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* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 8:15 a.m. May 31)
- Issued two warnings for speeding, and one warning for improper load securement. During another traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 235, a citation was issued for speeding 78mph in a 65mph zone.
- Received a report of harassment occurring to an Ainsworth individual. They were encouraged to provide written statements with details of the events, call at time of occurrence, and apply for a protection order.
- Responded to a report of a loose dog on 1st The dog was taken to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic and later claimed by its owner.
- Received a report of ongoing harassment and suspected theft. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Issued warnings to city property owners with overgrown yards. We appreciate everyone’s hard work to correct these issues!
- Received a report of consumption of open alcohol containers in East City Park. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Responded to a report of a reckless driver on Highway 20. No citations were issued at this time.
- Responded to a report of a barking dog on Ash St in Ainsworth. The owner was called and asked to resolve the issue.
- Provided traffic control near the Highway 20 and 183 Junction until owners could arrive to corral their livestock.
- Received a report of stolen lawn mowers. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Responded to a report of a barking dog on Walnut St. Deputies contacted the owner who resolved the issue.
- Responded to a report of an individual blowing their grass clippings onto Walnut Street. The issue was resolved.
- Responded to a report of unauthorized juveniles riding a motorized scooter on Fullerton St. Juveniles were not found.
- Received statements from an individual regarding harassment from a neighbor. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Responded to a report of a barking dog near the 200 Block of 6th No barking was heard at this time. Contact was made with suspected owner regarding the complaint.
- Responded to a report of an individual in a mental heath crisis. The individual was found to be in another county and in medical care.
- Responded to a report of juveniles without helmets driving a motorized 4-wheeler near East City Park. Contact was made and a verbal warning was issued.
- Responded to a report of a loose dog near Rodeway Inn. The dog was taken to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic.
- The Brown County ambulance responded to an Ainsworth address and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
- Responded to reports of a vehicle accident occurring on Highway 183 near the Brown and Keya Paha County line Niobrara River bridge. One vehicle had struck the guardrail on the bridge causing debris to scatter on the roadway. A second vehicle struck the debris causing both vehicles to be towed from the scene. Both vehicles had single occupants; one driver was transported to the Brown County Hospital. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Received a report of vandalism that occurred to the public bathrooms at the East City Park. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Received a report of harassment. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Received a report of trespassing on private property in the Hidden Paradise area. Some damage did occur to the property, after review of the security footage. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Responded to a report of a disturbance on Main Street. Three juvenile subjects were issued verbal warnings.
- Responded to a burglary alarm on Main Street. It was found to be a false alarm.
- Served an arrest warrant for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and use of a firearm to commit a felony on a male subject. The subject was booked into jail, and later posted bond and released.
- Released a second inmate from the Brown County Jail after posting bond.
- Provided traffic control near the 183 and 20 Highway Junction for a cattle crossing.
- Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.
- Ainsworth Fire Department was paged for a vehicle fire on Cedar St in Ainsworth.
- One speeding citation was issued for 16-20mph over the posted speed limit on Highway 20. 3 warnings were issued for speeding, 1 for defective vehicle lighting, and 1 for driving left of center on this day.
1– Burn Permit
35– Incident Reports Were Taken
201– Phone Calls Were Received
7– 911 Emergency Calls Received
6– Titles Were Inspected
0– Handgun Permits Applied For
1– Paper Services Were Served
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 7:30 a.m. May 31)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Wednesday, May 24.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 11:20 p.m. on May 24, a 2007 Dodge Durango, driven by Duane Reposa, 80, of McCook, was traveling south on Highway 183 near milepost 207 when the vehicle crossed the center line and struck a cable guardrail on the east side of the highway. Reposa was transported by ambulance to the Rock County Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the accident.
While a damage estimate was not determined, the vehicle became inoperable following the accident.
* Buell to serve internship with Rock County Foundation
(Posted 7 a.m. May 31)
For the fifth consecutive year, Nebraska Community Foundation announced a new class of Hometown Interns who will continue the program’s success.
This summer’s group of interns includes 21 college students serving NCF affiliated funds in 15 different Nebraska communities, including Jillian Buell, a recent Rock County High School graduate who will serve an internship with the Rock County Community Foundation.
“A common phrase I hear from rural community residents is that ‘there is a lot here, you just have to look,’ or ‘it’s not the place, it’s the people,’” Rachel Orth, who is a returning intern to the Keith County Foundation, said. “Prior to this internship, I brushed these sayings off, but because of this experience, every place I visit isn’t just some other town, and every conversation I have with others isn’t just about pleasantries and small talk, but instead they are a treasure trove for goodness and individuality. Through my work as the hometown intern coordinator, I want to help others realize, and be courageous in sharing, Nebraska’s hidden gems.”
Interns are brought right into the action, helping their foundations map assets and plan for the future. For many students, the experience led to the realization that they can do the work they love in the places they call home, with many saying they see their communities in a new light. Together, these efforts are helping people-attraction efforts across the state. At least nine previous interns have returned to Greater Nebraska after graduation to pursue a future in the places they love.
Emily Morrow credits her internship with reinforcing her inclination to return home. Through her experience working with the O’Neill Community Foundation Fund, she said she discovered her impact in Holt County would be more tangible than if she applied her talents in a larger community like Lincoln, Omaha, or beyond. She now works as West Holt Medical Services’ Marketing Director.
“My internship solidified my purpose in coming back,” Morrow said. “I’m very excited. I just got a house in O’Neill. I want to plant my roots and I’m not afraid to say it.”
Hometown Interns work with local NCF affiliated funds on a variety of projects tailored to their community and the interests and skillsets of the interns. While the specific tasks and projects will vary from one Hometown Internship to another, NCF will provide numerous opportunities for interns to connect throughout the summer to give them space to learn from each other, share ideas and foster appreciation for their hometowns while contributing to community development efforts at the local and statewide level.
“Hometown Internships are intended to connect young adults with the goodness and abundance that exists in their hometown,” said NCF President and CEO Jeff Yost. “Their work is to discover, through conversations and relationship building, all of the assets, skills and talents in their homeplace and begin to help other community members appreciate this abundance and use it to build communities of choice for every generation.”
* Councilman charged with firearms-related offenses
(Posted 3:15 p.m. May 30)
A 47-year-old Ainsworth man was arrested Friday on 10 felony charges relating to firearms.
Shawn S. Fernau was charged with five counts of first offense aiding and abetting possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, each a Class 1D felony. He was also charged with five counts of committing a felony that involved a firearm, each a Class 1C felony.
According to Brown County Sheriff Brent Deibler, an ongoing investigation led to search warrants being served Friday at 160 S. Ulrich St., a home owned by Fernau, and a commercial property at 116 W. Second St., also owned by Fernau.
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department, Rock County Sheriff’s Department and Nebraska State Patrol executed the search warrants. Fernau was arrested following the searches and booked into the Brown County Jail. He posted 10 percent of a $50,000 bond Friday and was released.
Fernau’s first appearance in Brown County Court has not yet been scheduled.
Fernau is a current Ainsworth City Councilman, elected to office in 2020. He also serves on the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors.
* State’s April jobless rate second lowest in nation
(Posted 6:30 a.m. May 30)
Nebraska’s preliminary unemployment rate for April is 2.0 percent. The rate is down 0.1 percentage points from the March rate of 2.1 percent and is the same as the April 2022 rate of 2.0 percent.
The rate is the second lowest in the country, trailing only South Dakota’s 1.9 percent rate. New Hampshire and North Dakota had unemployment rates of 2.1 percent in April, followed by Alabama at 2.2 percent.
The highest unemployment rate in the country belonged to Nevada at 5.0 percent. California had the second highest rate at 4.5 percent. Washington and Delaware’s unemployment rates of 4.3 percent were also among the highest in the country.
“The Nebraska April unemployment rate tied the historical low,” said Commissioner of Labor John H. Albin. “The state’s labor force reached a new all-time high for the second straight month.”
County level unemployment data was not available in April.
Nebraska nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was 1,041,662 in April, up 3,851 over the month and up 20,439 over the year. Private industries with the most growth month to month were mining and construction (up 1,887 jobs); leisure and hospitality (up 930 jobs); and trade, transportation, and utilities (up 814 jobs). Private industries with the most over the year growth were public education and health services (up 5,074 jobs), leisure and hospitality service (up 4,689 jobs), and mining and construction (up 3,912 jobs).
The national unemployment rate for April is 3.4 percent, down 0.1 percentage points from the March rate of 3.5 percent. This rate is down 0.2 percentage points from the April 2022 rate of 3.6 percent.
* Area students complete nursing degree at Northeast
(Posted 9:15 p.m. May 28)
Associate degree in nursing and practical nursing students were recognized during a ceremony at Northeast Community College in Norfolk recently with the presentation of their diplomas. In addition, the tradition of nursing students receiving their pins from family members or a close friend who have helped them along their journey was part of the ceremony.
“Nursing school requires much dedication, long hours of studying, tedious homework, and early morning and late evening clinicals culminating with the nursing board exam,” said Dr. Karen Weidner, director of nursing programs. “It is an honor to recognize our nursing graduates for all of their effort and achievements as they begin their journey in the profession of nursing.”
The nurse pinning observance is the culmination of the students’ initial journey of professional nursing education. It is a bridge from nursing’s past to nursing’s future and is a time-honored nursing school tradition. It also signifies the official initiation into the brotherhood and sisterhood of nurses.
Dr. Leah Barrett, Northeast president, presented each of the graduates with their diplomas during the ceremony. Family members and friends distributed nurse pins prior to the distribution of diplomas.
In addition to the pinning ceremony, three graduates were presented the Essence of Nursing Award for their consistent academic effort, caring actions, positive motivation toward classroom learning and clinical experience, and professional behaviors. ADN graduates Ellie Burkenshaw of Atkinson was one of three Northeast Community College nursing students to receive the Essence of Nursing Award.
Area students graduating from Northeast Community College in the field of nursing were:
Emily Coble – An Associate degree in nursing.
Ellie Burkinshaw – An Associate degree in nursing
Kaylee Hinton – A Practical Nursing diploma
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted noon May 25)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Mark A. Hinesley, age 58, of Chardon, Ohio, charged with speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, fined $25.
Kimberley S. Bowen, 50, of St. Paul, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Lashonada S. Phipps, 36, of West Fargo, N.D., possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; also charged with no operator’s license, $75; driving left of center, $25.
Caleb L. Burton, 25, of Goodland, Kan., no valid registration, $25.
* Area students graduate from UN-L
(Posted 1:15 p.m. May 22)
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln conferred a record 3,753 degrees during commencement exercises May 19 and 20.
The 3,669 graduates are from 59 countries; 47 states, the District of Columbia and Guam; and more than 240 Nebraska communities.
The Bob Devaney Sports Center hosted a ceremony for students earning graduate and professional degrees May 19; Memorial Stadium hosted a ceremony for undergraduates May 20; and the Lied Center for Performing Arts hosted a ceremony for law graduates May 20.
Chancellor Ronnie Green, who plans to retire at the end of June, delivered the keynote addresses during the graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies. JoAnn Martin, former CEO of Ameritas and longtime university supporter, posthumously received the 2023 Nebraska Builder Award during the undergraduate ceremony.
Bob Kerrey, former Nebraska governor and former U.S. senator for Nebraska, received an honorary Doctor of Law during the ceremony. Nebraska Supreme Court Justice Stephanie F. Stacy spoke to the law graduates.
Area students graduating from UN-L include:
Megan Jo Appelt, College of Education and Human Sciences, Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences.
Kooper James Jelinek, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics.
Aaron Mark Johnson, Graduate Studies, Master of Science.
Cole Patrick Laible, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in Grassland Ecology and Management.
Logan O’Kief, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in Turfgrass and Landscape Management.
Shawna Houdek, Graduate Studies, Master of Applied Science.
Alvin Nathaniel Miller, College of Arts and Sciences, Bachelor of Arts.
Dillion H. Muirhead, Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 9:30 a.m. May 22)
- Responded to a request for a welfare check in Ainsworth. The subject was located and reported safe.
- Responded to a report of an abandoned vehicle on 879th The vehicle was not found.
- Responded to suspicious activity on Wilson Street in Ainsworth. No criminal activity was found.
- Issued a speeding citation to a South Dakota driver on Highway 20.
- Responded to a report of a male subject, with unauthorized access, entering a rural property in Brown County. The subject was unfound on the property at this time.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to an Ainsworth senior care facility and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
- Responded to a report of barking dogs on 7th Street in Ainsworth.
- The Brown County Ambulance provided transportation for an aircrew to pick up a patient at the Brown County Hospital.
- During traffic stops on Highway 20, multiple citations were issued for speeding and no valid registration or insurance.
- Responded to a request for a welfare check in Ainsworth. The individual was located and reported safe at this time.
- Responded to a report of an oversized load in need of traffic control to return to their designated route.
- Responded to a report of a disturbance at a 4th Street business. No citations were issued at this time.
- Responded to a report of suspicious activity on 6th Street in Long Pine. No criminal activity was found at this time.
- Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.
- Released an inmate for time served. Another inmate was released to Adams County, after the Brown County Jail held the subject on an active warrant.
- Received a complaint from a property owner in Ainsworth regarding a civil matter with the City.
- 9 Traffic Stops were made on this day resulting in citations for speeding, no valid registration or insurance, and improper or defective vehicle lighting.
- Received a complaint involving recent drone sightings.
- During a traffic stop near 4th Street and Ash Street, a citation was issued for speeding 49-mph in a 35-mph zone.
- Responded to a burglary alarm on Main Street in Ainsworth. It was found to be a false alarm.
- Responded to a report of two male subjects shooting from the roadway near 877th Road and 432nd Avenue intersection. Both subjects were issued citations for discharge of a firearm from the highway; and a report will be sent to the Brown County Attorney’s office.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near the 430th Ave intersection, a citation was issued for speeding 50-mph in a 35-mph zone.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 244, a Nebraska driver and passenger were issued citations for minor in possession of alcohol.
4 – Burn Permits
18 – Incident Reports Were Taken
116 – Phone Calls Were Received
8 – 911 Emergency Calls Received
3 – Titles Were Inspected
0 – Handgun Permits Applied For
1 – Paper Services Were Served
* Traffic accident
(Posted 5:30 a.m. May 19)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-deer collision that occurred Thursday, May 11.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 9:33 p.m. May 11 on Highway 20 east of Ainsworth near milepost 247, a 2010 Jeep Commander, driven by Elijah Kalambokidis, 26, of Ainsworth, was traveling west when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. The Jeep was considered a total loss.
* Fires in Canada causing air quality issues
(Posted 11:15 a.m. May 18)
Due to wildfires in Canada, smoke has begun to drift into the area causing low visibility and poor air quality.
Visit airnow.gov for real time graphics of airflow and air quality readings. Currently, the risk is moderate, but it is expected to increase throughout the day.
Use common sense, if the smoke looks dense outdoors then limit outside time, close windows in your home and vehicle and keep indoor air as clean as possible.
Additional resources and information can be found on the North Central District Health Department website at ncdhealth.wixsite.com/ncdhd.
* Welke graduates from NCTA
(Posted 1:45 p.m. May 17)
Eighty-seven students earned degrees from the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture May 4 during commencement ceremonies at Curtis.
Area students graduating from the NCTA include Ellie Welke of Long Pine, who received an Associate of Science degree in veterinary technology systems.
* Bassett residents asked to limit water usage
(Posted 7:45 a.m. May 17)
The city of Bassett’s water tower is being serviced and painted. The painting and servicing of the water tower will take place for the next three weeks. During this time, the city asks water customers to limit water use.
When watering lawns, the city asks houses with even-numbered addresses to water on even-numbered days and residences with odd-numbered addresses to water on odd-numbered days. Anyone with questions is asked to call the Bassett city office at 402-684-3338.
* Commissioners set hearing regarding access request
(Posted 3:15 p.m. May 16)
The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday scheduled a public hearing for 1:30 p.m. June 6 regarding an access request for a recently purchased parcel in southwestern Brown County.
Grant Kobes, who had appeared at previous commissioner meetings during his pending purchase of Long Lake from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, told the commissioners Tuesday the purchase had been completed and he was now requesting the county help provide access to the otherwise landlocked property.
Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor previously told Kobes he had to actually own the property before the county could become involved. Kobes presented the board Tuesday with the deed to the property after completing the purchase.
He previously told the commissioners he had been unable to obtain an easement from neighboring property owners to reach the site.
“I would like to move forward with what to do to get access to the property,” Kobes said.
With the request, Taylor said the commissioners were required to schedule a public hearing within 30 days. The board chose 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 6, during its next regular meeting to hold the hearing.
Kobes said the culvert the roads department replaced on Moon Lake Avenue had lowered the water level on the property, however there were still two or three areas on the former access road that had water across.
“The water level is down 3 to 4 feet since they lowered the culvert,” Kobes said.
In other business Tuesday, the Sandhills Care Center Board will lose two longtime members after the board voted to have Commissioner Dennis Bauer replace Commissioner Buddy Small effective June 1as the board’s representative on the Care Center Board. Small had served in that position since the Sandhills Care Center formed.
Another longtime member of the Care Center Board, current Chairman Phil Fuchs, submitted his resignation and will be replaced by Bruce Papstein July 1. That appointment is also subject to approval by the Ainsworth City Council, which is why Papstein’s appointment would begin a month later.
The commissioners also reappointed Tom Jones to another year representing the county on the Sandhills Care Center Board.
Since Bauer replaced Small on the Care Center Board, the commissioners voted Tuesday to appoint Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey to replace Bauer as the county’s representative on the North Central Development Center Board of Directors. Bauer currently serves as the vice chair of the NCDC Board. That appointment is also effective June 1.
The board also made several appointments to the Brown County Veterans Service Committee, and also approved a resolution hiring Jake Graff as the new veterans service officer.
George Kyser was reappointed to the Veterans Service Committee until June 30, 2024. Marvin Ulrich was reappointed until June 30, 2026, Chuck Irwin was reappointed until June 30, 2027, and Judy Walters was reappointed until June 30, 2028. Jack Anderson was appointed to the committee to fill the remainder of the late Tom Collin’s term, which expires June 30, 2025.
The board approved a resolution to utilize the county’s inheritance tax fund to make a $92,646 down payment for the new ambulance barn, with the Brown County Ambulance Association reimbursing the inheritance tax fund that amount during the 2023-24 fiscal year.
Budget preparer Caleb Johnson recommended the commissioners take that route so the county did not have to amend its current budget to make the down payment. The ambulance association is paying for the cost of the new ambulance barn over time through its operating revenue.
The board approved its vision insurance renewal plan through the Nebraska Association of County Officials, its 2023-24 Blue Cross/Blue Shield subgroup application through NACO, and its First Concord Section 125 annual renewal.
The commissioners also approved a resolution allowing the Ainsworth Lions Club to construct and maintain a well at the community fishing pond site on ground owned by the county to serve as a water source for the fishing pond under construction east of the Brown County Hospital.
The board approved having Walton Construction replace the concrete on the north and east sides of the courthouse after repairs to the building’s foundation were recently completed. Bauer said the county roads department could remove the old concrete ahead of the project. He said the estimate for the work was around $5,000, and the concrete will slope away from the courthouse building.
In a final action item Tuesday, the commissioners approved having an $8,966 interest-only payment on the Meadville Avenue paving project taken from the county highway fund. Treasurer Bruce Mitchell said the payment would be made in June.
“There is money in the highway fund to cover that,” Mitchell said.
With Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin working on roads Tuesday, Small read his report to the board. That report indicated the Meadville Avenue paving work was completed from the Ainsworth city limits to Sand Draw Creek. Western Engineering would next replace the asphalt from the Sand Draw Creek north.
Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum said driving Meadville Avenue with the new asphalt was a dream.
“It is wonderful,” Erthum said. “It’s really nice not having to dodge potholes. It is really an improvement.”
Small said he believed the new surface on Meadville Avenue was smoother than Highway 20.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. June 6.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 1:15 p.m. May 15)
- The Brown County Ambulance transferred a patient to the Brown County Hospital.
- Responded to reports of cattle out on Highway 7.
- Received reports of cattle out near the intersection of 427th and 877th
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth and transferred one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
- Responded to a report of horses out on Highway 20. Traffic control was provided for the owners to safely remove them from the road.
- Received a traffic complaint regarding reckless driving of tractor trailers on Highway 20.
- Responded to a report of a male subject in a mental health crisis. The subject was placed into emergency protective custody and transported to a mental health facility.
- Responded to a parking complaint of an unlicensed vehicle parked more than 72 hours on Main St. The owner of the vehicle was identified. The vehicle was then removed from the street and licensed.
- Received a report of harassment occurring to a female subject while at work. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Responded to a report of a one vehicle deer collision on Highway 20 near mile marker 246. The vehicle was towed from the scene.
- Released a male subject from the Brown County Jail on bond.
- Received a request for a welfare check on a male subject in Ainsworth. The subject was found safe at this time.
- Responded to a report of an unsupervised child near the intersection of 2nd & Cedar Street.
- The Brown County Ambulance transported an aircrew to the Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient.
3– Burn Permits
14– Incident Reports Were Taken
125– Phone Calls Were Received
5– 911 Emergency Calls Received
4– Titles Were Inspected
4– Handgun Permits Applied For
2– Paper Services Were Served
* Area students set to graduate Friday from UNK
(Posted 11 a.m. May 15)
Graduate and undergraduate degrees will be conferred for 667 spring graduates during the University of Nebraska-Kearney commencement exercises at 10 a.m. Friday, May 19, in UNK’s Health and Sports Center.
Area students scheduled to graduate from UNK include:
Ashley Fox, a Master of Arts degree in English
Benjamin Arens, a Bachelor of Science degree in biology with summa cum laude distinction
Tate Fernau, a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology with cum laude distinction
Bailey DeVall, a Master of Science in Education degree in speech language pathology
Judson Kuchera, a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial distribution
Kelsi Williams, a Bachelor’s degree in general studies with magna cum laude distinction
Amber Bendig, a Master of Science in Education degree in clinical mental health counseling
Kooper Reece, a Bachelor of Science degree in agribusiness
* Willow Lake boat ramp reopens
(Posted 10:15 a.m. May 12)
The access road and boat launch at Willow Lake Wildlife Management Area in Brown County has reopened.
The primitive, natural base boat ramp has been upgraded to an articulated concrete mat. These ACM ramps are particularly well-suited for sandhill lakes where poured concrete pads tend to shift and quickly deteriorate in the sandy substrate. Users now can access the 380-acre Willow Lake more easily and without the need for specialized vehicles.
Along with the ACM boat ramp upgrade, a new dock was installed. An Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant parking pad and sidewalk leads to the dock. Cobblestone was placed along both sides of the ramp and rock riprap was installed along 200 feet of shoreline to address erosion issues. An ADA-compliant parking pad and sidewalk also were added to the recently upgraded restroom onsite.
The project was made possible by a Sportfish Restoration Grant.
* Area students graduate from UNMC
(Posted 9:30 a.m. May 12)
Diplomas and certificates were conferred on 971 University of Nebraska Medical Center students during ceremonies held May 4 in Lincoln, Norfolk and Kearney and May 6 in Omaha and Lincoln.
Area students receiving degrees from UNMC include Josiah McAllister of Atkinson, who graduated with a Doctor of Medicine degree with distinction; and Conner Paxton of Stuart, who graduated with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree with distinction.
* NCDC awarded Rural Workforce Housing Funds
(Posted 9:45 a.m. May 11)
The Nebraska Department of Economic Development announced Thursday the recipients of $22.82 million in awards through the 2022 round of Nebraska’s Rural Workforce Housing Fund.
Authorized by the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act of 2017, the Rural Workforce Housing Fund helps communities create quality, affordable housing to accommodate growth.
The North Central Development Center was one of the organizations awarded, with the NCDC receiving $327,000 in Rural Workforce Housing Funds by providing $163,500 in matching funds for a total of $490,500 to go toward housing construction and rehabilitation.
“We are excited to be partnering with private businesses and our area foundations to construct homes in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties,” NCDC Executive Director Kristin Olson said. “Once we receive the contract, we will be looking for applications for interim construction financing to support those interested in building housing. Thanks to all the generous donors who provided matching funds for this project in a short period of time.”
The O’Neill Chamber of Commerce received $1 million in funds by providing $500,000 in matching funds. The village of Spencer received $700,000 in Rural Workforce Housing Funds by providing $350,000 in matching funds. A total of 27 applications were awarded statewide, totaling $22.82 million in state funding.
For the 2022 funding cycle, awards were available to eligible non-profit development organizations who supplied at least a 50 percent match. In many cases, local financial institutions and employers partnered with the primary applicant in providing the local match. Combined, the recipients contributed more than $12.1 million in matching funds.
DED administers the RWHF program on behalf of the state of Nebraska through a competitive application process. The department then partners with recipients to provide input regarding project design, development, and implementation.
“Growing rural Nebraska is a priority for our agency,” said DED Interim Director Joe Fox. “The RWHF supports job creation and helps attract residents to our rural communities through strategic investments in affordable, high-quality housing. We had an outstanding batch of applicants for this cycle of RWHF awards. Congratulations to the awardees.”
Thursday’s awards were made possible by a general fund allocation authorized by the Nebraska Legislature in 2022.
* Mayor breaks council deadlock to approve contract
(Posted 7:15 a.m. May 11)
Ainsworth Mayor Joel Klammer was forced to break two deadlocked City Council votes Wednesday regarding a contract for law enforcement with Brown County.
A city committee comprised of Councilmen Brad Fiala and Vance Heyer, Klammer and City Administrator Lisa Schroedl had been meeting for several months with representatives from the county and the Brown County Sheriff’s Department regarding the structure of a new law enforcement contract.
During the May 9 meeting of the Brown County Commissioners, the city proposed a contract with a tiered payment based on the number of officers employed by the sheriff’s department. That proposal was soundly rejected by the sheriff and the commissioners, who approved an agreement calling for the city to pay $23,000 monthly, $276,000 annually, to the county for law enforcement service.
Klammer said, with the county rejecting the city’s tiered proposal, the council needed to decide Wednesday if it wanted to continue in a contract with the county or go another route.
Councilman Shawn Fernau said he looked at the contract from a business perspective.
“If the end product is the same, I see their point of wanting the money regardless of the number of officers,” Fernau said. “I am ok with the contract if the service is provided. People who have talked to me don’t want to lose the presence of the sheriff’s department in town.”
Klammer said the contract, to him, boiled down to the service provided to the city.
“I am not sure you get the same service with four guys and paying overtime,” the mayor said.
Fiala said he had residents question him on why the city was being so tough on the new sheriff during his first year on the job.
“The contract is between the city and Brown County,” Fiala said. “We are subsidizing Brown County. It is nothing against the sheriff’s department.”
Heyer said, by having a contract with the county, the sheriff’s department enforces the city’s ordinances, which it wouldn’t do without a contract.
“That takes a back seat when they are short-staffed,” Heyer said. “The tiered system allows them the full resources to hire additional people.”
Councilman Dustin Barthel said he didn’t understand why the county would not come together to work something out with the city.
“If they can do the job with less people, I am good with it as long as people are being protected,” Barthel said. “I think we should give them a year.”
However, Barthel said he has been hearing complaints about the current response time of the sheriff’s department.
“My daughter works in a coffee shop, and if they have someone there harassing them they don’t even call the sheriff’s department because the response time is so long,” Barthel said. “If that continues and I hear that businesses have to have another number on speed dial, I won’t be agreeable.”
Heyer said he believed a compromise was beneficial for both parties.
“Historically, some of the things we ask for get put on the back burner when the sheriff’s department is short-staffed,” Heyer said. “This would give us accountability.”
Heyer made a motion to approve a tiered contract that pays the county $215,000 annually if the sheriff’s department has four total officers, $245,000 if the department employs five officers and the full $276,000 requested by the county if the sheriff’s department employs a full complement of six officers, including the sheriff.
Brown County Commissioner Dennis Bauer, who was in attendance, said he could not speak for the other two commissioners but the proposed agreement would be dead on arrival with the commissioners as far as he was concerned.
“Sheriff Deibler will pay overtime to make sure the city’s needs are met,” Bauer said. “I take him at his word.”
Fiala said he was concerned, if the city agreed to $276,000 this year, the price would just go up again next year.
Barthel said, at $276,000, it was about a wash price wise for the city to have a contract with the county or go out on its own.
“If they go up anymore, it is a whole different ball game,” Barthel said. “I want to give him (Deibler) a shot and not make it messy if we don’t have to.”
Fernau said he had not had anyone tell him they were not in favor of the city continuing its agreement with the county.
Heyer said what he had been asked by residents is what is the city receiving in service for the amount it is paying.
Fiala agreed, saying he has heard concerns from city residents on why they have to pay twice for law enforcement since city residents also pay property tax to the county.
“It benefits both parties to have a contract,” Fiala said. “The county has a take it or leave it attitude, and I am not going to go along with that.”
Klammer said the $276,000 request was a lot of money for the city. He said the city had done extensive research looking at what similar-sized cities across the state pay for law enforcement.
He said there were several examples of cities of similar size to Ainsworth paying $100,000 to $110,000 for law enforcement through agreements with their county sheriff’s departments.
“I think we gave a pretty reasonable offer to them, but I would like to be done with this issue,” the mayor said.
Fiala and Heyer voted in favor of a tiered contract, which would then have to be approved by the commissioners since the contract approved by the county board called for a flat $276,000. Fernau and Barthel voted against the tiered contract.
After contemplation, Klammer voted against the tiered contract.
Fernau then motioned to approve the contract that was approved by the commissioners, with Barthel seconding.
Heyer said the city has seen the sheriff’s department not spend its full budget in past years, with the excess money then simply getting folded back into the county’s general fund.
“Now we are getting told the sheriff’s department’s equipment is in disrepair,” Heyer said. “We have zero oversight over that department. Money gets absorbed back to the county when the budget is not spent.”
Heyer said he was not opposed to supporting the sheriff’s department.
“We just want some accountability,” Heyer said.
With Fernau and Barthel voting in favor of the contract approved by the county and Heyer and Fiala against, Klammer was again called on to break the council deadlock. He voted to approve the contract, which takes effect July 1.
In other business Wednesday, the council approved a bid from Myers Construction of Broken Bow for the North Main Street water, sewer and paving project.
After not receiving any bids during its first request, Jess Hurlbert with the city’s engineering firm Olsson Associates said he reached out to contractors and adjusted the completion date for the project.
The city received two bids for the project on the second request. Hurlbert said both bids fell within the engineer’s cost estimate.
Rutjens Construction of Tilden submitted a bid of $2.51 million for the project, which includes water and sewer line replacement under North Main Street from Highway 20 to the city’s wastewater treatment plant as well as street surfacing following the project.
Myers Construction submitted a base bid of $2.33 million, but provided an alternative that included placing 6 inches of concrete surfacing instead of 6 inches of asphalt. The bid for installing a concrete street was actually lower than the asphalt surfacing and dropped Myers Construction’s bid to $2.17 million.
Audience member Graig Kinzie asked Hurlbert how many times he has seen a bid for concrete come in less expensive than asphalt.
While Hurlbert said prices for both asphalt and concrete have been elevated recently, he said concrete is starting to become more competitive with asphalt due to higher oil prices.
“That is especially true if there is a concrete mixing plant close by,” Hurlbert said.
He recommended the council accept the bid from Myers Construction and utilize the concrete surfacing option. The council approved that recommendation.
Bill Jeffers met with the council regarding the city’s vacant building ordinance. Jeffers said he owns several rental properties in the city and questioned why the council had adopted the ordinance.
“I object to the fact that you have a six-month fee,” Jeffers said. “I would like to know the goals of the city. Are you trying to eliminate properties?”
Jeffers said he was constantly trying to work on his properties, and a six-month time frame to have all repairs made and properties occupied was not realistic. He asked if he was the only property owner being singled out by the ordinance.
Schroedl said 56 letters went out to property owners during the first round of notices. That number was down to 35 letters on the second round of notices.
Jeffers said he tried to keep rent reasonable on the properties he owns.
“It is low-cost housing,” Jeffers said. “A lot of people are behind on their rent. I believe in Ainsworth, and I work hard here. I don’t believe my properties are nuisances. I have had many of these properties since the 1980s. I don’t want to be taxed out of my business.”
Jeffers said he recently listed all of his properties for sale due to the city’s ordinance.
“Property taxes are about $100 per year,” Jeffers said. “This fee is $250 every six months. I can’t afford that.”
Jeffers said it was hard to find quality renters who don’t destroy the property.
Klammer said the city’s goal with the ordinance is to keep vacant properties from reaching the nuisance level.
“We want to work with property owners on their plans for their vacant properties,” Klammer said. “The goal is to have these properties improved and occupied.”
The mayor said, if the property is rented and someone is living in it, the property would not be considered vacant. He told Jeffers to work with the city office on plans for specific properties that received the notice.
The council Wednesday approved a recommendation from the LB 840 Loan Committee to award a $200,000 forgivable loan to the Ainsworth Child Development Center.
The loan is structured at 4 percent interest with the city securing the loan through the Ainsworth Child Development Center’s real estate. Schroedl said the loan was structured so that one-sixth of the amount was forgiven each year the facility is operational, with the full amount forgiven on June 1, 2029, if the childcare center is still in operation.
Heyer said every rural community in the state was dealing with childcare and housing shortages.
“Kudos to that group,” Heyer said. “They are way ahead of where a lot of places are.”
Heyer said having adequate childcare helps draw in people from outside the community, knowing they have a place they can take their children.
Fernau said, as an employer, he loses a couple of his employees at times every week due to having no childcare.
“You are doing a great job,” Fernau said.
Representatives from the Ainsworth Golf Course approached the council about the potential for increasing the city’s contribution to the golf course from $15,000 to $25,000 for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
Golf Course Board member Brian Delimont said the sun room area on the west side of the clubhouse was in bad shape, and the course planned to rehabilitate that portion of the clubhouse structurally and by installing new windows.
Todd Kicken said the southwest corner of the building can physically be moved, and the double-paned glass is fogged up and stained.
“It is in dire need,” Kicken said.
The council discussed potential funding sources for the course to pursue in addition to the request to the city.
The council approved a special designated liquor license for The Silver Circle bar for its annual dance during alumni June 24 from 3 p.m. until 2 a.m. June 25. The approval also allows for the alley behind the bar to be closed as well as Second Street between Main and Woodward streets.
Brittney Koenig with the Nebraska Public Power District presented the council with an update on NPPD’s operations and service in the city.
Koenig said all street lights are being converted to LED, which saves between 12 percent and 15 percent in energy usage. Koenig said NPPD has gone 10 straight years with no retail rate increases, and the utility’s power generation was now 56 percent carbon free.
Koenig said NPPD remitted $293,916 in lease payments to the city and $29,047 in city sales tax during the past year, with an additional $115,619 in gross revenue tax paid to Brown County in 2022.
The council approved allowing the Central Nebraska Economic Development District to proceed with a survey of community residents regarding their priorities for improvements within the community.
Amber Ross with CNEDD said the survey would be conducted at no additional cost to the city since it is a member of the district.
“In preparation for some upcoming projects, the state has a renewed emphasis on community participation,” Ross said. “We did a survey in 2020. CNEDD is emphasizing broadband right now at a regional level. I know streets are a hot topic for you right now. If this is not something you are interested in, I understand.”
Ross said the survey would be available online, and paper copies would also be available.
Audience member Rod Worrell questioned the participation rate the survey would generate since it was five pages long.
“This is a Bible,” Worrell said. “I wouldn’t expect many of these to get turned in.”
Fiala asked if a certain percentage of residents would be required to fill out the survey as had been required of some past surveys that forced the city to go door to door. Ross said there were no participation rates required with this survey.
The council approved having CNEDD proceed with the survey.
During his report, Klammer said he has heard from citizens concerned about vehicles driving on the Cowboy Trail and then cutting through East City Park.
“The posts the city installed have been pulled out,” the mayor said. “We will work with the Park Board on a traffic plan.”
During her report, Schroedl told the council the ambulance barn property would need to be surveyed before it could be gifted to the county. She said the city has contacted Niobrara Valley Consultants of Valentine to get an estimate on the cost of a survey.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 14.
* Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame announces inductees
(Posted 1:30 p.m. May 10)
The Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame announced its inductees to the Hall of Fame’s 2023 class.
The Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees include Mike Baxter of Brown County, Roy Stuart of Rock County, Jess Ramos and Lawrence Turner of Cherry County, Dale Prickett of Garfield County, Lawrence Tierney and R.P. Smith of Custer County, Joe Finney of Lincoln County, and the late Andrew Joseph Applegarth of Sheridan County.
The 18th annual Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame banquet and induction will be held at 6 p.m. June 10 in the 4-H Building at the Cherry County Fairgrounds in Valentine.
* Hafer highlights School Board meeting items
(Posted 11 a.m. May 10)
Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer appeared on KBRB Tuesday to report on action taken by the Board of Education during its meeting Monday.
The audio is located below.
* Work begins Monday on Highway 183 near Springview
(Posted 1:45 p.m. May 9)
Weather permitting, work will begin Monday on Highway 183 south of Springview between mileposts 207 and 211, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
Western Engineering Company of Harlan, Iowa, is the contractor for this project, which includes bridge deck repair, guardrail replacement, asphalt overlay, grading, culvert pipes, flumes and curb, luminaire replacement and seeding.
Traffic will be maintained with lane restrictions, a pilot car and flaggers, and temporary traffic signals. During bridge deck repairs there will be a 14-foot width restriction. Anticipated completion is September.
Motorists are reminded to drive cautiously in and near work zones, to buckle up, and to put phones down.
* April profitable, Care Center Board hears employee concerns
(Posted 9:30 a.m. May 9)
The Sandhills Care Center finished April more than $70,000 in the black as revenue outpaced expenses, but three pay periods in the month of March resulted in the facility borrowing more than $79,000 from its line of credit.
The care center generated $271,954 in revenue during April, with expenses of $201,801 for a net operating margin of $70,152 for the month.
Administrator Penny Jacobs told the Board of Directors Monday there were currently 25 residents living in the care center, down from the 29 residents reported during April’s meeting. Jacobs reported two residents had been discharged home and two residents had died during the past month.
Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said approximately $44,000 in private pay revenue owed to the care center would not be collected until June, which resulted in the care center having to use $79,169 from its line of credit as opposed to about $35,000. He recommended the board repay $44,000 of that money borrowed when those revenues are collected.
“We beat our projected income in March,” Fuchs said. “If we continue on those same lines, we should operate in the black for the most part except for the two months that have three pay periods.”
The facility repaid $12,000 from the line of credit taken to cover payroll in March, so the facility had used a total of $123,000 from its $450,000 available line of credit prior to voting Monday to use the additional $79,169 from the credit line.
The Sandhills Care Center pays employees every other Friday. With 52 weeks in a year, there are two months where the facility has three pay periods. March was one of those months, which Fuchs said resulted in approximately $90,000 in added expenses for that month.
Board member Tom Jones said the board knew about the additional pay period for March and that it would need to utilize the line of credit to cover having three pay periods.
The board voted to utilize the line of credit, bringing the balance to $202,000 used. The board plans to repay $44,000 of that total once the delayed accounts receivable are collected.
Jacobs reported Monday, of the 25 residents in the facility, 12 were paying privately, 11 were receiving Medicaid assistance, one was receiving Medicare assistance and one was Medicaid pending.
Jacobs said the facility had lost two CNAs and two LPNs during the past month and could use additional charge nurses. She said the care center would also need additional CNAs after the summer when students go back to school. She said the facility partnered with Ainsworth Community Schools for a COE student this year and would look to expand that partnership for the 2023-24 school year.
Several current and former members of the care center’s nursing staff voiced concerns over the administration and the working conditions in the care center.
Nurse Kim Schlager said she was traveling from Valentine to work in the care center and was concerned with some of the things she was seeing and hearing in the facility.
“There has been concern about all of the staff coming and going,” Schlager said. “We lost our care center in Valentine. This is the only facility we have for the area. I want this facility to succeed and be profitable, but I have a list of concerns. I am here to help, I just have some things I question right now.”
Schlager presented the board with a letter written by a former employee that addressed concerns.
Nurse Connie Goochey said she came on board to assist the facility with infection control and emergency preparedness.
“What I observe hurts my heart,” Goochey said. “I wrote a letter and gave it to Mr. Fernau. I am very disappointed. I feel we need mutual support for the nursing staff.”
Goochey said residents of the county voted to support the nursing home with additional funding for five years.
“If something isn’t changed, you will again be using agency staff from other states,” Goochey said.
Former employee Kayla Beegle said she loved working at the care center and would go back if changes were made.
“You are losing employees who have been there for years,” Beegle said. “You need to listen to your employees.”
Beegle said some employees were hesitant to speak up about issues due to a fear of retribution.
Following the public comment, the board entered into executive session to further discuss the issues addressed. No action was taken by the board following the executive session.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 12.
* ACS will again offer free summer meals to children
(Posted 1:30 p.m. May 8)
As part of its efforts to ensure children have access to healthy meals during the summer months, Ainsworth Community Schools announced its summer meals site will serve children ages 1 to 18 again this year.
Starting June 5 and running through July 28, all children 1-18 can receive lunch free of charge. No application, registration or proof of residency is required.
Lunch will be served by the A sign on the west side of Ainsworth Community Schools inside the doors Monday through Thursday from 11:45 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Friday meals will be sent home on Thursday.
The summer meals program is funded by the USDA and run by school districts and local organizations. Stopping by a summer meal site with your family not only saves you time and money spent grocery shopping and meal prepping; it also helps support the school and the community.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 9 a.m. May 8)
- Assisted Rock County Sheriff’s Office with a DUI
- Received a report of toddler at large; successfully reunited with its mother.
- Responded to a tripped alarm at the Conference Center; City Manager notified.
- Received a theft report request of stolen property in rural Brown County. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Provided traffic control for funeral procession.
- Received a report of bullying. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Responded to a report of underage tobacco use at Ainsworth Community Schools. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Received a report of a person loitering at the Dollar General. Officer responded.
- Parent contacted regarding minor child’s driving habits being a concern. Parent advised if caught by an officer a citation will be issued.
- Assisted Game, Fish & Parks with a warrant.
- Received a report of improper passing a school bus.
- Responded to a 911 call where the caller could not be heard on the phone. No emergency was noted.
- Responded to a report of reckless driving with minors in the back of a pickup truck.
- Responded to a report of someone loitering at Speedee Mart. Individual was asked to leave.
- Received a report of trucks losing hot mix/rocks on Hwy 20. The driver indicated that their company was aware and is making remedies as well as cleaning up existing spillage.
- Received a complaint of rocks coming off an uncovered load.
- Two inmates booked out of Brown County jail and released on time served.
- Transported an individual to Faith Regional in Norfolk on EPC hold.
- Transported an individual to Richard Young Kearney on EPC hold.
- Booked an inmate into Brown County jail on a court commitment.
- Responded to report of suspicious activity in Ainsworth. Individual contacted and was just pulled over to make phone calls.
- Received a report of cattle out in Long Pine. The owner notified and cattle returned to pasture.
- Received a report of stray dog roaming the halls of Ainsworth Community Schools. The dog was taken to the vet and the owner notified.
- Responded to a report of a driver being disoriented and in need of medical assistance. The individual was located in Cherry County and transported to the Cherry County Hospital by Cherry County Sheriff’s office on mutual aid assistance.
- Responded to a request for assistance regarding a physical altercation between two individuals. Individuals were separated and one agreed to spend the night with friends.
- Provided traffic control for a funeral escort in Ainsworth.
- Paged out a National Weather Service advisory issued by the National Weather service out of North Platte.
- Received automatic notice of burglary alarms going off in a rural Brown County Residence. The owner notified and determined to be a false alarm due to power outage due to current weather conditions.
- Responded to a semi off the highway near the Long Pine hills. Officers provided traffic control as the semi was pulled from the shoulder.
- Responded to a report from Grand Island Police Dept. of missing child possibly being in Brown County. The child was not found in Brown County.
- Responded to a report of a cow out on Hwy 7 south of Ainsworth. The cow must have returned to pasture as it could not be located.
2 – Burn Permits
22 – Incident Reports
149 – Telephone Calls
16 – 911 calls
5 – Vin Inspections
1 – Gun Permits
* Area students set to graduate from Northeast
(Posted 8:15 a.m. May 8)
This year marks a milestone at Northeast Community College as on Friday, the college will hold its 50th commencement ceremony.
Three commencement ceremonies in the Cox Activities Center on the Norfolk campus at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. At 9 a.m., nursing graduates will receive their nurse pins and participate in commencement. The ceremony at noon will award credentials to graduates in Applied Technology and Health and Public Services programs, while graduates in Business and Humanities and Science, Technology, Agriculture and Math and Business and Humanities will receive their degrees, diplomas and certificates at 3 p.m.
As of May 4, a total of 923 graduates, including those earning more than one degree and those who completed their studies this past summer and fall, are to be listed in the commencement program. The 923 students earned 1,051 degrees; 67 students earned two degrees, 26 earned three degrees, and three earned four degrees.
Area students scheduled to graduate from Northeast Community College are:
Kaitlyn Pozehl – An Associate of Arts degree
Dylan Graff – An Associate of Applied Science degree in business
Reece Dover – A diploma in welding
Emily Coble – An Associate degree in nursing
Oren Pozehl – An Associate of Applied Science degree in building construction
Jenny Forker – An Associate of Arts degree
Wade Paxton – An Associate of Applied Science degree in building construction
Jason Fahrenholz – A certificate in general information technology
Cheyenne Cullen – An Associate of Arts degree
Mykenzie Daugherty – An Associate of Arts degree
Reghan Kerkman – An Associate of Arts degree
Ellie Burkinshaw – An Associate degree in nursing
Trinity Neal – An Associate of Applied Science degree in building construction
Jazmyne Neal – An Associate of Applied Science degree in early childhood education
Logan Wieneke – An Associate of Applied Science degree in utility line
Monique Lange – A certificate in drug and alcohol counseling
Cindy Root – A certificate in food service and dietary management
Gina McCarthy – An Associate of Applied Science degree in administrative professional
Kaylee Hinton – A diploma in practical nursing
Samantha Pickinpaugh – An Associate of Applied Science degree, diploma and certificate in health information management systems
Kannin Ellwanger – An Associate of Applied Science degree in heating, ventilation and air conditioning
Renee Fisbeck – An Associate of Arts degree
Grant Fischer – An Associate of Applied Science degree in agribusiness
Kyle Lurz – An Associate of Applied Science degree in auto body repair technology
Wyatt Barnes – An Associate of Applied Science degree in diesel technology
Brianna Henkenius-Laleff – An Associate of Applied Science degree in early childhood education
Goeffrey Fisbeck – An Associate of Applied Science degree in information technology, a certificate in Cisco Networking Academy, and a certificate in information security
* Stutzman named Outstanding Fine Arts Student
(Posted 1 p.m. May 4)
Dakota Stutzman was named the Ainsworth High School Outstanding Fine Arts Student Tuesday, garnering a $750 scholarship.
Stutzman was chosen as the winner from among finalists Cameryn Goochey, Makenna Pierce and Ian Finley.
In addition to the Fine Arts Student of the Year, Stutzman was named the most valuable member of the Ainsworth Mock Trial team, which finished among the top six in the state.
Makenna Pierce was named the Newcomer of the Year in Mock Trial, and Addison Sears was named the Mock Trial Freshman of the Year.
In speech, Taylor Allen was named the Outstanding Varsity Speaker and Makenna Pierce received the Integrity Award.
Breanna McLeod received the John Phillip Sousa Award as the top member of the Ainsworth High School band. Ian Finley was selected as the Outstanding Senior, Cole Bodeman the Outstanding Junior, Emma McMurtrey the Outstanding Sophomore, and Colby Beegle was selected as the Outstanding Freshman in band.
Makenna Pierce received the National Choral Award as the top member of the Ainsworth High School choir.
Ian Finley was named the Outstanding Senior in choir, with Cole Bodeman the Outstanding Junior. Emma McMurtrey and Grace Goodwin shared the Outstanding Sophomore Award, and Colby Beegle was named the Outstanding Freshman in choir.
* Ainsworth Airport receives grant for hangar
(Posted 5 p.m. May 3)
The Federal Aviation Administration announced more than $17 million in federal grants were awarded to seven Nebraska airports, including more than $500,000 to the Ainsworth Regional Airport.
The $553,980 grant is providing a portion of the funding to build a new hangar at the Ainsworth Regional Airport. Hangar grants were also approved for airports at Burwell, Sidney and Wayne.
The Western Nebraska Regional Airport at Scottsbluff received a $12.1 million grant to rehabilitate the main runway, and the North Platte Regional Airport received a $2.9 million grant to reconstruct the airport’s taxiway.
The Norfolk Regional Airport received a $600,000 grant to install runway lighting, airfield guidance signs and a runway visual guidance system.
“We’re happy to be able to partner with the FAA Central Region in Kansas City to get this essential grant funding to our airports,” said Ann Richart, Director of the Aeronautics Division of the Nebraska Department of Transportation. “Our partnership includes lining up the appropriate grant funding, assisting the sponsor airport in applying for the grant, and working with the FAA to send grant funds to the airport as their project progresses. NDOT looks forward to working with the FAA in the future to ensure that our communities will be able to make maximum use of these federal grant funds. We also want to thank our members of Congress for their support.”
* Commissioners approve law enforcement contract
(Posted 9:30 a.m. May 3)
The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday approved an agreement for law enforcement between the Brown County Sheriff’s Department and the city of Ainsworth.
Sheriff Brent Deibler said he recently received a draft of a negotiated agreement between the city and County Attorney Andy Taylor. Deibler said he made revisions to the draft proposal, which was what was being provided to the commissioners and sent back to the city.
Ainsworth City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the city agreed to an increase in the previous contract with the agreement that the sheriff’s department would hire another officer to focus on enforcing the city’s codes.
“The concern for the city is there is no recourse if that staffing level cannot be reached,” Schroedl said. “It is hard to find people.”
Ainsworth City Councilman Vance Heyer said the city proposed a tiered contract based on the sheriff’s department’s staffing levels. The city proposed providing the full request of $23,000 per month if the department was fully staffed with the sheriff and five deputies.
Should the department have five staff members, the contract would decrease to $19,833 per month, and if the department had four staff members the amount paid would be $16,666 monthly.
“In 2019 we agreed to go from $200,000 to $240,000 with the agreement that a sixth position would be hired,” Heyer said. “If the officers aren’t hired we would not be responsible for paying that total.”
Schroedl said the contract structure proposed by the city was a middle ground, and provided the sheriff’s department with the resources it requested if it can become fully staffed.
Deibler said he would not agree to the tiered system.
“The service will be provided regardless of the number of officers,” Deibler said. “I am not interested in being penalized if someone quits or retires. The service will be covered by paying overtime if needed.”
Commissioner Buddy Small said his intent was to honor the contract as proposed by the sheriff.
“The sheriff has a big job, and I want to fully support him,” Small said. “They know what they need to run their department. I have no intent to bully the city, but I am 100 percent confident Sheriff Deibler will give the city everything they need.”
Heyer said he had no doubt the sheriff would do his job.
“This has all been a negotiation between our two boards,” Heyer said. “We don’t want to cut resources, we just have to look out for what our residents are paying for.”
Heyer said the $276,000 law enforcement contract took up a substantial portion of the approximately $450,000 in total property tax collected by the city.
“This is a big part of our budget,” Heyer said.
Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said the previous administration had not kept things up.
“Every penny Sheriff Deibler is asking for is needed,” Dailey said.
The commissioners approved the contract as presented by the sheriff. The contract stipulates that it is null and void if not approved by both parties by May 12. It would become effective July 1 if approved by both parties.
Schroedl said the city would address the contract during its May 10 meeting.
The board also approved allowing the sheriff’s department to apply for a credit card to be used by the department.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners met by phone with Susan Rice and Travis Connot from the National Park Service regarding a grant available for cedar tree removal in the Niobrara Scenic River corridor.
Rice said Brown, Keya Paha, Rock and Cherry counties could apply for the grant for wildfire reduction. A total of $10 million was available to the four counties.
Rice said the counties had to apply for the funds, as the National Park Service was not eligible.
“It is easier for each county to have its own grant instead of applying for one grant for all four counties,” Rice said. “We will help you write the grant, and the money will go to the county.”
Connot said the cedar tree removal could be conducted 3 to 4 miles from the river bank, and creating fire breaks would be a high priority.
Connot said landowners would submit an application to have cedar trees removed from their property. The applications received would be ranked based on their effectiveness for wildfire control, and each county would be responsible for awarding the grant dollars.
Rice said, if approved, the counties would have three years to spend the money, but the goal would be to begin removing trees immediately.
Deputy Emergency Manager Jessica Pozehl will serve as the county’s liaison to work on the grant application with the National Park Service.
Jake Graff will become the new Veterans Service Officer for Brown County after the board approved him for the position Tuesday. Veterans Committee member and former VSO Judy Walters said Graff had agreed to the position and was eligible due to his service in the National Guard. Walters said she believed Graff would be a good fit for the position.
The Veterans Service Officer serves veterans in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties, with the cost of the position shared between the three counties. The Rock County Commissioners approved Graff for the position Tuesday, and Walters said she would meet with the Keya Paha County Commissioners next week.
The board also appointed Jack Anderson to replace the late Tom Collin on the Veterans Service Committee.
The commissioners approved creating two new line items in the county’s budget to accommodate the bonds being taken out for the new Brown County Ambulance Association ambulance barn. Budget preparer Caleb Johnson recommended the board establish an other debt service line item for the ambulance building bond, and an other capital projects line item for the building.
Johnson proposed the commissioners make the initial $92,000 bond payment from its inheritance tax fund so the 2022-23 budget would not have to be amended. The ambulance association would then repay the funds to the inheritance tax fund, as the ambulance association is funding the bond payments for the new building.
The board approved renewing its Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance plan through the Nebraska Association of County Officials. Deputy Clerk Becky Hardy said the premium was increasing by 3.98 percent from the prior plan.
The board approved continuing with Blue Cross Blue Shield, with the county providing 78 percent of the cost of the health insurance premium and the employee responsible for 22 percent. The board approved keeping the cash in lieu of insurance payment at 75 percent of the portion of the premium the county would pay.
The board approved a special designated liquor license application for Wandering Well of Hastings for an event May 20. Teresa Hampton with Wandering Well said the license would run from 3 p.m. until 1 a.m. May 20 during a wedding reception at the Carson Ranch. Hampton said the business would have security on site.
In a final action item Tuesday, the commissioners approved declaring May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Small said the request was made by the National Association of County Officials.
Small said he serves on the Region 4 Behavioral Health Board, and the board receives statistics for each county in the region on the number of people who are placed into emergency protective custody.
“It is alarming,” Small said.
Deibler said the mental health services provided by Region 4 are a necessity.
“Without these services, there would be loss of life,” Deibler said. “It is uncomfortable to deal with those situations, but the need is there.”
Deibler said he believed the sheriff’s department had saved two lives recently working with people having mental health issues who would have otherwise likely harmed themselves.
During his report Tuesday, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported asphalt replacement work on Meadville Avenue began Monday. Turpin said Western Engineering milled down the asphalt and found sub-grade replacement was not needed, so they began placing the first layer of hot-mix asphalt.
“They are going to work south of the Sand Draw first, then go to the north end,” Turpin said. “We did ditch cleaning on Meadville Avenue ahead of the paving project.”
Small said the girders for the Sand Draw bridge project on Meadville Avenue would be trucked into the area May 10-11. He said it would be quite a thing to see, as the girders are 120 feet in length and weigh 52 tons.
Turpin told the commissioners Three River was upgrading phone lines in the county to fiber in various areas. He said he did not see any issues with the project and approved the company to work in county right of way.
Turpin said the roads department was patching holes on Moon Lake Avenue and was trying to maintain rough roads in the county, though that remained difficult due to the lack of moisture.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. May 16.
* NSAA unveils spring Academic All-State Awards
(Posted 7:45 a.m. May 3)
Each year since 2006, the Nebraska School Activities Association and the Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association recognize students with Academic All-State Awards who have been nominated by their schools, based on their individual academic excellence, leadership, and significant contributions made to their NSAA activity.
Area students receiving Academic All-State awards from the NSAA for the spring season include:
Cole Bodeman and Cameryn Goochey in music, Trey Appelt and Logan Schroedl in boys track and field, and Cameryn Goochey and Dakota Stutzman in girls track and field.
Keya Paha County
Jameson Painter in boys track and field, and Karlene Kepler in girls track and field.
Garrett May and Kol Otten in golf, Bralee Jepsen and Morgan Lewis in music, Raden Orton in boys track and field, and Brooklyn Buell in girls track and field.
Anthony Heiser and Schuyler Mustin in boys golf, Chiana Tubbs in music, Cory Gubbels and Luke Ludwig in boys track and field, and Sydney Estill and Lacey Paxton in girls track and field.
Isaac Pistulka in boys golf, Maci Nemetz and Madeline Rentschler in music, Carter Gotschall and Tyler Jelinek in boys track and field, and Maci Nemetz and Kelcie Osborne in girls track and field.
Kyle Cox and Ross Martindale in music, Kyle Cox in boys track and field, and Taylor Weber in girls track and field.
Logan Muirhead in boys golf, Grace Maunu and James Woodraska in music, Connor Kreutner and Jack Lancaster in boys track and field, and Alexis Long and Malika Monroe in girls track and field.
* Culvert from 2019 flooding repaired in Rock County
(Posted 6:30 a.m. May 3)
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Rock County Commissioners, Roads Foreman Darrell Olson told the commissioners, due to weather, there are a lot of breakouts on county roads. Olson said the roads crew is addressing them.
The Jilg culvert from the 2019 flooding has been replaced. The project will be turned into the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the county will then be reimbursed approximately $300,000.
Olson discussed repairs to equipment that were needed, and talked about listing the department’s AMZ machine as surplus equipment and contract out the sealing of cracks on the county’s paved roads going forward. Olson will research what the cost will be to contract for the sealing work.
Larry Buell with the Rock County Community Foundation met with the commissioners with updates. The Community Center location needs changed. They need to move it to the West 60’. Buell said the plan is to break ground in July.
Joe Conteras met with the commissioners to discuss the grounds position. The board approved hiring Joe Conteras for the grounds position.
Judy Walters met with the commissioners on appointing Jake Graff as the new Veteran Service Officer. Austin Beard has resigned from the position recently. The commissioners approved Graff as the county’s Veteran Service Officer.
Mitch Dean presented the commissioners with his annual weed report. The board approved the annual report as presented.
Sheriff Ben Shelbourn met with the commissioners to discuss purchasing an incinerator for prescription drug disposal. It was discussed that maybe surrounding counties might also have the need for prescription drug disposal. Shelbourn will contact other counties and ask if they would be willing to share in the cost of the purchase. The board tabled the item until its next meeting.
The board met with Susan Cook & Travis Connot from the National Parks Service by telephone to discuss a grant for cedar tree removal along the Niobrara River corridor that is available to Cherry, Brown, Keya Paha and Rock counties.
Kasey Foster representing the Bassett Country Club met with the commissioners for approval of a Special Designated Liquor License for the June Sandhills Ranch Expo. The board approved the license for June 20-22.
The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 16.
* Game & Parks survey shows severity of winter kill
(Posted 6:45 a.m. May 2)
Surveys by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission show many Sandhills lakes fared better than expected after a harsh winter led to fish kills.
Deep snow over thick ice this winter caused oxygen depletion in many of the region’s most shallow and vegetated lakes, causing fish and the plants they rely upon for survival to die.
As surveys are completed, Game and Parks is developing a stocking plan to replenish the fish populations where needed.
Anglers looking for the most recent information about winterkill surveys may follow the NGPC Fisheries Facebook page. They also can contact Game and Parks fisheries biologists at the Alliance, Valentine and Norfolk offices.
Surveyed lakes with severe winterkill:
Brown County: Cozad Lake at South Pine Wildlife Management Area, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Tower Lake on Yellowthroat WMA.
Cherry County: Watts, Duck and West Long lakes on Valentine National Wildlife Refuge
Garden County: Smith Lake and Island lakes on Crescent Lake NWR
Rock County: Bassett City Lakes
Sheridan County: Smith Lake WMA
Surveyed lakes with partial winterkill:
Brown County: Willow Lake WMA
Cherry County: Pelican and Hackberry lakes on Valentine NWR
Rock County: Twin Lakes WMA
Surveyed lakes with minor or no winterkill:
Cherry County: Clear, Dewey and Rice lakes on Valentine NWR, Cottonwood-Steverson WMA
Garden County: Crane Lake on Crescent Lake NWR, Crescent Lake WMA
Grant County: Avocet Lake WMA
Lakes not surveyed with probable significant winterkill:
Garden County: Island Lake on Crescent Lake NWR
Rock County: Peterson Lake WMA
Sioux County: Agate and Boardgate reservoirs on the Oglala National Grassland
Lakes not surveyed with probable partial winterkill:
Cherry County: Shell Lake WMA
Sheridan County: Walgren Lake State Recreation Area
Lakes not surveyed with probable high survival:
Cherry County: Home Valley Lake
Grant County: Frye Lake WMA
* Brown County Commissioners Tuesday agenda
(Posted 2:45 p.m. May 1)
Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, May 2
Brown County Courthouse
1:15 p.m. Roll Call.
Approve minutes of the 4-18-2023 Commissioner meeting.
Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update
1:15 p.m. Susan Cook – (telephonic) National Park Service Superintendent – Niobrara Scenic River – Grant for Cedar tree removal – Small
1:30 p.m. Teresa Hampton – (telephonic) Special Designated Liquor License For May 20, 2023 @ Carson Ranch in Brown County – Hampton
1:45 p.m. Judy Walters – Veteran Committee Veteran Service Officer position
Request for Jack Anderson to replace Tom Collin on the Veteran Committee – Walters
Blue Cross Blue Shield Renewal rates for 2023-2024; Set employee contributions & Cash in Lieu for 2023 – 2024 plan year – Hardy
2 p.m. Caleb Johnson – telephonic – Resolution to Establish other debt service fund, Ambulance building bond, and other capital projects fund, Ambulance building – Johnson
Sheriff Deibler purchase new cruiser, discuss law enforcement contract with the city – Deibler
Sheriff Office obtain credit card from Union Bank and Trust – Deibler
Resolution Declaring May as Mental Health Awareness month – Small
Review Brown County Road Department employee job performance evaluations and recommend merit raises – Turpin
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 12:15 p.m. May 1)
- During a joint checkpoint stop with Nebraska State Patrol 4 male subjects were booked into Brown County Jail on charges of possession of controlled substance.
- Issued a speeding citation to a female subject in Ainsworth.
- Responded to report of subject leaving a business on Hwy 20 who appeared to be intoxicated. Officers were unable to find the individual.
- Received a report of child abuse from outside of Brown County jurisdiction. Individuals were advised to contact law enforcement in South Dakota.
- Received a report of Blk cow standing along side Hwy 183 near Keller Park. The cow was pushed back along the fence and owner notified to come move the cow.
- Received a report of calves out on the road South of Long Pine. The owner was advised and would get them in.
- Two individuals with Brown County warrants were picked up in Dawes County. Coordinated with Dawes County jail on prisoner transfer to Brown County.
- Responded to report of dogs barking near Pine St.
- Received instruction from Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Chief Brad Fiala that there is absolutely no burning in Brown County until further notice. This includes covered fire pits in city limits.
- Responded to a second report of dogs barking near Pine St. The owner moved the dogs inside.
- 4 individuals bonded out of Brown County jail with court appearance dates in June.
- Responded to a report of theft in rural Brown County.
- Responded to a report of loud noises from an Ainsworth residence. Officers asked individuals to keep the noise down.
- Brown County Ambulance crew transported Air crew from the Airport to Brown County Hospital and back to the Airport.
- Brown County deputies transported an individual back from Faith Regional to Brown County jail on an arrest warrant.
- Received a security call from an alarm from a local bank which was a false alarm.
- Brown County Ambulance staff responded to a request for ambulance in rural Brown County. The individual was not transported.
- Assisted a gentleman from Secure Collateral Management with a reposition he had trouble contacting owner.
- Responded to a 911 call reporting a physical altercation in Ainsworth. Officers were able to deescalate the situation and individuals left the scene.
- Ainsworth Ambulance transported a patient from Long Pine to Rock County Hospital.
- Received a report of a stray dog on East 2nd St. The dog was not located at this time.
- Provided traffic control for cattle crossing near Moon Lake Ave to cross Hwy 20.
- Picked up an individual from Custer County being held on an Arrest Warrant from Brown County. The individual was booked into the Brown County jail.
- Responded to a report of stray dog near 1st and Main. Officers were unable to locate the dog.
- Responded to a report of a speeding vehicle with TX plates eastbound into Brown County. The driver was not located on Hwy 20.
- Provided traffic control for a funeral in Johnstown.
- Individual walked into the Brown County Sheriff’s office to complete a Voluntary Statement regarding harassment. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Responded to a report of abandoned vehicle int the intersection of Woodward and Hwy 20. The vehicle was successfully moved to the side of the road until it could be towed away.
- Responded to a report of dogs getting loose and in the neighbor’s yard. The owner was enroute home and put them back in his yard.
- Responded to a traffic complaint about trucks parked the wrong way in front of the Post Office in Long Pine.
- Released an inmate on bond.
- Brown County Ambulance transported a patient from Brown County to Rock County and back.
- Received a report of a possible identity theft call from local Ainsworth resident. The resident was advised to contact the Attorney General Fraud line and their bank as soon as possible.
- Responded to several reports of an aggressive dog at Ainsworth Community Schools. The dog had already been put back into the yard and the owner was contacted about the dog getting loose.
- Received a report of shooting from the roadway outside of Long Pine. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Responded to a report of cattle out on Hwy 20 near Rauscher Avenue. The owner was notified, and the cattle were put back to pasture.
- Received a black wallet found on Woodward St. Please call Brown County Sheriff’s office to identify and claim.
- Provided civil standby while personal property removed from a residence in Ainsworth.
- Brown County Ambulance transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown County Hospital
0 -Burn Permits
18 -Incident Reports
182 -Telephone Calls
5 -911 calls
5 -Vin Inspections
1 -Gun Permits
* Burn ban temporarily lifted in the area
(Posted 9:15 a.m. May 1)
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala reported Monday the burn ban that had been in effect for Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties has now been temporarily lifted.
Landowners needing to conduct controlled burns on their property must contact their local fire department to obtain a burn permit. Conditions have improved to allow burning of brush or tree piles or prescribed burning on pastures.
Landowners are encouraged to closely monitor any controlled burns, as the potential still exists for fires to get out of control and spread.
The Niobrara Valley Preserve is conducting a controlled burn beginning at 11 a.m. Monday approximately 3 miles south and 1 mile east of the Norden bridge.
Anyone needing more information on burn permits or controlled burning may contact their local fire chief.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 8:30 p.m. April 30)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Friday, April 21, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 10:15 a.m. April 21 in the alley next to Pump and Pantry, a collision occurred between a 2014 Dodge Durango, driven by Bailie Kovarik, 31, of Long Pine, and a 2019 International truck, driven by Thomise Botts, 47, of Hastings.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Dodge was estimated at $1,500. The International sustained approximately $150 damage.
* Kinney named Ainsworth FFA Member of the Year
(Posted 1:30 p.m. April 28)
Gracie Kinney was named the Ainsworth FFA Chapter’s Member of the Year during the annual FFA Banquet April 24.
Trey Appelt was elected as the chapter president for the 2023-24 school year, with Emma Kennedy slated to become vice president of the Ainsworth chapter. Tessa Barthel will serve as the secretary, Miah Ortner as the treasurer, Hannah Beel as the reporter, Kinney as the Sentinel and Brianna Starkey as the chapter’s junior advisor.
Several members of the Ainsworth FFA received Chapter Star Awards. Zaily Daniels was named a Chapter Star Greenhand in production, with Megan Jones a Chapter Star Greenhand in placement.
Hannah Beel received a Chapter Star in production, with Trey Appelt a Chapter Star in placement and Lauren Ortner as a Chapter Star in agribusiness.
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 10:45 a.m. April 27)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Arianna Scott, age 21, of Valentine, charged with speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, fined $75.
Kevin L. Frost, 19, of Ainsworth, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125; also charged with no proof of insurance, $100.
Colby G. Grupe, 22, of Ainsworth, leaving the scene of an accident or failing to furnish information, $250 and ordered to pay $110 in restitution.
Courtney B. Wenzel, 37, of Stuart, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Christopher D. Fernandez, 47, of Ainsworth, disturbing the peace, $100.
Martin D. Graff, 67, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Dylan W. Poland, 27, of Valentine, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.
Juan Ernesto Salazar Cruz, 37, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Robby J. Gall, 36, of Milaca, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Tyler C. Entringer, 32, of Brandon, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; no operator’s license, $75.
Luis A. Reyes Perdomo, 41, of North Platte, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75; no operator’s license, $75.
* Nebraska’s March jobless rate second lowest in nation
(Posted 8:15 a.m. April 27)
Nebraska’s preliminary unemployment rate for March is 2.1 percent. The rate is down 0.2 percentage points from the revised February rate of 2.3 percent and is up 0.1 percentage points from the March 2022 rate of 2.0 percent.
The rate is tied for the second-lowest rate in the country. South Dakota has the lowest jobless rate in the nation at 1.9 percent. Nebraska and North Dakota are tied for second at 2.1 percent, followed by Alabama and Montana tied for fourth at 2.3 percent.
The highest unemployment rate in the nation in March was found in Nevada at 5.5 percent. Washington had the second-worst rate at 4.5 percent, followed by California, Delaware, Illinois and Oregon at 4.4 percent.
“March saw an increase in employed workers of nearly 3,000 and a decline in unemployed workers by over 2,000 in Nebraska,” Commissioner of Labor John Albin said. “The unemployment rate dropped two tenths of a percent for the second straight month.”
Nebraska nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was 1,038,301 in March, up 7,053 from February and 25,407 over March 2022.
Private industries with the most growth month to month were leisure and hospitality (up 1,589 jobs); mining and construction (up 1,313 jobs); and trade, transportation and utilities (up 781 jobs). Private industries with the most over the year growth were leisure and hospitality (up 5,752 jobs), mining and construction (up 4,762 jobs), and private education and health services (up 4,495 jobs).
Brown County’s unemployment rate of 2.1 percent in March matched the statewide average. Rock County again experienced the lowest unemployment rate in the entire state at 1.1 percent, just ahead of the 1.2 percent rate in Grant County.
Blaine County had the highest jobless rate in the state, with 4.2 percent of the labor force collecting unemployment benefits in March.
Cherry County’s unemployment rate in March at 1.8 percent was below the state average, as were the 1.9 percent rates in Keya Paha and Holt counties. Boyd County’s jobless rate at 2.4 percent was higher than the state average in March.
The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March is 3.5 percent, down 0.1 percentage points from the February rate of 3.6 percent.
* Buell, Martindale receive NCF scholarships
(Posted 8:15 a.m. April 26)
The Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation announced Wednesday the awarding of $64,000 in scholarships to help the next generation of the agriculture industry in their academic pursuits. The scholarships were awarded to 59 distinguished students.
Among the scholarship winners are Brooklyn Buell of Bassett, who received a $1,200 Bill Heller Memorial Scholarship; and Emily Martindale of Brewster, who earned a $1,000 Retail Value Steer Challenge Scholarship.
President of the Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation Ryan Loeske said, “Each year, generous donors from across the state donate to the Nebraska Cattlemen Foundation’s Retail Value Steer Challenge Fundraising Project. Our donor’s support allowed us to award fifty-nine outstanding students with academic scholarships to pursue their education and we cannot thank them enough.” He continued, “The NCF looks forward to watching these talented students continue their education and strengthen the future of the beef cattle industry.”
All scholarship recipients will be recognized during the Nebraska Cattlemen Midyear meeting at North Platte June 8.
* AHS presents athletic awards during Tuesday banquet
(Posted 7 a.m. April 26)
Three Ainsworth High School seniors were recognized Tuesday for competing in three sports during all four years of their high school career.
During the Ainsworth Lions Club All-Sports Tailgate Party in McAndrew Gymnasium, Ethan Fernau, Cameryn Goochey and Saylen Young received the 12-Sport Athlete Award from Activities Directors Scott Steinhauser and Jared Hansmeyer. Goochey was a letterwinner in 11 of her 12 sports seasons, while Fernau and Young each earned nine letters during their high school careers.
Goochey and Ian Finley were presented the John Nelson Sportsmanship Awards, awarded to seniors at AHS judged by the school’s coaches to be model teammates.
Three students were named the Lifters of the Year by strength coach Wade Alberts. Juniors Kendyl Delimont and Traegan McNally and freshman Trevor Pike were named the school’s top lifters.
Coaches from the fall, winter and spring sports season recapped their seasons and presented year-end awards Tuesday.
Jared Hansmeyer presented the Girls Cross Country MVP to junior Katherine Kerrigan. Kerrigan finished as the Class D state runner-up and led the Bulldogs to a runner-up team plaque. Kerrigan has finished in the top six in three straight State Cross Country Championships.
The Boys Cross Country MVP was presented to senior Corbin Swanson. Swanson was a three-time state cross country qualifier.
Hansmeyer presented the summer mileage awards to sophomore Emma Kennedy and freshman Payton Moody. Hansmeyer said the two runners logged more than 300 miles during summer training.
Junior Tessa Barthel and Swanson received the Team Player Award in cross country.
Heather Lutter named sophomore Jaden Appleman the Girls Golf MVP.
Jesse Owen presented the Football MVP to junior Carter Nelson. Nelson was named to the Omaha World-Herald All-Class All-State team. Junior Traegan McNally earned the Bryan Moody Award, as the Bulldogs finished the season 9-1 with a district championship and the school’s first state football playoff victory.
Volleyball coach Jeri Graff announced three school records were broken during the season. Senior Kerstyn Held set a school record for digs in a match. Senior Dakota Stutzman set a school record for set assists in a season, and Cameryn Goochey set the school’s season and career record for blocks.
Stutzman earned the Volleyball MVP, with Goochey receiving the Heart Award and Held the Hustle Award. Kimberlee Arens was named Most Improved in volleyball.
Turning to the winter sports season, girls wrestling coach Todd Pollock named sophomore Jolyn Pozehl the team’s MVP. Pozehl has earned two state wrestling medals during her first two seasons.
Boys wrestling coach Blaine Finney named state qualifier Landon Holloway as the Boys Wrestling MVP.
Junior Kendyl Delimont received the Girls Basketball MVP from coach Julie Micheel. Cameryn Goochey and junior Breanna Fernau received the team’s Heart Award. Goochey and Emma Sears were named the team’s Defensive MVPs, with Delimont named the Offensive MVP after setting a school record for 3-point shots made and eclipsing 1,000 career points during the season. Sophomore Emma Kennedy and freshman Angeles Manoatl Sedeno were named Most Improved in girls basketball.
Junior Traegan McNally earned the Boys Basketball MVP and Bryent Wilkins Award from coach Jake Nelson. McNally was third in scoring in Class D-1 during the season. Junior Carter Nelson, who led Class D-1 in blocks and finished seventh in assists, was named the Offensive MVP, with junior Trey Appelt named the Defensive MVP. Appelt finished second in Class D-1 in rebounding and 10th in blocks.
Junior Mason Titus was named Most Improved, and freshman Chris Fernandez received the Newcomer of the Year in boys basketball.
Spring sports coaches presented the 2022 MVP awards as the current spring sports seasons are at the midway point.
Julie Micheel named 2022 graduate Cash Reynolds as the Boys Golf MVP.
Track and field coach Jake Nelson announced 2022 graduate Kaitlyn Nelson and junior Carter Nelson as last year’s Track and Field MVPs. Kaitlyn Nelson earned medals in the shot put and discus during last year’s state meet, while Carter Nelson set a state record in the high jump on his way to All-Class Gold.
The Andrew Ford Boys Track and Field Teammate of the Year Award was presented to 2022 graduate Ben Flynn, while Cameryn Goochey received the Ashley Ford Girls Track and Field Teammate of the Year Award.
Cheer coach Juli Murphy and Pom Squad coaches Lauren Osborne and Britley Beck also recognized their squad members during Tuesday’s tailgate party.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 6:45 a.m. April 25)
- Brown County Ambulance transported an individual from rural Brown County to the Brown County Hospital.
- Responded to a report of injured deer along Hwy 7 South of Ainsworth.
- Received a report of improper passing of a school bus while stop arm deployed in Ainsworth.
- Participated in Career Day at the Ainsworth Conference Center.
- Received a report of Harassment in Ainsworth.
- Received a report of trespassing on a property in Ainsworth; owner advised to fill out statement form at the Brown County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO).
- Assisted Ainsworth resident with report of stolen personal property; owner filled out statement form at BCSO.
- Responded to a report of suspicious activity in Ainsworth.
- Responded to a theft report in Ainsworth.
- Brown County Ambulance transported an individual in Ainsworth to the Brown County Hospital.
- Responded to welfare check in Ainsworth.
- Responded to welfare check in rural Brown County
- Received several reports of improper passing of a school bus while stop arm deployed in Ainsworth.
- Received a report of various traffic violations around the Ainsworth Community Schools over the lunch hour and after school lets out.
- Ainsworth Volunteer Fireman responded to a tree on fire Southeast of Ainsworth. Fire was contained to a single tree and successfully extinguished.
- Responded to report of suspicious activity at a residence in Ainsworth.
- Assisted NE DHHS with welfare check in Ainsworth.
- BCSO transported one male to Faith Regional in Norfolk on and EPC hold.
- Brown County Ambulance transported a patient from the Brown County Hospital to meet the air crew at the Ainsworth Regional Airport.
- Brown County Ambulance transported an elderly female from Cottonwood Villa to the Brown County Hospital
- Responded to a request for welfare check in Ainsworth.
- Responded to a request for welfare check in Ainsworth.
- Attended the graduation of Joel Carpenter, a new Deputy of BCSO. Congrats Joel!
- Provided traffic control for a funeral in Ainsworth.
- Responded to traffic incident in Ainsworth.
- Advised of a calf out on Hwy 20 West of Ainsworth. Attempted contact with owner but neighbor did get it put back in pasture.
- Responded to a report of gunshot in Ainsworth. Was determined to be a car backfiring.
- Ainsworth resident came into BCSO to complete a voluntary statement form regarding the neglect of an animal.
- Received a parking complaint on Moon Lake Ave.
- Received a report of a stop sign on the ground at the intersection of Hwy 20 and Hwy 183. NE Dept of Roads notified.
147 – Telephone Calls
5 – 911 Calls
15 – Incident Reports
4 -Papers Served
6 – Vin Inspections
0 – Handgun Purchase Permits
* Burn ban to remain in effect for KBR area
(Posted 12:45 p.m. April 20)
With the statewide burn ban expiring effective Thursday night, Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said, in consultation with the fire chiefs in Rock County and Keya Paha County, a burn ban will remain in effect for all three counties.
Fiala said no burn permits will be issued in Brown, Rock or Keya Paha counties until conditions improve. The area picked up a limited amount of moisture Tuesday, but conditions remain dry and much of the vegetation in the three counties is still dormant.
Fiala said the fire chiefs would provide notice if conditions improve to the point that burn permits can be issued.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 8:30 a.m. April 20)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Friday, April 14, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 12:40 p.m. April 14 on East Third Street, a collision occurred between a 2006 GMC Envoy, driven by Terrin Barthel, 16, of Ainsworth, and a 2023 Volkswagon Jetta, driven by Lura Hodge, 17, of Johnstown.
No injuries were reported. Damage to each vehicle was estimated at $1,500.
* Rock County Board denies conditional-use application
(Posted 12:30 p.m. April 19)
The Rock County Commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to deny a conditional-use permit application submitted by MSJM Properties for three 5,000-head swine finishing facilities in southern Rock County.
In voting to deny the conditional-use permit, the commissioners indicated the application did not meet the guidelines set forth in the county’s zoning regulations. The board laid out 13 specific reasons in the county’s zoning regulations for denying the application. They include:
- Denying the permit is necessary because the proposed use does not fall within the purposes as set forth in Section 103 of the Zoning Regulations, and to protect the general health, safety, and welfare of the residents of Rock County.
- The proposed use would negatively affect surrounding land values.
- The proposed use would adversely affect the general public health due to potential diseases from the proposed facilities.
- There is no description of the provisions made for adequate water supply, sewage disposal, public utilities and erosion control.
- The proposed use would create a negative impact to the soil, air, water and general environment.
- The absence of a reasonable odor management plan.
- The absence of a reasonable detailed waste management plan.
- The absence of a submitted plan for the proper and timely disposal of dead animals with written verification of the availability of land the commitment to provide such services by the separate entity or company.
- The absence of documentary evidence demonstrating that the applicants either own or have written leases of suitable terms, committing to an adequate amount of land for the application of waste.
- The absence of any evidence that special types of confined feeding/management operations, topography, prevailing winds, or other factors or combination of factors that exist will not interfere with the future use and enjoyment of adjoining properties.
- The absence of evidence to demonstrate that the type of manure management and disposal will limit odor to satisfy the zoning requirement that air pollution be minimized.
- The absence of any evidence that the location of the proposed conditional use is located only in areas of the County which are not subject to flooding on a 100-year basis, and to avoid modification of any wetlands.
- Denying the permit is appropriate because the Rock County Planning Committee, after a public hearing, tour of a hog facility, and thoughtful consideration, recommended to the Rock County Board of Commissioners to deny the application for special exception or conditional use, by a unanimous vote.
The decision to deny the application came after the commissioners tabled the item following an April 4 public hearing.
In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners met with Sheriff Ben Shelbourn and approved his list of surplus equipment that will be sold. The board also discussed a contract for law enforcement with the city of Bassett. The last law enforcement contract on file was back in 2008 between the city of Bassett and Rock County.
The board approved a special designated liquor license application submitted by Southside of Stuart for an event June 2 at the Rock County Fairgrounds.
The board also approved moving $50,000 in settlement funding from the county’s general fund to an LATCF fund that was created during the board’s April 4 meeting.
The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 2.
* Commissioners agree to accept ambulance barn property
(Posted 3:15 p.m. April 18)
The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to accept ownership of the real estate and the new ambulance barn planned for construction in August.
Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor said he met with representatives from the Brown County Ambulance Association and the city of Ainsworth recently.
Taylor said the county, through the ambulance association, is funding construction of the new ambulance barn. He said the city of Ainsworth owns the current ambulance barn, which is scheduled for demolition ahead of the new building.
“The bonding company believes it is best for the county to own the new building,” Taylor said.
Through an existing interlocal agreement that has been in place for decades, Taylor said the city pays the insurance and utilities for the current ambulance barn. By accepting the real estate and ownership of the building, the county would bear those expenses moving forward.
Commissioner Denny Bauer asked how much it currently costs the city for utilities and insurance.
“I am not in favor of taking on more financial responsibilities,” Bauer said.
Ainsworth City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said she did not bring data on the current utility costs for the building.
Ambulance Association member Ann Fiala said the new building will not have air-conditioning, and heating costs should not be excessive. She said the Ambulance Association was already paying for the cost of the building itself.
Without a change, Commissioner Buddy Small said the county would own a building on the city’s real estate. Schroedl said the city would gift the real estate to the county since the building owned by the city at the site is going to be demolished.
Councilman Vance Heyer said the financial aspect is minimal, but the county owning the building and the real estate is the cleanest way to move forward since the county is paying for the building.
“This minimizes future headaches,” Heyer said.
Schroedl said it would be odd for the county to have a $510,000 bond for a new building and not own the asset.
“This cleans it up and makes it secure,” Schroedl said.
Bauer said the city would be getting rid of utility and insurance expenses by gifting the real estate. Schroedl said property owners in the city also pay taxes to the county.
Taylor said the interlocal agreement in place called for the city to pay utilities and insurance and the county to pay for maintenance. He said the city had been covering the maintenance obligations for decades.
Commissioner Buddy Small asked if the ambulance association had the ability to cover the utility costs.
Fiala said the building will not have restrooms, so there will be virtually no water usage. She said the heating costs would be minimal. She said, if the volunteer association had to cover the utility costs, it would find a way.
Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said the utility costs did not concern him as much as insuring the building.
“I think the whole thing was a mess from the start,” Dailey said.
Fiala said she couldn’t apologize for something no one knew about regarding a decades-old interlocal agreement.
“I have a tough time that no one wants to assume responsibility for this,” Fiala said. “We provide a volunteer service to the entire county. I am on call every day. Scott Goodloe covers almost every day. So does Brad (Fiala). We have others, but their jobs don’t allow them to cover during the day.”
Following the discussion, the commissioners voted to accept ownership of the building and the property.
Taylor said the city would need to take action to gift the property to the county. Schroedl said City Attorney Michael Sholes was preparing a resolution for the council to consider at its next meeting.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners opened two bids for replacement of flooring in the courthouse.
Shawn Fernau Construction of Ainsworth submitted a bid of $53,659. Eggert Flooring of Valentine submitted a bid of $65,972. A representative from Eggert Flooring said the flooring his company quoted was thicker and more durable.
Dailey said his only concern was the county putting in new flooring with all the recent water problems the courthouse has experienced from the foundation walls and the roof.
“I don’t want to dump a pile of money into flooring if we have leaking walls and a leaking roof,” Dailey said.
Small said the water issues wouldn’t affect the new flooring, and Bauer said the foundation issues should be fixed after work was completed to seal the walls from the exterior of the courthouse foundation.
After calling Fernau on the flooring materials quoted, the commissioners agreed the flooring quoted by Eggert Construction included additional thickness, and the board voted to approve the bid from Eggert Flooring. The county plans to use federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to pay for the new flooring.
The commissioners approved changing meeting times going forward for the Board of Equalization and Board of Commissioners. After voting to start the year to return the meetings to 8 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. respectively as they had traditionally been, the board Tuesday voted to move the Board of Equalization meetings to 1 p.m. and the Board of Commissioner meetings to 1:15 p.m.
Small said the meeting times were being changed to accommodate the county attorney, who has had to miss morning meetings due to court assignments.
“Traditionally, we met at 8:15 a.m. for decades,” Small said. “When Reagan (Wiebelhaus) was on the board, we moved it to 5:15 p.m. to accommodate him. We then moved it back to 8:15 a.m. because it was handier for everyone.”
Small said the county attorney had spoken to the commissioners in the past about moving the meetings to 1:15 p.m. because he has been handed out-of-county court assignments by the judge in the mornings on Tuesdays.
Audience member Dan Zwiebel said it was easier for the public to make meetings in the late afternoon at the end of the workday. He said he didn’t feel it was convenient for members of the public interested in attending the meetings to have to miss work to do so.
Following the discussion, the board approved moving future Board of Equalization meetings to 1 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, followed by Board of Commissioner meetings at 1:15 p.m.
The board approved the state evaluation of Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum. Erthum received a perfect 3,400 score on his annual evaluation. He said the state average was 3,198 of 3,400. Erthum was also named the Nebraska Weed Superintendent of the Year. He said he recently spoke to entomology students and professors at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln regarding bio-control measures for noxious weed abatement.
The board accepted the resignation of Veterans Services Officer Austin Beard effective April 24. Small said the Veterans Services Committee advertised for the pending opening and has one applicant for the position.
The commissioners heard from Heidi Borg, who provided an update of the bills Third District Rep. Adrian Smith was promoting from his seat on the House Ways and Means Committee. She provided the commissioners with information on how to reach out to Smith’s office if the county ever has any issues with a federal agency.
The board approved a resolution allowing the BKR Extension office to apply for a credit card for use on supplies included in the office’s budget. Extension Educator Hannah Smith said some suppliers would no longer issue invoices and office staff were having to use personal credit cards to secure supplies.
The commissioners approved allowing Sheriff Brent Deibler to advertise for bids for a new pickup for the sheriff’s department. Deibler said he would have to advertise for bids for the pickup as it would be in excess of $50,000. He presented the board with three quotes for a new SUV for the department, as the cost for that vehicle was under the threshold.
He said he would try to fit the SUV purchase into the current budget year, while the pickup purchase would be included in the 2023-24 budget. Deibler said the new vehicles would replace vehicles with 130,000 and more than 100,000 miles respectively.
“This will help us get caught back up,” Deibler said.
Emergency Manager Traci Booth told the commissioners she pursued grants and had been awarded funds to move all county employees to a secure email network at brown.county.ne.gov. The grant also includes cybersecurity training for county employees through Northeast Community College.
Booth said the new secure network would eventually be a requirement for counties, the grant was helping move the county to the secure network ahead of time.
Booth said cybersecurity was only as good as the employees are trained. She said any county business conducted by county employees would need to be through the secure email network moving forward. She said the emails would be up and running by the first week of May, with the training scheduled for the third week in May.
The commissioners reviewed a letter from the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District regarding first quarter water samples taken near the Sandhills Elite Genetics and Jones Finishers facilities. The nitrates in the water samples tested at 3 parts per million, well below the 10 parts per million threshold for domestic water supplies.
The board also reviewed a letter from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy regarding Rolling Stone Feed Yard combining three pits into one unit. Bauer said the company was not adding capacity, just modernizing its current setup.
During his report, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the roads department found the plugged culverts on Moon Lake Avenue near Long Lake and had cleaned them out. The resulting release of water washed out the road, which resulted in a stretch of Moon Lake Avenue being closed for a couple days while the water level above the culverts lowered.
He said the water level above the site dropped 2 to 3 feet, and the roads department then installed two new culverts at the site.
Turpin reported the department had also installed culverts at Hidden Paradise to help mitigate a silt issue onto a couple cabin owners’ properties.
Turpin said the canal bridge replacement project should be completed by the end of the day Tuesday, and work was progressing on the Sand Draw bridge project on Meadville Avenue.
The highway superintendent reported Western Engineering planned to hold a pre-construction meeting April 24 ahead of work commencing on the Meadville Avenue asphalt replacement project. Turpin said that project could begin in a couple weeks.
Turpin said he received an email from the Nebraska Department of Transportation that federal funds were available to replace damaged stop signs and stop ahead signs. Turpin said he identified 41 signs for replacement. If the grant is approved, it would save the county between $8,000 and $9,000 on the cost to purchase that many signs. He said the county would be responsible for installing the signs.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. May 2.
* Statewide burn ban extended through Sunday
(Posted 6:30 a.m. April 18)
Gov. Jim Pillen announced Monday he is extending the statewide suspension of the authority of local fire chiefs to waive the open burning ban.
The suspension is effective through midnight Sunday based on extreme dry and windy conditions that pose major fire risks.
The governor will be in consultation with fire and emergency officials to continually reassess the prohibition on open burns.
* Willow Lake boat ramp closed for upgrades
(Posted 6:45 a.m. April 17)
The access road and boat launch at Willow Lake Wildlife Management Area in Brown County will be closed starting until further notice because of an improvement project.
The current primitive, natural base boat ramp is being upgraded to an articulated concrete mat. These ACM ramps are well-suited for sandhill lakes, where poured concrete pads tend to shift and quickly deteriorate in the sandy substrate.
By redeveloping this boat ramp, users will be able to access the 380-acre Willow Lake more easily and without the need for specialized vehicles.
Along with the ACM boat ramp upgrade, a new dock will be installed. An Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant parking pad and sidewalk will lead to the dock. Rock riprap will be placed along both sides of the ramp and along shoreline to protect from erosion. Also, a restroom recently was upgraded. It will be made ADA-compliant when a parking pad and sidewalks are added.
Construction is expected to take three to four weeks, depending on weather conditions.
This project is made possible by a Sportfish Restoration Grant.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 6:45 a.m. April 17)
- Responded to a report of an open door on Maple St in Ainsworth. No criminal activity was found.
- The Brown County Ambulance was paged to an Ainsworth address. One patient was taken to the Brown County Hospital and later transferred to the airport to meet a flight crew.
- Received a complaint regarding improper disposal of livestock carcasses, South of Long Pine.
- Received a report regarding a civil dispute over a vehicle in violation of city ordinances.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, mile marker 237, a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for driving under suspension. The driver was booked into the Brown County Jail, where they posted bond and were released.
- Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail after receiving a court commitment sentence for 38 days.
- The Ainsworth, Long Pine, and Johnstown Fire Departments provided agency assistance to Kilgore Fire Department.
- The Brown County Ambulance was paged to an Ainsworth address. One patient was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
- Received a report of sparking power lines in Ainsworth. The power company was called to resolve the issue.
- Responded to a report of a property dispute on 876th
- Responded to a report of suspicious activity in East City Park. No criminal activity was found.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth. One patient was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
- Raven, Calamus, Ainsworth, Long Pine, Johnstown Fire Departments responded to a request for mutual aid from Brewster Fire Department. South Pine responded to two separate reports of fires South of Long Pine.
- Responded to a report of a two-vehicle accident in the Ainsworth Community Schools parking lot. No injuries were reported and damage to both vehicles was minimal.
- Received a parking complaint of a vehicle parked incorrectly in front of the Ainsworth Community Schools. Contact was made with the vehicle owner, and it was moved.
- Responded to a report of a vehicle in violation of city ordinance on Elm St in Ainsworth.
- Received a report of a property dispute in Long Pine.
- Received notice a suspect in Aberdeen, SD was booked into jail on an active Brown County warrant. The suspect posted bond and was released from their jail.
- Responded to a report of suspected trespassing in Long Pine. No criminal activity was found.
- Responded to a report of property damage that occurred overnight at an Ainsworth business. This is an ongoing investigation.
0-Handgun Purchase Permits
* Brown County Foundation announces grant recipients
(Posted 11:30 a.m. April 14)
The Brown County Community Foundation Fund announced the awarding of its annual grants. The foundation grants go to projects that support, but are not limited to, the priorities identified in Brown County’s current Strategic Plan.
This year’s traditional grants benefit the following projects:
- Brown County Ag Society- $15,000 over 3 years to install 20 additional RV Pedestals.
- Long Pine Fire Department- $3,000 to apply toward the purchase of new fire suits.
- Brown County Hospital Auxiliary- $2,500 to apply toward purchase and installation of a new steel (back) door.
- Ainsworth Senior Center- $500 to apply toward a new microwave and mixer.
- Long Pine Heritage Society- $500 toward a window replacement in the museum.
* AHS Prom royalty candidates selected
(Posted 1:45 p.m. April 12)
Ainsworth High School Prom king and queen candidates have been announced.
Queen candidates are Kerstyn Held, Makenna Pierce, Lauren Ortner, Saylen Young and Ally Conroy.
Candidates for Prom King are Dalton Jones, Landon Holloway, Colten Orton, Ethan Fernau and Joe Mixon.
The banquet Saturday begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Conference Center, followed by the Grand March at 7:30 p.m. in McAndrew Gymnasium. The dance begins at 9 p.m. in the Conference Center, followed by Post Prom at 12:30 a.m. in the gym.
* City Council discusses law enforcement contract
(Posted 11 a.m. April 12)
Following the Brown County Commissioners discussing the topic last week, it was the Ainsworth City Council’s turn Tuesday to openly debate a continued agreement with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement service.
Mayor Joel Klammer opened the discussion by stating some of the information presented to the commissioners the previous week relating to the city’s position was inaccurate.
“It was inaccurate that the city’s initial offer was final and that the city would stop making payments after April,” Klammer said. “We submitted a proposal as a starting point and made it clear we would continue making the monthly payments.”
Klammer said the discussion between the commissioners, sheriff and county attorney set an adversarial tone at the beginning of the negotiations on a new contract.
“The commissioners made a decision without hearing both sides,” Klammer said. “I don’t think it is too much to ask for them to reconsider their decision.”
The commissioners indicated last week they were not willing to negotiate with the city on the cost of the contract, which had been proposed at $276,000 annually. The city initially offered $175,000 annually for law enforcement services.
Klammer said the city plans to continue to negotiate to find an agreement that works for both the city and the county.
Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor, who has been involved in sub-committee meetings with representatives from the city and the sheriff’s department, said he agreed with the mayor that both sides had been negotiating in good faith.
Councilman Brad Fiala said he believed the sub-committee needed to continue to work on reaching an agreement and then present that proposal to the full council and commissioners.
“What is required of a second class city for law enforcement?” Fiala asked City Attorney Michael Sholes.
Sholes said the mayor may appoint a chief of police but it is not a statutory obligation for a city of the second class to maintain its own police force.
Sholes said he discussed the topic with the League of Nebraska Municipalities, who indicated to Sholes the topic is frequently asked of the league. Sholes said enforcing state criminal statutes is an obligation of the county sheriff.
Taylor disagreed with Sholes’ interpretation of state statute, saying he conferred with officials from the Nebraska Association of County Officials who have a different opinion on what cities are required to provide.
“I disagree with your interpretation,” Taylor said. “If that were the case, why would any city have a police department?”
Fiala said he had no doubt newly elected Sheriff Brent Deibler and his department would do a terrific job. He said the city has believed for some time the amount it is charged for the service is too high.
Councilman Vance Heyer said the contract needs to state the additional level of service the city would receive for contributing to the sheriff’s department’s budget through a contract.
“This is not a discussion of if they are doing a good job or a bad job,” Heyer said. “It is a contract negotiation, it is about the additional dollars the city is providing. We know the sheriff’s resources will be spread thin without a contract with the city.”
Councilman Dustin Barthel said, as a property owner in the city, the third highest line on his annual property tax statement is to the county.
“I pay taxes to the county, and the county is not fixing my streets,” Barthel said. “I was told the city put money into the sheriff’s budget and it wasn’t spent. The issue I have is they haven’t used their full budget and the county then just absorbs the city’s money. The county should refund the city some money when the budget isn’t spent.”
Barthel said Deibler had not been on the job for even six months, and he had no intention of running him over with a bus.
“I think he is a man of his word,” Barthel said “We should be able to come together and save everyone money. We should be able to work out a deal and make this work for the taxpayers. If the money isn’t used, returning it back to the city shouldn’t be a problem.”
Taylor said that was an issue that could certainly be discussed. He said the sheriff offered not to raise the contract price during the first year.
“The current sheriff’s department budget anticipated receiving the $275,000 from the city,” Taylor said. “That budget was set up by the former sheriff.”
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the city has continued to pay the monthly rate for law enforcement service even after the previous contract expired in July of 2022.
“The only way the city would short-change the current sheriff’s department budget is if we would quit paying between now and June,” Schroedl said.
Taylor said the sheriff’s department had recently lost a couple deputies, and it was hard to replace those officers without a contract in place.
Deibler told the council he did not intend to increase his staff without a contract with the city in place.
“I am not going to move forward with hiring new staff until I know we have a contract,” Deibler said. “I am dead in the water.”
Councilman Shawn Fernau said he believed Deibler should have an opportunity to get started in the office before determining what is required in a new contract.
“The sheriff’s building has been neglected and needs a lot of work,” Fernau said. “I have no interest in getting our own police force.”
Fiala said, even if the city were to agree to the $276,000, there are things in the contract that need to be changed.
“If the money is not used, there is nothing in there that says the city receives any money back,” Fiala said.
Fernau said he agreed the contract should be modified.
Heyer said the city’s representatives on the negotiating committee did not go in looking to cut resources from the sheriff’s department.
“We are looking at the ratio of what the city taxpayers have to pay, as they also pay county taxes,” Heyer said. “The city has rules the sheriff is enforcing that are extra. That is why you have a contract.”
Barthel said it would be easier for him to make a decision on the contract if the city first gives the sheriff the resources he needs and then determines the job he does with those resources.
“I don’t want to cut ties and start a new police force,” Barthel said. “We pay county taxes. We should be able to find a way to come together.”
Fernau agreed, saying he would like to see a speedy process on the negotiations for a new contract.
Heyer said he would definitely like to see something in place before the county’s new budget cycle begins in July.
“We are making the April payment tonight,” Heyer said. “I don’t anticipate us pulling payments. I appreciate the changes that have already been made and how our ordinances are being enforced.”
Fiala said he may be ok with the dollar amount proposed in the contract, but he wants to see the service the city is receiving for that amount specifically laid out in the new contract.
“I am willing to work with the new sheriff,” Fiala said. “I am just not sure how the city is going to be able to afford these kinds of dollars going forward.”
Klammer said the agreement was initially undertaken to save both the city and the county money, and he believed the two entities could find a way to move forward together.
No action was taken by the council, as the sub-committee will continue to meet and negotiate a new agreement for both the council and the commissioners to consider.
In another item Tuesday relating to joint efforts between the city and the county, the council discussed ownership of the new ambulance barn planned for construction.
Klammer said he and Schroedl met with Brown County Ambulance Association members and Taylor on the best way to move forward.
Schroedl said the city owns the property where the current ambulance barn is located.
“There is an agreement that the city would pay utilities and insurance, and the county would handle maintenance,” Schroedl said. “With the new project, there are questions on who would own the new building.”
She said there was an idea floated that the city could gift the property to the county since it is being bonded by the county through the ambulance association. The ambulance association falls under the county’s budget umbrella, even though it is a service that is self-sustaining and does not receive property tax dollars.
Klammer said the group agreed the city gifting the property to the county would be the best way to go.
Schroedl said, since the county is another public agency, the property could be gifted to the county without the city having to go out for bids.
Barthel said it seemed to him like it would be cleaner for the county to own the property if it was bonding the building.
“I can’t see they would want to have a bond for a building on property they don’t own,” Barthel said.
Taylor said the issue would be discussed during the April 18 commissioner meeting.
In other business Tuesday, the council approved having the mayor sign documents extending the lease with American Tower, finalizing months of negotiations between the city and the company.
Schroedl said the agreement has finally been hammered out and was approved by both sides, so the city now had the final version for the mayor to sign.
The council approved two recommendations from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee, the first providing $90,000 toward the new swimming pool fund. Schroedl said the ABC Committee had not had to meet in quite some time, and had previously been committing $30,000 annually toward a new pool fund. She said the $90,000 recommendation covers three years’ worth of contributions to the fund.
The second item recommended for approval was $7,100 to purchase banners for the newly installed light poles along Highway 20 in the city. The council unanimously approved both recommendations.
The council also approved a recommendation from the LB 840 Loan Committee to provide a $10,000 façade grant to a downtown business. Schroedl said the business planned to paint the building and replace windows and doors. She said the estimated cost of the total project was well over $20,000. The façade program can provide 50 percent of the cost of improvements up to $10,000.
The council approved replacing the boiler at the Ainsworth Swimming Pool after receiving four bids for the project.
Schroedl said the current boiler was installed in 2012-13, and should have had a 20-year lifespan, but was not currently operational.
“Apparently the boiler has a lot of rust and deterioration,” Schroedl said. “There is potentially an air issue that is causing it to deteriorate more quickly.”
Schroedl said two estimates from local contractors would replace the current boiler with a similar model and install some ventilation to the building. She said one of the quotes from another company was for a 98 percent energy efficient boiler with a heat pump.
She said the city has $50,000 in its budget for any issues that might arise with the swimming pool.
The council approved the low bid of $28,602 submitted by Lytle’s Plumbing contingent on that bid including removal of the current boiler, as a bid of $32,594 from Osborn Plumbing specifically included the removal of the old boiler.
The council received two bids for a three-year farm lease on 34 acres of gravity-irrigated ground owned by the city northeast of Ainsworth. Schroedl said the city keeps an additional 34 acres at the site for disposing of sludge from the sewer treatment plant.
Schroedl said the tenant, in addition to an annual payment to the city, is also responsible for reimbursing the city for the property taxes on the parcel and discing the entire 68-acre parcel twice each year.
DBK Farms submitted a bid of $2,400 annually. Airyan Goochey submitted a bid of $2,720 annually. Schroedl said the previous three-year lease paid the city $2,040 annually. The council approved the three-year lease to Goochey.
Carlene Burrows with the Brown County Historical Society approached the council regarding a request to relocate the Coleman House Museum to property on Highway 20.
Burrows said the historical society received an offer on the Coleman House Museum lot.
“The Dixon house is in bad shape,” Burrows said. “The idea is to tear down the Dixon house and move the Coleman house to that lot. We just want to make sure we can do that.”
Schroedl recommended the historical society provide drawings of how the Coleman house would sit on the lot to determine if there would be any setback issues that would need to be addressed.
“You just might have to go to the Board of Adjustment,” Schroedl said.
In a final action item Tuesday, the council approved a well permit application for the Ainsworth Lions Club for a low-capacity well at 43137 S. Fullerton St. at the site of the community fishing pond that is currently under construction.
Lions Club representative Graig Kinzie said the new owners of an irrigation well south of the pond site had provided a letter stating they had no objection with the well being located within 600 feet of their irrigation well.
Kinzie said, if a waiver is approved by the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, the well would be constructed just south of the pond instead of on the southeast corner of East City Park. That site had been previously approved by the council and was outside the 600-foot required distance from the irrigation well had a waiver not been obtained.
During her report, Schroedl told the council several property owners who received vacant property notices from the city had been in contact with the city regarding finding solutions.
Schroedl said the city did not receive any bids during its first round of advertising for the North Main Street water, sewer and concrete project. She said a second round of bidding will be advertised, and city engineering firm Olsson Associates believed it was more likely the city would receive bids this time around and the project could still be completed this summer.
Barthel asked if the city could request the Nebraska Department of Transportation stripe Highway 20.
“Some people from out of town think it is a four-lane,” Barthel said. “There are no stripes right now.”
Fiala said temporary striping was installed last fall but it was gone quickly.
Schroedl said she would broach the topic with the NDOT.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. May 10.
* Portion of Moon Lake Avenue closed
(Posted 3:15 p.m. April 11)
Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported Tuesday afternoon that Moon Lake Avenue is temporarily closed near Long Lake due to an undermined culvert.
Turpin said that portion of Moon Lake Avenue will likely remain closed until sometime Wednesday as the roads department makes repairs.
Turpin said he would notify KBRB when the work has been completed and that portion of Moon Lake Avenue in southwestern Brown County reopens to traffic.
* Work resumes on Highway 12 east of Sparks
(Posted 3 p.m. April 11)
Work has resumed on Highway 12 east of Sparks between mileposts 18 and 22, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
Western Engineering Company of Harlan, Iowa, is the contractor on the project, which includes permanent seeding and erosion control. Traffic will be maintained with a pilot car and flaggers.
Anticipated completion is May.
Motorists are reminded to drive cautiously in and near work zones, to buckle up, and to put phones down.
* Sandhills Care Center now up to 29 residents
(Posted 12:15 p.m. April 11)
Administrator Penny Jacobs told the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors Monday the facility’s census has steadily increased, and there are now 29 residents in the care center.
Coupled with an increase to private pay rates that took effect in March, the care center generated $255,767 in revenue during the month with expenses $231,762 for a net profit of $24,004.
Although the facility did not borrow from its operating line of credit during its March meeting, Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said the facility did have to take out $16,000 from the line of credit to cover expenses as some of the accounts receivable did not arrive as anticipated in a timely manner.
To cover payroll, Fuchs said he had to sign off on the draw from the line of credit so that payroll checks for the month cleared. He asked the board to consider a procedure that would allow the board chair or vice chair to request draws from the line of credit on the rare occasions when a situation like this comes up.
“It is better to be proactive and prepared so we aren’t in that situation again,” Fuchs said. “We don’t always have control over the timing of accounts receivable. It has been me calling in for draws from the line of credit. I suggest adding the vice chair also.”
The board approved allowing the board chair or vice chair to sign for draws from the facility’s line of credit on instances when a draw is needed to cover payroll expenses that had not been previously authorized by the full board.
Fuchs said the $16,000 taken from the line of credit would be repaid through the revenue generated by the facility.
“Accounts receivable should come in Friday and we will repay the $16,000 that was used to cover payroll,” the board chair said. “It is excellent to see the resident population increasing. Even with some added expenses this month, we were able to cover everything. I feel like we are getting to be in a stronger position.”
The facility has now used $139,000 from its $450,000 line of credit, but will repay the $16,000 taken to cover payroll during the past month to put the balance back to $123,000.
Jacobs reported, of the 29 current residents in the Sandhills Care Center, 13 were paying privately, nine receive Medicaid assistance, four receive Medicare assistance and three were Medicaid pending.
There are 13 residents from Ainsworth, five from rural Brown County, one from Long Pine, one from Keya Paha County, two from Rock County, six from Cherry County and one resident from Holt County.
Jacobs reported the care center admitted five new residents during the past month. One resident was discharged home and one resident died.
Fuchs complimented the facility’s activities department for all the different things it has been doing to keep the residents active and involved.
“It has been very nice, and I am sure the residents appreciate it,” Fuchs said.
Jacobs said the facility has been putting in a lot of effort into resident and staff morale. She said they placed golden eggs around the facility for staff that contained prizes.
Board member Shawn Fernau asked how many more residents the facility could reasonably accommodate.
Jacobs said, if the care center surpasses 30 residents, additional staffing would be needed. She said the facility could add another seven residents without having to open up additional areas of the building.
Fuchs said the care center could comfortably handle between 30 and 35 residents. The facility is licensed for 46 beds.
With the resident population increasing, Jacobs said the facility could use additional CNAs, part-time housekeeping and two dietary positions. She said the facility has hired three CNAs recently, along with an LPN charge nurse and two dietary staff members.
Prior to adjourning Monday, the board held an executive session to discuss performance reviews.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. May 8.
* School Board approves boiler replacement
(Posted 7 a.m. April 11)
The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education Monday approved replacing one of the district’s boilers and upgrading the district’s math curriculum.
Superintendent Dale Hafer told the board one of the two boilers used to heat the middle and high school building was leaking.
“It is still working right now, but it is on borrowed time,” Hafer said.
Hafer said the boilers no longer have to service the elementary school building as there are new units that handle the heating and cooling for that portion of the school.
Board member Scott Erthum said the district has been talking about the potential for having to replace the boilers for the past 10 years.
Board member Frank Beel said the new boilers run at 97 percent efficiency instead of the 60 to 65 percent efficiency of the current boiler.
Hafer said these new boilers basically pay for themselves over four to six years.
“You are gaining 30 percent efficiency,” the superintendent said. “It is much better technology.”
Board member Bryan Doke asked when the current boilers were purchased. Hafer said the current boilers were purchased in 2000.
While one boiler is leaking, the other is still operating without issue and would be used as the supplementary unit to the new boiler.
The estimated cost to replace the boiler is $95,000.
“We put money into the deprecation fund for this very thing,” Hafer said.
The board approved the new boiler purchase through Conditioned Air Mechanical using depreciation funds.
In a related item, the board approved a three-year agreement with Conditioned Air Mechanical to service the district’s heating and air conditioning systems. Hafer said the company handles maintenance on all equipment related to the chiller and boilers.
The three-year agreement provides the district with a 20 percent discount on parts and labor, though the cost of the contract was increasing 20 percent from the previous contract. Hafer said prices have increased across the board, which fueled the increase.
The contract includes a 2 percent increase for years two and three.
Board member Brad Wilkins said the service agreement puts the district at the top of the company’s priority list instead of having an issue with the system and just having to hope that someone would be available to show up and fix it.
The board approved the agreement, which carries a $13,950 cost for the first year.
Students at Ainsworth Community Schools will receive new math curriculum for the 2023-24 school year following the board’s approval Monday of the HMH Into Math Series.
Hafer said the principals led the process in evaluating potential new math curriculum.
Erthum said the review was thorough.
“The teachers were pretty unified that this was the way they wanted to go,” Erthum said.
Beel said the HMH Into Math series also offers pre-calculus material, which some other options did not.
Hafer said the district would use federal ESSER III funds to purchase the new math curriculum. The board approved the $90,108 purchase using the federal funds. Hafer said the company provided a $13,000 discount from its initial quote. The cost includes initial support to teachers in implementing the new curriculum.
The board also approved its annual contract with Educational Service Unit 17 for special education and nursing services.
Hafer said the contract was increasing approximately 5 percent from the previous contract.
“The average cost increase in other ESUs has been 7 to 8 percent,” the superintendent said.
The cost of the contract is $656,132, with an additional $30,000 for a school nurse. Hafer said the ESU would look to fill the nursing position after current school nurse Leanne Maxwell announced her retirement from the position.
In other business, the board accepted the resignation of kindergarten teacher Caren Fernau effective at the end of the 2022-23 school year. Fernau plans to retire after 35 years of teaching.
The board also thanked district office co-business manager Laurie Witte for her service. Witte announced she planned to retire at the end of the current school year after 30 years with the district.
The board approved a certified teaching contract for Amanda Kroeger for the 2023-24 school year. Kroeger will fill an opening in the middle school. Hafer said Elizabeth Salzman, who was initially going to fill the middle school position, would instead fill the kindergarten opening created by Fernau’s retirement. Kroeger is currently teaching at Rock County Public Schools, but Hafer said she already lives in Ainsworth.
The board approved three option enrollment requests Monday. The parents of Marissa, Jonathan and Michael Cannaday would like to have their children continue to attend Ainsworth Community Schools after the family recently moved to Rock County. The board approved allowing the students to option in to the district.
The board approved option out requests for Cecilia Zwiebel and for Landon and Landre Stephen. The Zwiebel family requested the option out to Rock County Public Schools, and the Stephen family requested the option out to Keya Paha County Public Schools.
In a final action item, the board approved the second readings of policy updates regarding field trips and payroll procedures.
Sixth-grade student Addilyn Doke presented her national qualifying National History Day performance on “Arbor Day: A Greener Frontier for Nebraska’s Environment.” Teacher Nichole Flynn, who works with students on their National History Day projects, said Doke, in addition to winning the state contest to qualify for nationals, also received an overall award for her presentation. She requested the board consider funding the $160 entry fee for Doke to the national contest, which will be held in Maryland.
During his report, Activities Director Scott Steinhauser congratulated students participating in the state FFA, FBLA and FCCLA contests.
Colten Orton was a State Star finalist in agribusiness, and was the state champion in forest management to qualify for nationals. Lauren Ortner was the state champion in hospitality, restaurant and tourism management.
The school’s parliamentary procedure team of Trey Appelt, Tessa Barthel, Terrin Barthel, Airyan Goochey, Gracie Kinney and McKenzy Cheatum received a gold ranking.
Tatum Nickless, Lauren Ortner, Colten Orton, Gracie Petty, Makenna Pierce and Jensen Williams received their State FFA Degree.
At state FCCLA, Willa Flynn was named the state champion in level 1 entrepreneurship to qualify for the national convention in July.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. May 8.
* Friday fire burns hundreds of acres in Blaine County
(Posted 9:30 a.m. April 10)
A Friday fire burned hundreds of acres in Blaine County and prompted a mutual aid response from numerous departments, including most of the departments in this area.
According to Brewster Fire Chief Jeff Martindale, the fire was reported at 2:41 p.m. on the Del Porto Ranch approximately 8 miles south of Brewster.
Strong winds pushed the fire northeast. The fire was approximately 2 miles wide at its widest east to west as it burned northeast across approximately 4-1/2 miles.
Martindale said the fire burned mostly grass, but it did jump Highway 91 at a few spots and burned 150 bales in a stack yard just north of Highway 91. The bales were owned by the Martindale Ranch.
The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, along with the total number of acres burned. Martindale said fire crews remained on the scene cleaning up hot spots and monitoring the burning bales until Sunday evening.
The fire burned across several properties but was limited to grass other than the bale yard. Numerous fire departments provided mutual aid to the Brewster Volunteer Fire Department.
The area remains at an elevated risk of fire due to warm temperatures, strong winds and low relative humidity.
* Sheriff’s department investigates 2 accidents
(Posted 9:15 a.m. April 10)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of one-vehicle accidents during the past week, one of which resulted in injury.
At 10:47 a.m. Thursday, a 2019 Ford Escape, driven by Holly Anderson, 66, of Springview, was traveling south on Highway 183 when the vehicle left the roadway and entered the west ditch near milepost 198.
Anderson was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the accident. A damage estimate on the Ford was not available.
At 2 p.m. Friday, a 2008 Ford F-150, driven by Norman Nielsen, 36, of Bassett, was traveling west on Highway 20 near milepost 251 when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway east of the Long Pine hills.
No persons were injured during that accident. The Ford sustained minor damage.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 9:15 a.m. April 10)
- Received a report of suspicious activity at the intersection of 4th and Main St.
- Received a report of dogs barking in excess on Woodward Street. The owner was called and resolved the issue.
- One male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail for terroristic threats.
- Received a report of sexual assault. One male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail and later released on bond. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Received a report of a juvenile driving a motorcycle in Ainsworth.
- Received a report of an individual who made a purchase out of state and has not received the item.
- Received a report of a vehicle passing a school bus when their stop sign was activated.
- Responded to a request for a welfare check on a juvenile in Ainsworth. The juvenile was found and reported safe.
- Received reports of two vehicles passing a school bus with an activated stop sign.
- Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after receiving a personal recognizance bond.
- Provided a civil standby for a property exchange.
- Responded to a report of suspicious activity on 2nd St in Ainsworth.
- Received a report of unreturned property. Subject was called and agreed to return the items.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth and transported one individual to the Brown County Hospital.
- Received a report of a trailer that had been reported stolen from West Point, NE that has appeared in a rental store parking lot in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Responded to a 911 call reporting a one vehicle accident on Highway 183, near mile marker 198. The Brown County Ambulance and Ainsworth Fire Departments also responded. The driver was transported to the Brown County Hospital, and the car was unable to drive away from scene.
- Received a report of an open door on Woodward Street in Ainsworth. Nothing was found to be stolen at this time.
- Responded to a report of suspicious activity in Long Pine.
- Responded to a report of a disturbance on Wilson St in Ainsworth.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
- Received a report of a one vehicle deer collision on Highway 20 near the 9A Spur.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a rural address and transported one individual to the Brown County Hospital.
- Ainsworth, Long Pine, South Pine, Raven, and Calamus Fire Departments were paged to a mutual aid request to assist Brewster Fire Department for a grass fire East of Brewster near Highway 91.
- Responded to a report of a disturbance on Woodward Street in Ainsworth.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from a rural address and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
- Received a report of a disturbance at a Main Street business.
* Deibler discusses city contract with commissioners
(Posted 4 p.m. April 4)
The Brown County Commissioners met with Sheriff Brent Deibler Tuesday regarding the expired contract for law enforcement services between the county and the city of Ainsworth.
Deibler said the previous contract between the entities for law enforcement services expired June 30, and the groups had been operating without a new contract in place since that time. The city had maintained a monthly payment at the same rate as the previous contract.
Deibler said he has met with the city on three occasions regarding a new contract.
“This contract has been similar since the ‘90s,” Deibler said. “Yes, the price has gone up. They have a different viewpoint on law enforcement than the sheriff’s department does.”
Deibler said the city had presented his office with comparisons of law enforcement costs for other communities he did not feel were comparable to this area.
“Two comparable cities to us are Valentine and Atkinson,” Deibler said. “The $276,000 we asked for is much lower than both those two communities pay for law enforcement.”
County Attorney Andy Taylor said, since there was not a new contract in place, the sheriff offered not to increase the price of the contract for the first year.
“The prior contract increased by more than $20,000 each year,” Taylor said. “That is what was in place. The city decided not to accept that offer, and offered $175,000. As far as the budget is concerned, the previous sheriff was anticipating $275,000 from the city when preparing this year’s budget. He did not anticipate receiving $100,000 less.”
Deibler said, without a contract with the city, the sheriff’s department’s response times would be much longer during calls for service.
“I don’t want to make changes or hire more staff without a contract in place,” Deibler said. “We are busy, especially on weekends. The citizens of Ainsworth would suffer greatly without a contract.”
Taylor said the sheriff’s department had helped save at least two lives just recently, as there had been two calls regarding potentially suicidal subjects the sheriff’s department was able to assist.
Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said the city is currently paying about one-third of the sheriff’s department budget for about two-thirds of the department’s workload.
“It is a common-sense decision,” Dailey said. “It is not an unreasonable ask. I think the citizens of Ainsworth should encourage the City Council to sign the contract.”
Without a contract, Taylor said the sheriff’s department would still have to enforce the law in Ainsworth, but the department would not enforce city code violations.
Dailey said he was not interested in any further negotiations with the city. Commissioners Dennis Bauer and Buddy Small both agreed with that position.
“They can honor the contract you proposed, or they can go out on their own,” Bauer said.
Taylor said, without a contract with the sheriff’s department for law enforcement, the city would also be responsible for either contracting with the county for dispatching service and any space required in the jail, or it would have to find its own alternatives.
Taylor said he and Deibler were on the City Council agenda for its upcoming April 11 meeting to discuss the contract with the full council.
In another sheriff’s department item, Deibler said Sgt. Ian Calder had been going through the sheriff’s department inventory list trying to locate everything listed.
“There was no transition period, and no communication between myself and the previous sheriff, unfortunately,” Deibler said. “Some of the equipment on the inventory dates back to the ‘70s. We now have an accurate list.”
Calder said there were some items on the inventory list that predate the previous sheriff, and there were items on the inventory list that may not even still be in the building.
“There are numerous items that are out of service and no longer useable,” Calder said. “They are just wasting space.”
Taylor told Deibler he had the discretion to get rid of anything that was estimated to have a value of less than $500.
“Anything over $500 would have to go through surplus,” Taylor said.
Deibler said he was trying to better utilize the space available in the sheriff’s department building.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners met with Grant Kobes of Bennington regarding his potential purchase of Long Lake and the surrounding ground from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Kobes told the board the Game and Parks Commission currently has an easement with a property owner for access to the property from Moon Lake Avenue.
“When the state sells the land, that easement goes away,” Kobes said. “I have not been successful in obtaining a new easement. With no access, the property has no value.”
Kobes said the county had the ability through an isolated lands provision in state statute to force access to the property so it was not land-locked.
“I am prepared to maintain a road if we can get one identified,” Kobes said.
Taylor said it appeared the property had not yet transferred from the state to Kobes.
Kobes said he had not yet closed on the property, as he wanted to iron out the access issue before completing the purchase.
Taylor said the county could not consider a petition for the isolated lands provision until Kobes was the owner of the real estate.
“You have to be the actual owner of the property before the county could take any action,” Taylor said. “We can hang on to this information until you have ownership.”
Small asked, when Kobes becomes the owner, what would the county be required to do.
Taylor said there are a number of steps that would need to be taken, the first being a public hearing on creating an easement for access to the property.
The county attorney said there would need to be an engineering survey to determine the location for the easement. He said the property owner would be responsible up-front for all costs associated with engineering, surveys and the cost to the roads department to build the road.
“You also have to compensate the landowner who is having the easement placed, so there would need to be an appraisal,” Taylor said.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin asked if the county could be forced to create the road. Taylor said it could, if no other options for access were available.
Kobes said he had made a $7,500 offer to the adjacent property owner for an easement, but an agreement had not been reached.
Dailey asked Kobes why he would want the property that badly with all the hoops he may have to go through to obtain access.
Kobes said he loves the Sandhills, and it was a unique recreational property.
“In years of looking, I have not seen anything like this come available,” Kobes said.
Taylor encouraged Kobes to have his attorney contact Taylor to discuss the steps that would be needed. He also encouraged Kobes not to spend a lot of money on survey work on the property, as the county could decide it wanted to hire a separate firm, the cost of which would still be borne by Kobes.
The commissioners took no action until Kobes obtains ownership of the property.
In an item tabled from the previous two board meetings, the commissioners Tuesday approved vacating a portion of 438th Avenue located south of Long Pine in Section 19, Township 29 North, Range 20 West.
Taylor said he added the language to the resolution that reverts ownership of the property to the adjacent landowners.
“That is actually a decision you need to make,” Taylor said. “If you don’t go that route, the county would maintain a 10-year right of way on that property.”
The board determined the county did not need right of way access in the area, and approved the resolution giving the land to the adjacent property owners.
During his report, Turpin said the roads department had been maintaining roads as it could and had hauled sand to muddy spots.
Turpin reported the department had stripped the topsoil east of the hospital at the site of the community fishing pond and had obtained approximately 10,000 yards of topsoil and clay.
“That saved us about $15,000 from what it would have cost to purchase that material,” Turpin said. “We had about $3,500 in manpower and fuel into the project, with about $2,060 of that in fuel.”
Turpin said it was a great deal for the county to get that material, which the county would have otherwise had to purchase and strip away from another location.
Graig Kinzie thanked Turpin for the roads department’s work on the project, and discussed with the board how much additional work the county was willing to do at the site of the community pond. He said there had been questions on how much work the county planned to cover and how much of the excavation would need to be contracted after the board initially discussed the matter back in 2021.
Small said when former Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus had initially proposed it several years ago, the county would have had to do the entire project. Small said the project went silent in 2019 when the flooding hit.
Small reiterated that the county was maintaining ownership of the pond site and any amenities. Kinzie said he was working on the project on behalf of the Ainsworth Lions Club, which had agreed to be the sponsoring organization for creating the community pond.
Bauer said, since the county had received about $15,000 worth of materials, he was agreeable to the county forces assisting with more of the dirt work on the project.
Dailey said he was a little concerned about the potential wear and tear on the equipment, but agreed obtaining the material for the roads department was a benefit.
Turpin asked the board to provide him with written direction for proceeding on the work so there were no future questions on how much of the work the county would assist in completing.
Kinzie thanked the commissioners and Turpin for their contributions to the project. He apologized to the board members for any misunderstandings on how much of the work would be provided by the county versus what needed to be completed by a private contractor.
Kinzie said the Ainsworth Betterment Committee had provided $40,000 for the project, and the Brown County Foundation had also provided $40,000. In addition, he said the Kinzie family donated $5,000 in memorial funding for the project, and KBR Rural Public Power had provided $1,000 from its Operation Roundup Program.
Kinzie said, in an effort not to have to truck sandy material from the site, the plan as designed would create a berm around the site where that material could be placed, with a layer of topsoil then placed on top of the sand to allow vegetation to grow.
He said the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission had designed the pond, and would stock it with fish once completed.
Kinzie said he was working on applications for a solar well to provide the water source for the pond, and he thanked Galyen Farms of Atkinson for agreeing to a waiver on the distance from the potential well to an irrigation well owned by the company south of the pond site.
The commissioners directed Turpin to coordinate with Bruce Dannatt of Frontier Diesel on completing the initial excavation work. Kinzie said he would then work with Dannatt on the shaping of the pond and returning a clay layer to help prevent seepage.
Treasurer Bruce Mitchell reported a recent delinquent property tax sale had resulted in delinquent taxes on 31 parcels being purchased, which generated the county $38,200. Those who purchase delinquent taxes receive 14 percent interest until the past-due tax is paid by the property owner, or the purchaser of the delinquent taxes can file a lien on the property after a certain time period.
The board opened sealed bids on several surplus items from the clerk’s office. John Applemen bid $20 for two surplus chairs, and Travee Hobbs bid $10 for surplus child safety gates.
The board approved Kade Gracey and Tanya Cole to two-year terms on the Brown County Safety Committee. Gracey and Cole replace Bruce Papstein and Kurt Starkey on the committee.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. April 18.
* Kennedy named to NSAA Student Advisory Committee
(Posted 3 p.m. April 3)
The Nebraska School Activities Association announced the individuals selected to the NSAA Student Advisory Committee for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years. The new members will join the 10 seniors serving their second term.
Among the students selected for the Advisory Committee is Ainsworth High School sophomore Emma Kennedy.
According to the NSAA, the 10 were selected from many outstanding applicants to serve for their junior and senior years. The students were selected from Nebraska’s six NSAA districts. The selection process was competitive and focused on recommendations by school personnel, with participation in various interscholastic activities and athletics.
The Student Advisory Committee helps to promote the mission of the NSAA, encompassing leadership, sportsmanship and integrity. The focus is on providing education and leadership through open and honest communication with all member schools and their students, administrators and coaches. All recipients were nominated by their Activities Director.
Duties and responsibilities are to: discuss current student and association issues; assist with various association functions; help to maintain an avenue of communication between the association and the student participants themselves; and create and implement initiatives within schools, communities and/or school conferences.
Students provide input, help to develop, and attend the sportsmanship and leadership summits in conjunction with the Nebraska Coaches Association.
Students record public service announcements through NSAA media partner STRIV.TV.
* Doke wins National History Day State Contest
(Posted 2 p.m. April 3)
Fourteen Ainsworth Middle School students attended the National History Day State Contest Saturday on the Nebraska Wesleyan campus at Lincoln.
Addilyn Doke qualified for the national contest, earning first place for her junior individual performance titled “Arbor Day: Greener Frontier in Nebraska’s Environment.” Doke also won first prize for the NEBRASKAland Foundation Award. This prize is given for the best use of primary sources to research a Nebraska topic.
The national contest will be held in June at College Park, Maryland.
* Highway 20 work resumes in Ainsworth
(Posted 1:45 p.m. April 3)
Work has resumed on US Highway 20 in Ainsworth, from milepost 241 to milepost 243, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
A&R Construction of Plainview has the contract for the work remaining, which includes surfaced driveways, sidewalks, imprinted concrete surfacing, lighting, and seeding.
Traffic will be maintained using temporary lane closures and flaggers. The project is anticipated to be completed in July.
Motorists are reminded to drive cautiously in and near work zones, to buckle up, and to put phones down.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 9 a.m. April 3)
- Responded to a report of a disturbance on Main Street in Long Pine.
- Received reports of various road signs abandoned along Highway 7, near 875th This is an ongoing investigation.
- Issued a city ordinance violation citation for failure to license dogs.
- K9 Dutch and Handler conducted drug checks at the Ainsworth Community Schools, Rock County Schools, and Burwell Public Schools.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to rural Brown County Address and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
- Responded to a report of an individual in a mental health crisis. This individual was placed into emergency protective custody and transferred to a behavioral health facility for further treatment.
- Booked an individual into the Brown County Jail for an active Hall County Warrant. Hall County Sheriff’s Office picked up this inmate the following day.
- For severe weather awareness week a tornado siren test was conducted in Johnstown, Ainsworth, and Long Pine.
- The Brown County Ambulance transferred a patient from the hospital to Norfolk, NE.
- An individual found a license plate in Ainsworth. The vehicle owner was contacted and came to pick the plate up.
- K9 Dutch and Handler provided agency assistance to the Cherry County Sheriff’s Office conducting drug checks at Valentine and Cody-Kilgore schools.
- Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing near 432th Ave and Highway 20 intersection.
- Received a report of a traffic complaint involving a reckless driver and littering.
- Responded to a burglary alarm at a Long Pine home. No criminal activity was found, and the alarm was found to go off after power was lost in the home.
- Received a report of an adult with a dog bite that occurred near 430th Ave and 886th The owner of the dog has not been determined and this is an ongoing investigation.
- Responded to a report of a down power line near Richardson Drive in Ainsworth. The power company was called to correct the issue.
- Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail and released on a personal recognizance bond.
- Responded to a report of terroristic threats in Ainsworth. One male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail.
* Bassett receives $562,000 grant for community center
(Posted 2 p.m. March 31)
The Nebraska Department of Economic Development has selected this year’s grant recipients under the Civic and Community Center Financing Fund.
Eighteen communities will receive a portion of the $4.2 million available, representing eight planning projects and 10 capital construction projects.
Among the capital construction projects receiving funding is the Rock County Community Center. The city of Bassett’s application was awarded in the amount of $562,000.
CCCFF funding supports the development of civic, community and recreation centers. Buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places that are intended for conversion, rehabilitation or reuse are also eligible under the program.
CCCFF is funded through a turn-back of 30% of state sales tax generated by arenas and nearby retailers. Due to the enduring impact of COVID-19 on these venues, the amount available for award for 2023 was less than usual. However, as evidenced by the increase of aid available this year as compared to the prior two years, revenues to the fund are steadily increasing towards pre-pandemic levels.
“Thank you to everyone who applied for the 2023 round of CCCFF funding,” said DED Director Anthony Goins. “We’re excited to announce this year’s winners! I applaud their vision and commitment to grow. These grants will lead to new and upgraded amenities in our state’s communities, making them even more pleasant places to live and work.”
* Road work begins Monday north and south of Bassett
(Posted 6:15 a.m. March 31)
Weather permitting, work will resume Monday in Bassett and south on Highway 183 from milepost 172 to milepost 182, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
Western Engineering Company of Harlan, Iowa is the contractor for this project. Work includes permanent seeding and concrete curb and gutter work in town. Traffic will be maintained with a pilot car and flaggers. Anticipated completion is June.
Work will also resume Monday on Highway 7 north of Bassett, from milepost 73 to milepost 77.
Western Engineering is also the contractor for this project. Work includes bridge deck overlay, guardrail replacement, asphalt overlay, culvert pipes, flumes and curb, and seeding.
Traffic will be maintained with a pilot car and flaggers. Traffic for the bridge work will be maintained with a lane closure controlled by a traffic signal. An 11-foot width restriction will be in effect during bridge work. Anticipated completion is June.
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 10:15 a.m. March 30)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Tyler C. Entringer, age 32, of Brandon, S.D., charged with speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, fined $25; also charged with no operator’s license, $75.
Robby J. Gall, 36, of Milaca, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Michael A. Douglas, 20, of Johnstown, no proof of insurance, $100.
Amanda L. Greer, 27, of Sioux Falls, S.D., leaving the scene of an accident or failing to furnish information, $100 and ordered to pay $480 in restitution.
McKenzie L. Roggasch, 31, of Bassett, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Angela R. Hood, 47, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
James T. Parker, 54, of Long Pine, disturbing the peace, $50.
Shane L. Philbrick, 48, of Ainsworth, disturbing the peace, sentenced to 18 months of probation and ordered to pay $3,581 in restitution.
Feleice Essig, 52, of Valentine, no proof of insurance, $100.
Aldar Tsyrendorzhiev, 36, of Brooklyn, N.Y., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.
Walter K. Naughtin, 18, of Springview, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Richard A. Moore, 60, of Des Moines, Iowa, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Nicholas D. Krause, 65, of Ainsworth, no valid registration, $25.
Katherine M. Einspahr, 32, of Long Pine, attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000.
Tuffy K. Newman, 53, of Pierson, Iowa, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
* Nebraska continued to add jobs in February
(Posted 2:30 p.m. March 29)
The Nebraska Department of Labor announced Nebraska’s preliminary unemployment rate for February is 2.3 percent. The rate is down 0.2 percentage points from the January rate of 2.5 percent and is up 0.3 percentage points from the February 2022 rate of 2.0 percent.
“The number of Nebraskans employed statewide was up 1,765 over the month, while the number of unemployed was down 1,864,” said Commissioner of Labor John H. Albin. “The state hasn’t seen an unemployment rate this low since June of 2022.”
Nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was 1,031,710 in February, up 8,817 over the month and 22,673 over the year. Private industries with the most growth month to month were leisure and hospitality (up 3,795 jobs), public education and health services (up 1,489 jobs) and professional and business services (up 1,422 jobs). Private industries with the most over the year growth were leisure and hospitality (up 5,852 jobs), mining and construction (up 4,844 jobs), and public education and health services (up 3,718 jobs).
Brown County’s unemployment rate of 2.4 percent in February was slightly above the state average. Blaine County had the highest unemployment rate in the state in February at 3.9 percent.
On the flip side, Rock County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state in February at 1.1 percent, edging the 1.2 percent rates in Grant, Hayes and Butler counties.
Both Keya Paha County and Cherry County enjoyed unemployment rates in February well below the state average at 1.7 percent. Holt County’s jobless rate in February matched the state average at 2.3 percent, and Boyd County matched Brown County’s 2.4 percent rate during the month.
The national unemployment rate for February is 3.6 percent, up 0.2 percentage points from the January rate of 3.4 percent.
Nebraska’s 2.3 percent rate is the third lowest nationally, trailing only North Dakota and South Dakota, which tied for the top spot at 2.1 percent. Montana and Utah rounded out the top five with jobless rates in February of 2.4 percent.
The highest unemployment rate in the county in February belonged to Nevada at 5.5 percent. Oregon at 4.7 percent, Washington and Delaware at 4.6 percent, and Illinois at 4.5 percent rounded out the five states with the highest unemployment rates during the month.
* Area students receive Engler Scholarships to UN-L
(Posted 10:45 a.m. March 27)
The Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has announced the recipients of scholarships for the 2023-24 academic year.
The one-time scholarships will be awarded to 84 students totaling $184,000 for the ensuing academic year.
Incoming UN-L freshmen receiving Engler Scholarships include Brooklyn Buell of Bassett. Current UN-L students receiving continuing Engler Scholarships include Tom Ortner, Libby Wilkins and Sam Wilkins all of Ainsworth; Logan Hafer of Long Pine; Jillian Buell and Jaya Nelson of Bassett; Ty Schlueter of Wood Lake; and Brody Benson of Valentine.
The Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program was established in 2010 by a gift from the Paul and Virginia Engler Foundation. The mission of the program is to embolden people on the courageous pursuit of their purpose through the art and practice of entrepreneurship. The program offers an academic minor while serving as an intersection in which students from a diverse array of majors and business interests can come together in pursuit of the American Dream.
For more information, contact program director Tom Field at 402-472-5643 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Area students named NSAA Academic All-State
(Posted 7 a.m. March 27)
The Nebraska School Activities Association announced the student recipients of the Winter 2022-23Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association Academic All-State Awards.
Since 2006, this NSAA awards program has recognized students who meet the criteria for nomination by their school in the season of their activity.
Each year the NSAA recognizes students during fall, winter, and spring seasons who are nominated by their schools for their individual academic excellence, leadership, and significant contributions in their NSAA activity.
Area students named Academic All-State for the winter activities season are:
Trey Appelt and Christopher Fernandez in boys basketball, Cameryn Goochey and Emma Sears in girls basketball, Makenna Pierce and Dakota Stutzman in speech, Sam Titus in boys wrestling and Megan Jones in girls wrestling.
Keya Paha County
Jameson Painter in boys basketball, and Zachary Wiebelhaus in wrestling.
Kol Otten in boys basketball, Brooklyn Buell and Allie Cosgrove in girls basketball, Kyra Anthony in speech, and Branson Anderson in wrestling.
Anthony Heiser and Schuyler Mustin in boys basketball, Lacey Paxton and Sarah Wallinger in girls basketball, and Sydney Estill and Chiana Tubbs in speech.
Mason Crumrine and Tyler Jelinek in boys basketball, Makinley Cadwallader and EmiLee Walnofer in girls basketball, Sidney Burkinshaw and Maci Nemetz in speech, Grant Osborne and Isaac Pistulka in boys wrestling, and Madison Davis and Renata Rodriguez Brambila in girls wrestling.
Charlie Adams and Zander Kluckman in boys basketball, Brynn Almgren and Leah Jockens in girls basketball, and Zoe Kaczor and Elizabeth Kersch in speech.
Kyle Cox in boys basketball, Emily Leach in girls basketball, Rhett McFadden in boys wrestling, and Taylor Weber in girls wrestling
Connor Kreutner and Jack Lancaster in boys basketball, Kaetryn Bancroft and Malika Monroe in girls basketball, Emma Kreutner and Marybelle Ward in speech, Ashton Lurz and Will Sprenger in boys wrestling.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 27)
Brown County Sheriff’s Office Weekly Summary
Week of March 19th, 2023 through March 25th, 2023
- Responded to a request for a welfare check on Wilson St. The individual was located and reported safe at this time.
- Received multiple reports involving a loose dog near Hartington and 4th The owner of the dog was found, and called to return the dog home.
- Received a report of possible animal abuse/neglect on Richardson Drive. No citations were issued at this time.
- Received a report of a dog that showed up at a home along Highway 7. With the help of social media, the dog was able to be reunited to its rightful owner.
- Received a report of a wild animal carcass on 2nd The Ainsworth City department was called to remove it from the roadway.
- Received a report of theft of services from the KBR waste dump. The driver of the vehicle was able to be identified and called to return to pay the fee.
- During a traffic stop at the Highway 183/20 Junction a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for speeding 11-15 mph over the 65mph posted speed limit.
- Received a report of a vehicle alarm activated on Pine Street. No stolen property was found at this time.
- Responded to a request for a welfare check on 1st The individual was located and reported safe at this time.
- Received a report of a domestic disturbance near Johnstown. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Received a report of a loose dog found in a business parking lot in Ainsworth. The dog was taken to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic but reunited with their owner shortly thereafter.
- Responded to a report of a loose dog on Osborne Street. The dog was unable to be found.
- Received a report of a two-vehicle accident on Maple Street. A vehicle was backed into a parked vehicle. Both vehicles had minimal damage occur, and no injuries reported.
- Received a burglary alarm from an atm machine. No criminal activity was found, false alarm.
- Responded to a report of a mental health crisis involving a juvenile.
- Received a report of a one vehicle deer collision on Highway 20, near mile marker 249. No injuries were reported, and the car was able to drive away from the scene but did have some notable damage.
- Received a report of suspected trespassing on a property in Ainsworth. No citations were issued at this time.
- Responded to a report of two loose dogs causing severe injuries and casualties to livestock on 437th This is an ongoing investigation.
- Attended a meeting with the Ainsworth Community Schools to assist in training educators in identifying illegal substances within the school.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 7, mile marker 38, a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for speeding 11-15mph over the 65mph posted speed limit and no operator’s license.
- Received a report of a deer carcass in the road near Highway 7 and 876th Also received a report of a down stop sign in the same area. Both were reported to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
- Responded to a report of suspicious activity at a hotel facility in Ainsworth. Both subjects were unable to be located. No criminal activity was found at this time.
- Received a report of a gas drive off from a station in Ainsworth. The vehicle was able to be identified and the owner was called and came back to take care of their purchase.
* Ainsworth students compete in scholastics contest
(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 27)
Ainsworth High School students competed in the Northeast Community College annual Scholastic Competition Wednesday at Norfolk. This was the first year Ainsworth entered the competition.
Twenty-three students took 28 tests, with the students earning six medals and 13 top 10 finishes. Students were allotted 60 minutes for each test with the number of questions ranging from 40 to 150.
The following students received a medal for placing first, second, or third in their test:
Ally Conroy, first in Foods and Nutrition,
Trey Appelt, second in Agri-Science,
Jace Haskell, second in American Government,
Cole Bodeman, second in American History and third in Trigonometry,
and Dakota Stutzman, third in English Composition.
Top ten finishers were:
Gracie Petty, fourth in Parenting/Child Development,
Makenna Pierce, fourth in Introduction to Psychology,
Katherine Kerrigan, fourth in World History,
Taylor Allen, seventh in Literature,
Airyan Goochey, seventh in Technical Mathematics,
Emma Sears, seventh in Physics,
and Dalton Jones, eighth in Welding.
Ainsworth tied for sixth place in Class C with 18 schools competing.
* Highway 20 Long Pine bridge project delayed
(Posted 10:30 a.m. March 24)
Construction of the proposed Long Pine Bridge project located on Highway 20 over Long Pine Creek has been delayed, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
At this time, construction is now anticipated to begin sometime in 2024. Area citizens will be updated once further details regarding construction are known.
* KBRB Ag Week feature interviews
(Posted 2:30 p.m. March 23)
KBRB featured several area agricultural producers as part of its Agriculture Week programming.
To hear the conversations, listen to the audio links below.
* Area urged to support workforce housing application
(Posted 4:30 p.m. March 21)
North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson discussed the upcoming application deadline for the Rural Workforce Housing Program Tuesday with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie.
If awarded, the state would provide double the amount of funds pledged to construct housing in Keya Paha, Brown and Rock counties.
The pledges would not be collected if the state does not award the grant. Funds pledged for the housing program are 100 percent tax deductible.
In addition to letters pledging monetary support, the NCDC is accepting letters of support for the program and the need for housing in general for the three counties.
To obtain a pledge letter form or a letter of support form, contact the North Central Development Center at 402-387-2740 or 402-760-3834. Email email@example.com
More on the program can be heard in the audio file below.
* Commissioners again table road vacation
(Posted 1:30 p.m. March 21)
The Brown County Commissioners again tabled taking final action Tuesday to vacate a dedicated road south of Long Pine.
Following a public hearing March 7, the board tabled vacating the road as the resolution was not completed. In reviewing the resolution Tuesday, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the resolution did not include that the land for the roadway the county was abandoning would be given to the two adjacent property owners.
The highway superintendent said that language needed to be included in the vacation resolution or the county would technically maintain ownership, and therefore liability, of the land even though it would no longer be dedicated as a roadway.
The resolution will be amended for approval during the board’s April 4 meeting.
The board did approve two prepared resolutions Tuesday, one allowing county officials to discard broken and obsolete property that is of no significant monetary value.
County officials are required to keep an inventory list. Prior to the resolution being approved, those officials had to have property of little or no value declared surplus and bid for sale prior to it being able to be discarded.
The board approved a second resolution of foreclosure on a tax sale certificate and tax liens after past-due property taxes on a parcel were not paid.
Audience member Dan Spier asked the commissioners for clarification on funds being given to the Sandhills Care Center. Spier questioned how the $450,000 line of credit the care center had been approved to take out would be repaid.
The commissioners and the Ainsworth City Council, which jointly own the nursing home, previously approved the Sandhills Care Center Board to utilize a line of credit to operate the facility up to a maximum of $450,000, with those funds repaid using a portion of the voter-approved levy funds that will begin to be collected in the 2023 tax year.
The commissioners each indicated they would not be in favor of providing additional general funds to the care center if the voter-approved bonds were not sufficient.
The care center has utilized $123,000 from the line of credit, but did not borrow from the line of credit during its March 13 meeting as revenue was sufficient to cover expenses.
Grant Kobes of Bennington approached the board with information regarding a parcel of property he was in the process of purchasing. Though not on the agenda, Kobes said he wanted the commissioners to have some information ahead of time prior to asking to be on the board’s April 4 agenda.
Kobes said he is purchasing the Long Lake State Recreation Area from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He said the Game and Parks Commission has an easement with a neighboring landowner to access the lake site.
Kobes said a portion of the trail road to the lake is under water, and there was currently no other access without driving onto another neighboring property. He said he has not been able to get an agreement for a permanent easement with the neighboring property owners, and will ask the county to dedicate right of way access since the property is otherwise landlocked.
“I think that may be my only option for access at this point,” Kobes said.
He agreed to maintain the road from Moon Lake Avenue to the site if the county could obtain the right of way.
Since not on the agenda, Commissioner Buddy Small said the commissioners could not comment on the issue specifically. Small said he would get the information Kobes provided to the board to Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor to review prior to the board’s April 4 meeting.
In a final action item Tuesday, the board approved an optional Madison National Life Insurance long-term disability benefit plan should any employees be interested in the coverage at their own cost. The board voted to deny providing an option supplemental life insurance coverage plan at county expense to employees.
During his report, Turpin said the roads department did some work moving some sporadic snowdrifts from roadways during the past week, and has been hauling sand in to improve soft areas on several roads.
“We are going to do more road maintenance this week,” Turpin said. “We will start pulling shoulders soon to get some of the gravel back that got pushed to the edges.”
Turpin said work is continuing on the Meadville Avenue bridge project at Sand Draw Creek. He said Western Engineering has an asphalt project on Highway 183 it plans to complete this spring prior to beginning the asphalt renovation on 7.5 miles of Meadville Avenue. He said the asphalt project on Meadville Avenue would likely begin in May.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. April 4.
* Stuart wins Class D-2 State Speech Championship
(Posted 7 a.m. March 20)
Nebraska State Speech Championships
University of Nebraska at Kearney
1. Stuart, 128; 2. Chambers, 110; 3. O’Neill St. Mary’s, 98; 4. Potter-Dix, 92; 5. Arthur County, 72.
Stuart Medal Winners
Entertainment Speaking – 1. William Paxton.
Extemporaneous Speaking – 1. William Paxton; 2. Dawson Heiser.
Informative Speaking – 1. Chiana Tubbs.
Oral Interpretation of Drama – 5. Hunter Tubbs, Sydney Estill, Benjamin Paxton and Lacey Paxton.
Oral Interpretation of Poetry – 2. Lacey Paxton.
Serious Prose – 1. Sydney Estill.
* Irrigation District hears options for retiming water
(Posted 9 a.m. March 16)
The Ainsworth Irrigation District Board of Directors on Tuesday delved into a feasibility study for utilizing the Plum Creek Reservoir located near the canal in western Brown County as a potential way to retime water in the canal released from Merritt Reservoir prior to rains hitting the area where crops are irrigated.
Irrigation District Board member Steve Bartak said, a year ago, the board discussed several issues the district faces.
“We wondered if it was feasible to take water out of the canal at the Plum Creek Reservoir and then put it back into the canal when needed,” Bartak said.
A feasibility study on retiming water releases was funded with assistance from the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District.
Travis Hazard with Hazard Engineering presented the board and members of the Middle Niobrara NRD Board with results of a historical study he conducted and proposals for storing water from the canal in Plum Creek Reservoir and then moving the water back into the canal at a later time.
Hazard said his goal with the study was to review historical data and provide the stakeholders with information to make educated decisions.
“The main canal is 53 miles long,” Hazard said. “Plum Creek Reservoir is at mile 46 just upstream of your main distribution area. When water is released and then a rain happens, the water that has been released does not get used.”
Hazard said Plum Creek Reservoir has the capacity to store 470 acre-feet of water. If the canal were to be full upstream of the reservoir to the Merritt Dam release, the canal would contain about 480 acre-feet of water.
“Operationally, it takes 10 to 11 hours after the water is released from Merritt to reach the irrigated area,” Hazard said.
He said he looked at data from the past 10 years to determine how many times historically the irrigation district would have been able to utilize Plum Creek Reservoir to retime water from the canal instead of that water being released downstream and losing it.
Hazard said both 2017 and 2021 had several occasions where water released from the dam was lost due to rain being received and irrigators not needing the water.
“There were at least 35 events over a 10-year span,” Hazard said. “It amounts to about 1,710 acre feet per year on average that could be discharged into Plum Creek Reservoir.”
Hazard said, accounting for seepage loss from the reservoir, utilizing Plum Creek Reservoir to store and retime water to the canal could save the district about .80 of an inch of water per acre per year.
The irrigation district has the ability to release a maximum of 85,000 acre-feet of water each year from Merritt Reservoir.
Hazard presented the group with three proposals for projects that would allow the irrigation district to store water in Plum Creek Reservoir and then release it back into the canal.
The first alternative was constructing a gravity-return into the canal, which Hazard estimated would cost $1.29 million. He said the district would only be able to utilize a small portion of the water stored in the Plum Creek Reservoir with this option, as the elevation would not allow the full storage to flow back into the canal.
A second option would be to construct dual screw pumps to push water back into the canal from the reservoir. This, Hazard said, was his recommended option as it was the most efficient way to return water to the canal. The project would include the construction of two 104-inch augers powered either by diesel motors or electric motors. The screw pumps would allow the district to pump 35,000 gallons per minute back into the canal from the reservoir, amounting to approximately 156 cubic feet per second. When running at capacity, the canal can carry just over 620 cubic feet per second.
He said the screw pump augers would last between 30 and 50 years, with the bearings needed to be replaced approximately every 10 years.
Hazard and board members from both the irrigation district and the Middle Niobrara NRD Board discussed the options for diesel and electric motors to power the screw pumps.
There was not enough electric capacity currently at the site to power the motors, so approximately four miles of three-phase power lines would have to be constructed to the site by the KBR Rural Public Power District to reach the site. The cost to install the power line was approximately $51,000 per mile.
Diesel motors could be installed, but the cost to operate diesel motors would be close to $15,000 annually while the annual cost to operate electric motors was $6,763 annually. The district would save about $8,000 per year over time operating electric motors at the site but would be responsible for an upfront power line installation cost of approximately $205,000.
A third option would construct vertical line shaft turbines to move the water back into the canal at an estimated cost of $3.19 million, which Hazard said he would not recommend for several reasons, including that a large sump would have to be constructed to allow the vertical line shaft turbines to operate, and the vertical line shaft design did not work well when sand and other sediment was present.
When looking at the cost per acre-foot for each of the three alternatives, Hazard estimated the gravity-return canal would cost the district $71.43 per acre-foot of water captured, the vertical line shaft pump would cost $46.23 per acre-foot, with the screw pump alternative costing $42.91 per acre-foot of water salvaged.
The district currently charges $38 per acre-foot of water delivered to customers from Merritt Reservoir up to 16 inches, with the cost at $30 per acre foot above that 16-inch threshold.
There was no action taken by the Irrigation District Board, as Tuesday’s meeting served as an informational session. Selecting a preferred alternative and finding potential funding sources for the project will be discussed at future meetings.
* Council approves Main Street beautification on fourth try
(Posted 7 a.m. March 16)
Following lengthy debate and three failed motions Wednesday, the Ainsworth City Council approved a modified plan for an improved Main Street streetscape that will include trees but removed several planned concrete planter areas.
Engineer Jess Hurlbert with Olsson Associates told the council it needed to get a plan approved so it can be turned in to the Nebraska Department of Transportation and incorporated into the NDOT’s renovation of Highway 7 through downtown Ainsworth.
“The NDOT will leave areas open for the next step of the project, which would include the landscaping and any tree planting,” Hurlbert said. “Things have come a long way since the last time you planted trees on Main Street. There are trees now that minimize the amount of leaves and don’t leave roots that damage the concrete.”
Hurlbert said the goal of the streetscape project is to create a warm and inviting place outside the businesses on Main Street, a place where people feel invited and want to stop.
Councilman Brad Fiala said he had concerns regarding snow removal around the trees and concrete planters included in the original design project, as well as the ongoing maintenance of trees after they are planted.
“I wouldn’t want a tree right in front of my business,” Fiala said. “I would hate that, four years from now, we are back cutting out trees. With snow removal, people have to park both tires up on the curb when snow gets moved to the center of the street. How quickly would we be able to get the snow removed?”
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the city utilized the existing Main Street design plan from 2011, which was created with input from the public.
“Downtown revitalization has always been a part of our strategic plan,” Schroedl said. “We knew maintenance would be an issue.”
She said the city planned to install a watering system under the concrete to water any vegetation planted on Main Street.
“There are going to have to be adjustments made,” Schroedl said. “The plan is not to make it harder for anyone. The city may have more of a maintenance burden.”
Main Street business owner John Gross asked the council if the curb elevations would be changed when Main Street is renovated.
“People right now pull up right on to the sidewalk because it is so slick at the curb,” Gross said.
Main Street business owner Clint Painter, who also handles snow removal for a majority of Main Street businesses, said he was all for making Main Street look great.
“Would we still even be able to push snow to the middle of the street if people can’t pull up past the curb to park?” Painter asked. “I have no problem moving snow around some things, but where can we go with the snow?”
Councilman Vance Heyer said it may come down to the city streets crew having to load up snow from the middle of the street at the same time it is being cleared from the sidewalks.
“I don’t think it will overwhelm our staff to do a little ongoing maintenance on Main Street,” Heyer said.
Audience member Greg Soles asked the council if the city planned to clean out the tree grates when they fill up with dirt.
“How much more work is all this going to create for the streets department?” Soles asked.
Schroedl said, every time the city has held a stakeholder meeting, people talk about beautification.
“This plan also adds upgrades to the mini park with restrooms and electrical outlets,” Schroedl said. “This highway plan is a 60-year plan. That is also why we are doing the water and sewer lines. This is an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the community. I think that is worth the investment.”
Councilman Shawn Fernau said he has never seen trees work long term.
“I have talked to the business owners, and a lot of them don’t want them,” Fernau said.
Councilman Dustin Barthel said he believed the trees and cutouts will be a maintenance nightmare.
“I like the colored concrete and the decorative poles,” Barthel said. “I like the minipark upgrades. But, I am not for the trees. I think it would be best to keep it simpler.”
Mayor Joel Klammer said this project was the city’s one chance to make enhancements to Main Street.
“Maybe it is shrubs and a few trees,” Klammer said. “It is a fact of life that it takes work to maintain and make things look nice.”
Audience member Rod Worrell said, the last time trees were planted on Main Street, they were supposed to be there for 10 years, then removed and replaced. The trees also were not supposed to be fruit-bearing, but many were.
“The council changed after 10 years, and those trees were never replaced,” Worrell said. “Some were cut down, but not replaced. Some were left to grow. The council changes every four to eight years. This entire room will change, and the new council won’t know what was planned.”
Heyer said he didn’t believe just putting in new concrete would make the downtown area look inviting.
“We need to make it a place that feels welcoming, a place where people want to move to,” Heyer said. “That is what people are looking for. Most of us grew up here. In order to grow, we need more than that. I am open to options, but I don’t agree with just improving the minipark and putting concrete everywhere else.”
Hurlbert told the council it needed to approve some kind of plan that could be given to the state so it could be included in the bids for the overall project.
“We can work on a few of the finishing details later,” Hurlbert said.
Schroedl said the council needed to approve an overall concept. Items like the types of trees the city wants to plant can be decided later.
Painter said a lot of the business owners had a bad taste in their mouths with what happened the first time trees were planted.
“I don’t want trees, but I can work around them if we can still move snow to the middle of the street,” Painter said. “If we do have an 8-foot area from the buildings to clear the snow, I am happy.”
Worrell said the composition of the businesses on Main Street has changed over the years.
“Ninety percent of Main Street businesses are now service oriented,” Worrell said. “Maybe 10 percent of them are retail.”
Fiala said he was open to the idea of including the 4-by-4 grates, but he was not in favor of including the concrete planter boxes and benches along Main Street.
“That would be a compromise,” Fiala said. “If people don’t like the trees years from now, we can fill in those grates.”
Heyer said he believed the city should include the irrigation and leaving the spots identified in the plan open for upgrades.
“I am willing to work on the type of vegetation, but we need to use this opportunity to do something or we are locked into that decision for 60 years,” Heyer said.
Heyer made a motion to move forward with the streetscape plan that included the irrigation, the tree grates, and the concrete planters and benches. That motion died for lack of a second.
Fiala made a motion to include the tree grates but leave the concrete planters and benches out of the final plan.
“I am ok with the trees, but not the planter walls,” Fiala said. “They would be too difficult to move snow around than just having trees.”
Fiala’s motion died for lack of a second.
Fernau made a motion to keep the beautification plans for the minipark but have only the decorated concrete for the remainder of the Main Street project. Barthel seconded that motion. The council split the vote 2-2, with Fernau and Barthel in favor and Heyer and Fiala voting against. Klammer was tasked with breaking the tie, and voted against Fernau’s motion.
Audience member Graig Kinzie said, following the results of the votes, the council would need to come up with some kind of compromise as the votes weren’t there to pass the full beautification project or to go strictly with concrete.
Fiala said he had bad memories from the past issues the city had with trees on Main Street, but he was willing to compromise and agree to beautify Main Street if it were made easier for snow removal.
Barthel said he has seen plenty of downtown areas that looked nice with decorative concrete and pole lights.
Hurlbert said the original design plan was based off input from public hearings.
“If you vary too much from that, grant funds for the project might not be available,” Hurlbert said.
Schroedl said, when applying for revitalization grants for the downtown project, the council would be required to submit a design study. The study the city currently has incorporates the trees on Main Street.
“The thought was the aesthetics could be captured in a downtown revitalization grant application,” Schroedl said. “The decorative concrete, the lights, the planters and the pole banners can all be included in the grant application.”
Heyer made a motion to substitute the concrete planters and benches with additional tree grates to keep the design spacing uniform. Fiala seconded the motion, saying individual businesses could then place removable planters in front of the buildings if they chose to do so instead of having the concrete planters.
That motion passed by a 3-1 vote, with Barthel casting the lone vote against.
“This was tough,” Fiala said. “We all want to make the city look nice. The citizens are going to have to help be a part of this.”
Painter thanked the council for the thoughtful discussion.
“You all have tough decisions to make,” Painter said.
In other only other agenda item during Wednesday’s special meeting, the council approved the city’s one- and six-year streets improvement plan following a public hearing.
Schroedl said the plan was basically a continuation of the previous year’s plan.
“There were no major adjustments,” she said. “With the highway projects, we don’t have the resources to do more than the North Main project this year.”
Schroedl said the goal was to include another street paving project in the six-year plan after the Highway 20 and Highway 7 renovation projects wrap up.
Fiala said he would like to see the city include Meadville Avenue from the Highway 20 intersection to the irrigation canal as part of its streets improvement plan.
“The county is redoing Meadville Avenue from the canal north,” Fiala said. “It might be a good time to try and have the contractor do that portion as well. It gets a lot of truck traffic, and it is pretty torn up. I would like to see concrete for the first block, then asphalt to the canal.”
Schroedl said the city’s budget this year for projects was all allocated for the North Main Street project.
Fiala said, when the city looks at a paving project, First Street also needed to be a priority as it is an emergency route.
Schroedl said the long-term goal for the city was concrete paving for both First Street and Pine Street.
Heyer said Pine Street was a priority for him. He said the city may receive some funds from the state if Pine Street was damaged while being used as the detour route during the Main Street renovation project.
Following the hearing, the council approved the one- and six-year plan adding the Meadville Avenue project as Fiala requested to the six-year plan.
The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. April 12.
* Brown County District Court proceedings
(Posted 5 p.m. March 15)
During Brown County District Court proceedings Tuesday, Matthew K. Zimmerman, age 22, of Long Pine was sentenced on two counts after previously entering pleas of guilty to charges of attempted assault on a peace officer and carrying a concealed weapon.
Zimmerman was sentenced to 60 days in jail with credit for three days served on the Class IV felony count of attempted assault, and was fined $800 on the misdemeanor concealed weapons count.
Also in District Court, James Wilson-Parker, 27, of Long Pine, appeared in court on a motion to revoke probation and the court’s order to appear and show cause. A bench warrant was issued for Wilson-Parker’s arrest in the amount of $5,000 cash bond.
* Census increasing, Care Center shows profit in February
(Posted 3:15 p.m. March 14)
There are now 26 residents living in the Sandhills Care Center, and the facility operated in the black during February.
The care center generated $212,716 in revenue during February. Revenue was bolstered by a higher than normal number of resident days paid for through Medicare, which reimburses at a much higher daily rate than both private pay and Medicaid.
Expenses during February were $196,381, leaving the facility with a net profit of $16,334 for the month. Administrator Penny Jacobs said, in addition to the increased Medicare revenue, expenses during February were down due to the fewer days in the month and no paid holidays.
The care center had sufficient cash and accounts receivable to cover expenses, and did not need to borrow additionally from its line of credit.
“We do have a three pay-period month in March, but that won’t be reflected until May,” Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said. “Our census is up, and our Medicare revenue was substantially higher.”
Jacobs said the care center admitted four new residents since the previous board meeting, with three residents discharged from the facility during that time. Of the 26 residents, 13 were paying privately, nine received Medicaid assistance, two received Medicare assistance and one was receiving hospice care.
Jacobs said the $50 daily rate increase for residents paying privately took effect March 1, which brings the private pay rate up to just above the Medicaid reimbursement level.
The administrator reported several students planned to return to work for the facility during the summer months, but the facility was in need of charge nurses and CNAs as well as help in the housekeeping and laundry departments.
“We did hire one new CNA, and we have one new full-time LPN in the works,” Jacobs said.
The board heard a report from Bryce Betke with RuralMED, who conducted a long-term review of the care center’s finances. Fuchs said Betke was brought in to review the care center’s operations and look for ways the facility could streamline.
Betke said, in reviewing the previous five years of operation, 2022 was just a horrible year for the care center, which was not unusual for nursing homes across the state and the country with COVID and a labor shortage.
“The government provided an additional $475,000 in COVID funds to help, but it wasn’t enough,” Betke said. “Your average residents per day went from around 24 down to 19 during COVID. It was just a hard time for residents and staff.”
Betke said resident numbers skewed more heavily toward those on Medicaid, which does not reimburse as well, and the facility had to utilize a substantial amount of contract labor during that period.
With that said, Betke said the care center is beginning to trend in the right direction.
“You have some great trends,” Betke told the board. “Your average residents per day increased from 19 in July to 21 in December, and now your average is 23.7 for January and February. Your average is above 24 for February. You are seeing improvement.”
Betke said a larger number of residents are paying privately, and Medicare resident days have increased.
“Your average cost per day has gone down as the census has increased,” Betke said. “That is another positive. You are on a good track. I know it is only two months, but you are starting a good trend. The goal is for this facility to be able to sustain operations on its own, generating enough revenue to pay for itself.”
Betke said, with the recent 12 percent and second 10 percent increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates, coupled with the facility increasing its private pay rates, the care center needed to average 24 residents per day to be near the break-even point.
Betke said there were specific items with the care center’s operations he would discuss with the board during executive session so as to protect employees.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. April 10.
* Hafer discusses Monday ACS School Board meeting
(Posted 10:15 a.m. March 14)
Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer provided information from Monday’s meeting of the Board of Education.
The audio is located below.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 7 a.m. March 13)
- Provided traffic control near the intersection of Highway 20 and 432nd Ave for a cattle crossing.
- Responded to a report of a loose dog on Cedar St in Ainsworth. The dog remained unclaimed for over a week and was placed up for adoption with Live Love Wag.
- Received a report of a dog bite that occurred to a juvenile in Ainsworth. The dog was current with a vaccine schedule, minimal injury was noted, and no criminal charges were filed by the reporting party.
- Received a report of a threatening statement made from a social media account. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Issued a written warning to a homeowner on Cedar St for city ordinance violations for parking.
- Issued a deadline to a homeowner on Woodward St in reference to city ordinance violations for unlicensed vehicles.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Long Pine. One patient was transported to the Brown County Hospital. Also on this day, they responded to a senior living facility and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
- Received a report of a reckless driver near the intersection of 432nd Ave and Highway 20. Without a vehicle description, deputies were unable to locate the vehicle.
- Received a report of livestock on Highway 20, near 434th Contact was made with the owner, who promptly removed them from the roadway.
- Received a complaint from the City of Ainsworth in regards to a homeowner on Ash Street in violation of city ordinances for trash, and unlicensed pets. A written warning was issued.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a senior living facility and transferred one patient to the Brown County Hospital. The ambulance later transferred this patient from Ainsworth to a Kearney, NE medical facility.
- Responded to a report of a stolen vehicle near the Ainsworth city limits border. The vehicle was determined not stolen and found present at a scheduled maintenance appointment.
- Received complaints involving neglect/abuse of a horse residing inside Long Pine City limits. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Received a report of loose horses on Highway 20, near mile marker 229. The owner was able to quickly remove them from the roadway.
- Responded to a report of a juvenile suspected to be under the influence while at school. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Received a traffic complaint from 3rd Street in Ainsworth in reference to excessive acceleration. Deputies were able to locate the vehicle, but unable to perform a traffic stop since the vehicle was parked.
- Received a report of a suspicious deer carcass found on a property South of Long Pine. All information was transferred to the Nebraska Game & Parks.
- Responded to a report of a suspicious individual in a business parking lot in Ainsworth. One Nebraska female was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs. She was booked into the Brown County Jail, and later posted bond to be released.
5– Burn Permits
16– Incident Reports Were Taken
124– Phone Calls Were Received
1– 911 Emergency Calls Received
2– Titles Were Inspected
4– Handgun Permits Applied For
6– Paper Services Were Served
* NCDC applying for Rural Workforce Housing funds
(Posted 10 a.m. March 10)
The North Central Development Center is in the process of applying for Rural Workforce Housing funds from the state of Nebraska.
The funds, if awarded, are used to construct new housing in the area as well as rehabilitate existing homes. While there is a local match required, the matching amount has been reduced by 50 percent. The NCDC is attempting to raise $500,000 to receive $1 million in funding from the state, which is then used as a revolving loan fund as houses are constructed or rehabilitated and sold.
NCDC Executive Director Kristin Olson visited with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie about the application process and how the funds can be utilized, and also discussed how employers and others can make tax-deductible contributions to the NCDC to help with the local matching requirements.
To hear that conversation, click on the audio link below. For more information on the project, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 402-387-2740 or text 402-760-3834.
* Graff elected as NARD Board vice president
(Posted 1 p.m. March 9)
The voting members of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts Board of Directors elected new officers during their board meeting March 6.
The NARD Board consists of representation from each of the Nebraska’s 23 Natural Resources Districts. The board meets five times throughout the year and helps guide the association and NRDs in decision making that protects lives, property and the future of Nebraska’s natural resources. The NARD Risk Pool Board governs the health insurance program for NRD employees.
The NARD Board elected Dr. Orval Gigstad from the Nemaha NRD as president. Gigstad has served on the Nemaha NRD Board since 1993 and the NARD Board since 1996.
Marty Graff of Ainsworth, representing the Middle Niobrara NRD, was elected as vice president of the NARD Board. Graff has served on the Middle Niobrara NRD Board 28 years.
Ryan Reuter of the North Platte NRD was elected secretary-treasurer of the NARD Board. Reuter, a sales manager with Betaseed and ACH Seeds, has served on the North Platte NRD and NARD boards since 2018.
Jim Eschliman from the Lower Loup NRD serves as past president of the NARD Board and NARD Risk Pool Board. He served as president from 2020-2022 and has been on the boards since 2016. Eschliman has served on the Lower Loup NRD Board 17 years, is the current chairman, and has also served on the program and projects committee.
* Council approves LB 840 loan, grant applications
(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 9)
Acting on recommendations from the LB 840 Loan Committee, the Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday approved a $140,000 business loan and a $10,000 façade grant from its LB 840 program.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the loan committee recommended approval of the $140,000 loan to Winters Millwright to purchase real estate in the city for a business start-up. Schroedl said the business did have the required matching funds secured, and the city would take a position on the building as collateral for the loan.
The façade grant was awarded to Josh and Talia Benson to replace seven windows and a door in a downtown business. Schroedl said the project met the requirements of the façade grant program, which covers 50 percent of the cost of façade improvements up to $10,000.
With Councilman Dustin Barthel absent, the council approved the loan request and the grant application.
In other business Wednesday, the council took no action on a tort claim submitted by Century Link’s parent company against the city totaling $7,425. Schroedl said the city decommissioned a well house near the intersection of Third and Pine streets. During the excavation, a Century Link fiber line was struck.
“We went through the Digger’s Hotline,” Schroedl said. “Their mark was off 3 feet from where the line was actually located.”
Schroedl said, if a digger utilizes 811 and has utilities located, the digger is not responsible if a line is marked incorrectly and then struck.
“I don’t feel the city is at fault as the line was marked incorrectly,” Schroedl said. “Twelve to 18 inches is standard for staying away from a marked line.”
Schroedl said, if the city had not used 811, the city would have been at fault.
“I think we have a pretty good argument that the city is not liable,” the city administrator said.
She said the council could either deny the claim, which would allow the company to file suit against the city immediately if it chose to do so. Or, the council could take no action. After six months, the company could file suit. She said she has visited with the League Association of Risk Management, the city’s liability insurance carrier, about the situation.
The council opted to take no action on the matter.
The council approved a pair of subdivisions Wednesday, one for Cory Griebel to subdivide one parcel into two. Griebel said he sold his house and his shop separately, and the purchaser of the home preferred to have the trees on the property included as part of the parcel that included the home.
Griebel said he had the property surveyed, and both the purchasers of the shop and the home were agreeable to the subdivision.
Schroedl said the subdivision met the city’s zoning regulations, and the council approved the request.
The second subdivision was requested by Casey Jones for property located just east of the Ainsworth city limits but within the city’s 1-mile zoning jurisdiction.
Jones said a 5-acre parcel located east of his former body shop location was being split between the new business owner and the property owners to the east of the parcel.
The council approved that subdivision request as well.
Following a public hearing, the council recommended approval to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission of a Class D Liquor License requested by Yogi’s Place LLC at the former J’s Keggers location.
After numerous meetings and negotiations back and forth, the council approved a counter proposal from Tower Alliance for leasing space on a tower owned by the city.
In the latest counter proposal, the company increased the upfront payment to the city to $10,000 and agreed to the $8,400 annual payment. However, instead of a 3 percent annual increase, the company put forth a 2 percent increase and added an additional five-year term to the previous proposal, meaning the agreement would extend the lease for five additional five-year terms instead of four.
The council approved advertising for bids to lease 34 irrigated farm acres owned by the city just south of the KBR Solid Waste Transfer Station. Schroedl said the agreement for the land lease was the same as it had been in the past. She said she would advertise for bids, which would be opened during the council’s April meeting.
The council took no action on a renewed law enforcement agreement between the city and the Brown County Sheriff’s Department. Mayor Joel Klammer said the city has continued to have discussions with the sheriff but was not at a point where it was ready to vote on a new agreement.
Councilman Brad Fiala said the sheriff’s department is doing a better job enforcing the city’s ordinances.
During her report, Schroedl said the city sent 35 letters to owners of properties in the city deemed to be vacant and violating city ordinance. She said there were 57 letters sent last year, so there had been efforts by some property owners to rehabilitate and either rent or sell vacant properties.
She said no fines were issued last year, but if those who receive letters this year do not make an effort to address the vacant building ordinance, the city could levy a $250 fine.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council was moved forward one day to Tuesday, April 11, as Klammer said he would be unavailable during the normally scheduled meeting April 12.
* Allen, Stutzman qualify for state speech
(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 9)
Class C2-3 District Speech
1. Plainview, 270; 2. Crofton, 212; 3. Summerland, 128; 4. Hartington Cedar Catholic, 112; 5. Bloomfield, 64; 6. Ainsworth, 58; 7. Tie between Burwell and Boyd County, 28.
Duet Acting – 1. Dakota Stutzman and Taylor Allen (state qualifier)
Serious Prose – 3. Taylor Allen (state qualifier); 5. Dakota Stutzman.
Extemporaneous – 6. Cole Bodeman
Duet Acting – 3. Brooklyn Eckert (state qualifier) and Brynn Almgren
Entertainment – 5. Brynn Almgren
Class D1-3 District Speech
1. Wausa, 330; 2. Creighton, 198; 3. Elgin/Elgin Pope John, 122; 4. Cody-Kilgore, 102; 5. Neligh-Oakdale, 60; 6. Sargent, 52; 7. Rock County, 26; 8. Randolph, 10.
Persuasive – 3. Kyra Anthony (state qualifier)
Poetry – 6. Dawson Deibler
* Stuart wins district speech championship
(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 9)
Class D2-4 District Speech
1. Stuart, 362; 2. Wheeler Central, 154; 3. Loup County, 88; 4. Mullen, 84; 5. Verdigre, 70; 6. Keya Paha County, 64; 7. Sandhills, 14; 8. Thedford, 10.
Entertainment; 1. William Paxton (state qualifier); 3. Maddux Alder (state qualifier)
Extemporaneous – 1. William Paxton (state qualifier) 2. Dawson Heiser (state qualifier)
Informative – 1. Chiana Tubbs (state qualifier) 2. Addisyn Ketteler (state qualifier)
Oral Interpretation of Drama – 1. Benjamin Paxton, Hunter Tubbs, Lacey Paxton and Sydney Estill (state qualifier) 3. Cameron Kaup, Elly Steinhauser, Gavynn Mustin, Megan Karo and Savannah Kramer (state qualifier)
Humorous Prose – 1. Benjamin Paxton (state qualifier); 3. Hunter Tubbs (state qualifier)
Poetry – 1. Lacey Paxton (state qualifier) 2. Savannah Kramer (state qualifier)
Serious Prose – 1. Sydney Estill (state qualifier); 2. Drew Schmaderer (state qualifier)
Persuasive – 1. Chiana Tubbs (state qualifier); 3. Andrew Yemma (state qualifier)
Program of Oral Interpretation – 1. William Paxton (state qualifier); 2. Elly Steinhauser (state qualifier)
Duet Acting – 3. Cameron Kaup and Drew Schmaderer (state qualifier); 5. Benjamin Paxton and Elly Steinhauser
Keya Paha County
Humorous Prose – 2. Elijah Clay (state qualifier) 4. Brenna Caulfield
Informative – 3. Ally Wenger (state qualifier)
Poetry – 3. Elijah Clay (state qualifier)
* Gotschall, Vogel qualify for state speech for West Holt
(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 9)
Class C1-5 District Speech
1. Boone Central, 298; 2. Grand Island Central Catholic, 236; 3. West Holt, 154; 4. Centura, 114; 5. Ord, 58; 6. Kearney Catholic, 26; 7. Gibbon, 14.
Extemporaneous – 1. Carter Gotschall (state qualifier); 5. Brooklynn Butterfield
Persuasive – 3. Lily Vogel (state qualifier); 5. Maci Nemetz
Duet Acting – 4. Hannah Olson and Teagan Butterfield
Humorous Prose – 4. Abigail Thiele; 5. Mary Hamilton
Poetry – 4. Violet Schwager
Entertainment – 6. Hannah Olson
Informative – 6. Sidney Burkinshaw
Serious Prose – 6. Madysen Kramer
Program of Oral Interpretation – 6. Violet Schwager
* Commissioners approve 1- and 6-year roads plan
(Posted 1 p.m. March 7)
Following a public hearing Tuesday in which no public comment was made, the Brown County Commissioners approved the county’s annual one- and six-year highway improvement plan.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported the roads department completed nine projects from the 2022-23 one-year plan, six using its own crew and three projects that were contracted.
“We usually get six or seven projects done, so it was a good year,” Turpin said.
Among the projects completed during the past year were regrading projects on portions of Road 884, 423rd Avenue, 428th Avenue and 429th Avenue.
The roads department resurfaced a northern portion of Meadville Avenue with clay, and replaced a closed bridge with culverts on 430th Avenue. In addition, the roads department performed overlay work on a portion of the South Pine Avenue asphalt, and changed a gravel road to asphalt on the Canal Road just north of Ainsworth.
The contracted projects completed during the past year were all armor coating projects.
The highway superintendent submitted a list of 20 projects on the 2023 one-year plan.
“Twenty projects is a lot to have on a one-year plan, but I like to have those projects there for flexibility,” Turpin said. “There are some that can only get done depending on the conditions. A lot of them are grading projects to alleviate snow drifting, which we really saw this year.”
The four largest projects on the county’s one-year plan are all on Meadville Avenue, including the replacement of the box culvert with a bridge across Sand Draw Creek. The price tag for that project is more than $2.1 million, for which the county is only responsible for a small percentage.
The commissioners previously approved replacing the asphalt on Meadville Avenue and taking out bonds to pay for the work over a period of time and take advantage of low interest rates. The asphalt overlay of Meadville Avenue was broken into three 2.5-mile segments, with each segment costing approximately $813,000.
Those projects have all been contracted out to private companies, with the county crew assisting with some of the grading and ditch work.
The other major project on the one-year plan is the replacement of a canal bridge on 427th Avenue at a cost of $133,000.
The one-year plan includes armor coating work on portions of Moon Lake Avenue, Norden Avenue and Road 880. On Tuesday, the commissioners opened two bids for armor coating work. The board approved the low bid of $18,747 per mile submitted by TopKote of Yankton, S.D. Figgins Construction of Red Cloud submitted a bid of $24,265 per mile for the work. Turpin said he planned to armor coat 12 to 15 miles of asphalt roads along those three routes near Johnstown, and may also armor coat the asphalt leading to the Ainsworth Airport.
The remainder of the projects on the one-year plan are gravel resurfacing and grading work.
Some of the major projects on the county’s six-year plan are bridge replacement projects on the Bar 25 Road, 426th Avenue and 432nd Avenue.
Turpin said he visits fairly frequently with people inquiring about road improvement projects as he works in the county, but he found it interesting that people don’t attend the public hearing to discuss projects on the one- and six-year plan.
Commissioners Denny Bauer and Jeremiah Dailey told Turpin they both had received compliments from members of the public about the road department’s work clearing snow this winter.
“You guys have done a great job,” Bauer said.
Following the public hearing, the commissioners approved the one- and six-year highway improvement plan as presented.
In another public hearing Tuesday, the commissioners heard no arguments against closing a portion of 438th Avenue located in Section 19, Township 29 North, Range 20 south of Long Pine.
The bridge on the stretch of dedicated road has been gone for several years and the road is impassable. The commissioners tabled taking action following the public hearing until a resolution on the road closure was prepared. That item will appear on the board’s March 21 agenda.
In other action items Tuesday, the commissioners approved a $5,850 quote from KPE Architecture and Engineering Forensics of Omaha to survey the existing courthouse roof structure and provide the board with a recommendation to either try and repair the existing roof structure or replace it.
The board also approved an agreement with Caleb Johnson to again serve as the county’s budget preparer. Johnson quoted the board $3,500 for that service, an increase of $300 from the previous year.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. March 21.
* Speech team competes in SWC meet
(Posted 7 a.m. March 7)
Six members of the Ainsworth High School speech team who were not competing at the District CDE competition traveled to Cozad Feb. 27 to compete in the Southwest Conference Speech competition. All Ainsworth speakers earned superior ratings, with the lone medalist for the day being Katherine Kerrigan with a sixth-place finish in persuasive speaking. The District C2-3 Speech Contest is scheduled for Wednesday at Plainview.
Katherine Kerrigan – 6th
Duet – Taylor Allen and Dakota Stutzman
Entertainment – Cole Bodeman
Extemp – Cole Bodeman
Extemp – William Biltoft
Humorous – Levi Goshorn
Persuasive – William Biltoft
Serious – Taylor Allen
Serious – Dakota Stutzman
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 6)
- Received a traffic complaint near the intersection of Rauscher Ave and 881st road involving a vehicle not stopping at the stop sign. The vehicle was later observed stopping at the sign.
- Issued a written warning for a city ordinance violation on Wilson St for vehicles with expired plates.
- Received a traffic complaint of a vehicle travelling in excessive speeds on 2nd
- Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after serving time towards a court commitment sentence.
- Received a traffic complaint on Highway 183 of a reckless driver. Deputies were able to make contact with the driver.
- Responded to a domestic disturbance in Ainsworth.
- Responded to a report of a stolen vehicle from Ainsworth. The vehicle was recovered later in the day.
- Received a report of suspicious activity on 2nd Street in Ainsworth.
- Responded to a report of suspicious activity on Maple St in Ainsworth.
- Provided a welfare check on Elm Street in Ainsworth. The individual was located and reported safe at this time.
- Received a report of livestock on Highway 20, East of Ainsworth. The owner was contacted and removed them from the roadway.
- Responded to a civil matter involving a property dispute. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Responded to a juvenile in a mental health crisis.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth. One patient was transported to the Brown County Hospital, and later transferred to the airport.
- Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail to serve time for a court commitment sentence.
- Released inmate from the Brown County Jail after completing a court commitment sentence.
- Received a report of a suspicious vehicle on a property near Long Pine. The property owner was contacted and confirmed the vehicle had access to be on that property.
- Received a report of an accident that occurred on March 2nd, near the Elm and 4th Street intersection. No injuries were reported, and both vehicles drove away from the scene.
- Responded to a report of suspicious activity on the cowboy trail. An individual was found removing spikes from the trail that could cause a hazard to bike tires or a tripping hazard. The individual was assisted in finishing the removal of the spikes.
- Received a written statement regarding harassment on an Ainsworth individual. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Provided traffic control at the intersection of Highway 7 and 876th road for cattle crossing.
17 – Incident Reports Were Taken
112 – Phone Calls Were Received
7 – 911 Emergency Calls Received
6- Titles Were Inspected
6 – Handgun Permits Applied For
4 – Paper Services Were Served
* False 911 calls claim active school shooters
(Posted 1 p.m. March 2)
The Nebraska State Patrol received information regarding several false reports of school shootings placed to 911 call centers across Nebraska Thursday morning. There is no credible information that any such school shooting has taken place in Nebraska. Among the schools targeted in the false calls were Valentine, Gering, Columbus, Grand Island, Hastings, Kearney, Lincoln and Omaha.
Earlier this week, the Nebraska Information Analysis Center, a division of the Nebraska State Patrol, provided a bulletin to law enforcement agencies across the state and the Nebraska Department of Education regarding a trend of “swatting” calls that had been reported in several other states this year, including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, and Vermont. That bulletin advised local agencies to be prepared in the event the calls target Nebraska schools, which is occurring today.
There have been distinct similarities in the calls received by schools in other states, such as the use of voice over internet technology to mask the caller’s identity and location, using or mocking a foreign accent, mispronouncing school or town names, and pretending that they are hiding inside the school themselves.
The Nebraska State Patrol is assisting any local law enforcement agencies and school districts that receive these calls. Anyone with information regarding the origin of these calls is urged to call NIAC at 888-580-6422 or submit an online tip at the NIAC Suspicious Activity Report site https://sars.nebraska.gov.
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 2:30 p.m. March 2)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Sandra S. Nilson, age 53, of Ainsworth, attempting a Class 4 felony, sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay $8,100 in restitution; also charged with procuring or selling alcohol to a minor, fined $500; speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Karsyn L. Irwin, 24, of Long Pine, barking dog, $100.
Barend J. Engelbrecht, 35, of Winner, S.D., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Edward J. Vodopich, 51, of Bassett, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Patsy-Kay Palmer, 20, of Ainsworth, attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Collin D. Jewett, 18, of Long Pine, minor in possession, $300.
Jared J. Kremlacek, 51, of Brandon, S.D., no valid registration, $25.
William B. Downing, 22, of Mitchell, S.D., possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.
Amber K. Paulson, 19, of Long Pine, no proof of insurance, $50.
Seann M. Prigge, 20, of Brighton, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Kate I. Lange, 30, of Denver, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Kiara J. Irwin, 22, of Atkinson, no license on person, $25.
Mariah A. Utter, 28, of O’Neill, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Michelle Hamar, 32, of Bassett, disturbing the peace, no fine levied.
Gregory C. Irwin, 41, of Ainsworth, assault by mutual consent, sentenced to 15 days in jail; misdemeanor false reporting, sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Jose E. Munguia Esparza, 29, of Baytown, Texas, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Tyler W. Cress, 33, of Ainsworth, no valid registration, $25.
Dalton R. Keating, 18, of Cody, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
* Louisiana man arrested after shooting near Hartington
(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 2)
The Nebraska State Patrol, with assistance from the Cedar County Sheriff’s Department, is investigating a shooting that occurred Wednesday morning in rural Cedar County, north of Hartington.
The incident occurred at a work site near the intersection of Highway 57 and 885 Road, approximately 1 mile north of Hartington. The Cedar County Sheriff’s Department responded and located a victim with multiple gunshot wounds. Witnesses at the scene were attempting life-saving measures on the victim.
The victim was transported to the Avera Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton where he succumbed to his injuries. The Cedar County Sheriff’s Department requested the Nebraska State Patrol conduct the homicide investigation.
Preliminarily, investigators believe the shooting occurred during a workplace argument between the suspect and the victim. The suspect, identified as David Phillips, 20, of Kenner, Louisiana, was taken into custody by the Cedar County Sheriff’s Department at the scene. Charges are pending.
The investigation remains ongoing. The identity of the victim is being withheld at this time pending notification of family.
* Schuckman discusses winter fish die-offs in area lakes
(Posted 2 p.m. March 1)
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Fisheries Biologist Jeff Schuckman visited with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie Wednesday about the potential for substantial winterkill of fish populations in northern Nebraska.
Schuckman encouraged anglers to report any findings of dead fish on area water bodies, public or private, to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
The conversation can be heard below.