News Page

 

Visitors to the KBRB Web site may listen to live programming, with news broadcasts from 6 until 11 a.m., and from noon to 1 p.m., plus all of our local sports broadcasts.

E-mail us at kbrb@sscg.net

Service Information can be found on the Obituaries Page

* Louisa “Ellen” Weyer, 79, of Ainsworth 10:30 a.m. Oct. 14

* Bonnie F. Sandahl, 86, of Wayne 11 a.m. Oct. 11

* Robert Gude, 95, of O’Neill 10:30 a.m. Oct. 9

* Enid Darline (Dubs) Kicken, 88, formerly of Shelton and Ainsworth 4 p.m. Oct. 7

* Meeting reports located below for:

Sept. 14 Brown County Commissioners special meeting

Sept. 14 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

Sept. 9 Ainsworth City Council

Sept. 8 Brown County Commissioners

* Two bids received for new ambulance

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Oct. 7)

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners, the board opened two sealed bids for a new ambulance. Ann Fiala and Darlene Miller were present representing the Ambulance Association. Bid #1 in the amount of $243,602 was submitted by American Response Vehicles. Bid #2 in the amount of $225,997 was submitted by Fyr-Tek. The Ambulance Association will review the bids and specifications and make a recommendation during the Oct. 19 commissioner meeting.

Becky Hardy informed the commissioners of the First Concord HRA payment revision that takes effect Nov. 1. The board acknowledged First Concord’s HRA Health Insurance deductible buy-down payment revision.

The board approved a budgeted transfer of $200,000 from the Miscellaneous General Fund to the County Highway Fund.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin discussed the possible purchase of a roads department tab on the GWorks website, called Simple Roads. Turpin will ask Tyson Larson to present the program benefits, explanation of costs and annual fees to the commissioners at a future meeting.

The Commissioners opened one bid for prisoner meals. Big John’s Restaurant submitted the lone bid in the amount of $9.50 for each noon hot meal, and $8.50 for each evening sack lunch. The board approved the bid.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Oct. 19.

* Brewer discusses special session, 43rd District boundaries

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

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer visited with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie to discuss the recently completed special session of the Legislature that focused on legislative and congressional district boundaries following Census data.
To hear the conversation, click on the audio link below.

* Two perfect cards submitted in Week 6 Football Contest

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

Two perfect cards were submitted during Week 6 of the KBRB Football Contest. Both Hazel Chase of Springview and Olivia Beel of Johnstown were spot on with their picks of the 14 high school and college games on the Week 6 card.

That sent us to the tie-breaker to determine the first- and second-place certificates, Nebraska’s 56-7 thumping of Northwestern. Olivia Beel correctly picked the Huskers, by a 32-17 score. Unfortunately, Chase forgot to fill in the tie-breaker score, so Beel earns the $40 first-place certificate and Chase will pick up the $10 second-place prize.

Six contestants, including Mike Swan, Kristie Mundorf, Brett Swan and Crystal Stout of Springview; Roger Brink of Atkinson; and Chris Raymond of Ainsworth missed one game on the Week 6 card to just miss out.

Winners may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios.

Week 7 contest cards are available now from Buckles Automotive, AKRS Equipment and Speedee Mart in Ainsworth, Circle B Livestock in Bassett, the West Plains Bank in Springview, Speedee Mart in Atkinson, and from the Tri County Bank branches in Stuart, Bassett and Atkinson.

Week 7 cards must be returned to the KBRB Studios by 4 p.m. Friday or carry a Friday postmark if mailed.

* Rock County receives FEMA flood reimbursement funds

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Oct. 6)

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Rock County Board of Commissioners, a draft of the county audit was presented. Board Chairman Jim Stout & Treasurer Mona Davis signed the $2,824 adjustment to financial statements to include monies held by County Officials not including the County Treasurer.  Davis also discussed Road Funds with the Commissioners & County Government Day which will be held October 20.  The Treasurer received $563,471.87 from FEMA for 2019 Floods. The board approved transferring $360,000.00 ($30,000 for backhoe & $330,000 for 2019 flooding)) to the Inheritance Tax Fund and $200,000.00 to the BKR Bridge Fund from the Road Fund to replace money borrowed.

The board approved certifying levies per $100 of valuation: General – .276295 with a tax request of $1,827,479; Library – .017078 with a tax request of $112,959; Road Bond – .044017 with a tax request of $291,137; Hospital Maintenance – .046372 with a tax request of $306,719; Hospital Bond – .019983 with a tax request of $132,174; Ambulance Replacement – .010000 with a tax request of $66,142. Total Levy – .413745 with a total tax request of $2,736,611. Airport – .001076 with a tax request of $7,120; Ag Society – .004687 with a tax request of $31,001; Rock County Rural Fire Dist. – .014000 with a tax request of $58,676; Gracy Rural Fire Dist. – .018000 with a tax request of $10,543 & Newport Rural Fire Dist. – .018000 with a tax request of $28,154; City of Bassett – .499995 with a tax request of $125,875; Village of Newport – General- .449972 with a tax request of $9,688 – Sinking – .318993 with a tax request of $6,868 for a total levy of .768965 and a total tax request of $16,556; Rock County Public Schools – General – .551650 with a tax request of $3,627,585 – Special Building Fund – .007644 with a tax request of $50,267 for a total levy of .559294 and total tax request of $3,677,852.

An application for road crossing, approach, culvert & parallel occupancy permit was approved. The road crossing is located in the SW quarter of Section 1, Township. 31N, Range. 20, West in Rock County.

Traci Ganser, Brown/Rock Emergency Manager met with the Commissioners on an appointment letter for the State.  The Commissioners signed a letter appointing Ganser as Rock County’s Emergency Manager. 

The board conducted its Quarterly Jail Inspection.

Credit card limit for the Sheriff’s Office was discussed.  The credit limit is not enough for some of their online purchases. The board approved raising the Sheriff’s Office credit limit to $5,000.

SLFRF Administration point of Contact & Authorized Representative was discussed. Clerk Daunitta Buoy asked that another office help with the task. The Assessor’s Office offered to be the second point of contact.  The Clerk will remain the Authorized Representative.

* Several COVID vaccination clinics available this week

(Posted 7 a.m. Oct. 5)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 94 new COVID-19 cases in the district during the past week.

Several vaccination clinics are scheduled this week in the nine-county district, including from 1 until 4:30 p.m. today in the Rock County Clinic at Bassett, from 9 until 11:30 a.m. and 1 until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Greater Sandhills Family Healthcare Clinic at Bassett, from 11 a.m. until noon Wednesday in the Ainsworth Senior Center, from 3:30 until 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Ainsworth Conference Center, from 2 until 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Brown County Hospital, from noon until 6 p.m. Thursday at the Valentine United Methodist Church parking lot, and from 11 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. Friday in the West Holt Memorial Hospital.

A total of 19,449 people residing in the nine-county district are fully vaccinated against the virus, representing 54.1 percent of those 16 years of age and older. Another 520 people have received at least one dose in a two-dose series.

The CDC has endorsed a recommendation for a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine in certain populations and recommends a booster dose for those in high risk occupational and institutional settings.
Currently, NCDHD is waiting for official orders to start administering the booster dose. When available, the individuals who qualify for a booster does are:

people 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster shot of Pfizer vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer primary series, 

people aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions should receive a booster shot of Pfizer vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer primary series,

people aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster shot of Pfizer vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks, and

people aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster shot of Pfizer vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks.

The Cherry County Hospital is offering free rapid COVID-19 testing. This service will be offered Mondays and Fridays from 2 until 3 p.m. To register, a patient should call the Cherry County Hospital at 402-376-2525 or Cherry County Clinic at 402-376-3770.

* Tubbs receives Nebraska Medicaid Provider Award

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

Governor Pete Ricketts, Department of Health and Human Services Director Dannette R. Smith, and Director of the DHHS Division of Medicaid and Long-Term Care Kevin Bagley on Monday recognized four doctors with Nebraska Medicaid Provider awards. The awards recognize outstanding providers within Heritage Health Adult, Nebraska’s Medicaid program.

“The winners of the Nebraska Medicaid Provider Awards delivered great customer service and responsibly stewarded taxpayer dollars,” Ricketts said. “They help deliver on DHHS’ mission to help Nebraskans lead better lives.  Thank you to each of the award winners for your contributions to improving services for the people of Nebraska.”

Dr. John Tubbs with Greater Sandhills Family Healthcare was one of the four providers recognized Monday.

Nebraska Total Care identified Dr. Tubbs as its nominee for the Governor’s Medicaid Award.  Dr. Tubbs graduated from Ross University School of Medicine and completed his residency in Family Medicine at Creighton University School of Medicine. After he completed his residency in 2002, Dr. Tubbs went into practice with Midtown Family Practice at Omaha.  In 2005, he and his wife, Erica, chose to move to north central Nebraska to provide medical care to a more rural population. They have clinics at Stuart, Atkinson, and Bassett and are enjoying the opportunity to continue offering quality medicine to the communities.

Dr. Tubbs is the winner of the NTC 2020 Physician Summit Award, which is presented to a doctor within the organization’s statewide network. The award recognizes the provider who has produced the highest Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set quality scores across multiple key measures.  Dr. Tubbs has been a provider in NTC’s network since the plan’s inception on January 1, 2017, and he has demonstrated a commitment to delivering high-quality services and meeting rural health needs for the Medicaid members in his communities.

* Werner submits resignation as Brown County Hospital CEO

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

The Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees will begin the process of hiring a new administrator after current CEO John Werner notified the board he would resign from his position effective Oct. 15.

Serving in the position for more than three years, Werner notified the board he would pursue another job opportunity that returns him closer to his family.

John Gross, a member of the Board of Trustees, said the board is confident the hospital’s current leadership team can effectively maintain day to day operations until an interim administrator is brought on board while a larger search commences for a permanent replacement.

“John put us on very sound financial footing, expanded our operations and implemented a number of internal procedures to enhance accountability,” Gross said. “He improved staff relations and board development, and he strengthened our community outreach.”

Gross said Werner led the hospital through the COVID crisis, keeping the staff together, managing the federal funding that came down and the uncertainty that came with it, and led the hospital into a stronger position as a result.

Werner led the transition into a new electronic medical records system and worked through the process of being able to continue to have an avenue to provide professional recruitment dollars for new providers.

“The board wishes John and Miriam the best and thanks him for the work he did to advance the hospital and the community,” Gross said.

Gross said Werner’s final day as administrator is Oct. 15, and the hospital’s current leadership team will oversee day to day operations until an interim administrator is hired.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

(Posted 7 a.m. Oct. 4)

September 26

  • Received a report for a noise complaint located in Hidden Paradise. Noise was located in the pavilion; a live, planned event concert.
  • Brown County Ambulance Association responded to an Ainsworth residence. No transfer was made at this time.
  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing moving 150 pairs of cattle across Highway 20.
  • Received a report of a dog at large between Dawes and Woodward Street. Deputies were unable to locate the dog at this time.
  • Released a subject from Brown County Jail.
  • Received a report of a vehicle traveling West on Highway 20 at excessive speeds. Deputies were unable to locate the vehicle at this time.
  • During a traffic stop on Hwy 20 an individual was issued a citation for Possession of Marijuana less than one ounce, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

September 27

  • Received a report of trespassing that had occured at a rural Ainsworth residence. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report for a loose dog in need of assistance on Ulrich St. The dog was taken to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic and later returned to its owner.
  • Received a report for a loose dog on 2nd St. The owner was contacted and the dog was returned.
  • Received a report of a pickup and trailer traveling East on Highway 20 near mile marker 217 with no tail lights. Deputies were unable to locate this vehicle.
  • During a traffic stop, an individual was issued a citation for Marijuana less than one ounce, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

September 28

  • Released a subject from Brown County Jail.

September 29

  • During a traffic stop on Hwy 20, a subject was issued a citation for Driving Under the Influence. Subject was arrested and booked into the Brown County Jail.
  • The Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a bale/pasture fire North of Ainsworth.
  • Released a subject from Brown County Jail.
  • Investigated a two vehicle accident with no injuries at an Ainsworth business.
  • Investigated a one vehicle deer accident on Highway 20 with no injuries.

September 30

  • Received a report of two dogs loose near 1st & Pine Street. Deputies were unable to locate dogs.
  • Responded to a report of a vehicle blocking an alleyway near Ainsworth High School and 2nd St. The vehicle was located and had been moved, no longer blocking the alleyway at this time.
  • Received a request for a welfare check on a rural Brown County resident. Individual was located and reported safe.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check on a Long Pine resident.

October 1

  • Received a report of a loose dog at Pump and Pantry gas station. Dog owner was contacted and returned home with the dog.
  • Responded to a report of an individual lighting off fireworks on Hall Street in Ainsworth.

October 2

  • Received a call reporting a semi hauling bales traveling westbound on highway 20 was about to lose some of it’s loaded bales. Deputies made contact with the vehicle and volunteer personnel responded to assist with readjusting the bales. 
  • Received multiple reports of a pickup that lost a large amount of trash from the pickup bed. Caller advised trash was picked up.
  • Multiple citations for speeding were issued.

Weekly Summary:

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

            2-Handgun Permits Applied For

13-Incident Reports Were Taken

0-Paper Services Were Served

167-Phone Calls Were Received

8-911 Emergency Calls Received

3-Titles Were Inspected

September Monthly Summary:

7– Accidents

13 -Arrests

73– Calls for Service

20– Citations were issued

5– Defect Cards issued

10– Handgun permits issued

11– Paper Service served

779– Phone calls were received

41– 911 emergency calls received

21- Titles inspected

13- Verbal & Written Warnings issued

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Sept. 30)

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

Shane T. Hamling, age 23, of Wood Lake, charged with speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, fined $75.

Gerald W. Burdeski, 66, of Moorhead, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Tristian N. Ramey, 17, of Crawford, Texas, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Roxanne H. Theisen, 60, of Long Pine, no park permit, $25.

Stuart E. Kissick, 37, of Scottsbluff, speeding 36 mph or more over the limit, $300.

Larry G. Saner, 68, of Ainsworth, commercial vehicle brake violation, $50.

Paul J. Embick, 49, of Long Pine, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to seven days in jail, driver’s license revoked for six months and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; also charged with third degree assault, sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for three days served.

Vance A. Heyer, 29, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, six months of probation, ordered not to drive for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Mutdambabyon M. Maasha, 46, of Cambridge, Mass., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Kathleen L. Book, 53, of Prairie Grove, Ark., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Magdiel Sanchez, 33, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Bruce D. Schendt, 56, of Omaha, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Jerod C. Waterman, 32, of O’Neill, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Mariah J. Wenaas, 33, of Fargo, N.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Kyle A. Hollenbeck, 19, of Ainsworth, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

* Nine submit perfect cards during KBRB Football Contest

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 29)

Contestants were dialed in during Week 5 of the KBRB Football Contest, with a staggering nine contestants picking a perfect card.

With only a couple real toss-up matchups on the card this week in both the high school and college games, Travis Mundorf, Logan Mundorf and Brett Swan of Springview; Kim Shaw of Bassett; Maxine Brink of Atkinson; Jenny Beel, Olivia Beel and Tiffani Naprstak of Johnstown; and Ann Fiala of Ainsworth all submitted perfect cards for Week 5.

That sent us to the tie-breaker, Nebraska’s 23-20 overtime loss to Michigan State, clutching defeat out of the hands of victory by allowing a punt return touchdown after the Husker defense had not yielded a single first down in the second half.

Of the nine perfect cards, only three picked Michigan State to win, and it was the three Johnstown contestants.

Jenny Beel had the Spartans, 24-14, to miss the total by seven points. That earned her the $40 first place certificate for the week. Tiff Naprstak picked Michigan State by a 28-17 margin, missing the total by eight points to pick up the second-place $10 certificate. Olivia Beel had the Spartans to win, 31-28, missing the total by 16 points.

Winners may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios.
Week 6 contest cards are available now from Buckles Automotive, AKRS Equipment and Speedee Mart in Ainsworth, Circle B Livestock in Bassett, the West Plains Bank in Springview, Speedee Mart in Atkinson, and from the Tri County Bank branches in Stuart, Bassett and Atkinson.

Week 6 cards must be returned to the KBRB Studios by 4 p.m. Friday or carry a Friday postmark if mailed.

* Nebraska’s jobless rate the lowest in the U.S. in August

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Sept. 28)

The Nebraska Department of Labor announced Nebraska’s preliminary unemployment rate for August is 2.2 percent. The rate is down 0.1 percentage points from the July 2021 rate of 2.3 percent and down 1.8 percentage points from the August 2020 rate of 4.0 percent.
Unemployment data goes back to 1976, and the August rate is the lowest on record for Nebraska.

“Nebraska’s unemployment rate continues to be the lowest in the nation and has now reached a new record low for our state,” Governor Pete Ricketts said.  “There’s never been a better time to find a job in Nebraska. With tens of thousands of openings, Nebraskans and people across the country have a chance to find the opportunity of their dreams here in the Good Life.”

The national unemployment rate for August was 5.2 percent. Nebraska’s labor force participation rate of 68.4 percent is third behind North Dakota and South Dakota. The state’s employment to population ratio of 66.9 percent is the best in the country.

“The number of unemployed individuals has been dropping since July of last year and is now at 22,364, which is the lowest it has been since 1998,” Commissioner of Labor John H. Albin. “Labor force employment was up to 999,563 in August, the highest level since March of 2020 prior to the pandemic.”

In the area, Brown County’s unemployment rate was 1.8 percent in August, below the state average. Just 1.1 percent of Rock County’s labor force is unemployed, and Keya Paha County’s rate in August was just 1.5 percent.

Both Cherry County and Holt County had an unemployment rate of 1.3 percent in August, and Blaine County also checked in at 1.3 percent. Boyd County’s unemployment rate of 1.7 percent gave all north central Nebraska counties an unemployment rate lower than the state average. There remain numerous open employment positions in all area counties.

The counts of employed and unemployed in the labor force are based on a survey conducted by the Census Bureau regarding employment status. Both individuals who are claiming unemployment benefits and those who are not claiming can be counted as unemployed based on their survey responses. Individuals who are not working and are not seeking work are not considered part of the labor force and are not included in the unemployment rate calculation. Nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was 1,019,012 in August, up 4,896 over the month and up 33,460 over the year. Private industries with the most growth month to month were education and health (up 1,672); trade, transportation, and utilities (up 1,334); and professional and business services (up 1,173). Private industries with the most growth year to year were leisure and hospitality (up 7,638); education and health (up 7,236); and trade, transportation, and utilities (up 6,460).

The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for August is 5.2 percent, down 0.2 percentage points from the July rate of 5.4 percent and down 3.2 percentage points from the July 2020 rate of 8.4 percent.

Employers looking for qualified applicants are encouraged to post their jobs for free on NEworks.nebraska.gov and partner with their closest job center to take advantage of programs geared at recruiting, upskilling, and expanding their workforce.

* NCDHD confirms 132 COVID cases during past week

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 28)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 132 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the nine-county district during the past week.

Seven of those cases were confirmed in Brown County, with 35 percent of those tested in the past week coming back positive for the virus.

Three cases were confirmed in Rock County, two in Cherry County, 28 in Holt County and two in Boyd County. There were no confirmed cases in Keya Paha County during the past week.

COVID-19 vaccination clinics are scheduled from 9 until 11:30 a.m. and from 1 until 4:30 p.m. today (Tuesday) in the Greater Sandhills Family Healthcare clinic at Atkinson, and from 1 until 4:30 p.m. today in the Rock County Clinic. There is also a vaccination clinic from 11 a.m. until noon Thursday in the Cherry County Hospital Specialty Clinic, and a drive-through clinic from 1 until 6 p.m. Friday in the parking lot of the North Central District Health Department office at O’Neill.

The Cherry County Hospital is offering free rapid COVID-19 testing. This service will be offered Monday and Friday from 2 until 3 pm.  To register, a patient should call the Cherry County Hospital at 402-376-2525 or Cherry County Clinic at 402-376-3770 and press pound to be connected to the registration voicemail.  Cut off for registration is noon the day of testing.

The CDC has endorsed recommendations for a booster shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in certain populations and recommends a booster dose for those in high risk occupational and institutional settings. The FDA authorization and CDC’s guidance for use are important steps forward as we work to stay ahead of the virus and keep Americans safe.
Currently, NCDHD is waiting for official orders to start administering the booster dose. When available, NCDHD will notify all media sources. When available, the individuals who qualify for a booster does are:

people 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer primary series, 

people aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions should receive a booster shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer primary series,

people aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks, and

people aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

September 19

  • Assisted individuals involved in a civil dispute involving a minor child.
  • Received a report of a struck gas meter on Meadville Ave. The Ainsworth Fire Department responded. Gas line was shut off.
  • Received a report of cattle out two miles South on Hwy 7. Owner was contacted and returned cattle to the pasture.

September 20

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Received a report of possible abuse or neglect at an Ainsworth residence. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report of a dog at large East of Ainsworth on Hwy 20. Dog was not located at this time.

     September 21

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Assisted an individual who had found a dog on the loose. Owner was contacted and the dog was returned to the owner.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association provided standby coverage at the Ainsworth Football Field.

September 22

  • Investigated a report of possible suspicious activity at an Ainsworth residence. No criminal activity was reported at this time.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Released a subject from the Brown County Jail.
  • Investigated a vehicle accident without injuries at N Maple St.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred a patient from Brown County Hospital back to the patients residence.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check at an Ainsworth business. The Brown County Ambulance Association also responded. No transport was made at this time.

September 23

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association responded to an Ainsworth residence providing patient assistance. No transport was made at this time.
  • Received a report of possible child abuse or neglect at a rural Brown County residence.
  • Released a subject from the Brown County Jail.
  • Responded to a report of a verbal altercation regarding an animal dispute at an Ainsworth residence on S Hall St. Property management was notified of the issue between individuals involved. No criminal activity to report.

September 24

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred a patient from an Ainsworth residence to Avera St. Anthony’s Hospital in O’Neill. Patient was then transferred back to residence.
  • Received a report of possible child abuse or neglect at an Ainsworth residence.
  • Received a report of a grass fire on 440th Avenue E of Long Pine. The Long Pine Rural Fire Department responded and the Ainsworth Fire Department was initiated. The fire was extinguished.
  • Received a report of a dog on the loose near 4th & Oak St. Owner was contacted and returned home.
  • Received a report of an individual laying in a ditch West of Brown County’s jurisdiction. Cherry County was notified.
  • Received a report of a gas drive off from an Ainsworth gas station. Subject in question was not located at this time.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association provided standby coverage at the Ainsworth Football Field.

September 25

  • Responded to a report from an allied agency of a possible stolen vehicle. Incident evolved into a hit and run accident with a possible intoxicated subject. Subject was located on Hwy 20 E of Johnstown. Subject was arrested and issued a citation for Driving Under Influence. Vehicle was reported not stolen at this time. Subject was booked into the Brown County Jail.
  • Responded to a report of a possible domestic dispute at an Ainsworth residence. Individuals involved were separated and given verbal warnings. No criminal activity was reported at this time.
  • Received multiple reports of noise complaints involving an erratic driver who was also speeding excessively in multiple locations in Ainsworth. Subject in question was located, arrested, and issued a citation for Driving Under Influence and Negligent Driving. Subject was booked into the Brown County Jail.

        Weekly Summary

                    1  – Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)

                    1 – Handgun Permits Applied For

                  17 – Incident Reports Were Taken

                    7 – Paper Services Were Served   

                 168 – Phone Calls Were Received

                   10 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

                    4 – Titles Were Inspected

* Cherry Street work begins soon in Valentine

(Posted 12:45 p.m. Sept. 24)

Weather permitting, work will begin October 4 on Highway 83 in Valentine. Paulsen, Inc. of Cozad has the $8.3 million contract and the $1.68 million Valentine utilities contract. Work includes grading, utilities, concrete pavement, culverts, electrical and seeding.

Work this fall will focus on Cherry Street improvements to accommodate detoured traffic when work begins in the spring on Highway 83 on Main Street in Valentine. A public information meeting will be held prior to construction starting on Main Street to go over phasing and scheduling details.

Work on Cherry Street includes widening intersection radiuses where Cherry Street intersects with Highway 20 and Highway 83 and minor storm sewer work and repairs to concrete pavement. Expect temporary closures on portions of Cherry Street to allow for this work. Anticipated completion of Cherry Street detour preparation is December 1.

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

* Lions Club to work on park playground borders Saturday

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 23)

Roland Paddock was presented the Ainsworth Lions Club Member of the Year Award during Monday’s meeting. Club President Bob Beatty made the presentation to Paddock for his volunteer work with the club.

The Lions Club has scheduled a playground workday for 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, at East City Park. The club will work on borders and crumb rubber mulch for the park’s playground equipment.

Connie Lentz provided a report on the trash pickup event held east of Ainsworth along Highway 20, and Jim Arens presented a report on the concession stand results from the Brown County Fair.

Jerry Ehlers encouraged members to consider helping to take tickets during home Bulldog football games.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18.

* Six head to tie-breaker during Week 4 KBRB Football Contest

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

Six contestants missed two games to tie atop the Week 4 standings in the KBRB Football Contest.

While a slew of pickers missed three games on the Week 4 card, just six, including Shirley Swan and Jacque Richey of Springview, Lois Kaup of Stuart, Roger Brink of Atkinson, and Shane Kinnick and Heather Walnofer of Ainsworth, missed two games.

That sent us to the tie-breaker, Oklahoma’s 23-16 victory over the Huskers. All six contestants correctly picked the Sooners to win. Heather Walnofer picked a score of 35-17 to miss the total by 13 points. That earned her the first place, $40 certificate. Shane Kinnick picked the Sooners, 34-14, missing the total by 14 points to earn the second place $10 certificate. Jacque Richey had the Sooners, 37-16, missing the total by 15. Lois Kaup picked a 37-14 Sooner victory to miss by 16 points as the top four contestants were within three points of each other. Roger Brink had Oklahoma to win, 42-7, to miss by 28 points, and Shirley Swan picked a 56-21 Sooner romp to miss by 38 points.

Winners may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios or make arrangements to have the certificates delivered by the KBRB sports crew.

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

Week 5 cards must be returned to the KBRB Studios by 4 p.m. Friday or carry a Friday postmark if mailed.

* COVID-19 cases prevalent in the NCDHD area

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 132 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in the nine-county district during the past week.

Those who have yet to be vaccinated have several opportunities to do so this week, including today (Tuesday) from 1 until 4:45 p.m. in the Rock County Clinic at Bassett and from 1 until 4:30 p.m. in the Springview Community Center.

On Wednesday, vaccinations will be administered from 9 until 11:30 a.m. and from 1 until 4:30 p.m. in the Greater Sandhills Family Healthcare clinic at Bassett. Friday, vaccinations are available from the North Central District Health Department office at O’Neill from 1 until 6 p.m.

The number of people fully vaccinated in the district is slowly climbing, with 51.7 percent of those 16 and older now completing vaccination in the nine-county district. A total of 18.569 people are fully vaccinated, and 292 people have received one of the two-dose series.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

September 12

  • Issued a City Ordinance Violation correction notice for grass and weeds on 1st Street.
  • Received a report of cows out on Highway 7, 18 miles South. Owner was contacted, and cows were returned to pasture.
  • Received a request for a welfare check for an Ainsworth resident. Individual was located and reported safe.
  • Released a subject from Brown County Jail.

September 13

  • Provided a civil standby for a dispute at an Ainsworth business.
  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity on Meadville Avenue. A subject was arrested and issued citations for Assault on an Officer, Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, and Resisting Arrest. Subject was booked into the Brown County Jail.
  • Deputy Calder and K9 Dutch provided agency assistance for Burwell High School.
  • Booked a subject into the Brown County Jail for a court commitment.
  • Received a report of possible child abuse/neglect in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.

September 14

  • Investigated a report of animal neglect in rural Brown County. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association responded to a call for service at an Ainsworth residence. No transfer was made at this time.
  • Received a report of a dog at large. Owner was contacted and the dog was returned home.
  • Assisted an individual involved in a civil matter regarding a property dispute.
  • Received a report of an animal noise complaint involving dogs barking.
  • Received a report of stolen or missing property found that had been previously reported missing.

September 15

  • Responded to a request for civil standby at an Ainsworth residence regarding a property dispute.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check for an individual at an Ainsworth residence. Individual was located and reported safe.
  • Received a report of a possible underage driver that had been traveling on the Bar 25, Red Wing, and Camp Witness roads. Vehicle was not located at this time.

September 16

  • Received a barking dog complaint on 7th St in Ainsworth. Owner was contacted and given a verbal warning.
  • Received a report of horses out along Hwy 20 near Johnstown. Owners were located and horses were safely removed from the highway.
  • Received a report of a possible scam from an Ainsworth resident involving a fraudulent business. No criminal activity was reported at this time.
  • Investigated a report of a one occupant vehicle accident with injury on Hwy 7. The Ainsworth Fire Department responded providing traffic control. The Brown County Ambulance Association also responded and transported individual involved to the Brown County Hospital.

September 17

  • Ainsworth Ambulance Association transferred a patient from Brown County Hospital to Ainsworth Regional Airport.
  • Received a complaint from an Ainsworth resident that an individual was discharging a BB gun within city limits. This is an ongoing investigation. 
  • Booked a subject into the Brown County Jail on an arrest warrant. Subject was later released from the Brown County Jail on bond.
  • Received a report of a dog at large found on Hwy 20. Dog was taken to Ainsworth Vet Clinic awaiting to be claimed.
  • Received a call regarding two calves out on South Hwy 7. Owner was contacted and calves were returned to pasture.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association provided standby coverage for the Ainsworth High school football game.
  • Investigated a report of possible theft of money from a vehicle parked at an Ainsworth residence. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • The Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a truck on fire located just off Hwy 7 near an Ainsworth business. Vehicle fire was put out.

September 18

  • During a traffic stop on 1st & Walnut Street in Ainsworth an individual was cited for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor and Expired Registration. A second passenger was cited for Minor in Possession of Alcohol.
  • Received a report of possible harassment involving a juvenile. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report of possible theft involving a number of innertubes that were taken from a Hidden Paradise cabin. Call the Crime Stopper Line with any information regarding this incident at 402-382-3121.
  • Investigated a report of a noise complaint E of S Ulrich Street. Individuals involved were given a verbal warning.

        Weekly Summary

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

                  3 – Handgun Permits Applied For

                 16 – Incident Reports Were Taken

                   3 – Paper Services Were Served    

               222 – Phone Calls Were Received

                   9 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

                   6 – Titles Were Inspected

* Traffic Accident

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

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle rollover accident that occurred Thursday, Sept. 16, south of Ainsworth and prompted the response of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.

According to the sheriff’s department report, at 4:20 p.m. Thursday on Highway 7 near milepost 33 south of Ainsworth, a 2003 Dodge Ram, driven by Lavern Borntreger, 22, of Elsmere, was traveling north when the driver lost control of the vehicle. The Dodge left the roadway and entered the west ditch, where it struck a culvert and rolled.

Borntreger was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for evaluation.

* Sheriff’s department makes 4 DUI arrests during campaign

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

Through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, the Brown County Sheriff’s Department participated in the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement Aug. 20 through Sept. 6.

The campaign is a national program to increase public awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence.

Law enforcement officers nationwide joined in an effort to reduce the number of deaths and injuries during the Labor Day holiday period. Three Brown County deputies worked 75-1/2 hours of overtime during the campaign.

The sheriff’s department made four arrests on charges of driving under the influence during the enforcement period. In addition, one individual was arrested on outstanding warrants, one was arrested on a charge of domestic assault, two were cited on charges of possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia, two were cited on charges of possessing an open alcohol container in a vehicle, and 12 motorists were cited on speeding charges.

The sheriff’s department made a total of 49 traffic stops during the enforcement, with 29 motorists receiving warnings. The sheriff’s department used regular enforcement, saturation patrols and an enforcement zone during the campaign.

Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein encourages everyone to do their part to make roadways safer by always designating a sober driver.

* Wednesday town hall identifies priority projects 

(Posted 2 p.m. Sept. 16)

Members of the Brown County Community Foundation hosted a town hall meeting Wednesday with more than 30 members of the public to discuss the community’s strategic plan and projects that should be pursued to improve the area’s economy and lifestyle.

KC Belitz from the Nebraska Community Foundation told those in attendance the city of Ainsworth’s retail pull factor was quite strong, 54 percent higher than the state’s average per capita.

“That is a big number,” Belitz said. “There are a lot of people driving in to Ainsworth. It is a huge opportunity.”

Belitz also provided data showing Brown County has among the highest percent of single mothers living in poverty, at 18 percent.

“That number is higher than other communities,” Belitz said in discussing ways to provide additional support to that demographic.

The data collected also shows the biggest outmigration from Brown County occurs when high school students leave for college.

“Then you start to get them back,” Belitz said. “You have a good number of people over the age of 50 moving back into the county.”

Belitz said housing appeared to be a need in the county, as it is in most of rural Nebraska. He reported most of the city’s housing stock rates in adequate to poor condition.

“There have been nine new houses built in the city since 2010,” Belitz said. “On the other side, the number of seasonal homes in the county increased from 123 in 2010 to 205 in 2018.”

Ainsworth High School students presented results from a youth survey given to students to show their likelihood of considering Brown County as a destination to live and work.

“Jobs are going to be the biggest factor in getting youth to return,” student Ty Schlueter said.

Alyssa Erthum said the survey showed the majority of students are actively involved in the community, but about one quarter of students are not involved.

“There is potential there to include them,” Erthum said.

The survey results showed 45 percent of Ainsworth High School students indicated a small community is their ideal place to live, with 41 percent opting for a medium size community.

A total of 34 percent of the students who completed the survey indicated they were somewhat or extremely likely to live in the area, while about the same number were undecided.

Jerry Ehlers presented information on the actionable items that came from the most recent town hall meeting in 2016.

Ehlers said the main projects identified that year were rebuilding the theater and getting the nursing home reopened after it had closed in 2016.

Ehlers said the North Central Development Center was able to obtain a Main Street property, which was renovated and turned into a theater. The ownership of that property was then turned over to a non-profit corporation consisting of volunteers who operate the theater.

The NCDC was also able to obtain the closed nursing home property from the building’s owner and facilitated the creation of a partnership between the city of Ainsworth and Brown County to own and operate what became the Sandhills Care Center. Ehlers lauded the city and county for agreeing to reopen the needed business in the community.

With housing identified as another main issue, Ehlers said the NCDC obtained ownership of a site near the Brown County Hospital that became the site of the Trailside Estates townhomes. Ownership of that property was transferred to a private investor group, and there is currently a waiting list to get into one of the newly constructed units.

Ehlers said the NCDC Housing Committee constructed three new homes and one new business since the last town hall, and 12 old homes and one old business in Ainsworth were demolished to create additional space for future development.

Ehlers said city and county infrastructure were identified as priority issues in 2016, and the city of Ainsworth had completed a sewer improvement project and replaced the water meters in the city since that time. The school constructed a new agriculture and industrial technology addition to its facility, and the county has been working to repair critical roads infrastructure damaged during flooding in 2019.

Developing future talent was identified in 2016, and Ehlers said the KBR Leadership Academy formed to develop future community leaders and is entering its fifth year.

“It takes a lot of volunteers to get all these projects done,” Ehlers said. “We try to coordinate with those volunteer groups to identify potential resources available.”

Leanne Maxwell with the Brown County Community Foundation discussed the $100,000 anonymous donation that was made to the foundation’s endowment account.

“We want to double down that donation with another $100,000 over the next three years,” Maxwell said. “We are already well on our way, with over $20,000 pledged.”

Maxwell said there was now $2.2 million in the foundation’s endowment account, with the interest from the account used to fund community betterment projects. She said the foundation is now able to award $75,000 each year to projects that better Brown County.

Devyn France and Karen O’Hare from the Ainsworth Child Development Center provided an update on that group’s effort to establish a new child care center in the community.

France and O’Hare said there was a substantial need for additional daycare options in the community, and the group was in the process of trying to secure a site for the development of a childcare center.

“We received our non-profit status in August,” France said.

She said the group has teamed with the Community For Kids group out of Lincoln to provide technical support, and had entered into a contract with both Wilkins Architects and the Lund Company for architectural design assistance and project management when a site is identified.

She said contributions to the group would be tax deductible, and a funding push would begin for the childcare center when a site was secured and cost estimates determined to get the facility operational.

Following the presentations, those in attendance were broken into small groups to determine the areas that should be of priority moving forward. The top issues identified included increased childcare, housing development, improved technology, capturing value-added agriculture, enhanced recreational opportunities and renewing the LB 840 sales tax program, which otherwise sunsets in 2023.

Ehlers encouraged those in attendance to consider volunteering to help with projects in those emphasized areas, and said the strategic planning group would provide guidance and resources.

* Week 3 KBRB Football contest decided in tie-breaker

(Posted 1:15 p.m. Sept. 15)

Three contestants tied for the top spot during Week 3 of the KBRB Football Contest.

Roger Brink of Atkinson, Kurtis Mizner of Springview and Travis Mundorf of Springview each missed just one of the 16 games on the Week 3 contest card. They each were perfect picking the seven college games featuring Big 10 teams.

That sent us to the tie-breaker to determine the winner, Nebraska’s 28-3 victory Saturday over Buffalo. All three picked the Huskers to win. Mundorf’s score of 27-21 Huskers missed the total by 19 points. Brink picked the Huskers, 35-14, missing the total by 18 points. Mizner pegged the Huskers for a 30-17 victory, missing the total score by 16 points.

Via the tie-breaker score, Kurtis Mizner of Springview wins the $40 first-place certificate. Brink earns the second-place, $10 certificate.

Winners may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios or make arrangements to have the certificates delivered by the KBRB sports crew.

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

Week 4 cards must be returned to the KBRB Studios by 4 p.m. Friday or carry a Friday postmark if mailed.

* Mobile food pantry set for Tuesday at Long Pine

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

Food Bank for the Heartland is partnering with Farm Credit Services of America to host a free Mobile Food Pantry at Long Pine from 3:30 until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 21, or until food runs out. The mobile pantry will be located at The Palace on Main Street in Long Pine.

The one-day distribution provides shelf-stable products such as bread, canned fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, and assorted produce. Items will be directly placed into vehicles. Recipients are asked to stay in their vehicle with the trunk open. The pantry is available to anyone living in Brown County and the surrounding communities. No identification is required to receive food.

Food Bank for the Heartland and FCSAmerica are committed to helping families and individuals struggling with food insecurity. Funding from FCSAmerica will allow employees to distribute approximately 12,000 pounds of perishable and shelf-stable food, which is enough to serve 300 households.

“Because of the extraordinary support of FCSAmerica and its dedicated staff, Food Bank for the Heartland can distribute critical staples to individuals with limited resources through our Mobile Pantry program,” said Brian Barks, president and CEO of Food Bank for the Heartland. “As families deal with the lingering effects of COVID-19, coupled with rising gas and food prices, we remain committed to offering emergency and supplemental food throughout our 93-county service area. Thank you to FCSAmerica and the community of Long Pine. We are grateful for the opportunity to provide fresh and shelf-stable food to Brown County.”

According to Feeding America’s 2021 Map the Meal Gap study, approximately 12.6% of residents in Brown County are at-risk for hunger.

* City of Ainsworth to armor coat streets Friday and Monday

(Posted 1 p.m. Sept. 14)

The city of Ainsworth streets department will armor coat numerous city streets Friday, Sept. 17, and Monday, Sept. 20.
Residents are asked to remove vehicles from the following streets on those two days to allow the streets to be oiled and graveled. Vehicles not moved have the potential to be towed to allow the work to commence.

Streets scheduled for armor coat work include:

Oak Street from First to South streets

Dawes Street from Maple to Oak streets

Walnut Street from South to Front streets

First Street from Osborne to Wilson streets

Wilson Street from First to Fourth streets

First Street from Pine to Harrington streets

Second Street from Wilson to Woodward streets

Second Street from Walnut to Elm streets

Second Street from Park to Fullerton streets

Third Street from Harrington Street to Richardson Drive

Fifth Street from Woodward to Main streets

Eighth Street from Elm to Ash streets

Maple Street from First to Fourth streets

Maple Street from Fifth to Sixth streets

Walnut Street from Fifth to Sixth streets

Elm Street from Seventh to Eighth streets

Elm Street from First to Second streets

The Ainsworth Conference Center alley between Fourth and Fifth streets

* Commissioners approve 2021-22 budget Monday

(Posted 12:45 p.m. Sept. 14)

The Brown County Commissioners on Monday approved a 2021-22 general fund budget of $4.73 million following a public hearing.

The budget calls for $2.675 million in property tax to support the general fund and an additional $392,010 in property tax to service the bond payments on the Brown County Hospital building addition approved by voters.

The total property tax asking of $3.06 million is up from $2.89 million in property tax collected to support the 2020-21 budget, an increase of $173,590 in tax collected. The commissioners noted $100,000 of that total is money the county will allocate to replenish its inheritance tax fund, which the board utilized to pay for repairs to the county roads system caused by flooding in 2019.

The overall valuation in Brown County increased from $830.8 million to $894.1 million, and 1 cent in levy equates to $89,418 in property tax for the 2021-22 fiscal year compared to the $83,080 for 1 cent in levy in 2020-21.

The general fund will account for 29.9 cents in tax levy per $100 in valuation, and 4.3 cents in levy will support the hospital addition bond payments.

The county’s total levy of 34.3 cents is slightly lower than the 34.8 cents levied for the 2020-21 fiscal year. Had the county left its property tax asking equal to 2020-21, the levy would have dropped to 32.3 cents due to the increase in total property valuation in the county.

In addition to the 34.3 cents in levy for the general fund and hospital bond, the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District will receive 2.5 cents in levy, amounting to $200,115, and the Brown County Agricultural Society will receive $70,000 in funding, which represents seven-tenths of 1 cent in property tax levy.

The county has $1.92 million in bonded debt remaining, with $21,543 in interest.

During the 2020-21 fiscal year, the county spent $19.69 million, up from $16.69 million spent during the 2019-20 fiscal year. As a reminder, the Brown County Hospital’s budget is included in the overall county budget even though the hospital has a self-sustaining operation and does not receive property tax with the exception of the voter-approved bond for the addition project, which has three years of payments remaining.

The county spent $3.09 million through its general fund in 2020-21, up from $2.83 million in 2019-20. Roads department spending in 2020-21 was down slightly compared to 2019-20, from $1.75 million to $1.74 million. The county spent $376,965 from its inheritance tax fund, down substantially from the $1.15 million spent from that fund during the 2019-20 fiscal year. The vast majority of those expenditures over both years were to pay for repairs from damage sustained by county roads during 2019 flooding, and the main factor in the county budgeting $100,000 to begin to replenish the funds spent from the inheritance tax account. It will take several years of budgeting from the county’s general fund to repay the money it used from the inheritance tax fund, which is the only fund the county has to pay for unforeseen expenses such as flood damage without having to issue bonds.

The Brown County Hospital disbursed $11.67 million during the 2020-21 fiscal year, up from $9.78 million in disbursements during the 2019-20 fiscal year. The hospital’s budget of $10.9 million for 2021-22 is included in the county’s overall budget.

The Brown County Ambulance Association’s budget of $185,131 for 2021-22 is also included in the county’s overall budget. The ambulance association is also self-sustaining and does not receive property tax support. The association spent $120,242 during the 2020-21 fiscal year, up from $94,948 in 2019-20.

Following the budget hearing Monday, the commissioners, with Reagan Wiebelhaus absent, approved the 2021-22 fiscal year budget and property tax request.

The next regular meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Sept. 21.

* Ainsworth, Rock County announce homecoming candidates

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Sept. 14)

Ainsworth High School has announced homecoming royalty for 2021. Candidates are Eden Raymond and Cash Dailey representing the senior class, Maia Flynn and Cash Reynolds representing the A Club, Summer Richardson and Ty Schlueter representing fall sports, Alyssa Erthum and Ben Flynn representing fine arts, and Libby Wilkins and Tommy Ortner representing vocational clubs.

The Ainsworth High School homecoming parade is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday followed by a pep rally.

Rock County High School has announced the 2021 homecoming queen and king candidates.

Candidates for homecoming queen are Hannah Keller, Riley Teel, Kambrey Smith and Brielle Bussinger. Homecoming king candidates are Troy Reynolds, Payton Ebert, Dolan Pospichal and Levi Lewis.

* School Board budget does not increase tax asking

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 14)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education did not ask property owners for additional tax dollars to support the 2021-22 school year budget, and with the overall valuation in the district increasing by $63 million, the district’s tax levy dropped by 6 cents per $100 in valuation.

Superintendent Dale Hafer said during Monday’s budget hearing that the district is asking for $4,000 less in property tax than it did for the 2020-21 budget.

“Our goal was to keep things level and not cause an increase in tax for our patrons,” Hafer said.

While the district’s general operating budget increased from $10.4 million in 2020-21 to $11.5 million for 2021-22, Hafer said the majority of that increase is to account for federal pandemic funding the district is scheduled to receive.

The school will ask property owners for $6.1 million to support the general fund and an additional $565,449 to support the special building fund, which is used primarily to pay the debt on the agricultural and industrial technology building addition. The $6.671 million in property tax asking is slightly less than the $6.676 million requested for the 2020-21 year.

Audience member Doug O’Hare questioned the board on whether the federal stimulus funds the school is receiving would be used to offset local taxes levied by the district.

Hafer said the school board is using the federal dollars strategically to pay for things the district would have otherwise had to rely on property taxes to pay for.

“Using the stimulus money will keep us from having to use tax dollars for those projects,” the superintendent said.

Board President Jim Arens said the board has gone through a strategic planning process to identify projects, with the goal of not having big increases or decreases in the property tax request each year.

“We are trying to make it as even as possible year to year, and keep our tax requests as even as we can over time,” Arens said.

O’Hare said it seemed to him the district’s property tax request should go down since there are fewer students in the district.

Arens said there are fixed costs the district has regardless of the number of students in the building. Hafer said the board looks at ways to keep the budget down, and did not replace one staff position during the past year but absorbed that position when the staff member retired.

Hafer said the district is right in the middle now, having too many students in most classes to go to one elementary teacher per class but having only about 15 students per class with two teachers in each grade.

If class sizes end up in the low 20s instead of around 30, it may make sense for the district to go to one teacher per class in the future.

Arens said Ainsworth has the lowest cost of attendance per student in the area.

“We all deal with these issues in rural Nebraska,” Arens said. “We all have declining enrollment.”

Hafer said the average cost of attendance per student in Ainsworth is about $19,500. He said the average was about $19,800 per student in Rock County, $20,200 per student in Valentine and $28,000 per student in Keya Paha County schools. He said each of those districts face their own unique challenges.

With valuation in the district increasing by 7.7 percent from $813.5 million to $876.2 million, and the district asking for $4,000 less in property tax than it did in 2020-21, the district’s levy dropped from 82 cents in 2020-21 to 76.1 cents per $100 in property value for 2021-22. If a property’s value did not increase between those two years, property owners will see a lower tax bill from the school than they did the previous year.

The district spent $9.56 million during the 2020-21 school year budget, up from $8.39 million spent during the 2019-20 school year. The district disbursed about $600,000 more from its special building fund during the 2020-21 school year, making payments on the ag and industrial technology addition and making window and roof improvements to the school buildings. The school has $2.418 million in bonded debt remaining on its recent addition, and $121,082 in interest payments remaining on that debt.

Disbursements from the general fund increased by about $900,000 between 2019-20 and 2020-21, but disbursements from the activities budget and depreciation fund decreased between the two years.

Following the budget hearing, the board approved the 2021-22 budget and property tax request.

In other action items, the board approved an increase in substitute teacher pay from $110 daily to $135 per day. Hafer said the district had not increased its pay for subs since 2014.

“Rock County and Keya Paha County both went to $135 per day for subs,” the superintendent said. “We are having a hard time finding subs.”

Arens asked how much the district’s overall costs would increase by raising the pay to match other area schools. Hafer said the raise would impact the district’s budget somewhere between $4,000 and $6,000 annually.

Board member Scott Erthum said the district risked losing its substitute teachers to other districts if they were getting offered more to sub at other schools.

The board approved an early graduation request submitted by junior Moriah Cheatum. Secondary Principal Steve Dike said Cheatum has a goal of getting into the health care field, has already completed her CNA license, and plans to take additional courses through Northeast Community College.

“She is serious about what she is doing,” Dike said. “Her parents are also on board. We can strongly support that.”

Cheatum would graduate in December 2022 one semester early. Hafer said it was much better to work with a student a year ahead of time who wanted to graduate early instead of trying to make it work for a student who asks in October of their senior year to graduate early.

The board approved Cheatum’s early graduation request.

During his report, Hafer said the gym floor is to the point the school is scheduled to host a volleyball match Tuesday.

“It is supposed to be ready to go for tomorrow night,” Hafer told the board.

He reported the final coat of finish on the gym floor was applied too soon and produced a minor ripple on the gym floor, which the district would not accept. Hafer reported the contractor agreed to screen the floor and apply another coat of finish at his cost to fix the issue. The superintendent said the district would withhold payment until the work was completed.

Activities Director Scott Steinhauser said district basketball classifications have been released by the NSAA. The girls basketball team will play in Class C-1, while the boys basketball team will compete in Class D-1. Steinhauser said there are about 30 more girls compared to boys in the school’s enrollment.

Activities Director Jared Hansmeyer was asked how the new dual participation option for junior high students was going. Hansmeyer said two junior high girls were participating in both volleyball and cross country, and two junior high boys were competing in both football and cross country.

“For cross country at least, it seems to be working,” Hansmeyer said. “I haven’t heard much from the coaches yet on the volleyball and football sides.”

Hansmeyer reported the school was awarded the host site for district cross country in October.

Steinhauser reported 121 schools in the state, including Ainsworth, registered to field teams for girls wrestling.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 11.

* COVID vaccination clinics available this week as cases rise

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 110 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in the district during the past week.

Those who have not yet been vaccinated may go to the Greater Sandhills Family Healthcare clinic at Atkinson from 9 until 11:30 a.m. and from 1 until 4:15 p.m. today (Tuesday) and in the Rock County Clinic at Bassett today from 1 until 4:15 p.m.

Walk-in clinics are available Thursday from 3 until 6 p.m. in the Ainsworth Conference Center, and from 11 a.m. until noon in the Cherry County Hospital specialty clinic at Valentine.

Friday clinics are scheduled from 11 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. in the West Holt Memorial Hospital at Atkinson, and from 1 until 6 p.m. during a drive-through clinic behind the North Central District Health Department office at O’Neill.

A total of 50.9 percent of the population 16 years of age and older in the nine-county district has now been fully vaccinated, with 18,266 people completing their vaccination series. Another 668 people have received one dose of the two-dose series.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

(Posted 8:30 a.m. Sept. 13)

September 5

  • Provided a civil standby in Long Pine regarding a property dispute.
  • Received reports of a reckless driver W of Ainsworth on Hwy 20. Deputies were unable to locate the vehicle at that time.
  • Received a report of a lost dog. The animal was located and returned to the owner.
  • The Brown County Ambulance provided standby coverage for the Brown County Fair and Rodeo in Johnstown.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transferred a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to the Ainsworth Region Airport.
  • Released a subject from the Brown County Jail.

September 6

  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transported a patient from Long Pine to the Brown Co. Hospital.
  • The Brown County Ambulance provided standby coverage for the Brown County Fair and Rodeo in Johnstown.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check for a Long Pine resident. A Coroner’s Report was initiated.
  • Received a report of a reckless driver E of Ainsworth on Hwy 20. Deputies were unable to locate the vehicle at that time.
  • Provided a motorist assist E of Johnstown on Hwy 20.

September 7

  • Investigated a possible hit and run accident on East 1st St. in Ainsworth. Damages to vehicle were reported as being resolved civilly.
  • Investigated a report of possible vandalism to a grain trailer in rural Brown County.
  • Received a report of possible child abuse or neglect in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation. 

September 8

  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transferred a patient from the Brown Co. Hospital to the Ainsworth Regional Airport.
  • Investigated a vehicle/deer accident without injury near Long Pine.
  • Served a city ordinance violation for grass and weeds on E 1st St.
  • Provided traffic control on S Hwy 7 for a structure relocation of a house to another property in Brown County. Nebraska State Patrol also assisted in providing traffic control. 
  • Received a report of a cow out on N Main Street. Cow was not located out of the pasture at that time.
  • Received a report of a cow out on S Hwy 7. Owner was contacted and returned the cow to pasture.
  • Received a report of possible child abuse or neglect at an Ainsworth residence. This is an ongoing investigation.

September 9

  • Received a report of a lost maintenance tool on N Main St.
  • Assisted an individual involved with a civil dispute involving a property in Long Pine.
  • Received a report of keys found near Hwy 20. Owner was contacted and keys returned to the owner.
  • Received report of a dog complaint at a rural Brown County residence.
  • Received a report of a possible disturbance. No unusual activity was observed at this time.

September 10

  • Responded to a report of a dog complaint involving two aggressive dogs N of Ainsworth. Animals were not located at this time.
  • Responded to a report of a domestic situation involving two individuals from Ainsworth. Individuals reported were separated and given verbal warnings.
  • Received a report of criminal activity involving a subject with a weapon threatening an individual on the 300 block of E. Front St. in Ainsworth. Subject in question was arrested for Terroristic Threats. Subject was booked into the Brown County Jail.
  • Received a report of possible adult neglect or abuse at an Ainsworth residence.

September 11

  • Responded to a request for assistance from an Allied Agency involving a domestic assault at a residence in a neighboring jurisdiction. Assistance provided led to the arrest of a subject who was later booked into jail.
  • Received an animal complaint involving swine causing property damage in rural Brown County.
  • Received a report of a security alarm going off at an Ainsworth business. Business owner was contacted and advised it was a faulty sensor. No criminal activity to report at this time.
  • Responded to a possible disturbance near a Long Pine business. Subject involved was given a verbal warning at this time. An individual deemed responsible assisted the subject return home.

        Weekly Summary

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

                   0 – Handgun Permits Applied For

                  19 – Incident Reports Were Taken

                    3  – Paper Services Were Served  

                205 – Phone Calls Were Received

                  10 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

                   5 – Titles Were Inspected

* City adopts $6.59 million budget following Wednesday hearing

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 9)

The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday approved a $6.59 million budget for 2021-22 that asks property owners in the city for $421,773 in property tax.

The city spent $5.59 million during the 2020-21 fiscal year, a sharp increase from the $4 million the city spent during the 2019-20 fiscal year. The increase in spending was attributable to the large sewer pipe improvement and water meter replacement projects that were completed during the 2020-21 fiscal year, in addition to street repairs that were made following flooding in 2019.

The city’s revenue also increased during the 2020-21 fiscal year, with the city bringing in $5.22 million in revenue for the fiscal year compared to $4.8 million in revenue generated during 2019-20. City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the increase in revenue was due largely to city sales tax receipts outpacing the prior year.

The city levies 1.5 percent in sales tax on all items sold inside city limits that also carry the 5.5 percent state sales tax. Schroedl said sales tax revenue exceeded the city’s expectations during the past year.

The city projects to carry a total cash balance in all of its accounts of $4.73 million into the 2021-22 fiscal year, down from the $5.22 million carried forward following the 2019-20 fiscal year.

The $421,773 in property tax the city is requesting for 2021-22 is about $13,000 more than was requested for 2020-21. The city levy will remain the same at 45 cents for every $100 in property value. The 3 percent increase in tax dollars the city will collect is due to total valuation in the city increasing by a corresponding 3 percent, from $90.8 million in total property valuation in 2020-21 to $93.7 million in valuation for 2021-22. Had the city kept its actual property tax asking of $408,661 in 2020-21 the same, the levy for 2021-22 would have decreased to 43.6 cents.

Audience member Tom Wiedel questioned the council about its contract with the sheriff’s department, and asked why the city’s budget did not allow for a comparison of the dollars it planned to spend in 2021-22 with the money spent in 2020-21. He offered to help the city itemize its budget free of charge.

It was explained to compare actual city expenditures, the public could look at the 2020-21 budget of actual disbursements compared to the 2019-20 budget of actual disbursements to get a comparison. The city is required to budget each year as if it would spend down to zero every dollar in every department. The likelihood of the city zeroing out its accounts such as the water fund, sewer fund, streets fund and economic development fund is extremely remote. However, if the city did not budget to spend its funds and an emergency arose that required unforeseen expenses, the city could not spend its funds if it did not budget to do so.

For example, the city is budgeting to spend $1.275 million from its community development fund, but actually spent $463,000 from that fund in 2020-21 after a similar budget. The city is budgeting to spend $1.14 million from its streets fund for 2021-22 after actually spending $474,000 in 2020-21.

The city budgeted to spend $9.39 million in 2020-21 but actually spent $5.59 million, carrying forwarded a balance of $4.70 million after accounting for revenue.

The city has $225,000 in bonded debt payments it will make for the 2021-22 year and $7,897 in bond interest.

By not taxing at the maximum levy of 50 cents for every $100 in property value, the city created $541,381 in unused budget authority, which is money the city could have taxed but chose not to. 

Schroedl said the city has received $143,000 in American Rescue Act funds, which is half of the overall amount allocated to the city. She said the council will decide where those funds will be used, as there are requirements on how the money can be spent. She said one option would be to use the funding to replace the city’s garbage truck, or it could be used on water or sewer improvements.

Following the hearings for the budget and property tax request, the council adopted the 2021-22 budget and set the property tax asking at 45 cents per $100 in property valuation.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved one business loan project and two façade grant applications as recommended by the LB 840 Loan Committee.

Schroedl said the $400,000 loan from the LB 840 program would support a business project in the community, with a bank loaning the remainder of the funds needed for the business project. The city will receive 2 percent interest over 10 years on $140,000, which will be used to purchase real estate, and will receive 2 percent interest over five years on the remaining $260,000 in loan funds, which will be used on the businesses’ start-up operations.

Schroedl said the structure of the loan was similar to the business loan approved by the council a couple months ago.

“The loan committee felt it is a good business that would cash flow, and the committee unanimously recommended to approve it,” Schroedl said.

Councilman Brad Fiala said the money paid back by the business goes right back into the LB 840 account.

“It is good to see that money being put to work and helping businesses,” Fiala said.

The council approved a $9,994 façade grant application for a downtown business to replace its storefront windows. Schroedl said the façade grant is a 50 percent matching grant and covers half the cost of the window replacement, with the business owner paying the other half of the cost.

The council approved a second façade grant application in the amount of $2,137, which will cover half the cost of a second downtown business adding a lighted sign to its storefront. The business is responsible for the other half of the cost.

The council approved a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to provide $4,000 to the Brown County Hospital to assist in the cost to produce a Quality of Life video to assist businesses in recruiting and in promoting the community.

Schroedl said the video would be a recruitment tool for the community, and was also being supported by funding from the Brown County Community Foundation and from the Brown County Visitors Committee.

Councilman Vance Heyer said the video could be tailored to individual businesses or groups.

“It is being created by a professional videographer out of West Point,” Heyer said. “The video would be a blanket promotion of the community, and each entity could then add a section at the end.”

The council approved recommending to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission that a manager application for Bosselman Pump and Pantry be approved.

In a final action item, the council adopted an ordinance setting a salary range for employees not covered under the city’s agreement with the local labor union. Schroedl said the only positions not covered by the union contract are her administrator position and the water and sewer superintendent position. The council adopted a salary range of between $18 and $38 per hour for the water and sewer superintendent, and a range of $22 to $42 for the administrator position.

Schroedl said adopting the salary ranges for those positions was as effort in transparency.

“I talked with other communities, and they handle it by including a wage range for those positions,” she said.

During her report, Schroedl said she requested LARM reconsider its decision to deny the city’s insurance claim on the damage that occurred to the community center gym floor after a leak in the conference center’s fire suppression system.

She said LARM originally denied the claim by saying the city had not serviced the suppression system, but never asked the city for maintenance records. She said after she requested the decision be reconsidered, LARM requested the history of the fire suppression system’s maintenance records, which the city provided.

“LARM will now cover the claim,” Schroedl said. “The cost to repair the gym floor is $20,000, and the city has a $5,000 deductible, so insurance will cover $15,000.”

Schroedl said the city continues to encourage residents to fill out a water survey required by the state. The survey can be completed in a short amount of time, but a 100 percent response rate is required by the state. Schroedl said the city will place door hangers on residences that have not completed the survey. She asked residents to complete the survey information on the door hangers and return the survey to the city.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 13.

* Naprstak wins Week 3 KBRB Football Contest

(Posted 11 a.m. Sept. 8)

After a perfect card was submitted in Week 1, the slate of games was a little tougher for our area prognosticators to forecast in Week 2 of the KBRB Football Contest Card.

Tiffani Naprstak of Johnstown missed two games on the card, both on the college side, and was the only entrant to have a card with just two wrong. That earns her the $40 first place certificate for Week 2.

A whopping eight contestants missed three games on the Week 2 card, which sent us to Nebraska’s 52-7 victory over Fordham to break the tie for second. All eight contestants correctly picked the Huskers to win, but Stacey Knox of Bassett submitted a score of 56-7 to miss the total by just four points. That was easily the closest tie-breaker score submitted and earned Knox the runner-up $10 certificate.

The other contestants missing three games on the Week 2 card were Michele Adaljou of Springview (11 points off the 52-7 total), AJ Mitchell of Ainsworth (17 points), Jacque Richey of Springview (17 points), Russ Richey of Springview (17 points), Shane Kinnick of Ainsworth (28 points), Eli Beel of Johnstown (31 points) and Heather Walnofer of Ainsworth (35 points).

Winners may pick up their certificates in the KBRB Studios. Week 3 KBRB Football Contest Cards are available now from Buckles Automotive, AKRS Equipment and Speedee Mart in Ainsworth, Circle B Livestock in Bassett, the West Plains Bank in Springview, Speedee Mart in Atkinson, and from the Tri County Bank branches in Stuart, Bassett and Atkinson.

Week 3 cards must be returned to the KBRB Studios by 4 p.m. Friday or carry a Friday postmark if mailed.

* Sand Draw Creek bridge receives Corps of Engineers approval

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 8)

Brown County Commissioner Denny Bauer announced during Tuesday’s meeting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had finally approved the plans for the Meadville Avenue bridge project over the Sand Draw Creek.

Bauer said, after speaking with the engineer on the project, he contacted the governor’s office and U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer’s office to see if they could provide any assistance in getting the Corps of Engineers to render a decision on the project.

“I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but the Corps of Engineers is allowing us to move forward with the Sand Draw Creek bridge,” Bauer said.

He said the Nebraska Department of Transportation will likely let bids for the project in the next few weeks, and construction on the bridge could begin late this fall and continue through the winter.

The Sand Draw Creek box culvert on Meadville Avenue was destroyed during flooding in September 2019, and a detour 1 mile west has been used since that time on the heavily traveled county road.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin was unable to make Tuesday’s meeting, but he provided a written report, which Bauer read. The roads department added rip rap to bridge wings on both Plum Creek and Sand Draw Creek. He reported the department installed a culvert as part of a drainage project on Norden Avenue between Road 880 and Road 881.

With the recent rain, Turpin said roads department workers had been out blading roads, and the department had cleaned up and hauled rock to its new lot in Long Pine.

The commissioners, with Chairman Buddy Small absent Tuesday, tabled several agenda items, including a proposal to install heating and air-conditioning temperature controls into the assessor’s office and the county attorney’s office. After discussion with Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor, the board learned it would need to get three bids for the project due to it likely costing in excess of $10,000.

The commissioners discussed a leaking basement wall at the courthouse, and agreed to contact two or three companies to provide the board with options for repairing the wall.

The board tabled signing an interlocal agreement for 911 regional communication equipment until an updated agreement was available. The agreement will include 911 equipment in Brown, Cherry, Rock, Holt, Boyd, Sheridan and Antelope counties, and replaces a similar agreement the county previously had through Region 24.

The commissioners gave Clerk Travee Hobbs the authority to decide whether to enter into a contract with GIS to digitize the county’s updated redistricting maps. Hobbs said the county was required to redistrict every 10 years with the Census, and the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office is encouraging counties to provide those maps online instead of only keeping hard copies at the courthouse. Hobbs said she wasn’t sure it was worth the cost to place the maps online, unless it would at some point become a state requirement.

As part of annual budget items, the board approved a 1 percent allowable increase in its restricted funds, and reauthorized petty cash funds for several offices.

The commissioners scheduled a special meeting to approve the 2021-22 county budget for 3:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 13.

* COVID-19 cases continue to rise in NCDHD area

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 128 new COVID-19 cases in the district during the past week, as confirmed cases in the nine-county district continue to climb.

Those yet to be vaccinated my go to the NCDHD office in O’Neill from 1 until 4 p.m. Friday, or to the West Holt Memorial Hospital at Atkinson Friday from 11 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. A clinic is scheduled from 1 until 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14, in the Rock County Clinic at Bassett.

Those attending vaccination clinics will now be required to provide insurance information. Those without insurance are still eligible to receive the vaccine.

The district has gone above a 50-percent vaccinate rate for those 16 and older, as more people are being vaccinated with the Delta variant spreading. A total of 18,052 people in the nine-county district are fully vaccinated, representing 50.3 percent of those 16 and older. Another 342 people are partially vaccinated.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

August 29

  • Investigated a report of property damage on N Osborne St. Parties involved reported they are resolving the damages civilly.
  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association responded to a residence in Ainsworth.  No transport was made at this time.
  • Received reports of a cow/calf pair out on S Hwy 7. The owner was contacted and the animals put back into the pasture.
  • Responded to a report of an individual walking on Hwy 20 near the Long Pine spur. Deputy provided transportation for the subject.

August 30

  • Responded to a report of a burglar alarm sounding at an Ainsworth business. No suspicious activity was reported at that time.
  • Received a report of possible child abuse or neglect in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received reports of suspicious activity in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.

August 31

  • Provided traffic control for cattle crossing on Hwy 20 West of Ainsworth.
  • Investigated reports of a possible lost or stolen item. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Investigated a two vehicle accident without injury on 3rd St in Ainsworth.

September 1

  • Responded to a report of a burglar alarm sounding at an Ainsworth business. No suspicious activity was reported at that time.
  • Received reports of possible child abuse or neglect in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received second separate report of possible child abuse or neglect in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Investigated reports of possible loitering at an Ainsworth business.
  • During a traffic stop on Hwy 7 a subject was cited for Driving Under the Influence. Subject was arrested and booked into the Brown County Jail.

September 2

  • Responded to a report of an individual walking on S Hwy 7. Deputy provided transportation for the subject to their residence.
  • Responded to a domestic situation on Maple St. A subject was arrested and booked into the Brown Co. Jail. 
  • Released a subject from the Brown Co. Jail on bond.
  • Received reports of cattle out on S Hwy 7. Owner was contact and the cattle were put back to pasture
  • Investigated a report of harassment at an Ainsworth business.
  • Investigated a report of an abandoned vehicle at an Ainsworth business.

September 3

  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transported a Long Pine resident to the Brown Co Hospital.
  • Received a report of a cow out North of Colonial Estates. The owner was contacted and the cow put back into pasture. 
  • Responded to a report of possible harassment. The subject left without incident. 
  • During a traffic stop K9 Dutch was deployed. Subjects were issued citations for speeding, Marijuana less than an ounce, and Possession of a controlled substance (THC).
  • Received a report of cattle out on Jackrabbit road North of Hwy 20. Owner was located and the cattle put back into pasture.
  • Multiple traffic citations were issued for speeding.

September 4

  • During a traffic stop on Hwy 20, a subject was issued a citation for no trailer lights, possession of marijuana less than an ounce and drug paraphernalia.
  • Responded to a report of motorcyclists flagging down traffic at 183 and Hwy 20. Motorist was assisted, no unusual activity was observed at the time.
  • Received a request for a welfare check in Long Pine at a residence. Individual was located and reported safe.
  • During a traffic stop on Hwy 20, a subject was issued a citation for Driving Under the Influence. Subject was arrested and booked into the Brown County Jail.
  • Received a report of a cow out on Hwy 7. Owner was located and the cow returned to pasture.
  • The Brown County Ambulance provided standby coverage for the Brown County Fair and Rodeo in Johnstown.

        Weekly Summary

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

                    5 – Handgun Permits Applied For

                  21 – Incident Reports Were Taken

                    5 – Paper Services Were Served   

                177 – Phone Calls Were Received

                   9 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

                   7 – Titles Were Inspected

                   August Monthly Summary

                            6 – Accidents

                          6 – Arrests

                        52 – Calls for Service

            23 – Citations were issued

              5 – Defect Cards issued

             11 – Handgun permits issued

                         26 – Paper Service served

                       764 – Phone calls were received

                         36 – 911 emergency calls received

                         25 – Titles inspected

                         30 – Verbal & Written Warnings issued

* Campbell discusses COVID case increases, vaccinations

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Sept. 3)

Appearing by phone during the Brown County Hospital Spotlight Friday due to his own isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, Dr. Mel Campbell discussed his mild virus symptoms after being vaccinated and talked about the sharp increase in cases being seen by those being tested at the Brown County Hospital. Campbell said the positivity rate for those being tested for COVID-19 is above 30 percent, indicating the virus is very prevalent in the area.
To hear the conversation, listen to the audio below.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Sept. 2)

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

Keith R. Claypool, age 52, of Jackson, charged with speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, fined $75.

Whitney L. Abbott, 31, of O’Neill, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Travis W. Carpenter, 40, of Ainsworth, driving a commercial vehicle without a CDL license, $100; commercial vehicle brake violation, $50.

Curtis L. Reed, 32, of Ainsworth, no valid registration, $25.

Suzette K. Humphrey, 59, of Ainsworth, no operator’s license, $75.

Tanner W. Stec, 26, of Bassett, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Veronica M. Hartz, 19, of Springview, violating a stop or yield sign, $50; failure to display proper number, $25; display light violation, $50.

Nancy T. Schmitz, 50, of Cold Springs, Minn., three counts of attempting a Class 4 felony, fined $1,000 on each count; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

James E. Hale, 64, of Wood Lake, 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.

Angela D. McConnell, 47, of Long Pine, stopping or parking on a roadway, $50; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Steven S. Hofer, 40, no address listed, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $25, sentenced to 20 days in jail with credit for 20 days served; operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest, 18 days in jail; first offense reckless driving, sentenced to 18 days in jail; no operator’s license, $25; passing on the right side, $25; driving left of center, $25; driving on the shoulder, $25; failure to yield the right of way, $25; four counts of violating a stop or yield sign, $25 on each count.

Peter J. Silipo, 71, of Ainsworth, driving under suspension, $100.

Nicholas A. Doering, 29, of Scottsdale, Ariz., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Venny Georgiev, 66, of Wheeling, Ill., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

John D. Heine, 41, of Omaha, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Sandra S. Nilson, 51, of Ainsworth, barking dog violation, $25.

Jaret L. Polivka, 26, of Lincoln, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Anna M. Frain, 19, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Levi Gum, 27, of Long Pine, disturbing the peace, $100.

Sloan C. Raymond, 20, of Ainsworth, attempting a Class 1 misdemeanor, $300.

Nathaniel K. Brandt, 40, of Exeter, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Andrew J. Sweet, 37, of Commerce City, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Samantha R. Davis, 34, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; failure to use a seat belt, $25.

Valene L. Cole, 19, of Ainsworth, theft by shoplifting more than $500 but less than $1,500, sentenced to six months of probation.

Brenden M. Devalk, 19, of Becker, Minn., possession of a controlled substance, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Shaylynn J. Martin, 19, of Wentworth, S.D., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Tanya L. Vieth, 59, of Carson, Texas, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Rick P. Reeves, 52, of North Platte, two counts of attempting a Class 4 felony, fined $1,000 on each count, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

* Richey submits perfect card to win Week 1 Football Contest

(Posted 1 p.m. Aug. 31)

Right out of the gate, there was a perfect card submitted during the first week of the KBRB Football Contest. Russ Richey picked all 14 high school and college games correctly to earn the $40 first-place gift certificate. Richey did pick Nebraska to beat Illinois, but that was in the tie-breaker game and did not factor.

Three contestants missed just one game during the first week of the contest, which sent us to Nebraska’s disappointing 30-22 loss to Illinois in the tie-breaker.

Becky Schelm of Ainsworth, Maxine Brink of Atkinson and Jacque Richey of Springview each missed just one game. All three picked Nebraska to beat Illinois. Schelm’s score of 21-14 Huskers missed the total by 17 points, which earned her the $10 runner-up certificate. Brink had the Huskers winning by a 28-14 score to miss the total by 22 points, and Jacque Richey picked the Huskers 37-20, missing the score by 25 points.

Winners may pick up their certificates in the KBRB Studios. Week 2 KBRB Football Contest Cards are available now from Buckles Automotive, AKRS Equipment and Speedee Mart in Ainsworth, Circle B Livestock in Bassett, the West Plains Bank in Springview, Speedee Mart in Atkinson, and from the Tri County Bank branches in Stuart, Bassett and Atkinson.

Week 2 cards must be returned to the KBRB Studios by 4 p.m. Friday or carry a Friday postmark if mailed.

* COVID-19 cases rising substantially in the district

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

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 75 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the nine-county district during the past week, as cases in the district continue to increase substantially.

Several opportunities are available this week for those who are unvaccinated to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Today (Tuesday), walk-in vaccinations are available from 9 until 11:30 a.m. and from 1 until 4:30 p.m. in the Greater Sandhills Family Healthcare clinic at Atkinson, and from 1 until 4:15 p.m. in the Rock County Clinic at Bassett. On Wednesday, vaccinations are available from 10 until 11 a.m. in the Valentine High School multi-purpose room. A clinic is scheduled from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Thursday in the Cherry County Hospital specialty clinic at Valentine, and on Friday walk-in vaccinations are available from 1 until 4 p.m. in the North Central District Health Department office at O’Neill, and from 11 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. in the West Holt Memorial Hospital at Atkinson.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine now has full FDA Approval for use for individuals 16 years of age and older. Just shy of 50 percent of those age 16 and older in the district are fully vaccinated, with 17,817 people completing their vaccination series. Another 379 people have received one dose of the two-dose vaccine.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

August 22

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transported an individual from an Ainsworth residence to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Investigated a report of a suspicious female subject possibly loitering at an Ainsworth business. Subject was contacted and no criminal activity was reported at this time.
  • During a traffic stop on 2nd & Maple St. in Ainsworth, a subject was arrested for Driving Under the Influence.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check on an individual at an Ainsworth residence. Individual was reported safe at this time.

August 23

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transported a Johnstown resident to the Brown County Hospital.
  • A correction notice was served for a City Ordinance Violation to a property owner on Main St.
  • A correction notice was served for a dangerous building City Ordinance Violation to a property owner on W 2nd St.

August 24

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association responded to a Long Pine residence. No transport was made at this time.
  • Received a report of a cow and calf out on S Hwy 7 near MM 27. Owner was contacted and the cattle were returned to pasture.
  • Received a report of a bull out on S Hwy 7. Owner was contacted and the cattle were returned to the pasture.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check on a juvenile at an Ainsworth residence. Juvenile was located and no further issues reported at this time.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association responded to a call for service at an Ainsworth residence. No transport was made at this time.
  • Responded to a report of a possible unauthorized vehicle operating with red and blue flashing lights. Vehicle was not located at this time.
  • A correction notice for a City Ordinance Violation was served to a property owner on N Oak St. in Ainsworth.
  • Responded to a report of a disturbance on Main St. in Ainsworth. Individuals involved were issued a verbal warning.

August 25

  • Investigated a report of a possible missing person. Individual was located by an allied agency in another county.
  • Received a report of possible abuse or neglect for an individual at an Ainsworth residence.
  • Received a report of possible self neglect for an individual at an Ainsworth residence.

August 26

  • During a traffic stop on Hwy 183 a subject was issued a citation for Following too Closely, Marijuana less than one ounce, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.
  • Investigated a report of a minor fender bender near the Ainsworth football field. Parties involved reported will be resolving damages civilly.

August 27

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transported a patient from an Ainsworth care center residence to Brown County Hospital.
  • Responded to a report of a noise complaint at the East City Park. Subjects were removed from the area and issued a verbal warning.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association provided standby coverage at the Ainsworth football field.
  • Booked a subject into the Brown County Jail on a Bench Warrant.
  • Released a subject from the Brown County Jail on bond.

August 28

  • During a traffic stop on South Pine Ave. in Long Pine, a subject was cited for Driving Under the Influence. Subject was arrested and booked into the Brown County Jail.
  • Received a report of a transient on Hwy 20. Transient was transported to the county line.
  • Responded to a report of a possible domestic disturbance at a residence in Long Pine. Individuals involved were removed by an individual deemed responsible. Verbal warnings were issued at this time.
  • Released a subject from the Brown County Jail.
  • Investigated a report of a juvenile possibly out of compliance with a court order. Juvenile was removed from residence and placed with proper care taker.
  • During an investigation of possible criminal activity, a subject was issued a citation and arrested for False Reporting, Violation of a Protection Order, and Marijuana less than one ounce. Subject was booked into the Brown County Jail.
  • Received a report of a welfare check involving an unsupervised child located at an Ainsworth business. Child was returned to the caretaker.

        Weekly Summary

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

                    3 – Handgun Permits Applied For

                  20 – Incident Reports Were Taken

                    3 – Paper Services Were Served   

                193 – Phone Calls Were Received

                  11 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

                   6 – Titles Were Inspected

* Valentine man arrested on first-degree murder charge

(Posted 3:30 p.m. Aug. 25)

The Nebraska State Patrol has arrested a Valentine man for murder following a search and investigation Tuesday in Cherry County.

During the early morning hours of Tuesday, Aug. 24, the Cherry County Sheriff’s Department received a report of a disturbance at Kilgore. The sheriff’s department requested assistance from the Nebraska State Patrol during its investigation.

Tuesday morning, law enforcement sought the public’s assistance to locate two individuals believed to have been involved in the disturbance at Kilgore. Troopers located one of the subjects, Kevin Kilmer, 25, of Valentine, early Tuesday afternoon, as he was hiding in a wooded area. He was taken into custody and transported to the Cherry County Hospital at Valentine for medical clearance due to extreme temperatures.

Later Tuesday, the second subject, Ruth Wittmuss, 52, was found dead. The preliminary investigation indicated Wittmuss died as the result of an apparent homicide.

After further investigation, Kilmer was arrested and charged with first degree murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony. Kilmer is being held in the Cherry County Jail.

The investigation remains ongoing.

* State Patrol searching for woman following Tuesday incident

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 25)

After locating a person of interest Tuesday, the Nebraska State Patrol and the Cherry County Sheriff’s Department are still attempting to locate a woman regarding an incident that occurred early Tuesday morning at Kilgore that prompted the closure of Cody-Kilgore Public Schools Tuesday.

According to a news release from the Nebraska State Patrol, law enforcement located 25-year-old Kevin Kilmer of Valentine Tuesday afternoon, and is still searching for Ruth Wittmuss, 52, who was last seen in Cherry County.

Little information has been released regarding the nature of the incident early Tuesday morning, nor has their been information released as to the role Kilmer and Wittmuss may have played in that incident.

Wittmuss is 5-feet-1 and weighs 130 pounds with black hair and blue eyes. Anyone who may have seen her is asked to call the State Patrol at 308-535-8057 or the Cherry County Sheriff’s Department at 402-376-1890.

* COVID cases rising; vaccination clinic available this week

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 24)

With the FDA giving full approval of the Pfizer COVID vaccine, there are several vaccination clinics scheduled in the area this week for those who have yet to be vaccinated.

Today (Tuesday), walk-in vaccinations are available from 1 until 4:15 p.m. in the Rock County Clinic. On Wednesday, vaccinations will be given from 9 until 11:30 a.m., and from 1 until 4:30 p.m. in the Greater Sandhills Family Healthcare clinic at Bassett.

On Friday, walk-in vaccination clinics are available from 11 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. in the West Holt Memorial Hospital, from 1 until 3:30 p.m. in the North Central District Health Department office at O’Neill, and from 3:30 until 5:30 p.m. in the O’Neill Armory.

While still given without charge, insurance card information is required when receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. A photocopy of the front and back of the insurance card is needed. If you do not have insurance, you are still eligible to get your COVID vaccine. Call the NCDHD office with any questions.

The NCDHD was made aware of 59 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the district in just the past week, as case numbers begin to rise again in the area. County-level breakdowns of the 59 new cases were not available.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine now has full FDA Approval for use for individuals 16 years of age and older.

A total of 17,665 people in the nine-county district are fully vaccinated against the virus, representing 49.2 percent of those age 16 and older. Another 351 people have received one shot in the two-dose series. 

COVID-19 testing can most readily be accessed through traditional healthcare access points. Reach out to your primary care provider for more information.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Aug. 23)

August 15

  • Received reports of cattle out on W Hwy 20. Owner was contacted and the cattle were returned to pasture.
  • Responded to reports of a dog at large in the E 7th St area.  The dog was

located and taken to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic.

  • Investigated a report of an abandoned vehicle N of Keller Park.
  • Investigated property damage on S Main St in Long Pine.
  • The Ainsworth Fire Dept responded to a silage pit on fire W of Ainsworth.
  • Responded to a report of a reckless driver on Hwy 183. Deputy’s were unable to locate the vehicle at this time.
  • During a traffic stop on Hwy 7, K9 Dutch was deployed. No violations were reported at this time.
  • Received a report of a vehicle/deer accident w/out injuries on Hwy 183.

August 16

  • Received reports of cattle out on N Hwy 183. Owner was contacted.
  • During a traffic stop on Hwy 7, a citation was issued for speeding.
  • Received reports of a possible traffic hazard involving cyclists on Hwy 20.

August 17

  • During a traffic stop on 4th St. & Richardson Dr., a citation was issued for speeding, drug paraphernalia, and marijuana less than one ounce.
  • Responded to a report of a burglary alarm sounding at an Ainsworth business. No suspicious activity was reported at this time.
  • Investigated reports of possible animal neglect at a residence in Long Pine.
  • Investigated a report of possible child abuse or neglect at an Ainsworth residence.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown County Hospital.

August 18

  • Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail.
  • Provided assistance with a civil dispute involving two Ainsworth residents.
  • The Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a report of a vehicle on fire near an Ainsworth business.
  • Investigated a report of property theft from a Johnstown residence.

August 19

  • A correction notice was issued to an Ainsworth property owner for a City Ordinance nuisance violation.
  • Received a report of an irrigation pivot watering Hwy 20. Owner was contacted and corrected the mechanical issue.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check for an individual and child at an Ainsworth residence.
  • Received reports of possible suspicious activity at a residence in Long Pine. No criminal activity was reported at this time.
  • Received reports of possible suspicious activity at a rural residence in Ainsworth. No criminal activity was reported at this time.
  • Investigated reports of an accident without injury at an Ainsworth business.
  • Received multiple reports of suspicious activity involving an individual in rural Brown County. Individual was a door to door salesman who had received a peddler’s permit.
  • Received a report of fraudulent activity on a bank account for Ainsworth resident. The individual was referred to the Attorney General Fraud Line.
  • Investigated a report of a noise complaint at an Ainsworth residence. No violations were observed at this time.

August 20

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred a patient from Brown County Hospital to the Ainsworth Regional Airport.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Received a report of a disoriented subject at an Ainsworth business. A welfare check was performed. At this time the Brown County Ambulance Association was initiated to respond at residence. Individual was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred a second patient from Brown County Hospital to the Ainsworth Regional Airport.
  • Investigated a report of possible domestic disturbance at an Ainsworth residence. Subject in question was not located in Brown County at this time.
  • Investigated a second report of possible domestic disturbance at an Ainsworth residence. Subject in question was not located in Brown County at this time.

August 21

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association provided standby coverage at the Johnstown rodeo.
  • Responded to a report of cattle out on S Hwy 7. Owner was contacted and the cattle were returned to pasture.
  • Responded to a seperate report of cattle out on Hwy 7. Owner was contacted and the cattle were returned to pasture.
  • Multiple traffic stops were made resulting in speeding citations issued.

        Weekly Summary

                    1 – Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)

                    1 – Handgun Permits Applied For

                  15 – Incident Reports Were Taken

                   6  – Paper Services Were Served   

                 182 – Phone Calls Were Received

                    6 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

                    4 – Titles Were Inspected

* Firefighters respond to vehicle fire Wednesday

(Posted 10:45 a.m. Aug. 19)

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was briefly called Wednesday to the site of a vehicle fire in Ainsworth.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at approximately 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, a vehicle caught fire near the intersection of Woodward and Second streets. Fiala said a derby car was being welded when the vehicle’s fuel line was hit, causing the fuel to ignite.

Fiala said the crew working on the vehicle pushed it out of a building and used fire extinguishers to stop the flames. The fire chief said the fire was extinguished by the time firefighters arrived, and the department remained on scene for only about 15 minutes.

Fiala said damage was contained to the derby car itself.

* Area students named to Smith’s Youth Advisory Council

(Posted 8:45 a.m. Aug. 18)

Congressman Adrian Smith met last week with the Third District high school students who will serve on his Youth Advisory Council for the 2021-2022 academic school year.

Among the students named to Smith’s Youth Advisory Council are Taya Schmaderer of Stuart, Violet Schwager of West Holt, Tucker Stagemeyer of O’Neill and Faith King of Summerland.

Smith’s Youth Advisory Council is a forum for high school students to discuss opinions, thoughts, and concerns about local and federal issues with Smith throughout the school year. Through in-person meetings and other contacts, the council provides students an opportunity for involvement and insight into their government and communities.

The council is open to Third District sophomore, junior, and senior high school students.

* Commissioners hear updates on several bridge projects

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 18)

Brown County Commissioner Buddy Small updated the board during Tuesday’s meeting on the Sand Draw bridge reconstruction project scheduled on Meadville Avenue.

The location has been closed since 2019 after the box culvert washed out during flooding. Small said he spoke with Paul Keiper from the Nebraska Department of Transportation, who indicated the Army Corps of Engineers had finally been in contact with the NDOT about the project.

“Miller and Associates sent in the plan May 13,” Small said. “The technical review is now almost complete. The NDOT is anticipating a fall bid letting and construction this winter.”

Small said he understood the site being closed has created an issue for a lot of people in the county.

“People want to know dates, but it is out of our hands,” Small said. “It is up to the NDOT and the Army Corps of Engineers.”

In another bridge matter, Small reported The Nature Conservancy is prepared to send the county a check for $140,000 as soon as the county signs the memorandum of understanding it presented.

County Attorney Andy Taylor said the bridge will remain in county ownership, and the county would agree to keep it maintained as part of the memorandum.

“I will work with them to see if any changes are needed to the agreement and then I will get it back to them,” Taylor said.

Small also reported the bridge near Camp Witness had been replaced. Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the county’s share of the cost of that bridge was now just 5 percent, as the federal government agreed to pay for 90 percent of the cost of flood-damaged projects instead of 75 percent, leaving the county and the state to split just 10 percent of the cost of repairs instead of splitting 25 percent.

Small said Camp Witness had pledged $20,000 to the county to assist in the cost of replacing the bridge, which is primarily used by the camp. Commissioner Denny Bauer said the county needed to make sure it billed Camp Witness only for the amount the county had to pay on the project if the 5 percent share came in less than $20,000.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, now that most of the bridge replacement work had been completed, he believed the commissioners needed to talk about abandoning some of the little-used bridges in the county.

During his report Tuesday, Turpin said the county finished an asphalt overlay on the Airport Road using 1,900 tons of millings the county picked up following an airport runway rehabilitation project. The overlay covered 1.3 miles of the Airport Road.

“It improved the road quite a bit, and that was a project on our 1- and 6-year plan,” Turpin said. “We will now armor coat it this fall.”

Turpin reported the roads department also completed a drainage project and culvert installation in the Hidden Paradise area, and is installing a cross culvert on Norden Avenue between Road 880 and Road 881.

Tom Bejot approached the commissioners about digging out the ditches near the intersection of Road 880 and 429th Avenue. Bejot said his crew last dug out the ditches about 20 years ago, and the area runs a lot of water.

“It is holding water now, it never used to,” Bejot said. “The reeds have really grown in. It drains a large area, about 2,000 acres.”

Turpin said the county would plan to excavate the area in the spring, and would spread the material out to let it dry.

“We might wait until spring on that, it would probably be better,” Turpin said.

Bejot said there would be a lot fewer reeds and vegetation for the county to deal with if it waited until spring.

In other business Tuesday, representatives from the Brown County Ambulance Association approached the commissioners about allowing the association to go out for bids for a new ambulance.

Ambulance Association member Ann Fiala said it would already take between 18 months and 24 months to get an ambulance with the current chip shortage, and the association’s three ambulances all had a lot of miles on them.

“Both our newer ambulances are paid for, so we have been saving for a new one,” Fiala said. “We will fund the payments on a new ambulance through our operations, so there will be no cost to taxpayers.”

Fiala said regulations have changed regarding safety systems required in ambulances, so the costs have gone up, but she believed the association could get a new ambulance for less than $250,000 that would replace the association’s oldest ambulance, a 1999 model.

She asked the commissioners to also think about a new ambulance barn, as adding a third larger ambulance by replacing the older, smaller ambulance would make it difficult for the association to house its three vehicles.

“Our current building may not be able to house three larger ambulances,” Fiala said. “I would just ask you and the city to start thinking about potential options, and I will research grant possibilities.”

The commissioners heard annual budget requests from the Brown County Rural Fire District, the Brown County Agricultural Society and the North Central Development Center.

Representing the rural fire district, Doug Davis presented the board with copies of the district’s expenditures and the funding requests from each rural department.

“We have two fairly large projects coming up,” Davis said. “The Calamus department is requesting a new grass rig, and the South Pine department needs a fire hall. The one out there is in really bad shape.”

Davis said the rural fire district was again requesting 2.5 cents in levy, as in addition to the $113,304 in project requests, the district’s monthly expenses run between $10,000 and $20,000 for fuel, utilities, insurance etc.

Wiebelhaus thanked Davis for supplying the commissioners with the district’s budget.

“This is the first time we have seen a budget,” Wiebelhaus said. “Good job.”

Taylor said the commissioners would need to meet with the city next spring and make sure the two entities were on the same page for providing funding for the 2022-23 fiscal year, as the city and county would need to provide the same levy for fire protection during that budget year to ensure the departments continue to receive MFO funding from the state.

“We just need to make sure we are all on the same page next year so we don’t lose those MFO funds,” Taylor said.

Dave Sherman, representing the Brown County Agricultural Society, requested the county levy $50,000 in tax to support the fairgrounds and an additional $20,000 to repay the inheritance tax fund for money borrowed previously to make upgrades to the arena.
Sherman said the group needed to make some repairs to the community hall, and would like to get defibrillators for the hall with the number of events being hosted there.

Small said he would work with Sherman to contact the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Association to see if there was funding available to help with the cost of purchasing defibrillators.

Representing the North Central Development Center, Graig Kinzie told the commissioners the NCDC Board would like to add at least a part-time position to assist the executive director. He said the NCDC budget has remained stable, but the group planned to approach its community partners on budgeting to get back to having a second person in the office, at least on a part-time basis to allow the director to focus on larger, more impactful development projects.

The commissioners agreed to increase funding for the NCDC from $7,000 to $10,000 with the agreement that if the other partners did not provide the remainder of the additional funding needed to hire a part-time position, the NCDC would not bill the county for the additional $3,000 contribution.

The funding for the rural fire district, the agricultural society and the NCDC will all be finalized as part of the county’s budget hearing and 2021-22 budget adoption in September.

The commissioners approved a request from the Ainsworth Golf Course for a special designated liquor license for an event Oct. 2 at Hidden Paradise.

Representing the golf course, Calista Wilson said the course had received a request to run the bar during a wedding reception Oct. 2 at Hidden Paradise.

The commissioners questioned whether the site fell within the one-mile jurisdiction of the city of Long Pine, but Wilson said the course had visited with the city and was told the site did not fall under the city’s jurisdiction.

In other action items Tuesday, the board approved transferring $197,000 from the inheritance tax fund to the disaster recovery fund, approved 2021-22 inventories and acknowledged the jail standards report, which indicated the county’s jail was in full compliance with state regulations.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for Sept. 7.

* Lions Club presents membership awards

(Posted 2 p.m. Aug. 17)

The Ainsworth Lions Club presented members with awards Monday, recognizing Evan Evans and Rod Palmer for being members for 50 years. Phil Fuchs has been a club member for 30 years, Tim Sinsel for 25 years, Duane Grunke for 15 years and Pat Jones received a 10-year membership award.

The Lion Club Board is making preparations to once again run the concession stand during the Brown County Fair Labor Day weekend. Club members will be asked to sign up for open spots to help run the concession stand during the fair.

A work session will be scheduled either Sept. 18 or Sept. 25 to install 60 pieces of playground border that have arrived. The Lions Club helps maintain park playground equipment in the city. The club has scheduled its fall Highway 20 cleanup for 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19, beginning at the Carquest parking lot and going east.

The Lions Club has $10,000 to invest in community service projects in the city. The board oversees which community projects are awarded funding.

Jerry Ehlers provided a sign-up sheet for members to volunteer with taking tickets for home Bulldog football games. Home games where Lions Club ticket takers are needed are Aug. 27, Sept. 17, Sept. 24 and Oct. 8.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club Board of Directors is scheduled for noon Sept. 20.

* Lost Creek Road in Keya Paha County to close for resurfacing

(Posted 9:15 a.m. Aug. 17)

The Keya Paha County Roads Department is resurfacing Lost Creek Road beginning Wednesday morning. Keya Paha County Commissioner Mike Tuerk said Lost Creek Road will be closed beginning Wednesday morning from Shadley Road west to the Cherry County Line.

The project is expected to last approximately two weeks while the asphalt is grinded and replaced. The road will be barricaded while the resurfacing work is being undertaken.

* Vaccination clinics available in the area this week

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

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

Clinics include from 9 until 11:30 a.m. and from 1 until 4:30 p.m. today (Tuesday) in the Greater Sandhills Family Healthcare clinic at Atkinson, and from 11 until 11:15 a.m. and 3 until 3:30 p.m. today in the Rock County Clinic. The Atkinson clinic will administer both the Moderna and Pfizer brands of vaccine, while the clinic at Bassett will administer the Moderna vaccine only.

A clinic will be held from 1 until 3 p.m. Wednesday in the Ainsworth Family Clinic that will administer the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine. A clinic offering all three brands of vaccine will be held from 3:30 until 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Butte Community Center.

The Cherry County Hospital specialty clinic will offer the Moderna vaccine from 11 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. Thursday, and the North Central District Health Department will offer all three vaccines from 1 until 4 p.m. Friday in the district office at O’Neill.

A total of 17,605 people in the North Central District Health Department coverage area have completed vaccination, representing 49 percent of those age 16 and older. An additional 211 people in the district have received one dose of vaccine in a two-dose series.

The NCDHD was made aware of 42 new COVID-19 cases in the nine-county district during the past week. A breakdown of the number of cases in each county was not available.

The health department releases new videos with the series called COVID CHAT to address COVID related misconceptions, facts, frequently asked questions and more. The health department uploads new videos to its social media channels and web site each Thursday.

* BCSD to participate in impaired driving enforcement

(Posted 4:30 p.m. Aug. 16)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department will participate in the annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement campaign that runs through the Labor Day holiday weekend.

The campaign begins Friday and continues through Sept. 6. Officers will work overtime and will be on the lookout for anyone driving while impaired.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10,142 people were killed in 2019 in motor vehicle accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver. On average, more than 10,000 people have been killed on the nation’s roadways due to a crash that was alcohol related in each of the past five years. One person is killed in a drunk-driving accident every 52 minutes in the U.S.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department reminds motorists driving while impaired is not only illegal, it is a matter of life and death.

“We want our community members to understand that it is our first priority to keep people safe, so we are asking everyone to plan ahead if they know they plan to go out drinking,” Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein said. “We need commitment from our community members that they will keep roads free of drunk drivers so everyone can have a safe holiday. Let’s make this a partnership between law enforcement and drivers. Help us protect the community and put an end to this senseless behavior.”

During the 2019 Labor Day holiday period, there were 451 motorists who died during motor vehicle accidents in the nation. Of those, 45 percent involved drivers who had been drinking. Nearly 25 percent involved motorists whose blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

The sheriff’s department encourages motorists to designate a sober driver in advance. Anyone who sees a suspected drunk driver is encouraged to contact the sheriff’s department at 402-387-1440. Anyone who sees a friend who is about to drive after drinking is encouraged to take their keys and make other arrangements to get them home.

* Weekly Summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

(Posted 9:15 a.m. Aug. 16)

August 8

  • Received reports of a dog at large on N Maple St. Deputies were unable to locate the dog at that time.
  • Responded to a report of a scam business on 1st street in Ainsworth.  This is
  • an ongoing investigation in cooperation with the Nebraska State Patrol.
  • Received reports of a parking violation at an Ainsworth business. The owner of the vehicle was located and moved.
  • Provided roadside assistance to a vehicle that had run out of gas on E Hwy 20.
  • Responded to a dispute on W Dawes St. A report was filed with the County Attorney advising both parties be charged with disturbing the peace and terroristic threats.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co. Hospital.
  • Received reports of vehicles driving recklessly at East City Park. Deputies were unable to locate subjects at the time.
  • Investigated a report of an accident w/out injuries on E Hwy 20. A subject was arrested and booked into the Brown Co. Jail for Driving under the Influence.

August 9

  • Received reports of an unwanted subject at a Long Pine business.
  • Released a subject from the Brown Co. Jail on bond.
  • Responded to a request for animal removal from an Ainsworth residence.
  • The Johnstown Rural Fire Dept responded to reports of a bale on fire.
  • Received reports of a gas drive off from an Ainsworth business. Subject was contacted and returned to pay for gas.
  • Provided a motorist assist to a semi West of Ainsworth on Hwy 20.
  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with Mental Health Services.

August 10

  • Received reports of a gas drive off from an Ainsworth business. Vehicle was not located at that time.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transferred a patent from the Brown Co. Hospital to the Ainsworth Regional Airport.
  • The Johnstown Rural Fire Dept responded to a baler on fire.
  • Responded to a dispute at an Ainsworth business.

August 11

  • Provided a welfare check on a Long Pine resident.
  • Provided traffic control for a downed power line.

August 12

  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transported a Long Pine resident to the Brown Co. Hospital.
  • Responded to reports of cattle out at Keller State Park.
  • Responded to a request for animal removal from an Ainsworth residence.
  • Received reports of possible child abuse or neglect in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Transported a dog at large from an Ainsworth business to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic.
  • Responded to reports of a suspicious vehicle at a rural Brown Co. residence.
  • Received reports of a lost dog. The animal was located and returned to owner.
  • Provided a welfare check on an Ainsworth resident.

August 13

  • Received a report for Adult Protective Services for a Long Pine resident.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transferred an Ainsworth resident to the Avera Hospital in O’Neill.
  • Received reports of a possible scam involving a Social Security number. Caller was advised to to contact the Attorney General Fraud Line 1-800-727-6432
  • Provided a civil standby in Long Pine.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co. Hospital.

August 14

  • Investigated reports of possible harassment in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Investigated a report of an accident w/out injury on the 100 blk of N Oak St.
  • Retrieved personal property left at an Ainsworth business.

        Weekly Summary

                    1 – Burn Permit Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)

                    2 – Handgun Permits Applied For

                    17 – Incident Reports Were Taken

                    1 – Paper Services Were Served   

                    176 – Phone Calls Were Received

                    9 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

                    5 – Titles Were Inspected

* Ainsworth City Council meeting

Members of the Ainsworth City Council took steps that will make some adjustments and changes to their earlier ordinance regarding efforts to rid or require clean-up, fix-up or demolition of vacant or abandoned residential and/or commercial buildings plus the collection of fees for failure to do these.

The new ordinance reduced the vacant building fee from $500 to $250. It also includes a number of exemptions, and inspections. Again, the goal is to help improve the overall appearance and value of area properties and the city in general. Council members voted to approve the new vacant buildings ordinance.

Sandhills Care Center board member Tom Jones and Administrator Penny Jacobs presented information on the financial status of the center. They currently have 18 residents and Tom stated that the break-even number would be about 24. Like many care centers and other facilities, they continue to have problems finding sufficient staff. Jones said that although there are operating on a tight margin, they do have funds in reserve. The city and the county have been budgeting and providing $80,000 each per year in support of the operation of the care center.

The council voted to invest just over $16,000 into an interest bearing account from the Nebraska Public Agency Investment Trust into the Nebraska Federal Investment Trust, a program available through Union Bank and Trust Company.

They approved a special designated liquor license application for Niobrara Valley Vineyards for a special tasting event September 9 at Rangeland Rehab.

They approved a new three year agreement, effective October 1, 2021, with the AFL-CIO labor union that covers most all city employees in regard to wages, wage increases, benefits, number of paid holidays and other benefits.

The council also approved amendments to the Owner Occupied Housing Rehabilitation Revolving Loan Program.

They approved a recommendation from the ABC (Ainsworth Betterment Committee) to provide $4,000 to the Ainsworth American Legion Post 79 to help with installation of a handicap entry into the Legion Hall.

The council also approved a request from the Ainsworth Fire Department for the appropriation of their end-of-the fiscal-year remaining funds into a “new or newer” truck sinking fund.

City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Lisa Schroedl’s report covered information on vacant building registration, a council subcommittee meeting to review the cable/broadband franchises discussions and negotiations, a one year review of the wastewater cured-in-place pipe lining project with no issues being identified. She reported that she had attended the monthly North Central Development Center Board meeting and that they received a $60,000 grant a few months ago from ABC funds to be used for demolition projects. She noted that several of the affected properties are on the city’s current nuisance abatement list.

The administrator and Mayor Joel Klammer met recently with Northeast Community College representatives to discuss possible training opportunities for the city including elected and appointed officials training as well as additional help with water and wastewater certification resources and testing sites.

She reported that the city insurance company “LARM” denied a claim from the city regarding the water damage to a section of the conference center gym floor. She appealed their decision and the insurance company is conducting a re-review at this time. The damage consists of approximately 700 square feet with an estimated repair cost of just under $20,000.

The Administrator will be gathering information for the 2021/2022 budget and will be meeting with some council members beginning the week of August 23.

The city will be conducting cross connection surveys to determine if there are any potential contamination hazards from back flow into the water supply. These surveys are a requirement of the state for the city’s water permit and a tool for the city to ensure safe drinking water to residents. She said the state does require a 100% return rate on the surveys to all water connections so they will be providing more information to reach all water users.

A status update on loans and grants: LB 840 has one loan outstanding and is current, one loan pending closure and nine grants pending. CDBG Housing Rehad has 13 loans outstanding, all are current.

These notes from the Wednesday, August 11 meeting of the Ainsworth City Council.

* Brown County District Court

(Posted 8:47 a.m. Aug. 11)

Brown County District Court was in session on August 10, 2021. Hon. Mark D. Kozisek presiding

State was represented by Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor

The following cases were heard:

State v. McNutt CR20-20

Anthony McNutt, 29, of Long Pine, Nebraska, was sentenced on his previously entered pleas of guilty to Possession of a Controlled Substance – methamphetamine, a Class Four felony; and Disturbing the Peace of Kayla Johnston, a Class Three misdemeanor.  Mr. McNutt was sentenced to eighteen months Probation and two days jail, with credit for two days served. Mr. McNutt was represented by defense attorney John Icenogle.

State v. Daniels CR21-5

Dustin D. Daniels, 50, of Long Pine, Nebraska, entered a plea of guilty to Ct. 1: DUI (4th offense), a Class Three A felony, with no agreement as to sentencing. Mr. Daniels is scheduled to be sentenced on October 12, 2021. Mr. Daniels was represented by defense attorney Michael Borders.

* Fire report

(Posted 9:08 a.m. Aug. 11)

Ainsworth Firemen assisted the Johnstown Department in extinguishing a baler fire on the Mary Lou Hughes place southwest of Johnstown about 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Firemen reported damage to the baler, a bale of hay and a small area of grass. The baler belonging to Steve Naprstek was destroyed.

* Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education meeting notes

(Posted 1:15 p.m. Aug. 10)

They approved, on second reading, policy updates from the Nebraska Association of School Boards Policy service. 

They approved a resolution to adopt the newly revised Hazard Mitigation Plan in cooperation with the Brown County Emergency Management Agency.

The board approved four enrollment option requests for students from the Ainsworth School District to Rock County Schools: Layton Deibler, Dawson Deibler, Cale Novak, and Robert Cassity.

Following  discussion and input from both activities directors and wrestling coach, the board unanimously voted to approve the addition of a girls wrestling program that would be separate from the boys program effective this school year.

They also approved invoices for roofing repair and concrete replacement projects invoices from the depreciation fund and a transfer of funds to the depreciation fund.

A couple of community members addressed the board with their concerns regarding plans coming from the state on health education standards as compared to local school boards control of policy and directions. The superintendent and board members assured them that they, the local school, would be in control of the final decisions for Ainsworth Community Schools.

Board President Jim Arens read a statement of the Ainsworth Board of Education concerns with the Nebraska Department of Education proposed Health Education Standards.

Reports were presented and reviewed by Elementary Principal Ben Wright that indicated 31 in pre-kindergarten, 23 kindergarten, 32 first grade, 24 second grade, 35 third grade, 30 fourth grade, 23 fifth grade, and 30 sixth grade students. Approximately 230 total from PK through 6th grade.

* Fire report

(Posted 9:02 a.m. Aug 11)

Ainsworth Fire Department was called out at 5:55 p.m for a hay bale on fire near Johnstown. 

* SunWise Community Solar program 

(Posted 1:31 p.m. Aug. 10)

Residential and commercial customers of the Nebraska Public Power District who live in Ainsworth will have the opportunity to learn more about the city’s SunWise community solar program from 5 until 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10, in the Ainsworth Conference Center. The solar facility, already under construction, is expected to come online early this fall.

Ainsworth residents are encouraged to attend the open house to learn more about the project including the impact it may have on their electric bill, as well as all details of the program including portability and any specific requirements or restrictions, plus can ask questions of NPPD staff involved in solar development. Interested residents will also have the opportunity to sign up during the open house. Ainsworth customers will be limited to 10 shares they will be able to purchase. In total, there are 224 shares available.

GRNE Solar, based out of Lincoln, is the solar developer for the 500-kilowatt project. GRNE will sell electricity generated by the solar facility to NPPD, and NPPD will resell the energy to Ainsworth solar subscribers at cost. NPPD already has existing solar facilities operating at Kearney, Scottsbluff, and Vanango amounting to approximately 10.5 megawatts in size.

“The community solar program enables NPPD to partner with its retail communities interested in pursuing their own solar projects.” said NPPD General Manager Retail Services Pat Hanrahan. “Under this program, NPPD works with the community and a selected developer to purchase the output of a solar unit. End-use customers can then participate in the program and pay for shares via their electric bill.”

The facility will generate enough electricity to serve the equivalent of approximately 75-100 homes when the sun is shining and will be know as Solar Bundle One, LLC. The estimated completion date is this fall.

Only those residential and commercial customers who receive a bill from NPPD are eligible to purchase solar shares. When shares are fully subscribed a waiting list will be developed and those on the list will be contacted when shares become available.

Any shares remaining after the open house can be reserved by registering online at https://sunwise.nppd.com/. Customers may also call NPPD toll-free at 877-275-6773. NPPD will review all solar requests and contact the subscriber with more information, including the customer’s program eligibility, cost, number of shares available, etc. before finalizing the purchase agreement

* Weather warnings Thursday trigger wireless phone message

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 6)

Severe thunderstorms can be life-threatening, but not all severe storms are the same. Hazardous conditions range from tornadoes, large hail storms, and widespread straight-line winds called derechoes, to cloud-to-ground lightning and flash flooding.

The National Weather Service has started to convey the severity and potential impacts from thunderstorm winds and hail by adding a “damage threat” tag to Severe Thunderstorm Warnings, similar to Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings.

The Weather Service developed three categories of damage threat for Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. The categories, in order of highest to lowest damage threat, are destructive, considerable, and base. These tags and additional messaging are designed to promote immediate action, based on the threats.

The criteria for a destructive damage threat is at least 2.75 inch diameter (baseball-sized) hail and/or 80 mph thunderstorm winds. Warnings with this tag will automatically activate a Wireless Emergency Alert on smartphones within the warned area. Those alerts were activated Thursday in north central Nebraska due to a thunderstorm with the potential to produce large hail.

The criteria for a considerable damage threat is at least 1.75 inch diameter (golf ball-sized) hail and/or 70 mph thunderstorm winds. This will not activate a wireless alert.

The criteria for a baseline or “base” severe thunderstorm warning remains unchanged, 1.00 inch (quarter-sized) hail and/or 58 mph thunderstorm winds. This level does not activate a wireless alert. When no damage threat tag is present, damage is expected to be at the base level.

On average, only 10 percent of all severe thunderstorms reach the destructive category each year, nationwide. Most of these storms are damaging wind events such as derechoes and some of the larger, more intense thunderstorms, called “Supercell” storms that can typically produce very large hail in their path. The new destructive thunderstorm category conveys to the public urgent action is needed, a life-threatening event is occurring and may cause substantial damage to property.

All National Weather Service Severe Thunderstorm Warnings will continue to be issued and distributed via weather.gov, NOAA Weather Radio, Emergency Alert System and through dissemination systems to emergency managers and partners. The addition of damage threat tags are part of the broader Hazard Simplification Project to improve communication of watches and warnings to the public.

* Ainsworth students head back to class Aug. 12

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 6)

Ainsworth Community Schools kindergarten through sixth grade back to school night is scheduled from 5 until 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 16.

K-4 students and parents will have the opportunity to visit with their teachers and tour classrooms.

There will be an orientation for 5th & 6th grade students and parents at 5:30 p.m. 5th & 6th grade teachers will present information and give a short tour of classrooms.

Students may pick up their class schedules today from their respective offices. The first day of class for students is Thursday, Aug. 12. Teachers report for work days beginning Monday, Aug. 9.

Effective for the 2021-22 school year, Ainsworth Community Schools will serve meals at no charge to enrolled students. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved use of the Seamless Summer Option, which allows local school districts to provide no-cost meals to all enrolled students for the duration of the 2021-22 school year. 

The new school year requires a new meal application. Although school meals will be provided at no cost to all children, school funding depends on completed meal applications.

Only one meal application is needed for each household. Applications are available online at www.ainsworthschools.org

* Commissioners opt not to increase levy for Meadville project

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 4)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday opted to use existing roads department funds to service the 2021-22 fiscal year bond payments for the Meadville Avenue renovation project instead of levying additional property tax to cover the bond payments.

Treasurer Deb Vonheeder asked the commissioners how they planned to make the bond payments if they didn’t raise the property tax levy to cover the payments.

“If it comes out of the road fund, the general levy goes up,” Vonheeder said.

Commissioner Denny Bauer said the roads department has enough in its highway buyback fund to cover a couple years’ worth of the bond payments.

“We don’t need to increase the levy this year for it, as long as it doesn’t run the roads department short,” Bauer said. “That will get us closer to the hospital bond being completed.”

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the federal highway buyback funds can only be used for roads projects, and the roads department had about $500,000 that has been built up in that fund.

Commissioner Buddy Small said Turpin had previously indicated he had been banking money from the highway buyback funds for a larger project like renovating Meadville Avenue.

The county will pay between $110,000 and $120,000 in each of the first two years to service the bond payments on the approximately $2 million asphalt renovation of Meadville Avenue.

The board, with Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus absent, agreed not to raise the property tax levy for the 2021-22 year to make the bond payments but instead service the bond payments through the roads department’s federal highway buyback fund. The county receives approximately $60,000 annually into that fund.

Turpin reported the roads department made emergency culvert repairs on Meadville Avenue just north of Ainsworth after Meadville Avenue had to be closed due to part of the road caving in south of the irrigation canal.

Turpin said the roads department put in a longer culvert and also redid the approach to the irrigation canal bridge while the road was closed.

The highway superintendent said the department planned to install a culvert in the Hidden Paradise area to address a drainage issue, and planned to use millings from the airport to perform an asphalt overlay on 423rd Avenue. When the new asphalt is finished, Turpin said 423rd Avenue would be armor coated, as would the asphalt on Rauscher Avenue.

Turpin also reported the Camp Witness bridge has been replaced, and the bridge destroyed by flooding across Fairfield Creek in northwestern Brown County would also be replaced soon.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved purchasing a 20 by 8 by 8.5-foot storage container from ABC Storage of Norfolk to allow for the winter storage of chemicals for the noxious weed department at a delivered cost of $3,460.

Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum said he was currently trying to store the chemical on his porch during the winter.

Small said NIRMA has urged counties to provide a safe storage area for the chemicals used to spray noxious weeds.

Erthum reported the county has applied for and received several grants to help spray for noxious weeds on river corridors.

He said a $38,000 state grant just wrapped up that allowed for aerial spraying of purple loosestrife and phragmites along the Niobrara River corridor in Brown, Rock, Keya Paha and Cherry counties.

“We also received a grant to do a yellow flag iris control program at five locations on Pine Creek,” Erthum said.

He said the Middle Niobrara Weed Awareness Group has a cost-share program available to landowners in the Niobrara River corridor to help offset the cost of spraying for noxious weeds.

“We sprayed 160 acres of purple loosestrife in the Johnstown and Ainsworth areas,” the weed superintendent said. “We also received a $30,000 grant to run an airboat on the Niobrara to spray, and we will have a project on the Calamus River to spray for purple loosestrife and phragmites.”

Erthum also told the commissioners he was excited about a biological control project on Canada thistle that was underway.

“The Canada thistle rust only infects Canada thistle,” Erthum said. “We infected sites in Brown, Rock, Cherry, Keya Paha and Boyd counties.”

Erthum said, once introduced, the rust infects the Canada thistle plant, reproduces and eventually kills not only that Canada thistle plant but others in the area. He said the rust spores can remain in the soil and continue to kill Canada thistle plants for years.

The commissioners congratulated Erthum for all the grant money his department has received to control noxious weeds in the county, and for recently being named the Nebraska Weed Superintendent of the Year by the state association.

Sandhills Care Center Board Chairman Phil Fuchs presented the commissioners with the care center’s 2021-22 fiscal year budget. Fuchs said, while the conservative budget projects an operating loss for the facility for the upcoming fiscal year, the care center has reserves to cover any loss and did not plan to request any funding from the county or the city for the fiscal year.

“We had a similar budget last year and we didn’t have to dip into our reserves,” Fuchs said. “We were able to carry that reserve funding forward along with some COVID funding.”

Fuchs said working through the pandemic had been tough on the care center, but the additional federal COVID funding helped the care center get through the year.

Fuchs said there were currently 18 residents in the care center, and the facility needed to build its census to 24 residents to reach the break-even point.

Small on Tuesday signed the closing documents for the county to obtain a parcel located next to its roads department shop at Long Pine. The county previously agreed to pay $5,500 for the parcel. With its share of closing costs, the county’s total payment to obtain the property was $5,721.

The board approved a subdivision requested by Riley Rudnick and Brooke Worden located within Township 30 North, Range 22 West.

Zoning Administrator Tom Jones said the request met the county’s zoning standards, but a permit would need to be applied for through the zoning office.

“You have to have at least 5 acres for a subdivision if you want to build in areas zoned for agriculture, and this is 6.6 acres,” Jones said.

The board approved transferring $14,500 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the reappraisal fund.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Aug. 17.

* Open house Tuesday for those interested in NPPD solar shares

(Posted 7:45 a.m. Aug. 3)

Residential and commercial customers of the Nebraska Public Power District who live in Ainsworth will have the opportunity to learn more about the city’s SunWise community solar program from 5 until 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10, in the Ainsworth Conference Center. The solar facility, already under construction, is expected to come online early this fall.

Ainsworth residents are encouraged to attend the open house to learn more about the project including the impact it may have on their electric bill, as well as all details of the program including portability and any specific requirements or restrictions, plus can ask questions of NPPD staff involved in solar development. Interested residents will also have the opportunity to sign up during the open house. Ainsworth customers will be limited to 10 shares they will be able to purchase. In total, there are 224 shares available.

GRNE Solar, based out of Lincoln, is the solar developer for the 500-kilowatt project. GRNE will sell electricity generated by the solar facility to NPPD, and NPPD will resell the energy to Ainsworth solar subscribers at cost. NPPD already has existing solar facilities operating at Kearney, Scottsbluff and Venango amounting to approximately 10.5 megawatts in size.

“The community solar program enables NPPD to partner with its retail communities interested in pursuing their own solar projects,” said NPPD General Manager Retail Services Pat Hanrahan. “Under this program, NPPD works with the community and a selected developer to purchase the output of a solar unit. End-use customers can then participate in the program and pay for shares via their electric bill.”

The facility will generate enough electricity to serve the equivalent of approximately 75-100 homes when the sun is shining and will be known as Solar Bundle One, LLC. The estimated completion date is this fall. 

Only those residential and commercial customers who receive a bill from NPPD are eligible to purchase solar shares. When shares are fully subscribed a waiting list will be developed and those on the list will be contacted when shares become available.

Any shares remaining after the open house can be reserved by registering online at https://sunwise.nppd.com/. Customers may also call NPPD toll-free at 877-275-6773. NPPD will review all solar requests and contact the subscriber with more information, including the customer’s program eligibility, cost, number of shares available, etc. before finalizing the purchase agreement.

* COVID vaccination clinic available Wednesday at Valentine

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

The North Central District Health Department has a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic scheduled at Valentine this week.

Those who have not been vaccinated may go to the Valentine High School parking lot from 10:30 until 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The health department was made aware of 15 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in the district during the past week, and 26 cases have been confirmed in the past two weeks.

Vaccination numbers continue to slowly rise in the nine-county district, with 17,380 residents completing vaccination, representing 48.4 percent of residents age 16 and older. Another 333 people have received one vaccine dose.

The NCDHD has been releasing new videos with the series called COVID CHAT to address COVID related misconceptions, facts, frequently asked questions and more. Videos are uploaded each Thursday to the NCDHD web site and social media channels.

 

 

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