructed by an engineer utilizing moist woody biomass to trap odors emitted from a confinement facility.

“Microbes from the woody biomass capture the odor-causing particles,” Jones said. “They are supposed to be 95 percent effective as a filter for odor. If someone wants to lower their setbacks, they can use this option.”

Planning Commission Chair Linda O’Hare said all seven members of the commission had spent a great deal of time considering the best way to address the issue of setbacks.

Commission members then debated whether to recommend setbacks using the odor footprint tool at a model of 96-percent odor free or a 98 percent odor free model. The setbacks increased at the 98 percent level from those of the proposed 96-percent odor-free level.

Planning Commissioner Jim Jackman said he did not like using the tool, but if the commission was set on it then he believed it should be recommended at the 96-percent level with setbacks less harsh.

Planning Commissioner Jim Carley said all operations would still have to be approved by the Department of Environment and Energy.

Planning Commissioner Mark Miles said he did not want to take away the ability of people to utilize their land for development, but he felt the commission needed to protect residents of the county from being harmed.

Planning Commissioner Brad Wilkins said the 96-percent odor-free model was agreeable to him.

“I think the 96 percent odor annoyance could work, and it makes sense based on prevailing winds,” Wilkins said. “I like that there are ways to mitigate the setbacks by covering lagoons and using biofilters for odors.”

O’Hare and Planning Commissioner Steve Bejot both indicated they could support the 96-percent odor-free setback proposal.

Planning Commissioner Pat Schumacher said he believed the setbacks needed to be more substantial, and argued in favor of the 98-percent odor-free standard.

“Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing,” Schumacher said. “By not having substantial setbacks, we will encourage these facilities to come to our county. They are always on the hunt, and the first thing they look at is zoning.”

Schumacher said too many confinement facilities could change the dynamics of the community.

“I think we need to have something concrete for the commissioners to stand on,” Schumacher said. “They have to make the call, and they need some help. They need something solid, and not just leave the decision to the whim of whoever the commissioners are at the time.”

Schumacher said eased setbacks for facilities that utilize the biofilters and other odor-management controls would encourage operators to adopt best practices and would be a deterrent for facilities that refused to invest in odor control.

“I don’t think Brown County wants any more of those facilities,” Schumacher said. “If they are going to move in, they need to be as odor free as possible and this will encourage good operators willing to control the odor. The 98-percent tool does what we want it to do.”

Wilkins said he believed the 98-percent threshold was too restrictive.

“I think that would stop any growth of hogs in the county,” Wilkins said. “If ethanol goes away, we will have a surplus of corn here. We don’t have rail, so it has to be trucked out, and that is the most expensive. Feeding livestock is the most effective way to add value to our corn.”

O’Hare moved to approve recommending setbacks for environmentally controlled livestock feeding confinement operations based on the odor footprint tool’s 96-percent odor-free model. Jim Jackman seconded that motion, but it failed on a 4-3 vote. O’Hare, Jackman and Wilkins voted in favor, with Carley, Miles, Schumacher and Bejot against.

Schumacher then moved to approve recommending to the Brown County Commissioners the setbacks for environmentally controlled facilities be approved using the odor footprint tool’s 98-percent odor-free model. Carley seconded that motion, which carried by a 4-3 margin with Carley, Schumacher, Miles and Bejot in favor and Wilkins, Jackman and O’Hare voting against.

The largest setback under the guidelines recommended for approval would be 2.2 miles in a northeast direction for any environmentally controlled livestock facility with 12,500 head of finishing hogs that does not use odor-mitigating practices. If utilizing odor-reducing technologies, the setback would drop to just over six-tenths of 1 mile to the northeast, with the setbacks further reduced for the other directions from the facility.

The odor footprint tool has setbacks based on the number of animal units confined and the mitigation practices implemented by the owner. The owner can also avoid setbacks if obtaining waivers from homeowners within the setback area.

The recommendation approved Wednesday left at zero the setback requirements for open pen feed lots that are not environmentally controlled.

After receiving the recommendations from the Planning Commission, the Brown County Commissioners will schedule a public hearing on the proposed changes to the county’s zoning regulations before taking official action.

In other action Wednesday, the Planning Commission unanimously approved a resolution to send to federal elected officials and the Department of the Interior that stated the commission’s opposition to the 30×30 federal land management program recently included as part of a presidential executive order.

Jones said the executive order signed by President Joe Biden sets a goal of setting aside 30 percent of the nation’s land and water for conservation by 2030, and increases the goal to setting aside 50 percent of the nation’s land and water for conservation by 2050.

The resolution states placing that amount of land and water in permanent conservation status will harm rural areas like Brown County, which already have a large number of acres in either state parks, wildlife management areas, the Niobrara National Scenic River or under the ownership of conservation groups like the Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve.

* Monday grass fire prompts response of 4 departments

(Posted 9 a.m. March 30)

Several area fire departments responded to a report of a grass fire in southern Tripp County, S.D.

According to Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, the fire began at approximately 5 p.m. Monday 3 to 4 miles west of Wewela, S.D., with the Springview department paged to provide mutual aid to the Colome and Winner S.D. departments. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was paged at 5:30 p.m. to provide additional aid.

Hallock said the fire started due to a bad wheel bearing on a trailer igniting the grass. He said the fire moved quickly to the southeast with the wind, and numerous trucks became stuck in soft ground trying to fight the fire.

Hallock estimated the fire burned more than 100 acres, but no structures were damaged. The Springview firefighters returned to their fire hall at 8:30 p.m. Monday.

* 20 percent of NCDHD residents now fully vaccinated

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

The North Central District Health Department has administered 18,418 COVID vaccine doses to date, and 6,821 people in the nine-county district are now fully inoculated against the virus. That represents 20 percent of the district’s 16-and-older population who have received both doses of vaccine.

Another 11,597 people in the district have received their first vaccine dose.

NCDHD is now vaccinating those 18 years of age and older. For an appointment time, NCDHD asks residents to first register at vaccinate.ne.gov. NCDHD has shifted to online scheduling. Those who have registered or are newly registered should expect an email from: dhhs.no-reply_vras5@nebraska.gov with further instructions on how to self-schedule for an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The email will contain a link to schedule at a clinic of your choice. If registering and unable to provide an email address, district residents will be contacted by phone.

Walk-in shots without an appointment will be administered from 4 until 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Rock County High School gym, from noon until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Butte Community Center, and from noon until 4 p.m. Friday in West Holt High School at Atkinson.

If you have received a first dose of vaccine through an NCDHD clinic and have not received a call to schedule your second dose, call the NCDHD office to schedule an appointment. 

The health department was made aware of seven new COVID-19 cases in the district since Thursday. The new cases included four in Holt County and three in Knox County. 

Beginning Monday, Test Nebraska clinics will only be held from 8:30 until 10:30 a.m. on Mondays at the O’Neill Armory.

More than 97,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered last week in Nebraska. As of Sunday, 828,764 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to those in Phase 1 and Phase 2A priority groups, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

As of Sunday, 310,267 Nebraskans have completed vaccination, which represents 20.9% of Nebraskans aged 16 years of age and older.

Nebraska is scheduled to receive 25,740 first doses and 25,740 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine, as well as 18,400 first doses and 18,400 second doses of the Moderna vaccine this week.

* NCDHD opens vaccination clinics for residents 18 and older

(Posted 3:30 p.m. March 29)

The North Central District Health Department is vaccinating residents 18 and older for COVID-19. Any district resident born in 2003 or prior and resides in Antelope, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox, Rock, or Pierce county is now eligible to receive a vaccine.

The first step on the way to receiving a vaccine is getting registered. It is important for people 16 and older to register at vaccinate.ne.gov. Access to the registry can also be found on the NCDHD homepage at: www.ncdhd.ne.gov. Currently, vaccine NCDHD is dispensing at clinics is only available for those 18 and older. NCDHD will notify the district when those 16 and older are eligible to receive vaccine.

NCDHD has shifted to online scheduling. Those who have registered or are newly registered should expect an email from: dhhs.no-reply_vras5@nebraska.gov with further instructions on how to self-schedule for an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine when they are eligible. Please mark this address into your safe sender list as well as check junk and spam folders for any misclassification of this sender. The email will contain a link to schedule at a clinic of your choice. If registering and unable to provide an email address, district residents will be contacted by phone.

NCDHD has clinic times available for walk-ins from 4 until 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, in the Rock County High School gym, from noon until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Butte Community Center, and from noon until 4 p.m. Friday in West Holt Public Schools at Atkinson.

Traffic Accident

(Posted 12:26 P.m. Mar 25)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Saturday, March 6, west of Long Pine.

According to the sheriff’s department report, at 5:59 a.m. March 6 on Highway 20 approximately 1 mile west of Long Pine, a 2017 Ford F150, driven by Katelyn Kruse, of Long Pine, was eastbound when  a deer came out of the south ditch, and driver stated it was dark and she didn’t have time to stop, striking the deer head on.

The Ford was towed due to disabling damage. Damage estimate $10,000.

* Brown, Cherry counties affirm decisions to exit Region 24

(Posted 7 a.m. March 24)

During a gathering of all five counties comprising the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency Tuesday, representatives from both Brown County and Cherry County affirmed their county boards’ decisions to leave the region and obtain emergency management services individually.

Keya Paha County Commissioner Mike Tuerk said he wanted all five counties involved in Region 24 to gather in an effort to see if there was an option to keep Region 24 together.

“I don’t know if it is salvageable, but I wanted to have a meeting to see,” Tuerk said.

Keya Paha County Attorney Eric Scott, who also serves as the Cherry County Attorney, said the reason Region 24 was founded by the five counties was to provide emergency services at a reduced cost to each member.

“The idea behind this meeting is to field ideas about the possibility of continuing Region 24,” Scott said. “We are here to see if we can find solutions instead of hurling stones about past actions or inactions. If it is not a possibility, then we will know with finality.”

Region 24 is currently comprised of Brown, Rock, Keya Paha, Cherry and Boyd counties. Each pay a percentage of the overall budget for the organization, with Cherry County and Brown County combining to pay for a majority of the budget.

Rock County Commissioner Glen May said he has served as his county’s deputy manager for seven years.

“I feel Region 24 is a good organization,” May said. “I know there was trouble with the last disaster. Myself and the head of the roads department did all the assessments for Rock County.”

May said the flooding in 2019 was unprecedented, and the Region 24 manager spent a majority of his time assisting the community of Lynch during that time.

All five counties acknowledged the flooding in 2019 was overwhelming, but the representatives from Brown and Cherry counties each stated the lack of assistance during those floods were not the only reasons the counties chose to exit Region 24.

Brown County Commissioner Buddy Small, the only one of the three county board members to attend Tuesday’s gathering, said he won’t go back in history to discuss the issues Brown County has had with Region 24 since Scott asked him not to.

“The Brown County Commissioners voted unanimously to leave Region 24,” Small said. “I don’t predict that the commissioners would change their direction. Would we consider teaming with one other county? It is possible, but not likely.”

Small said the commissioners formed a committee to draft a job description for an emergency manager solely for Brown County.

“When that is complete, we intend to advertise for the position,” Small said. “The individual will be dedicated to Brown County.”

Cherry County Commissioner Martin DeNaeyer said Cherry County has been forced to duplicate services because it was not receiving those services from Region 24.

“We feel like we can do it better on our own, and we have been doing it on our own,” DeNaeyer said. “We still want to get along with everyone, but the last flooding proved we stand better on our own.”

Cherry County Commissioner James Ward said going on its own will help Cherry County with dissemination of information from NEMA and FEMA.

“We have duplicated a lot of these services ourselves because we had to,” Ward said. “I don’t think it does a service to our taxpayers to continue (with Region 24).”

Boyd County Commissioner Alan Nicolaus said Boyd County would be willing to continue a partnership with a county or two if it could be worked out.

“We will probably be willing to stay in it if it doesn’t cost us too much,” Nicolaus said. “It has worked before. I don’t know if we can afford to go out on our own. We are open to working with whoever wants to stay.”

Tuerk said Keya Paha County was in the same position.

“I have heard belly-aching about Region 24 for years,” Tuerk said. “I perceive the problems to be more a management problem. I understand why Brown County and Cherry County are wanting to pull out of the region, but why not fix the problems instead of pulling the plug?”

Tuerk said the infrastructure was in place.

“If there is a management problem, let’s fix it,” Tuerk said. “Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Tuerk said there are three counties that are left uncommitted if Brown County and Cherry County leave the region.

Scott said it seemed like each of the five counties had similar concerns. He asked if the members would be willing to dissolve Region 24 in its current form and come up with a new agreement for an entity with new personnel and new administration.

“I think we owe it to the taxpayers to at least explore it,” Scott said.

Small said. “Had this meeting taken place two years ago, I would have been more amenable to staying. At this point, Brown County is moving forward on its own.”

Ward said, “I am in the same boat. In the past two years, I have moved past Region 24.”

Denaeyer agreed, saying, “Cherry County has lost tens of thousands of dollars due to mismanagement.”

Participating by phone, Cherry County Commissioner Tanya Storer said Cherry County basically did everything itself in 2019.

“We can do it better ourselves,” Storer said. “Our deputy manager has already been acting in that capacity for us with no support.”

Rock County Commissioner Jim Stout said Rock County would be willing to work to maintain the region.

“I am sorry to see Brown County and Cherry County leave,” Stout said. “We will still work together, because we have to. We are too far from Lincoln.”

Scott said Tuesday’s meeting accomplished its purpose.

“We now have clarity,” Scott said. “Where we go from here will have to be a separate meeting. I hope we can all work together. There has always been a good relationship between the counties.”

Following their previous board action, Brown County and Cherry County will officially exit Region 24 June 30.

* City Council approves amended solar power agreement

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

During a special meeting Tuesday, the Ainsworth City Council learned it would have to amend its agreement for a solar array after the Nebraska Public Power District underestimated its costs related to the installation.

Catherine Kathol with NPPD apologized to the council for the oversight, but said the utility handles each solar project in the state individually and does not pass the costs it incurs on to other ratepayers.

“NPPD’s interconnect costs came in much higher than we thought,” Kathol said. “The primary metering inside the substation was not included, and the total labor hours were double the estimate.”

Kathol said the oversights led to the final design costs for NPPD to be much higher than the original estimate, going from an anticipated $11,000 to more than $50,000.

“NPPD would never intentionally do anything to jeopardize our relationship with you,” Kathol said. “We were dismayed when our prices came in so much higher.”

She said GRNE Solar of Lincoln has been great to work with, and tried to adjust its agreement to keep the difference to the city as minimal as possible.

After the city approved a 20-year agreement that would have GRNE install and maintain the solar array with customers choosing to receive shares of the power generated paying $52.80, the amended agreement gave the city the option of keeping a 20-year agreement with the price customers pay for the power generated increasing to $55.90 per share, or the city could opt for a 30-year agreement with the price per share only increasing 30 cents to $53.10.

Kathol said, with either option, the cost per share would still be well below NPPD’s base rate for energy of $58 per megawatt hour.

“The project will still be a good benefit for the community,” Kathol said. “If you approve the agreement, we are looking at mid-April construction and we will start marketing the shares to the public.”

There remains no cost to the city for the project other than supplying the land needed for the array. GRNE installs and maintains the solar array and the site.

Customers who choose to receive a share of the power generated by the solar array will actually see a credit on their monthly power bill, as the cost to produce the solar power will be locked in below NPPD’s base rate.

Councilman Brad Fiala asked how the cost per share for the 30-year agreement was now cheaper, as the first agreement the city looked at had costs per share cheaper for a 20-year agreement than a 30-year agreement.

Jess Baker with GRNE Solar said the company has been able to lock in longer warranties for equipment, which has driven down the cost of the longer-term agreements.

“Most of the products are now designed to last for 30 to 35 years,” Baker said. “The product we are using for this project is the most robust and durable on the market. It is easy to maintain. We are trying to do as much solar in the state as possible so we are trying to minimize the cost wherever we can.”

Kathol said GRNE had been great to work with in an effort to minimize the price change for the oversight in the build-out needed by NPPD for the project.

Mayor Joel Klammer said it was frustrating for the city to have to have the agreement amended.

“We felt we were making decisions based on the prices that were provided to us,” Klammer said.

Councilman Vance Heyer said he still saw the project as being good for the community.

“We were under the impression we were locking in the price with the agreement last month,” Heyer said. “If we do pass this amended agreement, how do we know we are now actually locking it in? Are we going to have another amendment in three weeks?”

Kathol said, once the city signed the agreement, NPPD would complete the power purchase agreement with GRNE and the price approved would be locked in.

The council unanimously voted to approve a 30-year agreement with NPPD and GRNE Solar, locking in a price of $53.10 per megawatt hour to residents who choose to purchase shares.

NPPD will begin a marketing campaign, and residents and businesses that choose to obtain shares of the power generated by the array will receive a credit from NPPD on their monthly utility bill.

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

* NCDHD administers more than 16,000 vaccinations

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

The North Central District Health Department has now administered more than 16,600 COVID vaccinations to residents of the district.

A total of 6,190 people have completed both doses of vaccination, representing 18.24 percent of the district’s population 16 years of age and older. Another 10,432 residents of the district have received their first vaccination dose.

The NCDHD is moving into Phase 2A and will vaccinate those 50 to 64 years of age. To be called for an appointment time, NCDHD asks that residents register at vaccinate.ne.gov. NCDHD will still work to vaccinate those 65+ and those identified as prioritized groups. Clinics are scheduled and calls are made to schedule registered residents for vaccination appointments as quickly as vaccine arrives to the office.

The health department will accept walk-ins from 2 until 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Ainsworth Conference Center, and from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Friday in the Evergreen Independent Living Center at O’Neill. To qualify as a walk-in, you must be 50 years or older, reside in Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha or Rock counties and be registered on the state registry at vaccinate.ne.gov.

The NCDHD was made aware of seven new COVID-19 cases in the district since last reporting Thursday. Among them were three new cases in Cherry County, and one new case was reported in both Holt County and Boyd County.

NCDHD still encourages district residents to continue to wear a mask in public places or where social distancing is difficult as well as practice social distancing while out in public.

Beginning April 5, Test Nebraska testing clinics will only be held from 8:30 until 10:30 a.m. Mondays at the O’Neill Armory. There will be one last Test Nebraska event at the Rock County Fairgrounds from 1 until 3 p.m. March 29.

More than 106,700 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered during the past week in Nebraska. As of Sunday, 730,967 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to those in Phase 1 priority groups, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, 251,571 Nebraskans have completed vaccination as of Sunday, which represents 17% of Nebraskans 16 years of age and older.

The state began vaccinating those Nebraskans in Group 2A – those 50 years of age and older, as well as those working in critical industries of any age – in all counties Monday. A total of 10 percent of all vaccine allocations are being administered to those of all ages with serious underlying health conditions. Retail Pharmacy Program partners are offering vaccines for Nebraskans 50 years of age and older, as well as continuing to serve those working in critical industries, healthcare providers, and long-term care residents as needed.   

Nebraska is scheduled to receive 25,740 first doses and 25,740 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine, as well as 18,400 first doses and 18,400 second doses of the Moderna vaccine this week. The state is currently not expecting to receive any doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.

Finish Strong Nebraska is the state’s official COVID-19 vaccination campaign designed to keep the public motivated and informed on the vaccine. For more information and to register on the vaccine portal, visit FinishStrong.Ne.Gov. Once registered on the portal, Nebraska residents will be notified when COVID-19 vaccination begins in their area.

As of Monday, 302,097 Nebraskans have registered to receive the vaccine at vaccinate.ne.gov

Those interested in registering will need to provide name and contact information, date of birth and answer health questions used to help determine priority group eligibility. Any information entered is strictly confidential and used solely for this purpose. Friends, family and caregivers are encouraged to assist others with vaccine sign-up if needed. The DHHS Information line can assist those with limited technology, language or Internet access, and is available by calling 833-998-2275.

* Sheriff’s department seeks information on vandalism

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

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information from the public regarding vandalism to two homes that occurred sometime during the nighttime hours of Thursday, March 18, or the early morning hours of Friday, March 19.

According to the sheriff’s department, someone spray-painted two homes in the 300 block of North Maple Street during that timeframe. Blue and yellow spray cans were recovered at the scene.

Anyone with information on who may be responsible for this act of vandalism is asked to contact the Brown County Sheriff’s Department at 402-387-1440 or Crime Stoppers at 402-382-3121. All callers remain anonymous, and information leading to the arrest and conviction for those responsible for this crime, or any crime, could result in a cash reward.

* Stuart wins Class D-2 State Speech Championship

(Posted 7:45 a.m. March 22)

Class C-1 State Speech
Ainsworth results
Extemporaneous Speaking – 7. Josie Ganser; 14. Elizabeth Wilkins.
Informative Speaking – 7. Ben Flynn.
Oral Interpretation of Drama – 13. Eden Raymond, Cody Kronhofman, Maren Arens and Dakota Stutzman.
Serious Prose – 13. Dakota Stutzman.
Persuasive – 9. Alyssa Erthum; 15. Logan Hafer.

Class C-2 State Speech
Oral Interpretation of Drama – 6. West Holt (Brianna Rentschler, Hayden Davies, Taylor Schaaf, Jackson Butterfield and Madeline Rentschler); 11. Boyd County (Chase Snyder, Brayden Almgren, Joshua Kersch and Trevor Brooks).
Informative Speaking – 6. Sidney Burkinshaw, West Holt.
Poetry – 6. Kaci Mashino, Boyd County; 9. Catalina Knox, Boyd County; 14. Haley Peek, West Holt.
Entertainment – 4. Kaci Mashino, Boyd County; 18. Taylor Schaaf, West Holt.
Duet Acting – 16. Caid McCart and Hayden Davies, West Holt.
Extemporaneous Speaking – 12. Jackson Butterfield, West Holt.
Humorous Prose – 9. Caid McCart, West Holt.

Class D-2
Stuart wins the Class D-2 State Speech Championship
Team Scoring
1. Stuart, 140; 2. Chambers, 134; 3. Riverside, 52; 4. St. Edward, 48; 5. Winside, 46; 6. O’Neill St. Mary’s, 42.

Stuart Results
Poetry – 1. Alyssa King.
Persuasive Speaking – 1. Taya Schmaderer.
Entertainment Speaking – 2. Grace Alder; 6. William Paxton.
Extemporaneous Speaking – 2. William Paxton; 5. Austin Nachtman.
Humorous Prose – 4. Abigail Tubbs.
Oral Interpretation of Drama – 2. Stuart (Katilynn Kaup, Taya Schmaderer, Sydney Estill and Abigail Tubbs.
Serious Prose – 6. Alyssa King; 7. Sydney Estill.

Sandhills
Serious Prose – 5. Miriam Ganoung; 15. Becca Smith.
Informative Speaking – 16. Courtney Swisher.
Humorous Prose – 12. Miriam Ganoung.
Poetry – 11. Becca Smith.

* Vaccination clinic scheduled Wednesday in Ainsworth

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

The North Central District Health Department will accept walk-in appointments during COVID-19 vaccination clinics this week.  To qualify as a walk-in, you must be 50 years of age or older and reside in Antelope, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox, Rock, and Pierce counties and be registered on the state registry at vaccinate.ne.gov.

Due to the limited number of doses allocated to the North Central District Health Department, it cannot accept individuals who live outside of the health district.

A vaccination clinic is scheduled from 2 until 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Ainsworth Conference Center, and from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Friday in the Evergreen Independent Living Center at O’Neill.

The NCDHD encourages people of all ages interested in vaccine to get on the statewide vaccine registry at vaccinate.ne.gov. Additionally, a link to the registry can also be found on the ncdhd.ne.gov home page as well as a COVID-19 Vaccination Consent Form.

If able, print and complete the consent form prior to arriving to a clinic for a vaccination appointment and bring a state issued identification.

* Another 162 people in the district recover from COVID

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

The North Central District Health Department reported 162 people recovered from COVID-19 during the past week. Among the recoveries were 33 people in Holt County, 14 in Cherry County, 13 in Brown County, five in Boyd County, and two people recovered in both Rock County and Keya Paha County.

The NCDHD was made aware of just 12 new cases in the nine-county district since Monday. Among the new cases were four in Cherry County and two in both Brown County and Rock County. A total of 41 cases have been confirmed in the past two weeks.

Beginning Monday, March 22, Test Nebraska Clinics will only be held from 8:30 until 10:30 a.m. on Mondays at the O’Neill Armory and will no longer be offered at the Rock County Fairgrounds.

Almost 18 percent of the district’s population over the age of 16, a total of 6,075 people, have now completed both doses of vaccination. Another 9,969 have completed their first dose of vaccination. 

NCDHD is moving into Phase 2A and will vaccinate those ages 50 to 64. To be called for an appointment time, NCDHD asks that residents register at vaccinate.ne.gov. NCDHD will still work to vaccinate those 65+ and those identified as prioritized groups. Clinics are scheduled and calls are made to schedule registered residents for vaccination appointments as quickly as the vaccine arrives into the office. NCDHD appreciates the patience of district residents as it works to get vaccine out to its communities as quickly as possible.

* Commissioners discuss bonding Meadville Avenue project

(Posted 7 a.m. March 17)

The Brown County Commissioners approved resolutions Tuesday to refinance the remaining Brown County Hospital addition bonds to take advantage of the current low interest rates and discussed potentially financing the rehabilitation of the Meadville Avenue asphalt utilizing the same rates.

Andy Forney with DA Davidson and Co. told the commissioners the interest rate to finance the remaining bonds on the Brown County Hospital addition was 0.95 percent, a historically low rate.

“You will save money refinancing the hospital bonds at that rate,” Forney said. “These resolutions allow us to get all the documentation completed.”

The resolutions approved by the board redeemed the 2016 general obligation refunding bonds, and issued new 2021 general obligation refunding bonds.

Commissioner Denny Bauer asked Forney to provide the county with options for borrowing to fund 7-1/2 miles of asphalt overlay on Meadville Avenue.

“We would be looking at somewhere around $300,000 per mile, so it would be around $2.5 million for the total project,” Bauer said.

Forney said large-scale projects were a popular topic among governmental entities with the low interest rates. He said there were a couple good options the county could utilize to bond a large project.

Forney said the county could pledge a portion of its annual highway allocation funding from the state as a guarantee for the bonds, or the county could create a road improvement district and use its general taxing authority as the guarantee on the bonds.

Forney said pledging a portion of the county’s highway allocation dollars would lead to a better interest rate, and the county could move forward quickly to take advantage of current interest rates. With the general obligation bonds, the county would not be able to issue the bonds until the work is completed.

“The added benefit of pledging highway allocation funds is you don’t have to have the project completed to issue the bonds,” Forney said. “You can lock in the rates, and you have three years to spend the funds.”

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the county received $776,000 in state funding for the current budget year. He asked if the county would have to allocate all that money?

Forney said the bond payments would be substantially less for a 10-year note than what the county receives in highway allocation funding.

“If this is something you decide to do, it would be a very similar process to what we are doing tonight,” Forney said.

Bauer said the county could use the highway allocation pledge for the bonds, then use the county’s general levy to make up the difference for what the roads department would otherwise lose in its annual state allocation.

“With the rates now, this would save us about a half-million dollars in interest,” Bauer said. “The money is never going to be any cheaper to borrow, and the road needs to be fixed. Patching a mile here and a mile there is a never-ending problem, and the road stays rough.”

Turpin said new asphalt would last 20 years with good maintenance, and he said the county may want to consider placing load limits on Meadville Avenue to further protect it.

“I think some of the problem now is some of the trucks are way overloaded,” Turpin said.

Commissioner Buddy Small said he had concerns about obligating the county to debt payments when there are other large-scale projects that may need to be addressed.

“I am not saying it should or should not be done,” Small said. “If the state determines the sheriff’s facility needs revamped or replaced, that would be a large expense. This building will need a new roof at some point. We have equipment that needs to be upgraded.”

Bauer said it would cost the county much more than that to build 10 years from now.

“We picked up $130,000 from the first round of COVID relief, and we are eligible for another $573,000 in this round of federal COVID relief,” Bauer said. “That goes a long way toward addressing some of those other concerns like the jail or the courthouse.”

Forney asked how the county was positioned financially compared to some of its neighboring counties.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said the county used its inheritance tax fund to pay for damage from flooding in 2019, while other counties had to borrow money.

“We spent a lot of our inheritance tax fund down to keep from having to tax or borrow,” Wiebelhaus said.

Forney said the total interest the county would pay over 10 years on a $2.5 million bond would be $152,000.

Bauer asked that the issue be placed on the board’s April 6 agenda to make a decision on whether to move forward with the project.

“There is no need to talk about it for six more meetings,” Bauer said. “We either do it or we don’t.”

In other roads items, Turpin said the roads department had been hauling gravel onto several roads, but it was tough to tell after the recent moisture.

“We will have to run the maintainers as soon as it dries out before we go back to our grading projects,” the highway superintendent said.

Wiebelhaus asked if there were areas in danger of having water over the road again following the recent moisture.

Turpin said there were stretches of both the West Calamus Road and the Elsmere Road that were getting bad again and were close to having water over the road.

Dan Zwiebel thanked the county for adding gravel to 435th Avenue.

“The job was well done,” Zwiebel said. “Everyone out that way is happy.”

Zwiebel said, prior to the gravel being placed on the surface, several people had become stuck on that stretch of roadway.

The commissioners approved sending a letter to Crit Mitchell thanking him for 42 years of service to the county on the roads department. Mitchell plans to retire soon.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners discussed advertising for proposals for an emergency management director after the county recently voted to end its membership in the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency.

Small said the commissioners had talked about their dissatisfaction with Region 24 for quite some time.

“I was on that board for 10 years,” Small said. “I don’t know how many times I brought up problems we had and was criticized for even bringing something up.”

Small said, shortly after Brown County voted to leave Region 24 effective June 30, Cherry County also voted to leave.

Brown County and Cherry County paid for a majority of the Region 24 budget. Those counties’ exit leaves Rock, Keya Paha and Boyd counties comprising the region.

“We think we can receive better service with our own director,” Small said.

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala encouraged all the entities that rely on emergency management to get together a couple times each year and take advantage of what each entity brings to the table.

“We have all been left out of the process for a long time,” Fiala said. “I would like to see all those departments communicating.”

Small said the damage from the March 2019 flooding was devastating in the county, and without Turpin handling all of the FEMA paperwork, the county would not have received any federal assistance.

Brown County Ambulance Association member Ann Fiala said having its own emergency manager was a great opportunity to improve services in Brown County.

Bauer agreed to work with stakeholders on creating a job description for the position and move forward with proposals for either hiring a county employee or receiving requests for a contract for services.

In a final action item Tuesday, the commissioners appointed Bauer and Sheriff Bruce Papstein to represent the county on the Safety Committee, and appointed Turpin and Traci Ganser to the committee representing county employees.

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

* NCDHD nears Phase 2A of vaccination plan

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

The North Central District Health Department is close to moving into Phase 2A of its vaccination plan, making those ages 50 to 64 year eligible to be vaccinated.

To be called for an appointment time, NCDHD asks that residents register at vaccinate.ne.gov. Clinics are scheduled and calls are made to schedule registered residents for vaccination appointments as quickly as vaccine arrives into the office. NCDHD appreciates the patience of district residents as it works to get vaccine out to its communities as quickly as possible.

Thus far, the health department has fully vaccinated 16.6 percent of the district’s population age 16 and older. A total of 5,661 district residents have received both vaccine doses, and 9,531 residents have received their first dose of vaccine. A total of 37 percent of district residents ages 65 and older have completed vaccination.

The NCDHD was made aware of 16 new COVID-19 cases in the district since last reporting Thursday. Of the new cases, three were located in Cherry County, two in Holt County, and there was one new case reported in both Brown County and Keya Paha County.

More than 100,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered during the past week in Nebraska. As of Sunday, 624,230 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to those in Phase 1 priority groups, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, as of Sunday, 213,151 Nebraskans have completed vaccination, which represents 14.4% of Nebraskans aged 16 years of age and older.

For this week, Nebraska is scheduled to receive 25,740 first doses and 23,400 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine, as well as 18,400 first doses and 18,400 second doses of the Moderna vaccine. The state will not receive any doses of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen Pharmaceuticals vaccine this week.

As of Monday, 278,148 Nebraskans have registered to receive the vaccine at vaccinate.ne.gov

Those interested in registering will need to provide name and contact information, date of birth and answer health questions used to help determine priority group eligibility. The DHHS information line can assist those who need it by calling 833-998-2275.

* Prescribed burns scheduled in Brown, Rock counties

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

Prescribed burns are planned this spring on many Nebraska Game and Parks Commission wildlife management areas, state parks and state recreation areas where weather allows.

Historically, wildlife habitats were shaped by wildfires that occurred throughout the year. Burns can help set back undesirable plants that invade native woodlands and prairies, as well as other grass and wooded areas.

Prescribed burning, if used with grazing, can set back smooth brome and Kentucky bluegrass, increase diversity in grasslands and improve habitat for wildlife. Burned acres often become more attractive to wildlife. Acres managed by prescribed burning has better long-term effects on wildlife habitat compared to acres not burned.

Burns will take place this spring at both Keller State Park in Brown County and the Fred Thomas Wildlife Management Area in Rock County.

* Agricultural land values increase statewide

(Posted 10 a.m. March 15)

The value of agricultural land in Nebraska increased by an average of 6% over the prior year, to a statewide average of $2,895 per acre, according to the preliminary findings of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s 2021 Farm Real Estate Market Survey. This marks the second consecutive year that agricultural land in the state has experienced an increase in average market value.

Land industry professionals who responded to the survey attributed the rise in Nebraska farm real estate values to current interest rate levels, crop prices and COVID-19 disaster assistance payments provided to operators across the state. These factors provided stability to the industry in the face of an economic shutdown and disruptions of supply chains.

“During periods of economic uncertainty, monitoring Nebraska farm and ranch real estate remains important to understanding how financial forces are impacting agricultural land markets across the state,” said Jim Jansen, an extension educator who co-authored the survey and report with Jeffrey Stokes, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics.

The preliminary report found that center pivot-irrigated cropland estimated values rose by about 8% across the state. Dryland cropland values rose by about 6%. Survey participants noted higher crop prices as a major force leading to higher cropland values across the state. Improvements in grazing land and hayland market values range about 3% to 5% higher than the prior year.

Survey results also revealed that rental rates for cropland and grazing land in the state have increased by an average of about 5% to 7% for cropland, while rates for pasture and cow-calf pairs saw an average increase between about 3% and 7%. Survey participants also reported that the late season runup in crop prices were a major factor leading to higher cash rental rates in 2021.

The Nebraska Farm Real Estate Market Survey is an annual survey of land professionals, including appraisers, farm and ranch managers and agricultural bankers, conducted by the Department of Agricultural Economics. Results from the survey are divided by land class and agricultural statistic district. Land values and rental rates presented in the report are averages of survey participants’ responses by district. Actual land values and rental rates may vary depending upon the quality of the parcel and local market for an area. Preliminary land values and rental rates are subject to change as additional surveys are returned.

* NCDHD taking vaccination clinic appointments Friday

(Posted 6:30 a.m. March 12)

The North Central District Health Department has a limited number of Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccinations available to people who live or work in the NCDHD District.

The vaccinations will be offered Monday at O’Neill.  NCDHD will accept calls for appointments from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. today (Friday) by calling 402-336-2406.  This will be a first call, first serve appointment scheduling opportunity.  To be eligible to be scheduled for the vaccine you must meet the following qualifications:

  • over the age of 18
  • registered on the State Vaccine Registry at vaccinate.ne.gov (assistance with this will not be offered when persons call in for appointment times)
  • live or work in one of NCDHD’s nine counties:  Antelope, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox, Pierce or Rock
  • not already scheduled for another vaccine appointment.
  • in one of the following groups:
  • 65 years of age or older
  • Healthcare workers
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Grocery Workers
  • Trucking
  • Gas Stations
  • Postal Service Workers
  • First Responders
  • Law Enforcement
  • Food Processing
  • Corrections Officers/Staff
  • Educators – School Staff – Daycare employees
  • Funeral Home Staff and Coroners
  • Utilities
  • Coop/Ag support services-feed/seed sales, Ag equipment sales/service, grain marketers

The North Central District Health Department has now administered 14,183 COVID vaccine doses to residents of the district.

A total of 5,236 people in the district have received both vaccine doses, representing 15 percent of the district’s population of residents age 16 and older. Another 8,947 people have received their first vaccine dose.

The NCDHD reported 11 new COVID-19 cases in the district since last reporting Monday. Among the new cases were three in Cherry County, two in Holt County and one person was confirmed with the virus in Brown County. 

NCDHD reported 174 people recovered from the virus during the past week. Among the recoveries were 21 people in Cherry County, 19 in Holt County, 15 in Brown County, 10 people recovered in Boyd County, and there were six recoveries in both Rock County and Keya Paha County.

* Planning Commission reaches no agreement on setbacks

(Posted 9:15 a.m. March 11)

The Brown County Planning Commission on Wednesday made recommendations to the county commissioners to approve an updated comprehensive plan but could not come to an agreement on the major zoning regulation amendment, whether or not to propose setbacks for livestock feeding operations that require a special-use permit.

The session opened Wednesday with Steve Martin of the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska presenting via Zoom information on livestock matrix and odor footprint tools developed for use by counties as part of zoning regulations.

Martin said the livestock matrix was initially developed to provide consistency between counties for livestock feeding projects. He said a working group initially created the zoning measures to provide common practices, and if an applicant disagreed with a county’s decision the Department of Agriculture would serve as a mediator.

He said the Legislature removed the Department of Agriculture from the process, and made the matrix voluntary for counties instead of mandatory. Only five had officially adopted the matrix, though each also use their own methods.

“I believe it is a good tool,” Martin said. “It requires the applicant to gather a lot of information.”

Martin also discussed an odor footprint tool put together by several universities that includes an odor scoring system based on historical weather and wind patterns.

Martin said a property owner sued a county over a livestock feeding operation decision, and the State Supreme Court agreed the odor footprint was an acceptable tool to use when county boards voted on whether to allow a facility.

Brown County Commissioner Denny Bauer urged the Planning Commission to adopt something that is scientifically based when recommending zoning regulation updates to the commissioners.

“If someone sues the county, we have to justify why we adopted the regulations the way we did,” Bauer said.

The Planning Commission, by a 7-0 vote, approved recommending to the Brown County Commissioners that the updated Comprehensive Plan be adopted.

The commission then moved toward addressing 17 potential zoning regulation updates, with setbacks on livestock feeding operations first and foremost among the potential changes to county zoning.

Planning Commissioner Jim Jackman said there are probably seven different ideas among the seven people on the commission on how best to address setbacks.

Planning Commissioner Brad Wilkins said the long-term census data in the comprehensive plan stood out to him.

“In the 1920s, Brown County had 6,700 people,” Wilkins said. “In 2010, we had 3,100. Any way we can encourage and generate economic activity is something we all need to consider.”

In addressing setbacks and differentiating between environmentally controlled facilities and open lots, Wilkins said he could not wrap his head around why the Planning Commission would propose setbacks for environmentally controlled facilities but not for open lots.

“If we decide on no setbacks for open lots, why is that better than environmentally controlled operations?” Wilkins asked.

Jackman agreed, saying if the commission decided to implement setbacks, then they should be the same for both open lots and environmentally controlled operations.

Commission member Mark Miles said the reason to differentiate between the two types of operations is the setbacks would impact a lot more producers if placed on open lots.

“Cattle feeding adds value to cattle on local ranches, to grain, and to hay,” Miles said. “The economic impact is the difference.”

Audience member Tonny Beck said the Planning Commission would appease more producers if separating the two types of feeding operations.

Zoning Administrator Tom Jones said it has stood up in court that counties can have different setbacks based on the type of operation.

“The perception in the county is that hogs are bad and cattle are good,” Jones said. “We are trying to work out a compromise.”

Commission member Pat Schumacher said he believed there was a valid difference between the two types of operations.

“People who have called me believe open lots are acceptable, but confinement operations are not,” Schumacher said. “We also have a couple very well-run hog facilities, but I think we have reached a maximum on those.”

Jackman said he disagreed completely with that viewpoint.

“I know the hog operation raised wages in Brown County,” Jackman said. “Businesses had to compete for workers. We have to import corn to our county now. The basis on corn is the narrowest it has ever been, and it is the same for soybeans. I would hate to restrict commerce in this county.”

Miles said he believed cattle production was the No. 1 driver of the county’s economy and was the backbone of Brown County.

“I think we need to make our rules to support that,” Miles said. “I think there are scenarios where a half-mile setback is needed, but I wouldn’t want to restrict it further. We have to protect cattle producers in this county. I don’t think there should be setbacks on open lots.”

Bauer said he understood many people in the county were against hog operations.

“What happens if the feds end up dictating that cattle lots also have to be enclosed?” Bauer asked.

Wilkins said he believed the Planning Commission needed to be equitable to all livestock producers.

“We have gotten along without setbacks for 20 years,” Wilkins said. “Hard-wiring setbacks means you stop something before even getting to view each project on its own merits. That is the purpose of the Planning Commission and the county commissioners, to make those hard decisions.”

Planning Commissioner Jim Carley said, regardless of what the commission recommends, some people are not going to be happy.

“I always thought common sense should be the way we go,” Carley said. “I think we need to keep and maintain the people who have operated here. We have been successful. Big people with the money move in, buy up the property and force the little guy out.”

Planning Commissioner Steve Bejot said he had received several phone calls from people in favor of setbacks.

“Setbacks would eliminate a lot of hassle,” Bejot said.

He said he was in favor of setbacks on environmentally controlled facilities, but not on open lots.

Schumacher said 100 percent of the comments he has received from people were in favor of setbacks for environmentally controlled facilities.

“That is how I will base what I support,” Schumacher said. “Use the odor footprint for the science and go up to 2 miles for setbacks for large facilities.”

Jones said setbacks will work toward bringing in large companies and large operations that can buy enough land to meet the setback requirements, but will serve to discourage smaller producers.

Planning Commissioner Linda O’Hare said common sense should be applied.

“It is a lot of work, but I want to see economic development,” O’Hare said. “What I am hearing is support for no setbacks on open feedlots but one-half mile to one-mile setbacks for environmentally controlled facilities.”

Wilkins moved to continue with no setbacks. By a 4-3 vote, the commission indicated support for that position. Wilkins, O’Hare, Miles and Jackman voted in favor of not implementing setbacks on any facilities, while Bejot, Schumacher and Carley voted against.

The commission then proceeded to vote on each proposed zoning regulation amendment individually.

Several dealt with definitions for certain types of operations and practices, while others addressed conservation easements and removed perpetual easements from being allowed in the county. Easements would be reassessed upon the sale of the property.

Additional recommendations to the Brown County Commissioners included regulations for wind energy projects and solar projects, including one-half mile setbacks from dwellings for wind projects and money required up front for the cost to decommission wind turbines and solar arrays.

The Planning Commission first voted to table Amendment 37 related to setbacks by a 7-0 vote. However, the board then addressed a motion to recommend Option B to Amendment 37 that would include one-half mile setbacks on operations between 300 and 1,000 animal units, three-quarters of a mile setbacks for operations between 1,000 head and 5,000 head, and one-mile setbacks for operations in excess of 5,000 animal units.

That motion failed on a 4-2 vote, with Jackman, Schumacher, O’Hare and Wilkins voting against, Bejot and Miles voting in favor and Carley having left the meeting at that point.

Schumacher indicated he voted against the proposal because he felt the setbacks weren’t far enough. Miles said he voted in favor because he thought it was a fair compromise, and said more strict setbacks obviously did not have the support of a majority of the commission members.

Jackman said he believed the commission should have another meeting to further discuss a potential compromise on the issue of setbacks since the rest of the regulations had been approved to recommend to the county commissioners.

Wilkins said, with no setbacks approved, the county would continue to operate as it had in the past, looking at each special-use permit application individually for livestock feeding operations.

Jones said he would visit with commission members individually to determine options to present at a future meeting.

Upon receiving the recommendations from the Planning Commission, the Brown County Commissioners will schedule a public hearing before voting to officially adopt the comprehensive plan and any of the zoning changes.

Jones said he had a little flexibility on presenting the recommendations to the county commissioners, so if the Planning Commission chose to meet again soon on additional setback proposals, those could be included in the recommendations if any receive majority support.

* Council hears options for pool upgrades or replacement

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

The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday heard options for either rehabilitating or replacing the swimming pool at East City Park.

Presented by Larry Steele of Miller and Associates as part of an overall park and pool improvement study, options ranged from $1.28 million to renovate the existing swimming pool and bathhouse to almost $3 million to completely replace the pool and bathhouse and more than $4 million to move the swimming pool closer to the football field and add a locker room and concessions area.

Steele told the council the current swimming pool, bathhouse and wading pool are not ADA compliant. He said the swimming pool’s recirculation system is undersized, as are its skimmers, and the diving well and boiler do not meet current standards.

Councilman Vance Heyer asked how the city’s swimming pool compared to other communities of similar size. Steele said the city has been maintaining its pool well, and most of the pools in similar-sized communities were built at about the same time.

“Your pool is just getting old,” Steele said. “It has been well maintained but it is showing its age, and the bathhouse needs major updates. The wading pool needs to have a sloped entry to meet ADA requirements.”

Steele said he received 171 responses to a survey that was made available to members of the community. The results showed 62 percent of respondents favored building a new swimming pool, with just 16 percent against. The survey rated the current pool in poor condition and received the top response on amenities the city offered that needed to be expanded or improved.

An audience member asked about the possibility of constructing an indoor pool. Steele said the cost of an indoor pool would be double the $3 million projection to replace the current outdoor pool, and would also cost the city significantly in staffing, utilities and maintenance.

Other items identified included extensions to the current hiking and biking trail, the construction of a splash pad and upgraded playground equipment.

Steele said, by completing the study, the city could apply for grant funding up to $562,000 to assist with a project.

In addition to updating the swimming pool, goals identified in the study include updating the basketball court at the Courthouse Park and adding benches and picnic tables near the fountain, and at East City Park expanding the hiking and biking trail, replacing the tennis and basketball court, replacing the sign near the highway and replacing the south restrooms.

Mayor Joel Klammer thanked Steele for his presentation and said the council would consider options.

In other business Wednesday, the council engaged in a lengthy discussion with representatives from Three River regarding the city’s recent action to file a petition for intervention with the Public Service Commission on the company’s application to refinance its existing debt.

Klammer said the city was made aware of Three River filing with the Public Service Commission to refinance only an hour or so before the deadline to file an intervention. Klammer said the city had to make a quick decision, and he said he felt the city was an interested party. He said the city’s goal was not to impede Three River’s application but only to be kept informed.

“The city supports Three River, but is just trying to protect the public,” Klammer said.

Three River Board member John Gross asked the city to get out of Three River’s way as it tried to take advantage of the current low interest rates to refinance its existing loans.

Gross said, by filing the intervention, the city triggered a 30-day extension before the Public Service Commission could rule on the company’s application.

“Interest rates have already risen 40 basis points,” Gross said. “Because of this delay, we will already have to pay an additional $275,000 in interest.”

City Attorney Rod Palmer asked, “Shouldn’t the city be concerned if Three River is unstable financially?”

Gross said the action by Three River was a simple matter to take advantage of lower interest rates. He said Three River did not finance any part of the $2 million broadband build-out in the community, but used its own existing funds coupled with a more than $400,000 state grant for the project.

Three River Manager Steve Dorf said almost every company with an existing loan is looking to refinance right now.

Councilman Brad Fiala moved to rescind the city’s intervention on Three River’s application with the Public Service Commission immediately in an effort to get to common ground.

The council unanimously approved rescinding the city’s action to intervene.

Klammer said, during the review of the broadband build-out project, the city discovered its cable franchise agreement with Three River had expired several years ago. Three River had continued to pay the city annually based on the previous agreement.

He said getting a new agreement signed has proven to be difficult, as the main stumbling block has been whether the city can require regulation on the company’s broadband service.

Klammer said Three River has argued the Federal Communications Commission prohibits the city from regulating Internet speed performance.

Fiala said Three River will offer different prices for different options.

“How do residents know what they are actually getting?” Fiala asked.

Dorf said the company had been limping along with its older network, but the new fiber network will be state of the art, and the company had upgraded to a 10-gigabyte network above and beyond the one gigabyte required for the grant.

“The state still doesn’t know how it is going to test broadband networks for speed performance,” Dorf said. “We are confident we will meet or beat those requirements.”

Dorf said Three River does not force customers to sign long-term contracts, so they have the ability to discontinue service at any point if they are unhappy.

“We have an incentive to provide quality service,” Dorf said. “We are obligated to test to the speeds we are being paid to deliver. The Department of Economic Development understands the network we are building and is satisfied with what we are doing. You are going to have the fastest Internet in the state. We are asking politely for you to step out of our way and let us provide this service.”

Fiala agreed the new broadband network would be a tremendous asset to the community.

“We just want to make sure we are protecting the residents who put us on this council,” Fiala said.

Councilman Schyler Schenk said, with the cable agreement between Three River and the city, there is a list of requirements that must be followed.

“I don’t argue that the Internet is different,” Schenk said. “But there is virtually nothing offered to the city for consumer protections on Internet service. I would like to see some of the same standards apply.”

Councilman Vance Heyer said he didn’t know if it should be the city’s job to try and regulate Internet service.

Dorf said Three River is local, its employees live in the community and the company is a part of the community.

“Brian Delimont has just been promoted to the assistant general manager and is being trained to become the next GM of the company,” Dorf said. “Brian doesn’t want to be accosted in public if we are providing poor service. We are not a big national company. We can’t afford to mess with our customers.”

Dorf said, with the new fiber network, not only will Internet speeds be tremendously improved, but the reliability of the company’s cable television and phone service will be greatly enhanced because all will be included in the new fiber network instead of the previous coaxial cable network.

Fiala said he was glad he endorsed Three River for the DED grant, and wants to continue to be able to do so.

“Four years from now, most of us will likely be off this council, and those who come after us will question why there isn’t an agreement in place,” Fiala said.

Dorf said Atkinson recently signed an agreement with another company that he said looked fair and he had provided a copy of that agreement to the city.

“Everyone who looked at that agreed it was simple and fair to both sides,” Dorf said. “This doesn’t have to be as complicated as it is being made out to be.”

He offered to sit down personally with the mayor and work out an agreement that satisfies both the company and the city without both entities having to continue to incur substantial legal fees.

Klammer agreed the two sides may just have to start again on an agreement.

“We obviously aren’t going to come to a franchise agreement tonight,” Klammer said.

No formal action was taken, though the city held an executive session with its consultant prior to adjourning Wednesday to further discuss the matter.

In other items Wednesday, resident Margene Walz asked the council why semis could not use Highway 7 just a few blocks away instead of using Pine Street.

“I live at Trailside, and my driveway faces Pine Street,” Walz said. “There are a lot of semis that go up and down Pine Street, and I am afraid someone is going to get hurt someday,” Walz said. “Most towns have a weight restriction on city streets.”

Fiala said the city has designated First Street and Pine Street as truck routes.

“I do think we need to think about slowing traffic down and doing something about people parking on Pine Street,” Fiala said.

The council approved a requested subdivision of a tract of land outside the city limits but within its 1-mile zoning jurisdiction. City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the intent of the subdivision was to sell a portion of the ground to a neighboring commercial business.

The council heard another subdivision request for 128 N. Elm St. and 134 N. Elm St. The property owner said there is interest in purchasing part of the property. Schroedl said she had not had time to fully research the subdivision request, but it would create a tiny lot of 75×60 feet. The council tabled action on that request.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson presented the council with an update on LB 840 activity as part of the NCDC’s contract to manage the program.

She said there were 17 applications submitted to the LB 840 program between August and December, with 12 projects approved. An additional two projects have been approved so far this year.

“Interest rates are currently low, so many businesses are able to access capital without applying to LB 840 for loan funding,” Olson said. “We have made progress this year. It is good to see everyone working together.”

The council approved a recommendation from the LB 840 Loan Committee to amend the amount of a previously awarded façade grant. Schroedl said the application was approved in November for $4,200, but the contractor found structural issues that had to be addressed as part of the project. The amendment raised the grant amount to $6,560, representing half of the total project cost.
The council approved a quote from Topkote for armor coating city streets. The city locked in a price of $1.18 per square yard, with the city also responsible for supplying the gravel. The price quoted was the same as in 2020.

The council approved a contract for services with CDS Inspections and Beyond to supply housing specialist services and lead based paint specialized services to the city for its owner-occupied housing rehabilitation program.

Schroedl said the company is the city’s current provider, but the action was needed as part of the city repurposing its remaining CDBG re-use loan program funds into the housing rehabilitation fund.

Councilman Shawn Fernau said he had worked with the company and highly recommended it.

The council approved an amendment to its engineering contract with Olsson Associates in the amount of $5,000 for the wastewater improvement project. Schroedl said the city had already paid the company, but the contract needed to match what had been paid.

“This is a wash,” Schroedl said. “We just have to make sure the contract is clean for the grant funding.”

She said the city has now received approximately $245,000 of its CDBG funds from the state for the project, which has been completed.

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

* Recent cases in Brown County District Court

(Posted 1:30 p.m. March 10)

During Brown County District Court proceedings Tuesday, Dylan Henson, age 29, of North Platte, appeared for sentencing after previously pleading guilty on charges of making terroristic threats, a Class IIIA felony; third-degree assault, a Class I misdemeanor; and second offense driving under the influence, a Class W misdemeanor.

Henson was sentenced Tuesday to two years imprisonment on the terroristic threats conviction, six months in prison on the third-degree assault conviction, and two months in prison on the driving under the influence conviction. The three sentences will be served concurrently, and Henson was given credit for 139 days served.

Henson had also previously entered a plea of guilty to a Class IV felony charge of tampering with a witness. He was sentenced to one year in prison on that count with no credit for pre-sentence confinement.

Henson was also sentenced for three additional counts to which he pleaded guilty: a Class IIIA felony count of making terroristic threats, a Class I misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon, and a Class W misdemeanor charge of second offense driving under the influence.

Henson was sentenced to two years in prison on the terroristic threats count with credit for one day served. He received a sentence of six months in prison on the concealed weapon count, and two months in prison on the driving under the influence count. Those sentences will be served concurrently.

The three separate groups of charges will be served consecutively.

In other District Court action Tuesday, Andrew Roepke, 21, of North Platte, appeared on a motion by the state to revoke post-release supervision. The court revoked Roepke’s post-release supervision and sentenced him to 45 days in the Brown County Jail.

ADJOURNMENT

* Care Center Board approves generator quote

(Posted 2:15 p.m. March 9)

The Sandhills Care Center on Monday approved a bid from Ainsworth Electric Motor to install a 100-kilowatt generator to replace the facility’s current 25-kw model.

Ainsworth Electric Motor submitted a bid of $56,190 for the project. Care Center maintenance director Matt Moody said the four bids received all met the specifications for the project, but he recommended Ainsworth Electric Motor due to the brand of generator and motor.

The Ainsworth Electric Motor bid quoted a Kohler generator with a John Deere motor, which Moody said were both quality products.

The low bid for the project was submitted by Nebraska Generator Services of Gibbon for $54,984. Moody said that bid included a Perkins brand engine in the generator.

“I know those have had a few problems,” Moody said of the Perkins brand engine. “Ainsworth Electric is local if we were to ever have any issues.”

The care center also received a quote of $71,113 from Power Tech of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and a bid of $75,904 for the project from Pro Electric of Ainsworth.

Moody said the new 100-kw generator will power the entire facility, which the current 25-kw generator does not.

The Sandhills Care Center received a USDA grant to cover 75 percent of the project, with the care center responsible for funding the remaining 25 percent.

The board, with Henry Beel absent, approved the quote from Ainsworth Electric for the new generator.

Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said there could be some delay getting the materials delivered for the project due to backlogs as a result of the pandemic and the recent winter storms in Texas.

“They will get the equipment here as quick as they can,” Fuchs said.

The care center also approved a quote from AKRS Equipment for the purchase of a John Deere riding lawn mower with bagger. The company provided a quote of $2,320 for the mower, which will replace an older mower the facility inherited when it purchased the building. Moody said the engine was shot on the old mower.

In other business Monday, Administrator Penny Jacobs reported the care center currently has 18 residents.

She said the facility will contract for a director of nursing for the time being until a permanent DON is hired. She said that will satisfy one of the issues identified following the care center’s recent survey from the state.

“We still need someone for that permanent position,” Jacobs said. “We also could use a couple nurses, and a full-time and part-time CNA.”

She said the facility is also in the process of hiring a person for the dietary department.

Jacobs said she is in the process of finalizing the facility’s plan of correction for the items identified during the annual survey of the care center by the state.

Chief Operating Officer Kent Taylor said the COVID vaccination clinics have been completed for residents and staff who chose to be vaccinated.

Fuchs asked if visitation to the facility has increased since residents and staff have now been vaccinated.

Taylor said everything is still being driven by county positivity rates, and does not take into account residents and staff being vaccinated.

“Brown County is in the Green Phase currently,” Taylor said. “We can have visitation, as long as people remain 6 feet apart. All the visitation is being done in the sun room, and family members schedule appointments to visit.”

Business Manager Sarah Schipporeit said the nice weather has afforded staff the chance to take residents outside and on bus rides.

Schipporeit reported the financials for the month of February are not complete due to the care center’s payroll company having an issue that affected its computer network.

Taylor reported the Medicaid rate the care center receives from the state will increase by $20 per resident per day for January through June. Jacobs said the care center currently has 12 residents who receive Medicaid assistance.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. April 12.

* Rock County School Board votes to end mask mandate

(Posted 7 a.m. March 9)

The Rock County Public Schools Board of Education on Monday voted to remove its mask mandate, though the district is still recommending that masks be worn in the buildings.

The board indicated, if there is a positive COVID case identified in the building, the mask mandate will be reinstated for 10 days to allow the board to reassess the situation.

Anyone who wants their child to continue wearing a mask is asked to contact the office so the staff can make sure the child wears a mask during the day.

* ACS to remove mask mandate beginning March 15

(Posted 7 a.m. March 9)

Beginning March 15, masks will be recommended but no longer required at Ainsworth Community Schools. The Board of Education Monday directed Superintendent Dale Hafer to remove the mask requirement, but also gave Hafer the go-ahead to reinstate the mask mandate if there is an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the area.

Hafer told the board several school districts were having the same conversation, as the number of cases in the area decline.

“The last issue we had was coming out of the semester break,” Hafer said. “That student had close contact with someone who tested positive but was able to get a negative test and get back into school.”

Hafer said all district staff members who choose to will have the ability to receive the COVID vaccine by Wednesday.

“We have 36 signed up for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, and another handful who already received another brand,” the superintendent said. “It’s about 50-50 on staff who do and who don’t want the vaccine.”

Hafer said the North Central District Health Department quarantine rules do remain in effect, so if there is close contact with someone who tests positive, students and staff would have to quarantine if they are not wearing masks.

“We will still maintain distance the best we can, and keep the students spread out,” Hafer said. “The efforts of the custodial staff and staff members have been excellent. The electro-static sprayers have been a good investment. We haven’t even seen much regular flu.”

Hafer said it was nice just to be having the conversation about removing the mask mandate, as the situation is much better than it was in the late fall.

“About a year ago at this time, schools were making decisions to go remote,” Hafer said.

Board President Jim Arens recommended the district make the change coming back from spring break on March 15.

“You don’t need board approval either to reverse that if we start seeing cases again,” Arens said.

Board member Brad Wilkins said some states were already getting rid of their mask mandates, and others were going to remove the mandate April 9, five days after the Easter holiday.

Board member Scott Erthum said, even though masks won’t be mandated, they will still be recommended, so the district won’t go from 100 percent mask usage to zero.

“We can react if we see cases start popping back up,” Erthum said.

Though not taking formal action, the board directed Hafer to move the district to recommending but not mandating masks beginning March 15.

In other business Monday, the board approved the 2021-22 school calendar as presented. Hafer said the calendar was similar to the current year’s calendar. The first day for students will be Aug. 12, with the end of the first semester Dec. 17. Second semester classes resume Jan. 4, 2022, with graduation May 15 and the final day for students May 19.

The board accepted the resignation of English teacher Katelyn McClure effective at the end of the current school year. McClure was hired prior to the start of the 2020-21 school year. In her letter of resignation, McClure thanked the board for the opportunity to teach at Ainsworth Community Schools.

The board approved the first payment for the middle school and high school window replacement project in the amount of $104,718.

Representatives from the Nebraska Association of School Boards provided the board with an update on proposed changes to Rule 10 relating to school accreditation. The changes, which the NASB said are not major, will take effect for the 2022-23 school year.

Hafer said the state is trying to streamline the accreditation process, but none of the changes are earth shattering.

Elementary Principal Curtis Childers reported there will likely be between 27 and 33 students attend kindergarten for the 2021-22 school year.

He said between 95 percent and 97 percent of parents of kindergarten through sixth grade students attended recent parent-teacher conferences.

High School Principal Steve Dike congratulated the 17 students who qualified for state by finishing with gold medal performances in their FFA proficiencies.

Nine FFA students received State Degrees, including CeeAnna Beel, Katrina Beel, Moriah Beel, Rylan Hobbs, Cailin Orton, Shaley Starkey, Libby Smith, Ellie Welke and Caden Swanson.

Activities Director Scott Steinhauser reported there were 44 athletes out for high school track, and nine boys indicated an interest in boys golf.

Steinhauser congratulated the nine students who qualified for state speech, and the Mock Trial team for finishing fifth in the state championships.

Hafer thanked the activities directors, administrators and speech coaches for agreeing to host the district speech meet Saturday and allowing the students to perform at home.

During his report, Hafer said the building and grounds committee identified four areas around the school buildings for concrete projects. The areas include the east and west entrances to the elementary building, the Big A entrance on the west side of the school, and the sidewalks on the south side of the school.

“We probably won’t be able to do all of it this summer, but we hope to get one or two of the areas completed this year,” Hafer said.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. April 12, as the board will move to 8 p.m. start times beginning in April and continuing through October.

* Ainsworth finishes second in C1-6 District Speech Saturday

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

Class C1-6 District Speech
Ainsworth High School
Team Scores

1. Bridgeport, 220; 2. Ainsworth, 168; 3. Mitchell, 140; 4. Valentine, 126; 5. Hershey, 60; 6. Kearney Catholic, 54; 7. Gordon-Rushville, 32; 8. Chase County, 10.

Ainsworth Results
Top three in each event qualify for state

Duet Acting – 6. Katherine Kerrigan and Taylor Allen

Extemporaneous Speaking – 1. Josie Ganser; 2. Elizabeth Wilkins

Informative Speaking – 1. Ben Flynn; 6. Eden Raymond

Oral Interpretation of Drama – 3. Cody Kronhofman, Dakota Stutzman, Eden Raymond and Maren Arens

Humorous Prose – 6. Brandt Murphy

Poetry – 5. Alyssa Erthum

Serious Prose – 3. Dakota Stutzman

Persuasive Speaking – 1. Alyssa Erthum; 3. Logan Hafer.

* Nearly 14 percent of NCDHD adults vaccinated

(Posted 6:15 p.m. March 8)

Nearly 14 percent of the population 16 years of age and older in the North Central District Health Department nine-county coverage area have now received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

A total of 13,183 vaccinations have been administered, with 4,907 people in the district receiving both vaccine doses to be fully inoculated, and 8,328 people receiving their first dose of the vaccine.

NCDHD is currently focusing its vaccination efforts on those 65 years and older and those in tier 1 of the Phase 1B community partners, which includes first responders, those working in the utilities sector and educators.

The NCDHD was made aware of just four new COVID-19 cases in the district since last reporting Thursday. Among the new cases were one each in Holt and Cherry counties.

The North Central District Health Department was made aware the COVID-19 California variant has been identified in the district. While the California variant is believed to spread more rapidly, the available vaccines are thought to be effective against it.

NCDHD still encourages district residents to continue to wear a mask in public or where social distancing is difficult.

* Trailer fire prompts prolonged outing for firefighters Friday

(Posted 8:15 a.m. March 8)

Members of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department spent Friday night and early Saturday morning on the scene of a fire that started in a trailer hauling bales.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at 8:30 p.m. Friday, a semi driver reported the load of bales he was hauling on Highway 183 had caught fire.

Fiala said the driver noticed the bales on fire near the entrance to Keller Park, and brought the semi to the top of the hill before stopping and unhooking the trailer. Doing so, Fiala said, gave the fire department room to remove the bales from the trailer and spread them out onto a nearby field.

Fiala said, when firefighters arrived, all 34 bales on the trailer were ablaze. The Nebraska Department of Transportation and Frontier Diesel brought equipment to the scene to unload the bales and spread them onto a field owned by Steve Bartak to allow them to burn.

The trailer, owned by Buddy Tarrell of Bassett, was considered a total loss, as were the 34 hay bales.

Fiala said firefighters remained on scene until approximately 5:30 a.m. Saturday until all the bales were burned down and extinguished.

* Mock Trial team wins 2 of 3 matches at state to place fifth

(Posted 8 a.m. March 5)

The Ainsworth Mock Trial team won two of its three matches this week to bring home fifth place in the Nebraska State Mock Trial Championships.

A statewide event featuring 12 regional qualifiers, the Nebraska Mock Trial State Championships were contested virtually this year due to the pandemic.

Ainsworth portrayed the prosecution in the State of Nebraska v. Chris Hall in the opening round Monday, losing a decision to Grand Island Northwest.

On Tuesday, Ainsworth portrayed the defense and won a decision against Conestoga. On Wednesday, Ainsworth was back on the prosecution side and won a decision over Lincoln Pius X.

Omaha Creighton Prep defeated Omaha Duchene for the state title Thursday after both teams finished 3-0 during the round robin competition. McCook also finished the round robin 3-0 but did not score as many points from the judges as Creighton Prep or Omaha Duchene, placing McCook third in the state. Ogallala finished 2-1 but won a tie-breaker over Ainsworth for fourth place. Lutheran High Northeast also finished 2-1 but did not score as many points from the judges as Ainsworth, leaving Lutheran High Northeast in sixth place.

Grand Island Northwest, Bellevue West, Sidney and Conestoga each finished 1-2, and Columbus Lakeview and Lincoln Pius X went 0-3 during state competition.

Ainsworth’s team consisted of attorneys Cody Kronhofman, Alyssa Erthum, Haley Schroedl and Levi Goshorn, and witnesses Libby Smith, Brandt Murphy, Dakota Stutzman and Gracie Petty.

The Ainsworth team was coached this year by Katie McClure and Graig Kinzie. Brown County Attorney Andrew Taylor served as the team’s attorney coach, and former coach Mary Rau also provided assistance to the team.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 5)

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

Payten L. Bottorf, age 20, of O’Neill, charged with being a minor in possession, sentenced to six months of probation.

Lucas B. Grubham, 42, of Valentine, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, fined $25.

Sierra L. Jones, 19, of Ainsworth, theft by receiving stolen property, $125; also charged with false reporting, $125.

Brandon Shaul, 23, of Ainsworth, first degree criminal trespassing, sentenced to 30 days in jail; also charged with speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Berlin E. Rehkopf, 19, of Ainsworth, criminal mischief between $1,500 and $5,000, sentenced to six months of probation and ordered to pay $2,456 in restitution.

Jade W. Dailey, 19, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Levi E. Gum, 26, of Long Pine, attempting a Class 2 misdemeanor, $250.

Kristina E. Bader, 26, of Aberdeen, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Marvin Ramirez Hernandez, 25, of Aurora, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125; no operator’s license, $75.

Dade K. Brock, 23, of Valentine, 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.

Brian Duran, 20, of Satanta, Kan., minor in possession, $300.

Jordan D. Perkins, 24, of Valentine, procuring or selling alcohol to a minor, $300.

Bailey L. Colman, 21, of Springview, procuring or selling alcohol to a minor, $300.

Ryan Farris, 29, of Ainsworth, three counts of issuing a bad check, fined a total of $125 and ordered to pay $258 in restitution.

Brady E. Painter, 17, of Ainsworth, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125; no valid registration, $25.

Dustin R. Gaskins, 34, of Ainsworth, two counts of violating hunting or fishing regulations, fined $100 on each count.

Russell H. Booth, 45, of Grand Island, commercial vehicle marking violation, $50.

George J. Friedrich, 25, of Bassett, commercial vehicle brake violation, $50.

Cassius L. Russell, 27, of Ainsworth, no operator’s license, $75.

Chris Johnson, 35, of Ainsworth, dog running at large, $25.

Robert J. Walton, 66, of Ainsworth, 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.

Jordan P. Hunter, 31, of Denver, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Shoni R. Bussinger, 22, of Grand Island, attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100; driving left of center, $50.

Neal J. Sherbeyn, 50, of Valentine, first offense reckless driving, $500.

Frank Whitefeather, 38, of Wellington, Texas, possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Jami L. Haskell, 24, of Ainsworth, 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.

Jared L. Holland, 36, of Langford, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Flynn W. Farris, 56, of Amarillo, Texas, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Eric L. Goochey, 40, of Johnstown, first offense reckless driving, $500, driver’s license revoked for 30 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Tiffany A. Vos, 36, of Brooklyn Park, Minn., speeding 1-5 mph over the limit, $10; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Shane L. Lewis, 23, of Johnstown, no valid registration, $200; 30-day commercial license residency violation, $50; unlawful or fictitious display of plates, $50.

* Health department reports 164 coronavirus recoveries

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

The North Central District Health Department reported 164 people were reported to have recovered from the coronavirus during the past week. The recoveries included 28 people in Holt County, 15 in Brown County, 13 in Cherry County, 10 in Rock County, five in Keya Paha County and four people were deemed to have recovered from the virus in Boyd County.

NCDHD was made aware of 10 new COVID-19 cases in the district since last reporting period on Monday. Among the 10 cases were one each in Holt and Cherry counties.

The health department reported COVID-19 vaccination clinics are resuming as shipments are arriving. NCDHD continues to call registered residents as soon as vaccine doses are ready to dispense.

The health department is focusing on those age 65 and older and tier 1 of the 1B community partners, which includes first responders, those working in the utilities sector and educators.

In the nine-county district, 4,486 people have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, which represents 12.5 percent of the district’s population of those age 16 and older. Another 7,676 people have received the first dose of vaccine. 

NCDHD will have volunteers available for a call-a-thon event to get district residents registered for the COVID-19 vaccine from 4 until 6 p.m. Monday, March 8.  To participate in the call-a-thon registration call 402-336-2406.  If you have already registered there is no need to register again. This call-a-thon is for registration only. Those who call in will not be scheduled for a vaccination appointment and to allow for processing as many new registrations as possible, NCDHD will not be able to confirm your name on our list during this event.  If you registered previously and received a confirmation email or confirmation screen, you should have confidence that NCDHD has your name on our registry.

Clinics are scheduled and calls are made to schedule registered residents for vaccination appointments as quickly as vaccine can come into the office. 

* NCDHD to take calls Monday for vaccine registration

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

NCDHD is registering all ages for the COVID-19 vaccine registry. NCDHD encourages district residents to register at vaccinate.ne.gov. If assistance is needed in registering, NCDHD will have volunteers available for a call-a-thon event to get district residents registered for the COVID-19 vaccine from 4 until 6 p.m. Monday, March 8.

To participate in the call-a-thon registration, call 402-336-2406.  If you have already registered there is no need to register again. This call-a-thon is for registration only. Those who call in will not be scheduled for a vaccination appointment and, to allow for processing as many new registrations as possible, NCDHD will not be able to confirm your name on the list during this event.

If you registered previously and received a confirmation email or confirmation screen, you should have confidence that NCDHD has your name on the registry.  NCDHD is currently vaccinating community members ages 65 and older.

Clinics are scheduled and calls are made to schedule registered residents for vaccination appointments as quickly as vaccines arrive into the office. NCDHD appreciates the patience of the district as it works to get vaccine out to the communities it serves as quickly as possible. 

* Area schools, NRDs receive grants from NDEE

(Posted 2 p.m. March 3)

Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy Director Jim Macy announced the award of $6.68 million in grants to support 144 projects across the state. These grants will help fund litter and waste reduction projects, recycling programs, and pay costs for scrap tire cleanups and collections for household hazardous waste, electronic waste, and pharmaceuticals.

West Holt Public Schools received a $15,837 grant to reimburse the district for 25 percent of the cost of purchasing 60,900 pounds of crumb rubber to place under its playground equipment.

O’Neill Public Schools received a $25,365 grant to reimburse the district for 25 percent of the cost of a new track surface made from 82,000 pounds of crumb rubber.

The Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District received a $53,964 grant to host a 300-ton scrap tire cleanup in Cherry County.

The Upper Loup Natural Resources District received a $14,000 grant toward operating expenses of its recycling program. The NRD accepts materials from Blaine and Thomas counties among others, and the southern portions of Brown and Cherry counties.
“There were many outstanding applications submitted to NDEE this year,” Macy said. “These grants will assist many important local efforts to promote litter and waste reduction, and help handle the costs of proper disposal of many materials, such as household hazardous waste and scrap tires.”
Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive funds are generated by a fee on solid waste disposed of in landfills, an annual retail business sales fee, and a fee assessed on the sale of new tires. Grants are provided to local integrated waste management projects, and can include recycling systems, household hazardous waste collections, and composting. For 2021, 31 projects totaling $3.06 million were funded under the Business Fee and Disposal Fee categories.
Also included in the Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive program are Scrap Tire funds, which are generated from a $1 fee on new tires purchased in Nebraska. In 2021, 60 grants totaling $1.53 million were awarded. These grants will fund 13 scrap tire cleanup events across Nebraska. Enough funding was awarded to cleanup up 3,925 tons of scrap tires. Funds will also be used to partially reimburse the cost of many products made from recycled scrap tires, such as artificial turf football, soccer, baseball, and softball fields, athletic running tracks, and playground surfacing.
Litter Reduction and Recycling funds are generated from a fee charged to certain manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of products that commonly contribute to litter. The program has provided grants annually since 1979. In 2021, 53 litter grants totaling $2.08 million were awarded in the public education, cleanup, and recycling categories. Public education programs educate citizens on litter reduction and recycling through a variety of school and community activities. Cleanup grants provide funding for Nebraska residents of all ages who pick up litter and debris along Nebraska’s highways, waterways, recreation lands, urban areas, and other public use areas within the state. Not only are the public areas improved through the removal of litter, but also much of the material collected is recycled. Recycling programs provide an alternative to the disposal of solid waste in Nebraska’s landfills. Priority is given to programs that promote markets for recycled materials or purchasing products made from recycled materials.

* Roads plan includes major projects on Meadville Avenue

(Posted 7 a.m. March 3)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday approved the one- and-six-year highway improvement plan for the county as presented by Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin.

Turpin reported, while much of 2020 was spent on projects to repair damage from flooding in 2019, the roads department did complete four projects on its one-year plan.

“We haven’t been able to get much done on the plan with all the flood repairs,” Turpin said. “We have 26 projects on the one-year plan and another 20 projects on the six-year plan. There is a slim chance that we will get all of these done, but it gives us options based on conditions.”

Turpin said the roads department completed 1 mile of grading and ditch cleaning work on Road 885, one-half mile of grading work on Road 877, and 1 mile of grading and ditch cleaning on 431st Avenue.

Turpin said a contractor also armor coated 10 miles of the Elsmere Road at a cost of $124,000. Turpin said the east end of the Elsmere Road was armor coated, and the roads department will still need to have the west end of the Elsmere Road armor coated.

Four projects on the one-year plan are major upgrades for Meadville Avenue, including a $1 million replacement of the Sand Draw Creek box culvert with a single span bridge that is slated for construction in 2021. Turpin included milling and asphalt overlay on the 7-1/2 miles of Meadville Avenue, broken into three 2-1/2 mile segments at a cost of more than $1 million per segment.

Commissioner Denny Bauer said, with interest rates well below 1 percent, it would make sense for the county to consider biting the bullet and getting the entire 7.5 miles of asphalt on Meadville Avenue rehabilitated.

“If we can borrow the money now at one-half percent interest, we need to consider it,” Bauer said. “It needs to be done, it is the most heavily used road in the county. Five years from now, the costs will rise and the interest rate to borrow could be 4 or 5 percent.”

Commissioner Buddy Small asked if an engineer on an overlay project would take core samples of the road base.

“We might run into some problems there,” Small said.

Turpin said some areas of Meadville Avenue would likely need some sub-grade repairs made before an asphalt overlay. He reported a previous traffic study conducted showed between 300 and 400 vehicles per day using Meadville Avenue.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus asked if another bond project would be too much of a burden on taxpayers, who are still paying off a hospital addition bond. The hospital bond has four years of payments remaining.

“How long would this overlay last?” Wiebelhaus asked. “If we borrowed for 15 years, would it be all beat up again by the time we pay it off?”

The commissioners discussed paying off a potential bond for the project using general roads funds as well as the county’s annual highway allocation funding from the state. Funding the project in that manner would not require a bond issue and vote as the bond would be paid for within the county’s current levy lid and would not fall outside the maximum amount the county can levy in property tax. The county is currently well below the 50 cents per $100 in valuation levy lid.

The commissioners agreed to have DA Davison provide the county with options on bonds for the project when it presents information during the board’s next meeting on refinancing the remaining debt on the hospital addition bond.

In addition to the major renovation projects on Meadville Avenue, the majority of the 26 projects on the county’s one-year plan are grading and gravel surfacing projects on a number of roads in the county. The roads department plans to armor coat the remaining 10 miles of the Elsmere Road in 2021 at an estimated cost of $124,000.

The board approved the one-and-six-year roads plan as presented.

Turpin reported the roads department has been grading roads and hauled clay onto the Raven Road.

“We have to raise two roads south of Ainsworth,” Turpin said. “There are a couple small areas where water is about to run over the road again.”

He said the roads department will soon be grading, cleaning the ditch and installing a culvert on Rauscher Avenue to improve drainage.

In other business Tuesday, the board approved a resolution requested by the Brown County Sheriff’s Department to allow the department to utilize $50,000 in grant funding from the USDA to upgrade technology in the department’s office and fleet of vehicles. The county is responsible for $17,000 in matching funds for the upgrade.

The clerk’s office reported the county is receiving $138,643 in CARES Act coronavirus funding from the federal government to reimburse the county for additional costs incurred by deputies and dispatchers, and the Brown County Ambulance Association will receive $6,558 in CARES Act funding for reimbursement for ambulance personnel.

Though the county opted to end its membership to the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency effective July 1, the board Tuesday did agree to pay its share of an update to the Region 24 Emergency Management Hazard Mitigation Plan.

The plan is updated every five years and allows the counties in the region to capture hazard mitigation funding if there is a natural disaster that occurs that unlocks hazard mitigation dollars from the federal government.

The cost to update the plan was $74,000, with 75 percent of that cost covered by a grant. The remaining cost was split between the five counties currently in Region 24, with Brown County’s share at $3,083.

Small said Cherry County also opted to leave Region 24, but it agreed to fund its portion of the hazard mitigation plan update.

The board approved a two-year agreement with Caleb Johnson of Ogallala for budget preparation services. The cost of the agreement is $3,200 annually.

Bauer encouraged the commissioners to combine annual performance evaluation wage increases and the annual cost of living wage increase.

“Ninety-five percent of the entities I have been associated with don’t separate cost of living increases and evaluation increases,” Bauer said. “I think we should include it all and do it once.”

Wiebelhaus said the county added an evaluation performance increase several years ago to reward performance instead of just providing a blanket wage increase to all employees.

“I am fine with combining it, but a small cost of living wage increase is important,” Wiebelhaus said. “Some employees have been here a long time and are maxed out on what they can make.”

Wiebelhaus said, once an employee is capped on what they can make, a cost of living increase keeps them from going backward.

“After they are maxed out, the performance evaluation increases go away but with the cost of living increase they don’t lose ground,” Wiebelhaus said. “I think we need to keep the two separate but we can go over them at the same time.”

Turpin said two employees in the roads department have reached the maximum on what they can receive. He reported one long-time roads department employee plans to retire in May, and he would like to start advertising and hire someone soon enough that the retiring employee can help train the new employee for a short time.

In a final action item Tuesday, the board approved resolutions to abandon two unused roads in the Hidden Paradise area. The property on the small portions of Hidden Paradise Road and Trout Road will revert back to the adjacent property owners.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is a special meeting at 7 p.m. March 10 in the Brown County Courthouse courtroom that coincides with a meeting of the Brown County Planning Commission.

The next regular meeting is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. March 16.

* Andy Hoffman loses battle with brain cancer

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

The Team Jack Foundation released a statement Monday confirming founder Andy Hoffman of Atkinson, 42, died due to complications from a brain cancer diagnosis.

“We are deeply saddened to share that our co-founder, Andrew Hoffman, passed away this morning from glioblastoma,” the foundation posted. “Andy was our fearless leader who loved his family with all his heart. Andy, we love you & we promise to honor your legacy by fighting harder than ever for kids.”

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer said, “Andy Hoffman was a remarkable Nebraskan, a loving father, and a wonderful friend. He was also an amazing advocate for curing pediatric brain cancer, the horrible disease that impacted his son Jack and affects too many other American families. We are heartbroken that Andy is gone, but we are comforted knowing his legacy will live on through the incredible work of the Team Jack Foundation. Bruce and I are praying for Brianna, Jack, Ava, Reese, and the entire Hoffman family.” 

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse said, “Andy’s death is tragic, and Melissa and I join Nebraskans in praying for his family. When Jack broke away on that unforgettable 69-yard touchdown run, our whole state adopted the Hoffmans as part of our families — rooting for Jack and all those fighting pediatric brain cancer. Andy — by helping share Jack’s story — helped raise awareness and money to fight back against the terrible disease. His family and legacy will continue to make Nebraskans proud.”

Hoffman founded Team Jack after his son was diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer. Team Jack has raised over $8 million for research. The Hoffmans sprang into the national spotlight when 7-year-old Jack ran for a touchdown during the 2013 Nebraska Spring Game, as the Huskers embraced the Hoffmans and their fight against childhood brain cancer.

Hoffman is survived by his wife Bri, and children Jack, Ava and Reese.

* NCDHD reports 4,000 now fully vaccinated in district

(Posted 6:30 a.m. March 2)

The North Central District Health Department reported Monday that 4,000 residents of the nine-county district have now completed both doses of COVID-19 vaccination. That number represents 11.14 percent of the overall 16-and-older population in the district. Another 7,090 district residents have received the first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and are awaiting their second dose to become fully vaccinated.

The NCDHD is still administering vaccines to those age 65 and older, as well as first responders, utility workers and educators.

The health department was made aware of only three new COVID-19 cases in the district since Thursday, and none of those occurred in Brown, Rock, Keya Paha, Cherry, Holt or Boyd counties.

NCDHD still encourages district residents to continue to wear a mask in public places or where social distancing is difficult as well as practice social distancing while out in public.

More than 84,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered last week in Nebraska. As of Sunday, more than 428,031 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to those in Phase 1 priority groups, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, as of Sunday, over 145,000 Nebraskans have completed both doses of vaccination, which represents 9.8% of Nebraskans aged 16 years of age and older. 

Over the weekend, a third vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, gained Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine requires just one shot. It is approved for use in individuals 18 years and older. The vaccine started shipping and in coming days Nebraska will learn of allocations and arrival times.

For this week, Nebraska is scheduled to receive 22,230 first doses and 18,720 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine, as well as 18,400 first doses and 18,400 second doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Finish Strong Nebraska is the state’s official COVID-19 vaccination campaign designed to keep the public motivated and informed on the vaccine. For more information and to register on the vaccine portal, visit FinishStrong.Ne.Gov. Once registered on the portal, Nebraska residents will be notified when COVID-19 vaccination begins in their area.

As of Monday, over 220,400 Nebraskans have registered to receive the vaccine at vaccinate.ne.gov

All Nebraska counties are vaccinating Phase 1B priority groups.

Local health departments and retail pharmacy partners are offering vaccines for Nebraskans 65 and older. Vaccination will expand to other 1B priority groups as supplies allow. 

Community clinics with scheduled appointments are the primary way vaccine doses are given while vaccine supplies remain limited in order to help ensure all doses can be used in the required timeframe. Community clinics are staggering appointments to observe social distancing and are providing space for monitoring after vaccination.

Mild side effects like a sore arm and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms with COVID-19 vaccines. While many people will have no symptoms, for others there can be headaches, chills or a fever. These side effects are normal and a sign your body is building protection, and you should be feeling better within a few days.

Those receiving their first dose are reminded to keep their vaccination record card in a safe place and take it to their second dose appointment.

In phase three clinical trials, the Pfizer vaccine had 95% efficacy and the Moderna vaccine had 94% efficacy in preventing any severity of COVID-19. Both Pfizer and Moderna require two doses. A phase three clinical trial showed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had 66% efficacy at preventing any severity of COVID-19 (while being studied in regions with new variant strains of COVID-19), and only requires one dose. Comparatively, the flu vaccine is generally 40 to 60% effective. Each of these three authorized COVID-19 vaccines had 100% efficacy against COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths. Since each of these COVID-19 vaccines work extremely well against the virus, individuals should feel confident they are reducing their risk when they choose to vaccinate. Moreover, every person who gets vaccinated is doing their part to help reduce spread and put an end to this global pandemic.  

* NCDHD reported 158 virus recoveries during past week

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 26)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 16 new COVID-19 cases in the district since Monday. Among the new cases are three in Holt County, two in Cherry County, and one new case was reported in both Brown County and Boyd County.

The health department reported 158 people recovered from the virus during the past week. Among the recoveries are 21 in Holt County, 20 in Brown County, 17 in Cherry County, five in Rock County, four in Keya Paha County and three people were deemed to have recovered in Boyd County.

There have been 45 cases reported in the past two weeks, and 4,256 cases overall. Of those, 3,131 people have recovered from the virus and 72 have died from virus complications.

NCDHD still encourages district residents to continue to wear a mask in public places or where social distancing is difficult as well as practice social distancing while out in public.

The health department reported COVID-19 vaccination clinics have resumed as new shipments have arrived. Some of the affected COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been rescheduled to a later date. Appointment times and locations will remain the same on the new clinic dates unless otherwise communicated.  

NCDHD is focusing on those age 65 and older and tier 1 of the Phase 1B community partners including first responders, those in the utilities sector and educators.

In the nine-county district, 3,335 people have received both doses of vaccine, which represents 9.28 percent of the population in the district. An additional 6,729 residents have received their first dose of the vaccine.  

* Brewer provides update from Nebraska Legislature

(Posted 4 p.m. Feb. 25)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer visited with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie Thursday on a variety of topics, from redistricting to the budget to the construction of a new corrections facility and the recent loss of power in Nebraska due to the state’s participation in the Southwest Power Pool.

Part 1

Part 2

* Ainsworth wins Mock Trial regional championship

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 25)

The Ainsworth Mock Trial team advanced to the Nebraska State Mock Trial Championships, defeating Valentine Wednesday in the regional final.

Ainsworth portrayed the prosecution in the State of Nebraska v. Chris Hall. Hall was charged with possession of a controlled substance. The charge stemmed from an eye-witness report from another student, who was in the running with Hall for the senior class valedictorian and the full-tuition college scholarship that accompanies the award. A small vial of methamphetamine was found in Hall’s bag by a school resource officer after the competing student reported Hall to the school principal.

The Valentine team defended Hall during Wednesday’s regional final.

Alyssa Erthum was presented the outstanding attorney award by the Valentine team upon the trial’s conclusion, and Dakota Stutzman was voted the outstanding witness.

Ainsworth team members are attorneys Erthum, Cody Kronhofman, Haley Schroedl and Levi Goshorn, and witnesses Stutzman, Libby Smith, Brandt Murphy and Gracie Petty.

The team is coached by Katie McClure and Graig Kinzie, with assistance from Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor and former coach Mary Rau.

Ainsworth is one of 12 state qualifiers and will compete in virtual trials March 1-3 against other teams from across the state. There is no differentiation between school size.

This year’s competitions are all being conducted virtually instead of in courtrooms across the state due to the pandemic.

* Sheriff’s department receives $50,000 USDA grant

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Feb. 24)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department was awarded a $50,000 USDA Rural Development grant to help upgrade technology in the sheriff’s department office and in its fleet of vehicles.

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, “I am happy to announce the Brown County Sheriff’s Department received a federal grant from the USDA. It will allow them to acquire new mobile communications equipment and continue keeping their community safe.”

The investments from USDA Rural Development will allow the sheriff’s department to purchase a fully integrated records management system, computer aided dispatch system, mobile data terminals and electronic citations.

Sheriff Bruce Papstein said the total project will cost approximately $67,000, with the sheriff’s department using 911 funds to provide the local match required to receive the grant funding.

Papstein said the grant money will provide significant upgrades to the department’s technology, including the installation of a records management system for the office and computer aided dispatching systems in each patrol vehicle.

“The CAD system in each vehicle will allow deputies to issue citations, incident reports and accident reports from their vehicle and send them directly to the county attorney,” Papstein said. “Everything is kept on one system. We will be able to search past incident reports and eliminate papers files.”

Papstein said the system will speed up investigation times, allowing deputies to search for past incident reports and be able to quickly identify when the sheriff’s department had contact with an individual on a previous complaint.

The sheriff said the department has been scanning logs from the past two years into its computer system, and the new software will allow those logs to be searched digitally instead of deputies having to search through paper records.

He said, as additional departments around the area integrate similar systems, those departments will be able to share information with each other directly through the computerized system.

* Ainsworth finishes second in home speech invitational

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Feb. 23)

The Ainsworth speech team hosted its annual invitational meet Saturday. Ainsworth finished second among the seven teams competing.

Ainsworth results Saturday were:

Varsity

Informative: Ben Flynn – 1st and Eden Raymond – 5th

OID: Cody Kronhofman, Maren Arens, Dakota Stutzman, and Eden Raymond – 2nd and Josie Ganser, Logan Hafer, Brandt Murphy, Cody Scott, and Elli Welke – 5th

Humorous Prose: Brandt Murphy – 5th

Poetry: Alyssa Erthum – 3rd and Ellie Welke – 5th

Extemporaneous: Libby Wilkins – 1st and Josie Ganser – 2nd

Persuasive: Alyssa Erthum – 1st and Logan Hafer – 2nd

Serious Prose: Dakota Stutzman – 1st 

Entertainment: Allison Taylor – 5th and Maren Arens – 6th

Novice

Serious Prose: Taylor Allen – 1st

Persuasive: Sophie Wilson – 1st and Cole Bodeman – 3rd

Humorous Prose: Cameryn Goochey – 2nd

Informative: Makenna Pierce – 2nd

Entertainment: Cole Bodeman – 2nd

Duet: Taylor Allen & Katherine Kerrigan – 2nd and Maia Flynn & Cameryn Goochey – 4th

* NCDHD confirms 20 COVID-19 cases since Thursday

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 20 new COVID-19 cases in the district since last reporting Thursday. Among the new cases were seven in Cherry County, five in Holt County, and one new case was reported in both Brown County and Rock County. NCDHD still encourages district residents to wear a mask in public places or where social distancing is difficult and practice social distancing while out in public.

There have been 49 COVID-19 cases confirmed in the nine-county district in the past two weeks, and 4,240 cases overall. Of those, 2,973 people have recovered and 72 have died due to complications from the virus.

COVID-19 testing is now being administered from 1 until 3 p.m. on Mondays at the Rock County Fairgrounds. Pre-registration for testing at www.testnebraska.com is highly encouraged, but not required.

The O’Neill second dose clinic scheduled for Friday, Feb. 19, was rescheduled for this Friday, Feb. 26, with appointment times remaining the same. 

NCDHD is focusing on those 65 years of age and older and tier 1 of the 1B community partners, which includes first responders, those working in the utilities sector and educators.

In the district, 6,490 people have received their first dose of vaccine, and another 2,753 people have received both doses. 

More than 52,844 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered last week in Nebraska. As of Monday, more than 344,165 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given to those in Phase 1 priority groups, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, as of Monday 107,807 Nebraskans have completed vaccination which represents 7.3% of Nebraskans aged 16 years of age and older. 

This week, Nebraska is scheduled to receive 18,720 Pfizer and 18,400 Moderna primary doses.

DHHS has a website available so Nebraskans can register and get notified when COVID-19 vaccinations begin in their area.

As of Monday, 211,237 Nebraskans have registered to receive the vaccine at vaccinate.ne.gov,

Those interested in registering will need to provide name and contact information, date of birth and answer health questions used to help determine priority group eligibility. Any information entered is strictly confidential and used solely for this purpose. Friends, family and caregivers are encouraged to assist others with vaccine sign-up if needed. The DHHS Information line is available to assist with signup by calling 833-998-2275. People may also visit their local senior center or public library for assistance in registering. 

Local health departments and retail pharmacy partners are offering vaccines for Nebraskans 65 and older. Vaccination will expand to other 1B priority groups as supplies allow. Other groups include those working in critical industries including: first responders, educators and daycare providers, those in the utilities and transportation sectors, corrections staff, and those working in food processing and at grocery stores.

A total of 135 sites across Nebraska receive vaccine shipments.

Community clinics with scheduled appointments are the primary way vaccine doses are given while vaccine supplies remain limited in order to help ensure all doses can be used in the required timeframe. Community clinics are staggering appointments to observe social distancing and are providing space for monitoring after vaccination.

Mild side effects like a sore arm and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms with COVID-19 vaccines. While many people will have no symptoms, for others there can be headaches, chills or a fever. These side effects are normal and a sign your body is building protection, and you should feel better within a few days.

Those receiving their first dose are reminded to keep their vaccination record card in a safe place and take it to their second dose appointment.

The Pfizer vaccine was 95% effective and the Moderna vaccine 94% effective in phase three clinical trials. Comparatively, the flu vaccine is generally 40 to 60% effective. Two doses are needed to reach full effectiveness against COVID-19, and the same brand of vaccine must be administered for both doses.

* State vaccine portal reaches 200,000 registrations

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

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 Vaccination portal reached and exceeded the milestone of 200,000 Nebraskans registered for the COVID-19 vaccine as of Thursday evening.

“This is a significant moment in Nebraska’s effort to mitigate COVID-19 and ensure access to the vaccine,” said DHHS Chief Information Officer Lori Snyder. “It means the systems we have put in place are reaching Nebraskans and making the process of getting the vaccine as easy and equitable as possible for residents.”

Launched the last week of January, www.vaccinate.ne.gov is the state’s official COVID-19 vaccine registration portal.  Those who have registered for vaccination with their local health department do not need to register a second time using the state site, as information will be transferred between local health departments and DHHS.

Nebraska is updating its Vaccine Phasing guidance to provide further information and expectations as to when the general population will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Health departments are currently in Phase 1B, vaccinating those over 65 years old or working in critical infrastructure. Comorbidity categories are not included in Phase 1B. As Phase 1B continues, Nebraska is finalizing plans to vaccinate the general population.

* Just 9 COVID cases confirmed since Monday by NCDHD

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of nine new COVID-19 cases in the district since Monday. Among the new cases were two in Cherry County, two in Holt County and one new case was confirmed in Brown County.

NCDHD reported 245 people recovered from the virus during the past week. Among the recoveries were 38 people in Holt County, 34 in Cherry County, 16 in Brown County, 13 in Boyd County, eight in Rock County and five people recovered from the virus in Keya Paha County.  

A total of 44 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the past two weeks, and 4,225 confirmed cases have been reported overall in the nine counties covered by the North Central District Health Department. Of those, 2,973 people have recovered and 72 deaths have been attributed to the virus.

NCDHD reported planned shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine for vaccination clinics will not be arriving in the district as scheduled due to sub-zero weather conditions and power outages. Affected COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been or will be rescheduled to a later date. Appointment times and locations will remain the same on the new clinic dates unless otherwise communicated. NCDHD expects that vaccine shipping delays may impact vaccine clinics into next week. Clinics have been rescheduled in O’Neill, Pierce, Bloomfield and Neligh.

Due to the number of clinics and appointments scheduled, NCDHD relies on an automated service for notifying those who are scheduled for appointments. District residents with appointments for upcoming clinics should expect an automated phone call from 402-336-2406 to the contact information provided through the registration process detailing clinic status information or further instructions. If you receive an automated call from NCDHD and your same appointment time will not work for you on the rescheduled date, call NCDHD at 402-336-2406. Otherwise, no call back is needed.

District residents are asked to check local media sources for the most up-to-date information available. 

NCDHD is focusing vaccinations on those 65 years and older and tier 1 of the 1B community partners including first responders, those in the utilities sector, and educators.

In the district, 6,173 people have received the first dose of vaccine, and 2,484 people have received both doses. Just shy of 7 percent of the district’s population 16 years and older have received both doses.

Gov. Pete Ricketts on Thursday provided an update on coronavirus vaccination efforts in Nebraska. The state is currently in Phase 1B of its vaccination plan, with the majority of vaccines being administered to Nebraskans age 65 and older.

“Age is the single biggest factor in determining who is most likely to be severely impacted by the coronavirus,” Ricketts said. “That’s why we’ve been focusing on vaccinating Nebraskans in the 65+ age category. Our local health departments are focusing at least 90% of their efforts on this age group right now. As we look forward to vaccinating the general population, we’ll continue to prioritize vaccinations based on age.”

Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Incident Commander Angie Ling reported on the state’s recent and upcoming vaccine allocations. 

“Starting next week, we’ll be counting the extra doses in the Pfizer vial,” Ling said. “Each vial will now count as having six doses instead of five doses. Our Pfizer allocation for next week will increase to 18,720 primary doses, and our Moderna allocation will increase to 18,400 primary doses. We’re adjusting our second dose ordering schedule. Instead of having these doses arrive 7-10 days before we can use them, we’ll have them arrive within the window of time when we can use them.”

Ling said the majority of vaccines have not arrived to Nebraska this week due to issues at distribution sites and inclement weather. 

“We did receive two shipments of Pfizer vaccine on Monday, and these doses will be used in our scheduled clinics,” Ling said. “The supply issues are occurring nationwide; they’re not unique to Nebraska. Every effort will be made to catch up as soon as possible, while safely delivering the vaccines.”

DHHS Deputy Director of Public Health Felicia Quintana-Zinn shared an update to the state’s vaccination plan. Once Phase 1B has been completed, the state will prioritize Nebraskans ages 50-64 for vaccination.

“Nebraska is updating its Vaccine Phasing guidance to provide further information and expectations as to when the general population will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” Quintana-Zinn said.

Health departments are currently in Phase 1B, vaccinating those over 65 years old or working in critical infrastructure.  Comorbidity categories are not included in Phase 1B. As Phase 1B continues, Nebraska is finalizing plans to vaccinate the general population. 

With the increasing amount of vaccine supply, Nebraska is expecting to be able to move to the general population in April or May.

Preliminary Nebraska residents’ mortality data shows that COVID-19 caused or was a main contributing factor in 1,801 Nebraskan deaths, with approximately 97% of those deaths occurring in those over 50 years of age.

After Phase 1B is complete, Nebraska will begin to vaccinate the general population. 

“To continue to ensure that our population is protected, we’ll prioritize 50- to 64-year-olds prior to vaccinating the remainder of the population, those 16- to 49 years old,” Quintana-Zinn said.

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