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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* NCDHD confirms 132 COVID cases during past week

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

September 19

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

September 20

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

     September 21

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

September 22

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

September 23

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

September 24

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

September 25

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

        Weekly Summary

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

                    1 – Handgun Permits Applied For

                  17 – Incident Reports Were Taken

                    7 – Paper Services Were Served

                 168 – Phone Calls Were Received

                   10 – 911 Emergency Calls Received

                    4 – Titles Were Inspected

* Cherry Street work begins soon in Valentine

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

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

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

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

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

* Lions Club to work on park playground borders Saturday

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 23)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* COVID-19 cases prevalent in the NCDHD area

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

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

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

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

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

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

September 12

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

September 13

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

September 14

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

September 15

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

September 16

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

September 17

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

September 18

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

        Weekly Summary

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

                  3 – Handgun Permits Applied For

                 16 – Incident Reports Were Taken

                   3 – Paper Services Were Served

               222 – Phone Calls Were Received

                   9 – 911 Emergency Calls Received

                   6 – Titles Were Inspected

* Traffic Accident

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

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

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

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

* Sheriff’s department makes 4 DUI arrests during campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Wednesday town hall identifies priority projects 

(Posted 2 p.m. Sept. 16)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Week 3 KBRB Football contest decided in tie-breaker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Mobile food pantry set for Tuesday at Long Pine

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

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

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

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

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

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

* City of Ainsworth to armor coat streets Friday and Monday

(Posted 1 p.m. Sept. 14)

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

Streets scheduled for armor coat work include:

Oak Street from First to South streets

Dawes Street from Maple to Oak streets

Walnut Street from South to Front streets

First Street from Osborne to Wilson streets

Wilson Street from First to Fourth streets

First Street from Pine to Harrington streets

Second Street from Wilson to Woodward streets

Second Street from Walnut to Elm streets

Second Street from Park to Fullerton streets

Third Street from Harrington Street to Richardson Drive

Fifth Street from Woodward to Main streets

Eighth Street from Elm to Ash streets

Maple Street from First to Fourth streets

Maple Street from Fifth to Sixth streets

Walnut Street from Fifth to Sixth streets

Elm Street from Seventh to Eighth streets

Elm Street from First to Second streets

The Ainsworth Conference Center alley between Fourth and Fifth streets

* Commissioners approve 2021-22 budget Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Ainsworth, Rock County announce homecoming candidates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

August 22

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

August 23

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

August 24

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

August 25

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

August 26

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

August 27

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

August 28

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

        Weekly Summary

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

                    3 – Handgun Permits Applied For

                  20 – Incident Reports Were Taken

                    3 – Paper Services Were Served   

                193 – Phone Calls Were Received

                  11 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

                   6 – Titles Were Inspected

* Valentine man arrested on first-degree murder charge

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

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

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

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

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

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

The investigation remains ongoing.

* State Patrol searching for woman following Tuesday incident

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 25)

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

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

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

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

* COVID cases rising; vaccination clinic available this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

August 15

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

located and taken to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic.

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

August 16

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

August 17

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

August 18

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

August 19

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

August 20

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

August 21

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

        Weekly Summary

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

                    1 – Handgun Permits Applied For

                  15 – Incident Reports Were Taken

                   6  – Paper Services Were Served   

                 182 – Phone Calls Were Received

                    6 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

                    4 – Titles Were Inspected

* Firefighters respond to vehicle fire Wednesday

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

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

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

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

Fiala said damage was contained to the derby car itself.

* Area students named to Smith’s Youth Advisory Council

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

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

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

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

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

* Commissioners hear updates on several bridge projects

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 18)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Lions Club presents membership awards

(Posted 2 p.m. Aug. 17)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Vaccination clinics available in the area this week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* BCSD to participate in impaired driving enforcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Weekly Summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

August 8

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

August 9

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

August 10

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

August 11

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

August 12

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

August 13

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

August 14

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

        Weekly Summary

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

                    2 – Handgun Permits Applied For

                    17 – Incident Reports Were Taken

                    1 – Paper Services Were Served   

                    176 – Phone Calls Were Received

                    9 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

                    5 – Titles Were Inspected

* Ainsworth City Council meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Brown County District Court

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

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

State was represented by Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor

The following cases were heard:

State v. McNutt CR20-20

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

State v. Daniels CR21-5

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

* Fire report

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

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

* Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education meeting notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Fire report

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

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

* SunWise Community Solar program 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Weather warnings Thursday trigger wireless phone message

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Ainsworth students head back to class Aug. 12

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Commissioners opt not to increase levy for Meadville project

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Open house Tuesday for those interested in NPPD solar shares

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* COVID vaccination clinic available Wednesday at Valentine

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

July 25

  • Received reports of a missing dog. Animal was located and returned to the owner.
  • Received reports of possible lost or stolen property. Item was located.
  • Received report of erratic driving.  Deputies did not locate the vehicle
  • Responded to a noise complaint on N Main Street.
  • Investigated reports of a pig at large. Owner was contacted, and recovered the pig.

July 26

  • Responded to reports of a vehicle blocking traffic. Owner was contacted and the vehicle was moved.
  • Provided an agency assist with a gas drive off in a neighboring county.
  • Investigated reports of possible harassment in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co. Hospital
  • Provided an animal welfare check in Ainsworth. During the response the owner was cited for City Ordinance violation for grass and weeds. 
  • Received reports of a bull out near 866th and Hwy 7. The owner was contacted and the animal was put back into the pasture.
  • Received reports of two dogs at large. The owner was contacted and the animals were returned.

July 27

  • Provided an animal welfare check in Ainsworth.
  • Received reports of possible theft of lawn equipment from an Ainsworth residence. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received reports of possible harassment in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.

July 28

  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co. Hospital.
  • Received reports of possible child abuse or neglect in Ainsworth.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transported a Long Pine resident to the Brown Co. Hospital.
  • Provided a welfare check for an animal at an Ainsworth business.

July 29

  • Investigated reports of possible harassment of a minor in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Investigated a report of a vehicle accident without injury at a business in Ainsworth.
  • Received reports of a possible scam involving a Social Security number. Caller was advised to to contact the Attorney General Fraud Line 1-800-727-6432
  • Responded to an accident East of the 9A spur in Long Pine.
  • Responded to a report of a driver operating a motor vehicle without a license. Individual was arrested and booked into the Brown Co. Jail for suspended license and Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol.
  • Investigated a report of a vicious dog on Ash street. This is an ongoing investigation.

July 30

  • Received reports of cattle out on South Hwy 7. Owner was contacted and the animal was put back in the pasture.
  • After a high speed pursuit, a subject was arrested and booked into the Brown Co. Jail for willful reckless flight to avoid, speeding in excess of 100 MPH, and no operators license.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co. Hospital.

July 31

  • Investigated reports of a suspicious activity at Ainsworth business. No illegal activity was reported at this time.
  • Received a report of possible adult abuse or neglect in Long Pine. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transported an individual to the Brown Co. Hospital.
  • Deputies performed a public assist for an Ainsworth resident.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transferred an individual from the Brown Co. Hospital to the Ainsworth Regional Airport.

        Weekly Summary

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

                   0 – Handgun Permits Applied For

                  17 – Incident Reports Were Taken

                    5 – Paper Services Were Served   

               164  – Phone Calls Were Received

                  13 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

                   4 – Titles Were Inspected

               July Monthly Summary

                        9 – Accidents

                      6 – Arrests

                    79 – Calls for Service

         15 – Citations were issued

          4 – Defect Cards issued

          2 – Handgun permits issued

                      4 – Paper Service served

                  738 – Phone calls were received

                    38 – 911 emergency calls received

                    18 – Titles inspected

                    16 – Verbal & Written Warnings issued

* Sheriff’s department seeks information on pallet theft

(Posted 3:45 p.m. July 29)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information regarding the theft of pallets from a Highway 20 business.

According to the sheriff’s department, sometime between 11 and 11:30 a.m. on July 14, two men removed between 70 and 80 wood pallets from the Carquest lot. The suspects were driving a 1990s model Ford pickup, possibly with a flatbed trailer.

The business’s security cameras captured a photo of one of the suspects while the camera was also being stolen.

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

* DHHS issues air quality advisory through Sunday due to smoke

(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 29)

A smoke advisory due to Moderate (yellow) to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (orange) levels of smoke from wildfires in Canada may occur statewide in Nebraska beginning Thursday and continuing through Sunday. Intermittent Unhealthy impacts (red) in certain areas are also possible.

During yellow category/moderate conditions, sensitive groups should consider limiting prolonged outdoor exertion. When conditions rise to the orange category, sensitive groups are advised to reduce prolonged outdoor exertion. In red category/unhealthy conditions, sensitive groups should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion and consider moving activities indoors or rescheduling; others should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion and take more breaks during outdoor activities.

Wildfires in Canada and the western U.S. may affect the air quality in Nebraska. Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy staff monitor smoke levels and wind directions to assess when impacts to Nebraska’s air quality may occur. Smoke advisories are issued for impacted areas by notifying the media and local health departments and posting information on the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy’s web pages and social media sites. Advisories help citizens protect their health by alerting them to days where outdoor activities should be reduced or avoided to minimize exposure to smoke.

Advisories are based on data provided by National Weather Service, smoke plume modeling, and from air quality monitors located at Omaha, Bellevue, Lincoln, Grand Island, and Scottsbluff.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 12:45 p.m. July 29)

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

Sally R. Sam, age 23, of Onamia, Minn., charged with attempting a Class 4 felony, fined $1,000; also charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.

Bradley A. Brooke, 37, no address listed, attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500.

Tawni R. Gillis, 18, of Newport, driving on the shoulder, $25; no operator’s license, $75.

Shane R. Cole, 22, of Ainsworth, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Carsten Ganser, 22, of Ainsworth, no valid registration, $125.

Ronald J. Kolby III, 19, of Becker, Minn., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Thomas A. Derby Jr., 37, of Bellevue, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Jade J. Dailey, 19, of Ainsworth, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Tarran R. Evan, 22, of Huron, S.D., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; procuring or selling alcohol to a minor, $100; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Melissa A. Bunke, 39, of Aberdeen, S.D., two counts of attempting a Class 4 felony, fined $1,000 on each count; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Garth G. Swett, 30, of Long Pine, driving during revocation, $200; no proof of insurance, $200; no valid registration, $100; second offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for one day served, driver’s license revoked for 18 months and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Joseph M. Roberts, 44, of Thornton, Colo., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500.

Kalee A. Nelson, 24, of South Fargo, N.D., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Tyler W. Cress, 31, of Ainsworth, second offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to 10 days in jail with credit for one day served, six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 18 months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Lyndsay R. Harris, 21, of Fort Washakie, Wyo., possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Prosper A. Gilpin, 20, of Winnebago, zero tolerance violation, driver’s license impounded for 30 days; minor in possession of alcohol, $300; possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50; speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Payten L. Bottorf, 21, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75; minor in possession of alcohol, $300; no valid registration, $25.

Alexis Chacon Chacon, 24, of Northglenn, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Joseph L. Ferguson, 60, of Aurora, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

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

Nathan L. Sample, 25, of Fargo, N.D., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Cody F. Ferguson, 41, of Littleton, Colo., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Zachary W. Frazier, 27, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Daniel R. Mizner, 25, of Bassett, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Robin A. Benson, 72, of Mount Pulaski, Ill., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

George E. Clennin, 47, of Pierce, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Martin Baca, 40, of Parker, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Derek A. Friday, 55, of Boulder, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; no operator’s license, $75.

Dallas Hughbanks, 39, of Ainsworth, domestic assault, sentenced to 20 days in jail with credit for one day served.

Robyn Zeigler, 29, of Seward, attempting a Class 4 felony, $200.

* Power pool expects high demand Thursday and Friday

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 29)

The Southwest Power Pool, of which the Nebraska Public Power District is a member, has declared a period of Conservative Operations for the entire 14-state balancing authority footprint effective from noon Thursday until 8 p.m. Friday.

The need for a declaration of Conservative Operations is due to hot-weather conditions causing high electricity use that is expected to persist through the afternoon peak on Friday. The declaration is intended to inform market participants they should make available all necessary generating resources to meet the high demand the power pool anticipates across its region.

Looking ahead, the Southwest Power Pool does not currently anticipate the need to request public conservation of energy or to direct controlled service interruptions.

A declaration of Conservative Operations precedes and is less severe than Energy Emergency Alerts like those the power pool issued during the February winter weather event. During periods of Conservative Operations, no action is required of the pubic unless specifically directed by a local utility.

Weather Alerts and Resource Alerts are communicated to power pool members to ensure they’re aware of conditions that could lead to reliability issues if they worsen. With the escalation to Conservative Operations, the power pool signals there is further need to operate its system conservatively based on weather, environmental, operational, cyber or other events. To prevent conditions from worsening, the power pool may commit generation to serve load earlier than during normal operations and ahead of standard day-ahead market processes. The power pool sends specific instructions regarding conservative operation of generation and transmission facilities to its member utilities.

* Vaccination clinic available Friday at O’Neill

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 27)

The North Central District Health Department has a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic available from 3:30 until 5:30 p.m. Friday, July 30, in the O’Neill Armory for those who have not been vaccinated and want to protect themselves from the new Delta variant.

The NCDHD was made aware of 11 new COVID-19 cases in the district during the past week. The new confirmed cases include two in Brown County, five in Holt County and one in Boyd County.

NCDHD has been releasing new videos with the series called COVID CHAT to address COVID related misconceptions, facts, frequently asked questions and more. Look to the NCDHD’s social media channels and website for videos uploaded each Thursday.

A total of 17,294 residents of the nine counties served by the North Central District Health Department have completed vaccination. Another 455 people have received one shot in the two-shot series. A total of 48.1 percent of residents 16 and older have now been vaccinated against the virus.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 26)

July 18

  • Responded to reports of minors drinking at a residence on N. Maple Street in Ainsworth.
  • Assisted a motorist 3 miles East of Ainsworth on Hwy 20.
  • Assisted an ongoing investigation with an allied agency involving a scam business. 
  • Investigated a report of a reckless driver in Long pine.
  • During a traffic stop on Hwy 20 a citation was issued for Speeding 55 in a 35, Open alcohol container, Possession of marijuana more than one ounce, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

July 19

  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transported a patient from an Ainsworth residence to the Brown Co Hospital.
  • Received reports of a gas drive off from an Ainsworth business. The subject was located and paid for fuel.
  • Investigated a report of possible harassment
  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transferred a patient from Brown Co Hospital to North Platte
  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a civil property dispute.
  • Received reports of a missing or runaway juvenile in rural Brown Co. Authorities reported the individual was located in another county.
  • Received reports of possible child abuse or neglect in Ainsworth.

July 20

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient from an Ainsworth residence to the Brown Co Hospital
  • Responded to reports of a reckless driver in a construction zone on S Hwy 7. Vehicle was not located at the time. 
  • Responded to reports of a vehicle driving recklessly in the East City Park area. Driver was not located at this time.
  • Responded to a report of two children that had wandered away from their residence and were unattended in Ainsworth. The parent was contacted and a verbal warning was issued.
  • Investigated reports of possible child endangerment at a Long Pine business.
  • Received reports of a found dog. The owner was contacted and the dog was returned.

July 21

  • Responded to reports of a reckless driver on S Hwy 7. The vehicle was reported not located at this time.
  • Provided a civil standby for an individual at Ainsworth assisted living facility.
  • Responded to reports of a four wheeler driving recklessly in Ainsworth. Subject was located and given a verbal warning.
  • Investigated reports of kids loitering on property. Juveniles were located and removed from the property.
  • A citation was issued for a failure to comply with City Ordinance Violation on Osborne St. for grass and weeds.
  • Assisted a motorist on Hwy 183 after receiving a report of a vehicle stranded on the side of the road with a blown tire.

July 22

  • Responded to request for a welfare check for an individual at a Long Pine residence. The Brown Co Ambulance Association also responded and transported the resident to the Brown Co. Hospital.
  • Provided traffic control on Hwy 20 for a service in Ainsworth.
  • Assisted with a civil dispute involving property at a residence in Ainsworth.
  • Received reports of a possible scam involving a Social Security number. Caller was advised to to contact the Attorney General Fraud Line 1-800-727-6432

July 23

  • Responded to a car/deer accident without injury on Hwy 20 near Plum Creek.
  • Responded to a report of hazardous debris on Hwy 20. Debris was removed.
  • Received reports of cow out on W 7th St. in Ainsworth. Owner was contacted and the cow was returned to pasture.
  • Investigated reports of road damage on Meadville Avenue N of the irrigation canal. The Brown County Road crew was contacted and put barriers in place. This segment of Meadville Avenue is closed to traffic until repairs are finished.
  • Received reports of a fire hydrant possibly damaged or knocked down on Main Street. The Ainsworth Fire Department was contacted.
  • Received reports of possible gunshots outside of Long Pine city limits. No suspicious activity was reported at this time.

July 24

  • Investigated reports of possible criminal mischief in rural Brown Co., this is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received reports of possible theft of property in Johnstown. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to a report of an erratic driver on Hwy 20 near Long Pine. No violations were reported at this time.

Weekly Summary

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

      2 – Handgun Permits Applied For

     17 – Incident Reports Were Taken

       8 – Paper Services Were Served     

   173 – Phone Calls Were Received

      3  – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

       4 – Titles Were Inspected

* Tushla’s life and service remembered in Atkinson

(Posted 1:45 p.m. July 22)

The repatriation of Louis Tushla’s remains were held Saturday in Atkinson after a forensics laboratory at Omaha’s Offutt Air Force Base identified the Atkinson native who was killed in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.

Ken Stenka, the service officer with the Farley/Tushla American Legion Post at Atkinson, spoke to KBRB’s Graig Kinzie, highlighting Tushla’s life and military service, as well as the process of identifying his remains from the USS Oklahoma.

To hear the conversation, click on the audio link below.

* Louisiana man sentenced to prison term Monday

(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 22)

During Brown County District Court proceedings Monday, David Goss, age 64, of Alexandria, La., appeared for sentencing after having been previously found guilty on two felony counts.

Goss was sentenced to between 20 years and 30 years in prison following the guilty finding on one count of first degree assault, a Class II felony, and one count of terroristic threats, a Class IIIA felony.

Goss was remanded to the Nebraska Department of Corrections to begin serving the sentence. He was given credit for 291 days served.

* Hafer discusses local board control over policy decisions

(Posted 10 a.m. July 20)

Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer visited with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie on the topic of school board policies.
Hafer discussed how the Board of Education enacts policies related to curriculum and to operating the district in general.
Hafer addressed the controversial health standards proposal that was initially released by the Nebraska Department of Education, and how the initial proposal is being amended at the state level based on concerns raised by the public. Hafer said, despite the final version, it will still be under the control of the local board to implement any curriculum policy.
To hear the conversation, click on the audio link below.

* Lions Club installs officers and directors Monday

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

During its annual family picnic Monday at East City Park, the Ainsworth Lions Club installed its new officers and directors. Bob Beatty was installed as the incoming Lions Club President, replacing Vance Heyer. Heyer moves to the past-president position. Dale Hafer was named the vice-president, with Kim Bejot the recording secretary, Jerry Ehlers the secretary, and Phil Fuchs the treasurer.

Bill Lentz was installed as the club’s membership director. Dwain Grunke was named the Tail Twister and Steve Salzman the Lion Tamer. Directors appointed to the board Monday were Evan Evans, Roger Lechtenberg, Amy Dike and Larry Rice.

* Walk-in COVID vaccination clinics available this week

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

The North Central District Health Department has walk-in COVID vaccination clinics available this week. Those who have not yet been vaccinated can protect themselves from infection by visiting the Rock County Hospital Clinic from 1 until 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, the Butte Community Center from 3:30 until 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, or the Cherry County Hospital specialty clinic from 11 a.m. until noon Thursday.

The NCDHD was made aware of 10 new COVID-19 cases in the district in the past week. Among the new cases confirmed were one in Brown County, two in Cherry County, one in Holt County and two in Boyd County. Nine people recovered from the virus during the past week, including three recoveries in Brown County and one each in Holt and Boyd counties.

NCDHD will be launching a new video series called COVID CHAT to address COVID related misconceptions, facts, frequently asked questions and more. Look to our social media channels and website for videos to be uploaded each Thursday.

A total of 44.4 percent of people age 16 and older in the nine counties served by the North Central District Health Department are fully vaccinated. A total of 15,983 people have completed their vaccination series. Another 328 are partially vaccinated. Vaccination remains the best method to protect yourself from severe illness, including from the new Delta variant.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 19)

July 11

  • Investigated an abandoned vehicle accident 1.2 M North of the South Brown County line on Hwy 7.
  • Brown County Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown County Hospital.

July 12

  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Investigated reports of property damage to a building in Johnstown.
  • Issued a correction notice for a City Ordinance Violation for grass and weeds at an Ainsworth residence on Oak St.
  • Responded to reports of the unlawful discharge of fireworks on 2nd Street in Ainsworth.

July 13

  • Deputies responded to reports of a domestic disturbance in Long Pine.
  • Investigated an accident without injuries at the 9A Spur in Long Pine.
  • Issued a correction notice for a City Ordinance Violation for trash on property and an inoperable vehicle.
  • Investigated reports of a gas drive off from an Ainsworth business.
  • Investigated reports of possible stalking in Ainsworth.

July 14

  • Responded to a request for a welfare check at Camp Witness.
  • Responded to reports of a noise complaint involving a barking dog at a residence on 5th Street in Ainsworth.
  • Provided an agency assist with a possible traffic hazard on Hwy 20 involving a report of animals on the Hwy.
  • Investigated reports of possible theft from an Ainsworth business. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transferred a patient from Brown Co Hospital to Norfolk Faith Regional.
  • Responded to reports of a juvenile out of control at an Ainsworth residence.
  • Investigated a report of possible elderly abuse or neglect in Ainsworth.
  • Issued a correction notice for a City Ordinance Violation for overgrown grass and weeds at an Ainsworth residence.
  • Responded to reports of an erratic driver on Hwy 20 W of Ainsworth. Vehicle was located and no violations were observed at this time.

July 15

  • Investigated a report of a City Ordinance Violation at an Ainsworth residence.
  • Responded to a report of a civil dispute at an Ainsworth residence on South Maple Street. A civil standby was initiated to resolve the issue.
  • Investigated reports of the unlawful discharge of fireworks within Ainsworth city limits.

July 16

  • Responded to a report of a vicious dog running at large on Walnut St. in Ainsworth. An individual was reported in danger at this time. The animal was taken into custody and seized.
  • Responded to reports of Disorderly Conduct at the Brown County Courthouse in the driver’s examination room.
  • Investigated a report of an abandoned vehicle W of the Long Pine bridge on Hwy 20.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check involving a juvenile at an Ainsworth residence.
  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association assisted providing equipment for a patient transfer by helicopter at Brown County Hospital.

July 17

  • Investigated a report of an accident without injury at an Ainsworth business parking lot.
  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transported a patient to Brown County Hospital.
  • Responded to a request for assistance recovering medication for an individual receiving hospital care that was locked out of residence.
  • Responded to reports of a runaway juvenile from an Ainsworth residence. Juvenile was located and returned to the caretaker.

Weekly Summary

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

        1 – Handgun Permits Applied For

      24 – Incident Reports Were Taken

        5 – Paper Services Were Served    

    160 – Phone Calls Were Received

        6 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

        3 – Titles Were Inspected

* Treasurer, state senator discuss financial literacy curriculum

(Posted 8:15 a.m. July 16)

Nebraska State Treasurer John Murante and State Sen. Julie Slama visited with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie about a bill recently passed in the Legislature requiring students to take one semester of a financial literacy course prior to graduation.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

* City Council opts to offer solar shares to the community

(Posted 7 a.m. July 15)

With the mayor breaking a 2-2 deadlock, the Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday approved allowing the public to obtain the remaining shares of power that will be produced by the solar array under construction on the south side of East City Park.

Brittney Koenig with the Nebraska Public Power District asked the council how it wanted to make the remaining 221 shares of solar power available to commercial and residential customers in the city.

“One thing we have done in other communities is limit customers to five or 10 shares,” Koenig said. “Otherwise, there are several large-use customers who could take most or all of the available shares.”

Koenig said, when the council provides direction on how it wants to distribute the shares, NPPD will schedule an open house and sign up power customers interested in obtaining shares of the solar power produced.

“We can look up their energy consumption and will have the solar agreement right here with us,” Koenig said. “GRNE is about as far along as they can go. We will have our construction crews up here soon. We are having a hard time getting some of the materials, but everything should be complete by September or October at the latest.”

Councilman Vance Heyer said he would prefer to see the remaining solar shares go to the hospital or the school, places everyone is helping to pay for.

“If they go to tax-funded entities, everyone benefits,” Heyer said.

Heyer said that was the council’s reasoning for retaining the majority of the solar shares, that by reducing the city’s monthly electric bill, all residents benefitted.

Councilman Schyler Schenk said he wanted to see the shares offered to the public.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the city office has received substantial interest in the solar shares from residential customers.

Mayor Joel Klammer said the solar project has been promoted as a community project, and he would like to see residential customers have a shot at obtaining some of the shares.

“I know there is interest in the community,” Klammer said.

Councilman Brad Fiala said, if the council limited each customer to six shares, there would be enough for about 37 people to sign up.

“I think it would be different if we had 2,000 shares to offer,” Fiala said.

Schenk moved to allow residential and commercial NPPD customers in the city to purchase up to 10 shares of solar power. Schenk and Fiala voted in favor of the 10-share limit, while Heyer and Councilman Shawn Fernau voted against. As mayor, Klammer broke the deadlock and voted to proceed with the 10-share limit.

Koenig said NPPD would schedule an open house to allow people to sign up for the shares. Those signing up for shares in the solar power will pay a $50 deposit, which is refunded after three years in the program. If a customer obtains the full 10 shares, they will receive a monthly credit of between $7 and $8 on their monthly power bill, as the solar power is produced at a cheaper rate than NPPD’s base rate for power.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved a recommendation from the LB 840 Loan Committee to provide a $276,399 loan from the program to a qualifying business. Loan Committee member Jim Arens said the committee reviewed the application for the loan funds and unanimously recommended the application be approved.

“It is an eligible business under the plan,” Arens said. “There were a few questions on the loan terms, but everything is now finalized.”

Schroedl said the city’s LB 840 attorney reviewed the loan documents and determined it did comply with program guidelines.

The council approved a request from Graig Kinzie representing the Ainsworth Lions Club to allow a water well to be drilled in the southeast corner of East City Park to provide supplemental water to a community fishing pond that is being planned for ground owned by Brown County east of the hospital and just west of the solar array and soccer fields at the park.

Kinzie said the group’s preferred site for a well near the pond was not possible due to a neighboring property owner refusing to provide a waiver due to the proximity to a current irrigation well. Kinzie said that prompted the location of an alternate site.

“We have to stay 1,000 feet from a current city well east of the swimming pool,” Kinzie said. “There are no exceptions to that distance. We have to be 600 feet from existing wells unless we receive a waiver from the existing well owner. This site keeps us more than 1,000 feet from the city well, and it is more than 600 feet from any other existing wells.”

Kinzie said there would be no cost to the city for the well’s construction, but he may request at a later date if the council would consider paying for the cost of the power needed to run the well and provide water to the pond.

He said there would be some additional cost to pipe the water from the well site west to the pond, but the site checked all the boxes the group needed to check. He said the pipe would run south of the solar array between the array site and the border fence to the Cowboy Trail.

The council approved allowing the site to be used for a well.

Dan Spier approached the council about the way the city selects detour sites when Main Street is closed for the carnival.

“I understand First Street to Pine Street used to be the preferred route but was rejected due to the intersection?” Spier asked. “Both Osborne and Pine streets have the same width of intersection with First Street.”

Spier said his concern with the council using Osborne Street as the recent detour route during the carnival was the intersection with Highway 20.

“The speed limit doesn’t change until just before Osborne Street,” Spier said. “It has arguably the least visibility of any intersection in town. There is 10 feet of drop from Osborne Street to Wilson Street.”

Spier asked the council to retain an expert and get an opinion on how large an intersection needs to be to allow a semi to safely turn.

Klammer said the city worked with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department to determine the detour route.

“That route was the sheriff’s recommendation,” Klammer said. “No detour route is perfect. We have some time to investigate, and I appreciate your concerns.”

Heyer said he believed part of the reason Osborne Street was used was because it was concrete and would handle the additional traffic better. He said the council needed to continue to work toward getting concrete for more streets.

Fiala said First Street to Pine Street would be ideal for a detour if it was concrete since there were already parking restrictions on both First Street and Pine Street.

In other action items Wednesday, the council called three sewer utility bond notes totaling $1.46 million, as the city is consolidating the debt incurred to improve sewer lines in the city with a long-term note from the USDA.

Schroedl said the city had to take out the bonds to pay for the work initially, but had been pre-approved for a 40-year note from the USDA at 2 percent interest.

She said the city received Community Development Block Grant funding to pay for a portion of the sewer improvement project, so the city would only borrow $1.27 million instead of the $1.46 million it was calling on the utility bonds.

“It is good to have the low interest rates from the USDA, but this is a process to work through,” Schroedl said.

The council approved recommending to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission that a manager application be approved for the Ainsworth Elks Club liquor license. Schroedl said the Elks already has a license, this application is just naming a new manager.

The council approved adopting the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency’s 2021 Hazard Mitigation Plan. She said, even though Brown County has withdrawn from Region 24, the hazard mitigation plan is up to date and it benefits the city to adopt the plan to use during emergency situations.

The council also approved renewing its liability and workman’s compensation insurance policies with LARM for the next three years at a 5 percent discount. Schroedl said the city could take the 5 percent discount by agreeing to a three-year contract, or it could decide to go out for bids for the insurance.

Fiala said the city has been happy with LARM’s performance in the past. Schroedl said LARM has been good to work with any time there is a claim.

With the 5 percent discount, the city will pay LARM $89,865 for 2021-22 fiscal year coverage.

The council also voted to close a West Plains Bank account from the Community Development Block Grant re-use loan fund and transfer any remaining dollars to the West Plains account holding the CDBG housing rehabilitation loan funds.

In an old business item, the council tabled taking any action on its vacant building ordinance until the committee has a chance to meet and make a recommendation to the council.

During her report, Schroedl told the council the city has received the first half of its allotment of American Rescue Act funding totaling $143,360.

“There are conditions on what the money can be used for, and it has to be kept in a separate account,” Schroedl said.

She said the second half of the funding will arrive next year.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Aug. 11.

* Care Center Board approves 2021-22 fiscal year budget

(Posted 2:30 p.m. July 13)

The Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors on Monday adopted the 2021-22 budget, which anticipates an operating loss of more than $200,000.

Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said, like in previous years, the board was conservative in its budget estimates.

“The budget has been a work in progress, but I feel like we are fairly accurate,” Fuchs said.

He said the 2020-21 budget also projected an operating loss, but the care center was able to operate for that fiscal year without pulling any money out of its savings account.

“We were able to cover our costs with our operating revenue and some federal government funding that came in,” Fuchs said.

The board chairman estimated the care center would need to average between 24 and 25 residents to break even, with the budget forecast starting with the current census of 18 residents and building to 22 residents by the end of the fiscal year.

“We will continue to work on building our census,” Fuchs said. “With COVID going away slowly, we should be able to increase our resident population.”

The budget approved Monday anticipates revenue of $1.47 million with projected expenses of $1.69 million for an operating loss of $219,488. Fuchs said the care center currently has $341,090 in its savings account, and the care center did not have to utilize the $80,000 pledged by both the city of Ainsworth and Brown County for the second straight year. Each of the two entities originally committed $80,000 annually in funding to assist care center operations for five years. Fuchs said that five-year funding commitment has now expired, but the care center did not request the funding from the city or county during the past two years, saving each entity $160,000 in total.

Fuchs reported the Medicaid reimbursement rate increased by 10 percent, with the care center now receiving $193 per day from the state for each resident utilizing Medicaid services. The private pay rate is $200 per day.

Fuchs said there were no major expense items anticipated during the 2021-22 fiscal year, only maintenance projects. He said the care center has a previous loan through Homestead Bank for heating and air conditioning units, but the Brown County Foundation provides $10,000 annually to the care center to aid in that $12,657 annual loan payment.

Fuchs reported the new generator is scheduled to be built Aug. 15 and shipped after that. He anticipated the generator would be installed sometime in September. The care center received a grant to cover 75 percent of the $64,500 generator cost, leaving the care center $16,125 to fund. He said the facility has already paid $5,000 of its portion for the generator.

With its adoption Monday, Fuchs said he would now present the 2021-22 budget to both the Ainsworth City Council and the Brown County Commissioners.

During June, the final month of the 2020-21 fiscal year budget, the care center generated $130,892 in revenue with expenses of $124,763 for an operating margin of $6,129 for the month.

Administrator Penny Jacobs reported the care center used a recruiting agency to hire a new director of nursing. The new DON begins July 20 and will be a full-time employee of the nursing home, not a contract employee. The care center paid Leader Stat a one-time recruiting fee of $15,600 that led to the hiring of the director of nursing. The facility paid $16,305 during June for agency staffing to cover staffing shortages.

Jacobs said, in addition to hiring a director of nursing, the facility has filled three CNA positions and an open cook position since the June board meeting. She said she made an offer for the open activities director position, and the person accepted. Jacobs said the new activities director would start soon.

Jacobs reported there were currently 18 residents in the Sandhills Care Center. There were four admissions during the past month, one resident was discharged to another facility and three residents passed away during the month.

During Monday’s meeting, Fuchs was reappointed as the board chairman, with Tom Jones appointed as the vice chair and Buddy Small as the secretary-treasurer. Travee Hobbs was appointed as the recording secretary.

Tom Jones was added as a signatory on the care center’s bank accounts along with Fuchs, Small and Jacobs.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. Aug. 9.

* School Board approves video board installation in gymnasium

(Posted 7 a.m. July 13)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education approved the installation of a large video board in McAndrew Gymnasium by assisting the Booster Club with the cost of installing the video board once it is purchased.

Superintendent Dale Hafer told the board the Booster Club is moving forward with purchasing the video board, and is selling advertising to local businesses to pay for its cost.

“The Booster Club will make payments on the board over the next five years with the proceeds it raises from advertising on the video board,” Hafer said.

Activities Director Jared Hansmeyer said the Booster Club should be able to raise enough through display advertising to make the payments, and might be even a little cash positive if enough businesses support the project.

Hansmeyer said the video board would be installed on the northwest wall of McAndrew Gymnasium. He estimated the installation cost to be between $10,000 and $15,000, which the board approved covering. Hansmeyer said the Booster Club was hoping to have the video board installed by Dec. 1.

In a related item, the board learned Monday the gym floor installation project continues to be delayed by the lack of materials.

“The hang-up is getting the maple flooring delivered,” Hafer said. “It is frustrating. The finish date has been pushed back a week into August instead of the end of July.”

After the gym floor is installed, it will be another two weeks before it can be used.

Activities Director Scott Steinhauser said practice time is going to be the issue.

“We should be fine for having it ready for the first home volleyball game,” Steinhauser said.

Typically, the district would utilize the Ainsworth Conference Center gym for practices while the McAndrew gym floor is not available. However, a portion of the Conference Center gym floor was damaged due to a water pump leak recently and part of that damaged gym floor has been removed.

Hafer reported the roofing project has also been delayed due to a delay in getting the insulation for the project delivered.

“The window project is progressing well, and the cement work is going well,” Hafer said.

He said the concrete has been replaced at the east elementary entrance. The west elementary entrance concrete will be replaced soon, followed by the concrete leading to the west A entrance.

Hafer said the new windows not only make the building look nice, but will be significantly more energy efficient than the previous windows.

In other business Monday, the board approved keeping its bus routes the same for the 2021-22 school year as they were during the 2020-21 year.

The Long Pine route will pick up and drop off students at the Long Pine Palace. The Johnstown route will make highway stops at both Rauscher Avenue and Moon Lake Avenue in addition to its main stop at the church in Johnstown.

The board approved the student-parent, athletics-activities and teacher handbooks for the 2021-22 year. Hafer said there were not many changes to the handbooks for the upcoming year, and he recommended their approval.

“I am comfortable with each of them,” the superintendent said after reviewing each.

Board member Brad Wilkins asked how the handbooks were distributed. Hafer said the handbooks are available on the school’s web site, but copies are made available upon request.

The board approved the first reading of updated policies recommended for approval by the Nebraska Association of School Boards. Hafer said the updates take into account new legislation passed at the state level as well as a few other policy changes and additions.

“Most of them are pretty straight-forward,” Hafer said of the changes.

The board approved declaring several smaller items as surplus and allowing Hafer to promote the sale of the items to the public.

Hafer said most of the items were smaller, such as older chairs, tables, cabinets and desks that are no longer of use to the school. He said the district would offer the items for sale through garage sales, silent auction or online.

In a final action item Monday, the board approved an option enrollment request to allow Jaxon Cozad to attend Rock County Public Schools. Hafer said the other Cozad children also attend school at Rock County.

Hafer reported the district has received $67,692 in reimbursement for the first round of federal funding the district used to complete a portion of its reading curriculum upgrade. He said the district would receive reimbursement for the remainder of that purchase from the second round of federal funding. The second round of funding was also used to purchase new laptop computers for the high school. Reimbursement for that purchase would likely come through in September.

Hafer said the district is scheduled to receive approximately $530,000 in federal funding from the third round, or ESSR III.

“We can take our time with this,” Hafer said of identifying projects for utilizing the funds. “We have a couple school years to use it.”

Hafer said the district will continue to take input from the community on ways to utilize the federal funding.

“It makes sense for us to have a work session to look at some of the options,” the superintendent said. “The plan is to use it to tackle things that we have already been planning to do.”

He said, while there was a little delay from the time the district spends the money until it is reimbursed, the plan would be to budget for the expenditure and reimbursement within the same budget year.

“Using these funds will make our budget look bigger, but it won’t mean we ask for more in property tax,” Hafer said. “We are in a good place, and our goal would be to move the district forward and still hold our property tax request as low as possible.”

Hafer said his hope was the district would not ask for any increase in property taxes for the upcoming budget.

“Our hope would be a zero percent increase or somewhere close,” he said.

Hafer said he was working on the budget now, and would have several options for the board to choose from during an upcoming budget retreat.

The board approves the annual budget and property tax request during its September meeting.

Hafer also reported Monday the district has posted its “Plan for Safe Return” for the 2021-22 school year. He said the plan was similar to the district’s re-entry plan from the previous year.

Having the plan meets a requirement for the federal ESSR III funding. He said the plan would be to begin the school year normally.

“We will continue our cleaning and disinfecting, and we will encourage students to stay home if they don’t feel well,” Hafer said.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 9.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

July 4
Assisted an allied agency with reports of a gas drive-off involving an Ainsworth resident.
The Long Pine Rural Fire Department responded to reports of a grass fire near N Cedar Street.
During a traffic stop on Hwy 20 a subject was arrested for Driving Under the Influence. Subject was booked into the Brown Co Jail.

July 5
During a traffic stop at the Hwy 20 & Hwy 183 Jct., a subject was arrested for driving on a revoked license. Subject was booked into the Brown Co Jail.
Provided a motorist assist to an individual who had run out of fuel on Hwy 7.

July 6
* Released two subjects from the Brown County Jail.

Investigated reports of possible credit card theft involving an Ainsworth resident. This is an ongoing investigation.
Responded to a request for a welfare check on an individual having mental health issues at an Ainsworth residence.

July 7
Received reports of possible child abuse or neglect at an Ainsworth residence.
Provided assistance to an allied agency regarding a missing juvenile. The juvenile was located at an Ainsworth residence and custody was released to authorities in the jurisdiction of responsible caregivers.
Investigated reports of possible fraud phone calls involving money laundering.
This is an ongoing investigation. The individual involved was also referred to the Attorney General Fraud Line.
Investigated reports of child abuse and neglect at an Ainsworth residence. This is an ongoing investigation.

July 8
Received reports of an individual who was bitten bya dog at an Ainsworth residence. This is an ongoing investigation.
Responded to a request for a welfare check on an individual having possible mental health issues at an Ainsworth residence.

July 9
Investigated reports of a possible missing person from a Long Pine residence. Individual was located by a family member.
During three separate traffic stops, three speeding citations were issued for excessive speed.

July 10
Investigated a report of a car/deer accident on Hwy20 near Ainsworth Municipal Golf Course.
The Brown Co Ambulance Association transferred a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to the Ainsworth Regional Airport.

Weekly Summary
0
– Burn Permits Issued (by all Brown Co Fire Depts)
0 – Handgun Permits Applied For
12 – Incident Reports Were Taken
2 – Paper Services Were Served
155 – Phone Calls Were Received
14 – 911 Emergency Calls Received
4 – Titles Were Inspected

* Roads department to work on canal approaches Thursday

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

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported the roads department will have three roads closed periodically Thursday while approach work is completed on canal bridges.

Turpin said 423rd Avenue will close beginning at 6:30 a.m. Thursday between Highway 20 and Road 880. After that work is completed, which is expected to take approximately three hours, the roads department will move to a canal bridge on Rauscher Avenue, closing that section between Highway 20 and Road 879.

The third road closure will occur Thursday afternoon with 430th Avenue closing between Highway 20 and Road 879 for approach work. Detour routes will be available 1 mile east or west of the work sites, and there will be signs posted marking the closures as they occur.

* Soldier’s remains identified after perishing at Pearl Harbor

(Posted 8:45 a.m. July 7)

The remains of a 25-year-old Atkinson man killed during the initial attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, have been identified.

Louis James Tushla was killed during the surprise Japanese attack that entered the U.S. into World War II. Though presumed killed during the attack, Tushla’s remains had not been identified until recently.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 17, in the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church of Atkinson with the repatriation of his remains following the service in the St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery.

A memorial visitation is scheduled from 1 until 5 p.m. Friday, July 16, in Seger Funeral Home of Atkinson with a 5 p.m. wake service and a 7 p.m. Knights of Columbus Rosary.

* Commissioners table action on finalizing road bonds

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

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday tabled taking action to close the certificate for issuing bonds for replacing the asphalt on Meadville Avenue.

County Treasurer Deb Vonheeder alerted the board that the bonds called for a payment of $118,000 in December, which included $110,000 in principal payments on the approximately $2.1 million the county planned to bond for the project. She asked how the commissioners planned to budget for the 2021-22 year to make that payment.

The commissioners initially discussed setting up the bonds to pay interest only until the Brown County Hospital addition bond payments were completed. Doing so would only force the county to increase its levy approximately 1 cent to service the interest payments. When the hospital bond payments are complete, the commissioners planned to use the 4 cents levied to pay those bonds to service the debt on the Meadville Avenue construction bonds.

“We agreed that we would pay interest only until the hospital bond was paid off,” Commissioner Denny Bauer said. “The levy would be 1 cent higher over the life of the bond, and the principal payments would replace the hospital bond payments. That is how I understood it.”

County Attorney Andy Taylor said the commissioners needed to wait to take action and talk with Andy Forney with DA Davison of Kearney to clarify how the bonds will be issued.

“This is calling for $110,000 in principal payment in December,” Taylor said.

The board agreed to table action on the highway allocation fund pledge bonds for the project, and will likely have to call a special meeting to take action on the matter, as the county must approve the bonds by July 15.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved a resolution that will hold landowners liable for damage incurred by center pivots watering county roadways.

The resolution allows for common error, so the liability would not take affect until the pivots cause damage to roads more than twice during a single irrigation season.

Turpin said pivot owners could already be sued in civil court if someone had an accident on a county road due to a pivot end gun not being shut off and watering a roadway.

“If there is some liability, maybe people will make sure they get them shut off,” Turpin said.

The highway superintendent said pivots watering roadways were not a widespread issue, but there were some pivot owners who habitually do not get end guns shut off. He said the roads department typically has to start adding gravel to those locations, and the cost of doing so would begin falling on the landowner.

Bauer asked how the county would enforce the resolution. Taylor said the county could file a civil suit against the property owner to recover the cost to repair the roadway or levy the cost of the repairs onto the landowner’s property taxes.

Turpin said, “We are just trying to look out for safety. Some people just don’t turn them off. The cost of adding the gravel was just being absorbed by the roads department.”

In another roads item, Royce Greder met with the commissioners asking the roads department to address erosion issues on Road 881 and Norden Avenue that causes sediment to wash into his dam. Greder said he visited with the commissioners four or five years ago about controlling erosion after a bridge in the area was torn out and replaced with a culvert.

“Nothing has ever been done,” Greder said. “I am now in the process of having to clean out my dam. That will cost at least $2,000. It does me no good to do that if the county doesn’t address the erosion issues.”

Bauer said he and Turpin had visited the site and could not come up with a workable solution to address the erosion.

“The neighbor to the east did not want the water going out on to their pasture,” Bauer said.

Turpin said the county would never be able to stop a dam from silting in that was located at the bottom of a hill.

Greder said his dam was the only reason the county did not lose the road at that site in 2019, as it held back the floodwater that otherwise would have destroyed the road. He suggested the county place rock on the slope of the road ditch to limit erosion, and asked Turpin and the commissioners to visit the site with him to see if they could agree on a solution.

The commissioners agreed to place the item on its July 20 agenda and will visit the site after the rest of the regular meeting agenda is completed.

Turpin asked the board for permission to replace a steel culvert on 429th Avenue between Highway 20 and Road 877 across Bone Creek.

Turpin said the culvert washed out in 2019 but was salvaged and put back in place so the county could get the road reopened quickly.

“That culvert had some rust holes when we put it back in,” Turpin said. “I would like to put in a box culvert. It will last much longer and let more water flow through.”

Turpin said a box culvert at a cost of $72,770 would last approximately 100 years while steel culverts would last approximately 50 years at a cost of $47,982. He said the box culvert would let 470 cubic feet per second compared to 440 cfs for the steel culverts. Turpin said the engineer who reviewed the site recommended a box culvert.

Bauer said a box culvert would also allow more trash and debris to flow through. The board agreed to have Turpin proceed with a box culvert at the site.

In a final roads matter, Turpin reported FEMA recently announced it would cover 90 percent of the cost of damage from flooding in 2019 instead of 75 percent. He said the county would be eligible for additional reimbursement and would only be responsible for 5 percent of the repair cost instead of 12-1/2 percent, while the state would also be responsible for just 5 percent of the cost instead of 12-1/2 percent.

The commissioners approved the 2021-22 BKR Extension budget submitted by Extension Educator Chandra Plate. Plate said the budget was for the same dollar amount as the 2020-21 budget. She said Keya Paha County and Rock County would also contribute additional funding this year to reimburse Brown County for their share of cost of a vehicle the Extension office purchased during the current budget.

The board approved a home health license renewal application for the Brown County Hospital, and acknowledged an emergency management line item and an American Rescue Plan line item in the county’s upcoming 2021-22 budget.

Vonheeder said the county has received $286,000 in American Rescue Plan funding, which represents half of the county’s total allocation. She said the board needed to acknowledge the amount received and the budget line item that would be created to hold the funds.

The board approved a request from Emergency Manager Traci Ganser to allow a COE student from the high school to assist the emergency management office for the 2021-22 school year. Ganser said there would be no cost to the county, and she was working with guidance counselor Lisa Schlueter on the student’s schedule who is interested in assisting in the office.

Taylor said he was working on the interlocal agreement between Brown County and Rock County for emergency management. He asked what the board and Ganser would like the collaboration to be named, and the group decided on naming it the Brown County/Rock County Emergency Management Agency. Ganser said she initially would be assisting Rock County with data entry and reporting requirements. The next regular meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. July 20.

* Meadville Avenue detour route to close Wednesday morning

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

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported the current Meadville Avenue detour route on 430th Avenue will be closed Wednesday morning.

Turpin said the roads department plans to replace planks on a bridge across Sand Draw Creek on 430th Avenue between Road 883 and Road 884. The work begins at 9 a.m. Wednesday and is expected to last approximately two hours.

Motorists who need to travel north or south and who use Meadville Avenue and the 430th Avenue detour are asked to use Road 882 west 1 mile to 429th Avenue, then 2 miles north to Road 884 and then 1 mile east back to 430th Avenue.

* Highway 20 will detour on east side of O’Neill July 13

(Posted 12:30 p.m. July 6)

Weather permitting, in conjunction with Highway 20 rehabilitation at O’Neill, a railroad crossing project will begin July 13, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

The crossing repair work is being done by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. Work will begin at milepost 183 on South Fourth Street in O’Neill. A detour will be in use for two to three days while the work is completed.

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

* Brand Committee Board votes to double inspection surcharge

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

The Nebraska Brand Committee Board of Directors voted to raise the surcharge for brand inspections to $20 per inspection. The surcharge was doubled from the previous $10 per inspection.

A statute passed by the Nebraska Legislature allows the Brand Committee to levy a surcharge of not more $20 to cover travel expenses incurred by the brand inspector per inspection when performing brand inspections.

The surcharge increase became effective July 1. All other fees remain the same.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

June 27

  • Responded to reports of a speeding vehicle on W Hwy 20. Deputy located the vehicle, no violations were reported at this time.
  • Investigated reports of suspicious activity in rural Brown Co. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Investigated reports of a dog attacking another dog. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Provided assistance to an Ainsworth resident on S Osborne St.

June 28

  • Investigated a vehicle accident without injuries that occured at the Brown Co. Hospital.
  • Investigated multiple Ainsworth City Ordinance violations.
  • Investigated a report of a possible unlicensed driver driving around town. Subject in question was in custody at the time of report.

June 29

  • Responded to reports of a vehicle in a ditch west of Ainsworth. The vehicle had been removed when deputies arrived.
  • Responded to reports of a vehicle driving erratically through East City Park. Vehicle was located and issued a verbal warning.
  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co Hospital.
  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transferred a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to Norfolk Faith Regional.
  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transferred a patient to the Ainsworth Regional Airport.

June 30

  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transferred an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co Hospital.
  • Investigated a report of possible harassment involving two Brown Co residents.
  • Investigated
  • Released a subject from the Brown County Jail.
  • Responded to a welfare check at a Long Pine residence.
  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transferred a second Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co Hospital.
  • Responded to a security alarm going off at an Ainsworth business. No suspicious activity was reported at this time.

July 1

  • Investigated multiple Ainsworth City ordinance violations
  • Investigated a report of possible neglect involving a juvenile at an Ainsworth residence.
  • Responded to reports of a possible explosion at an Ainsworth residence. Information was found to be falsely reported by an individual under the influence of alcohol. No further criminal activity was reported at this time.
  • Investigated a report of a vehicle/deer accident. No injuries were reported.

July 2

  • Investigated a report of an animal trapped in a vehicle at an Ainsworth business parking lot. Owner was contacted and the reported animal was being given proper care at this time.
  • Received a report of a vehicle driving erratically on Hwy 20 eastbound near 433rd Ave., vehicle was not located at this time.
  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail.
  • Released two subjects from the Brown Co Jail.
  • The Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a vehicle on fire on Main St.
  • Investigated reports of a gas drive-off from an Ainsworth gas station. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Investigated a report of possible neglect at an Ainsworth residence.
  • Investigated a report of a possible scam involving the sale of an animal at an Ainsworth residence. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • During a traffic stop on Hwy 20 a subject was issued a citation for speeding 91 in a 65, Possession of Marijuana less than an ounce, Possession of Controlled Substance, Driving Under the Influence of Drugs, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Subject was arrested and booked into the Brown Co Jail.

July 3

  • Received reports requesting a welfare check on an individual at a Long Pine residence.
  • Investigated a report of a hit and run accident at the Brown Co Hospital.
  • Received
  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association responded to a Long Pine residence, no transport was made at this time.
  • Assisted an allied agency in an investigation. Investigation led to an arrest of a subject for Driving Under the Influence.

Weekly Summary

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

        0 – Handgun Permits Applied For

      18 – Incident Reports Were Taken

       7  – Paper Services Were Served    

    176 – Phone Calls Were Received

       6 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

       5 – Titles Were Inspected

* Rock County Commissioners hire May as emergency manager

(Posted 7 a.m. July 1)

During its meeting Wednesday, the Rock County Commissioners appointed Glen May as the county’s Emergency Management Director.

The appointment follows the dissolution of the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency. After Cherry County and Brown County both provided notice they would be leaving the five-county collaboration effective July 1, Keya Paha, Boyd and Rock counties made the decision to dissolve Region 24.

May previously served as the county deputy manager for Rock County. He will be paid $20 per hour for serving as the manager, and will be allowed to hire help during disasters at $15 per hour.

The commissioners reported Wednesday they have been in discussions with Brown County about combining emergency management efforts, but no details had been finalized.

The commissioners Wednesday voted to deny a request from the previous emergency manager for a payout of additional vacation days after determining all vacation days had been utilized.

The board also approved having Rock County adopt the Hazard Mitigation Plan prepared for Region 24 in 2021. Each county can adopt the plan as its own after helping to fund its creation.

In other business Wednesday, the commissioners approved signing a letter of engagement to have the Nebraska State Auditor’s Office conduct Rock County’s 2020-21 fiscal year audit.

The commissioners approved setting July 20 as the date for the Board of Equalization to hear property valuation protests.

BKR Extension Educator Chandra Giles presented the commissioners with the Extension office’s proposal for its 2021-22 budget. The commissioners approved the budget, which must also be approved by commissioners in Brown and Keya Paha counties.

The commissioners approved providing pay increases for the county’s janitor, sheriff’s department, building and grounds staff, and weed superintendent for the 2021-22 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

After hearing a request from Rock County Hospital Administrator Stacey Knox, the board approved the hospital applying for a renewal of its home health agency license.

With a meeting to close out the fiscal year Wednesday, the Rock County Commissioners will not meet during their normal first Tuesday of the month July 6. The next meeting of the commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. July 20.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 3:45 p.m. June 30)

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

Cyan R. Simione, age 23, of Morris, Minn., charged with attempting a Class 4 felony, fined $1,000; also charged with possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Prince Banyee, 20, of Fargo, N.D., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500.

Shadrach Kayee, 21, of Fargo, N.D., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500.

Kaylie D. Carlyle, 23, of Bassett, careless driving, $100.

Deston D. Reams, 21, of Peshtigo, Wis., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Wallace E. Wiebesiek, 59, of Ainsworth, no valid registration, $25; careless driving, $100.

Glenn L. Johnson, 60, of Ainsworth, first offense willful reckless driving, $250; driving left of center, $25.

Brooke M. Skutnik, 19, of Omaha, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Crispin U. Baker Jr., 22, of Grand Forks, N.D., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500.

Robert W. Weikel Jr., 23, of Grand Forks, N.D., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500.

Dawn Thompson, 31, of Ogallala, attempting a Class 4 felony, $100.

Nolan J. Boerboom, 19, of Minneota, Minn., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Paul G. Forshey Jr., 55, of Gilbert, Ariz., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Marc A. Zeeb, 34, of Englewood, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Eric D. Siler, 69, of Englewood, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Bruce J. Guerrero, 28, of Crookston, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.

Brennan G. Smith, 20, of Hickory Corners, Mich., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Daniel J. Martin, 25, of Ainsworth, attempting a Class 4 felony, sentenced to six months of probation; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce and less than 1 pound, $500; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Riggin L. Scheer, 28, of Brookings, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Jacob R. Nelson, 23, of Ainsworth, disturbing the peace, $500.

* Two new COVID cases confirmed in Brown County

(Posted 3:30 p.m. June 30)

The North Central District Health Department was made aware of 12 new COVID-19 cases in the district since last reporting period June 21. Among the new cases were two in Brown County, seven in Boyd County, and one new case was confirmed in Cherry County.

NCDHD has ended Test Nebraska COVID-19 testing services. Testing now can most readily be accessed through traditional healthcare access points.

A total of 15,698 residents of the nine counties served by the North Central District Health Department have been fully vaccinated, representing 43.7 percent of those in the district age 16 and older and 35.2 percent of the district’s total population. Another 241 residents are partially vaccinated.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

(Posted 6:30 a.m. June 28)

June 20

  • Received reports of a possible disturbance involving three out of state subjects at Brown Co. Hospital. Subjects were assisted by a deputy and vacated the area.
  • Assisted an individual in a civil matter involving a child custody exchange dispute.
  • The Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a report of an equipment fire at a rural Brown Co. business.
  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co. Jail.
  • Investigated a report of possible trespassing at an Ainsworth business.

June 21

  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co. Jail.
  • Investigated a report of possible child abuse or neglect at an Ainsworth residence.
  • Received reports of two horses out on 430th near 885th. Owner was contacted and horses were returned to pasture.
  • Responded to reports of a vehicle driving recklessly on Main Street in Ainsworth. Deputies were unable to locate the vehicle at this time.
  • Investigated a second report of possible child abuse or neglect at an Ainsworth residence.

June 22

  • Investigated multiple reports of a possible scam business using an Ainsworth residential address. Individuals residing at the residence are not involved. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to reports of a vehicle driving recklessly on Hwy 20. Driver was located and issued a verbal warning.
  • Responded to a two vehicle accident without injury at an Ainsworth Business.
  • Provided civil standby for an Ainsworth resident to gather personal property.
  • Responded to a request for a welfare check on a Long Pine resident. It was discovered the subject no longer lived in the county.
  • Responded to reports of a possible vehicle haszard of an over height semi. Deputies were unable to locate the vehicle at the time.

June 23

  • During a traffic stop a subject was arrested for Driving Under the Influence and was booked into the Brown Co. Jail.
  • Investigated reports of windows being broken out of a house in Long Pine.
  • Investigated a report of possible child abuse or neglect at a rural Brown Co. residence.
  • Released a subject from the Brown Co. Jail.
  • Responded to a security alarm at an Ainsworth residence. No criminal activity was reported. Security alarm was reported faulty by the owner.
  • The Ainsworth Fire, Long Pine Rural Fire, Johnstown Fire, Raven Fire, Calamus Fire, and South Pine Fire Departments responded to a reported 18 separate fire locations caused by electrical storms throughout the evening. This was a major effort from all the departments involved including mutual aid from Wood Lake Fire Dept.
  • Responded to reports of a possible suicidal subject in Ainsworth. The individual was placed into Emergency Protective Custody and transferred to Norfolk Faith Regional Health Services.
  • Responded to an alarm going off at an Ainsworth business. The owner was contacted. No criminal activity was reported at this time.
  • Deputies provided traffic control assisting the City crews with flooded streets.

June 24

  • Ainsworth Fire Department and Long Pine Rural Fire Department successfully completed full containment and clean up of all fire locations in Brown Co.
  • Received reports of calves out on 430th Ave. The owner was contacted and the animals were put back in.
  • Responded to a report of a vehicle driving recklessly near Ainsworth Community schools. The subject was located and given a verbal warning.
  • Received a report of a found child at an Ainsworth business. The parent was contacted and the child returned home.
  • Received a report of cattle out South of Long Pine. The owner was contacted.
  • Responded to a report of a suspicious subject parked in front of an Ainsworth business. No criminal activity was reported at this time.

June 25

  • The Ainsworth Fire Department provided mutual aid in Holt County for fire clean up.
  • Investigated a report of an accident without injury involving an unsecured trailer detaching from a vehicle and hitting a parked vehicle.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co. Hospital.
  • Responded to a report of a child sitting outside in the rain on 2nd Street in Ainsworth. Deputies were unable to locate the child at this time.
  • Investigated a report of possible suspicious activity at an Ainsworth residence. No criminal activity was reported at this time.
  • Investigated reports of a vehicle accident without injury at the Ainsworth Community School.
  • Responded to a disturbance on South Main Street.
  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co. Jail on a court commitment.
  • During a welfare check on an Ainsworth resident, it was discovered that the individual had been taken to Richard Young in Kearney.  

June 26

  • Received reports of cattle out 6 miles S on Hwy 7. The owner was contacted and the cattle were back in.
  • Deputies provided traffic control for the Alumni Parade.
  • Received report of a dog at large. Owner was contacted and the dog was returned.
  • The Brown County Ambulance Association provided mutual aid in coverage for an event in the Norden area.

Weekly Summary

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

         1 – Handgun Permits Applied For

       21 – Incident Reports Were Taken

        5  – Paper Services Were Served   

     263 – Phone Calls Were Received

       13 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

         8 – Titles Were Inspected

* Lions Club work session scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday

(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 25)

The Ainsworth Lions Club discussed plans for serving the meal for the annual alumni banquet during the board’s meeting Monday.

Lion Roland Paddock, chair of the alumni committee, reminded members a work session is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday in the high school kitchen, with Lions asked to be in the Conference Center by 5 p.m. Saturday to set up for the banquet. Paddock said he has been working with the various committee chairs in preparation for the event.  A worksheet was e-mailed to the membership. The Alumni Association has sold 200 tickets and is setting up for 250 for the banquet.

Jerry Ehlers reported 18 members had paid their membership dues for 2021-22, as of June 21.  A reminder will be sent this week to the remaining members. Ehlers reported he had attended the District 38-I Cabinet meeting on May 22 via zoom. The District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund balance is approximately $33,000. 

A 2-hour work session was held on June 18 to install borders and to spread crumb rubber around the playground equipment at East City Park. The volunteer crew included Evan Evans, Kim Bejot, Dale Hafer, Rita Paddock, Roland Paddock, Bill Lentz, David Spann and three members of the city summer help crew. A special “thank you” was sent to Jim Scholtes for donating a trencher to be used to install the borders.  Three bags of crumb rubber were used, with four bags remaining. 

The Lions Club worked the concession booth during the Rough Stock Rodeo held at the Brown County Fairgrounds on Saturday, June 5. Phil Fuchs and Vance Heyer co-chaired the concession project, with assistance from additional Lions. The Ainsworth Lions Club Family Picnic will be held at 6:30 p.m. July 19 at East City Park.  The program for the evening will be the installation of 2021-22 Officers and Directors.

The Ainsworth Lions Club will proceed with the selection of an Ainsworth Lions Club Member of the Year recognition program for the 2020-21 year. The guide for submitting nominations will be sent to all members of the club. It was suggested that a plaque, with name plates, be purchased to recognize Lion of the Year recipients.

* Lightning from severe storms sparks numerous fires Wednesday

(Posted 7 a.m. June 24)

A line of severe thunderstorms developed in north central Nebraska Wednesday evening, with substantial cloud to ground lightning igniting numerous fires in, Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties due to the dry conditions.

The first storms started just prior to 6 p.m. with warnings issued by the National Weather Service for Keya Paha County.

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said he lost count of the number of fires that were reported in Brown County. He said a fire 10 miles north and 2 miles of Ainsworth on property owned by Wil Williams was the largest of the fires Wednesday.

“That fire got into a canyon and brought back memories of 2012,” Fiala said. “When we first got there, we just let it come to us and we put it out when it came out on the top. Then the wind switched and pushed it north into the canyon.”

Fiala said that fire burned between 20 and 30 acres of trees, but no property was damaged. He said all of the Brown County volunteer fire departments were deployed to various fire sites Wednesday. The fire chief said additional fires were reported near property owned by Carol Plate, Barry Harthoorn, and Denton Weichman, as well as near the Pine Glen Wildlife Management Area and near Keller Park. He said there was also a large fire in Boyd County Wednesday night that prompted the response of several departments.

Fiala said hail damaged some of the department’s vehicles while they were on their way back to the fire hall from the scene of fires between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night. While the rain helped extinguish many of the smaller fires, conditions Thursday could cause hot spots to reignite as temperatures are expected in the upper 80s with winds up to 25 mph.

Fiala said firefighters were headed out Thursday morning to check and see if any hot spots remained and were in danger of flaring up as the day warmed up. The Civil Air Patrol has been activated and will fly the Niobrara River valley Thursday to check and see if any fires are still active or reignite.

Fiala urged the public to keep an eye out and report any smoke to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department. He urged people to be as specific as possible when reporting any sightings of smoke.

The storms knocked out power in several areas, with crews working late into the night to get power service restored.

Much-needed rain ranged from less than a half an inch in some locations to more than 2 inches in Ainsworth and O’Neill. A wind gust of 62 mph was recorded southwest of Bassett and reported to the National Weather Service. There was a 60-mph gust recorded near Atkinson, and the O’Neill Airport also recorded a 60-mph gust.

The largest hail report to the National Weather Service came from just southwest of Burton at 2.75 inches in diameter. That report came in to the NWS at 5:55 p.m. Hail was reported west of Springview at 9:17 p.m. at 1.75 inches in diameter from the second severe cell that rolled through Keya Paha County.

The NWS received a report of hail 1-inch in diameter that fell 6 miles north of Springview, and a reporter to the NWS from the Johnstown area reported hail 1-inch in diameter at 6:44 p.m. Several other hail reports came in between .75 and .88 of an inch in diameter. Hail in Ainsworth was recorded between shooter marble size and nickel size.

* Gibbens named CTE Educator of the Year

(Posted 1 p.m. June 22)

Career and Technical Education educators and administrators from across the state participated June 7-9 in the 2021 Virtual Nebraska Career Education Conference.

This professional learning opportunity kicked off with the “State of Nebraska CTE” presentation by Nebraska’s State CTE Director, Dr. Katie Graham.

West Holt Public Schools teacher David Gibbens was named the Rich Katt CTE Educator of the Year in agriculture, food and natural resources during the conference. In with other educator of the year winners from several areas of education, Gibbens was selected as the overall Rich Katt CTE Educator of the Year.

During the three-day event, conference participants selected from over 75 breakout sessions where they had the opportunity to collaborate, engage, learn, and reconnect with CTE colleagues to advance their CTE programs. National leaders presented on topics focused on ensuring all students have equitable access to high-quality CTE programs, social emotional learning resources, and teaching strategies to engage learners virtually and in person.  

* Area students named to UN-L Deans’ List for spring semester

(Posted 7 a.m. June 21)

More than 6,800 University of Nebraska–Lincoln students have been named to the Deans’ List for the spring semester of the 2020-21 academic year.

Qualification for the Deans’ List varies among the eight undergraduate colleges and the Explore Center.

Area students named to the spring semester Deans’ List at UN-L include:

Ainsworth

  • Jack Arens, senior, Dean’s List, College of Engineering, computer engineering.
  • Rebecca Anne Taylor, junior, Dean’s List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, environmental restoration science.
  • Samuel Duane Wilkins, junior, Dean’s List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural economics; Dean’s List, College of Engineering, agricultural engineering.

Bassett

  • Brandie Rae Messersmith, freshman, Dean’s List, College of Arts and Sciences, classics and religious studies.

Stuart

  • Peyton Alder, senior, Dean’s List, College of Arts and Sciences, biological sciences and psychology.
  • Alison Stracke, senior, Dean’s List, College of Arts and Sciences, biochemistry.
  • Madison Stracke, sophomore, Dean’s List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural education.
  • Morgan Wallinger, sophomore, Dean’s List, College of Business, accounting and agribusiness.

Atkinson

  • Brandon Jelinek, junior, Dean’s List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, grassland ecology and management.
  • Lindsey Kate Jelinek, sophomore, Dean’s List, College of Education and Human Sciences, elementary education.
  • Jake Tanner Judge, senior, Dean’s List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, mechanized systems management.
  • Brent Andrew Lemmer, senior, Dean’s List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural and environmental sciences communication.

Wood Lake

  • Mariah Del Hogenson, senior, Dean’s List, College of Education and Human Sciences, elementary education.
  • Kaylee Wheeler, senior, Dean’s List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, animal science.

Valentine

  • Logan Michael Cate, sophomore, Dean’s List, College of Business, supply chain management.
  • Nathan Miller, junior, Dean’s List, College of Arts and Sciences, psychology.
  • Dillion Muirhead, sophomore, Dean’s List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural and environmental sciences communication; Dean’s List, Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, emerging media arts.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

June 13

  • Responded to reports of possible suspicious activity at an Ainsworth business.
  • Received reports of a black bull out on North Meadville Ave near 887th Rd. The owner was contacted and the animal was put back in the pasture.
  • Investigated a report of a vehicle/deer accident without injuries on S Hwy 7.
  • Investigated a report of a vehicle/deer accident without injuries on W Hwy 20.
  • Responded to reports of a domestic disturbance at an Ainsworth residence.

June 14

  • Received reports of a found dog. The owner was located and the dog was returned.
  • Received reports of possible stolen property in Long Pine. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Responded to a report of a motor vehicle driving off Hwy 20 East of the 183 Jct. The Brown Co Ambulance Association transported the individual to Brown Co. Hospital. The Ainsworth Fire Department and Long Pine Rural Fire Department provided traffic control.

June 15

  • Received reports of cattle out 6 miles S of Ainsworth on Hwy 7. The owner was contacted and the cattle were put back in.
  • Deputies assisted the Nebraska State Patrol in responding to and investigating the report of a deceased individual near the walking trail bridge Southwest of Long Pine.
  • The Ainsworth Fire Department and Long Pine Rural Fire Department responded to reports of a fire S of Keller Park on Hwy 183.
  • Responded to a report of an erratic driver on Hwy 20. The vehicle was located and no traffic infractions were observed at this time. 
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transported an individual from an Ainsworth business to the Brown Co. Hospital.
  • Received reports of a vehicle failing to stop at an intersection and continuing to drive erratically. The subject was not located at the time.

June 16

  • Received reports of a calf out on Hwy 20 East of Long Pine. The owner was contacted and the calf was put back in.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co. Hospital.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transported a second Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co. Hospital.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transferred a patient from Brown Co. Hospital to Norfolk Faith Regional.
  • Responded to reports of a domestic disturbance involving a juvenile at an Ainsworth residence.

June 17

  • Responded to reports of a possible suicidal person. Individual was taken to the Brown Co. Hospital. Care of individual was reassigned to responsible caretakers.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transported a patient from the Sandhills Care Center to the Brown Co. Hospital.
  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a City Ordinance concern.
  • Received reports of possible child abuse or neglect in Ainsworth.

June 18

  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident from the Sandhills Care Center to the Brown Co. Hospital.
  • Investigated reports of possible theft at a rural Ainsworth residence. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received a report of a possible stolen or missing vehicle from an Ainsworth business parking lot. Vehicle was recovered and investigation led to the vehicle being taken by mistake due to the similarity of make and model. Vehicle in question was returned to the owner.
  • Responded to reports of a security alarm going off at an Ainsworth business on Main Street. Business owner was contacted, no unusual activity was reported at this time.
  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail.
  • During a traffic stop on 4th and Main St. a subject was issued a citation for No Valid Registration.
  • Received reports of a civil matter involving a custody dispute.
  • Received reports of possible child abuse and neglect at an Ainsworth residence.

June 19

  • Investigated a report of a residence possibly abandoned on South Main Street in violation of several Ainsworth city ordinances.
  • Investigated a report of a possible safety issue involving a juvenile.
  • Received a report of barking dogs noise complaint involving multiple dogs at an Ainsworth residence on North Ash Street in Ainsworth. Owner was contacted and given a verbal warning.
  • During a traffic stop on Hwy 20 three minor subjects were issued citations for Minor in Possession of Alcohol and Open Alcohol Containers.

Weekly Summary

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

0 – Handgun Permits Applied For

         19 – Incident Reports Were Taken

         12 – Paper Services Were Served  

       210 – Phone Calls Were Received

         14 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

5 – Titles Were Inspected

* Sheriff reminds public of fireworks ordinances

(Posted 7 a.m. June 18)

Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein reminds the public there have been some changes to the city of Ainsworth’s fireworks ordinances.

Fireworks may be legally ignited between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. June 25 through July 3, and from 8 a.m. until midnight on July 4.

A new part of the fireworks ordinance requires all litter or debris created from the discharge of fireworks to be removed by 9 a.m. the morning after the discharge. The discharge of fireworks is prohibited within 300 feet of a fireworks stand, gas station or fertilizer facility.

Those who violate the fireworks ordinance are subject to a fine of $100 for each violation.

* Law enforcement investigates death near Long Pine Tuesday

(Posted 9 a.m. June 16)

Area law enforcement agencies investigated a report Tuesday of a body found southwest of Long Pine.

Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor reported Wednesday the Brown County Sheriff’s Department received a report at 11:50 a.m. Tuesday of a body discovered below the walking trail bridge along a creek near Long Pine. Taylor said the deceased was a 19-year-old Long Pine woman. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Cody Thomas with the Nebraska State Patrol said foul play was not suspected, and the preliminary investigation determined the death to be the result of an apparent suicide.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department assisted the State Patrol in the investigation. 

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 9 a.m. June 16)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident Monday that resulted in a driver being transported to the hospital.

According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, at 5:53 p.m. Monday on Highway 20 east of the Highway 183 intersection, a 2014 Ford Escape, driven by Brian Krentz, 52, of Bassett, was traveling east when the vehicle crossed the westbound lanes, entered the north ditch and ran through a fence before coming to rest in a field.

Krentz was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital following the accident.

Damage occurred to the Ford from striking the fence.

* Tuesday fire burns 2 acres along Highway 183

(Posted 8:45 a.m. June 16)

The Ainsworth and Long Pine volunteer fire departments responded to a report of a fire burning Tuesday afternoon in the ditch along Highway 183 in northern Brown County.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at approximately 5:45 p.m., a fire was reported in the west ditch of Highway 183 approximately 5 miles north of the Highway 20 intersection.

Fiala said cause of the fire was unclear, but likely came from either a spark from a vehicle or someone throwing a cigarette out the window. The fire chief said the wind pushed the flames through the highway ditch and into a pasture, burning approximately 2 acres before it was extinguished.

No property was damaged, and firefighters returned to their respective fire halls at approximately 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Fiala said conditions in the area are getting dry, and no burn permits would be issued until further notice. He urged the public to be aware of the conditions even though things may still look green.

* Commissioners amend budget to refinance hospital bonds

(Posted 7 a.m. June 16)

Following a public hearing Tuesday, the Brown County Commissioners voted to amend the county’s 2020-21 budget to account for the refinancing of the remaining debt on the Brown County Hospital addition.

Taking advantage of low interest rates, the county approved a recommendation from DA Davison of Kearney to refinance the remaining $2.29 million in hospital addition bonds. However, paying off the remaining bonds and issuing new bonds at a lower interest rate was not accounted for in the county’s fiscal year budget, meaning an amendment to the budget was required.

The budget amendment added line items to account for paying off the remaining bonds by issuing new bonds for the five years remaining on the debt. No one spoke in opposition to the amendment during the hearing.

In other business Tuesday, Dan Spier asked the commissioners about the condition of Road 877 after the Ainsworth City Council opted to use a detour route through town during the carnival instead of routing traffic on Road 877 south of the city.

Spier said the council cited the condition of Road 877 in its decision not to use the route for the detour, and he asked the commissioners if they planned to address the condition of the road.

“It has been the city’s preferred truck route, but the city found the road deficient and moved the detour route,” Spier said.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said, in an effort to address water issues that caused problems when the road was previously used as the main detour route, the county raised the road and dug out the ditches.

“We raised it up because the city complained it was muddy,” Turpin said. “Normally it is muddy during the carnival, so we were having to put rock on it before the detour opened. The shoulders are a little soft while it is new, but we have had trucks on it. It will get more solid when vegetation starts to grow.”

Commissioner Buddy Small said the county had not been contacted by the city this year about the condition of the road.

Turpin said the first he heard the city had an issue with the road was when he heard the council report on the radio.

Spier said he just wanted to hear from the county before he pursued any other steps.

Barry and Sandra Clark approached the commissioners to ask about placing a landing along Pine Creek at Hidden Paradise.

Sandra Clark said the couple would like to build a landing and takeout spot on their property along Pine Creek where the county had constructed a sea wall.

Small said, if the request was to attach something to the pilings, the answer would be an absolute “no.”

“That would be a liability issue for the county,” Small said.

Barry Clark said there was currently a 6 to 8 foot drop straight down to the rocks at the site, and the drop was not noticeable until a person got right to the edge of the bank.

“I would recommend a railing because you don’t notice the drop until you are right there,” Barry Clark said. He said the site was heavily used by tubers.

Small agreed the county could construct a railing at the site for safety.

“That’s not a bad idea,” Small said. “We will get a railing put up.”

Small said one of the commissioners’ biggest jobs was protecting the county from potential liability issues.

The commissioners discussed water issues at the courthouse. Small said the courthouse has had issues with water coming in to the building through the roof and through cracks in the building’s foundation.

“We have some big problems with water coming in,” Small said. “Water is getting into the vault. Water comes in the entry to the courtroom. I think we need to advertise to have someone come look at the roof.”

Bauer said he had been trying to seal cracks around the building, but agreed the county needed to address the water issues.

“I caulked some of the cracks, but I am not sure I slowed it up,” Bauer said. “I think we also should probably redo the gutter system.”

Audience member Lydia Allen said the school had a roofing company doing some work on its building soon, and offered to get the county the contact information for that company to potentially inspect the roof while they were in town working at the school.

The board voted to purchase a lot adjacent to the county’s Long Pine roads department shop to be able to store material at the site instead of having to truck material from the Ainsworth shop.

After offering $5,000 for the lot, the commissioners received a counter offer of $5,500, and approved the purchase of the property located on Lot 12, Block 26, Western Town Lots, Long Pine.

Bauer said he had a resident ask about the county’s procedure for removing dead animals from county roads when they are hit.

“I had a resident ask me who is responsible for moving a deer off the road when one gets hit,” Bauer said.

He asked Turpin if the roads department had ever been called to remove dead animals from the road.

Turpin said he didn’t recall ever being called to do so, but anytime a roads department employee sees a dead animal on the road they remove it.

Bauer said the best response for the public encountering a dead animal in the road would be to contact the sheriff’s department and report the hazard.

The board approved a pair of resolutions Tuesday, one adopting the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency’s multi-jurisdictional hazard mitigation plan as the county’s official plan now that the county was leaving Region 24 and it was dissolving. The second resolution transferred $3,000 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the BKR Extension fund to allow the Extension office to purchase a vehicle. The county will be reimbursed by Rock County and Keya Paha County for 58 percent of that $3,000 transfer.

During his report, Turpin said the county received a $145,390 reimbursement from FEMA for flood damage repairs. He said the county has now received $320,996 in FEMA funding, and he still expects the county to get another $500,000 in reimbursement for flood damage and $1.7 million for damage to federal aid roads, which includes the Sand Draw bridge project on Meadville Avenue and damage to South Pine Avenue, the Elsmere Road and Moon Lake Avenue.

Turpin reported the roads department has completed grading projects on Rauscher Avenue and 423rd Avenue, and the department was currently working on a grading project on Southwest Road.

“We overlayed Ponderosa Road with cold mix asphalt,” the highway superintendent said. “That seemed to smooth that road up pretty well.”

Turpin said he had visited with Gary Steele from Miller and Associates, and they were ready to send someone up to measure the Meadville Avenue paving project and should have a cost estimate to the county within a few weeks.

Upon Turpin’s recommendation, the commissioners voted to declare a 1996 Mack truck and a 2002 Ford F-250 pickup as surplus items to be sold on the Big Iron web site.

Bauer asked Turpin about potentially placing electronic speed signs on Meadville Avenue for vehicles coming from the north.

“It sounds like the city is going to install signs on the east and west sides of town on Highway 20,” Bauer said. “Should we consider putting one on Old Highway 7 coming from the north?”

Bauer said the cost to install the solar-powered speed signs was between $3,000 and $6,000.

Prior to adjourning Tuesday, the commissioners moved the meeting to the Brown County Hospital to meet with the Hospital Board of Trustees in executive session.

Asked about the reason for going into an executive session, the board indicated the commissioners planned to discuss the hospital’s procedures and actions, which County Attorney Andy Taylor indicated was an allowable reason for an executive session under the Open Meetings Act law.

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

* School to receive $530,000 in third round of stimulus funds

(Posted 7 a.m. June 15)

After receiving a little more than $300,000 during the first two rounds of federal COVID-19 stimulus funding, the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education learned Monday the district would receive $530,936 from the third round of federal funding.

Superintendent Dale Hafer said the district used the first two rounds of funding to upgrade its reading curriculum and purchase laptop computers for students, items the district would have had to purchase anyway.

“We have been putting this stimulus money to work,” Hafer said. “We should be able to keep our property tax request the same with the next budget. Even though a lot of people’s valuations are going up, that doesn’t mean we are just going to tax and spend.”

Hafer said the district has been strategically using the federal funds toward items that qualify for the federal money that may have otherwise required local property tax funds to purchase.

Hafer also reported the summer projects on the school grounds are off to a good start.

“The windows are going in ahead of schedule,” the superintendent said. “With the gym floor, they are waiting on the delivery of plywood and maple. There have been some delays there, but they should still be done with the gym floor by mid July.”

Hafer said replacement of concrete on the east and west sides of the building would begin soon, and work on the roof should start this week.

The superintendent reported the transportation, building and grounds committee met and recommended the district continue to lease a coach bus. Hafer said, if the district agreed to a two-year lease, it would save $3,600. He said the committee believed continuing with the coach bus lease provided the most benefits to the district with less risk than purchasing a coach bus.

New Elementary Principal Ben Wright introduced himself to the board, saying the community has been great.

“My wife and I have been welcomed here with open arms,” Wright said. “We are very excited to be here.”

After teaching fifth and sixth grade social studies in a south Omaha district, Wright said he was excited for the opportunity to become a principal with the Ainsworth district.

During his report, Secondary Principal Steve Dike said four high school kids have been working in summer school to retake a class they did not pass during the school year.

“The kids have worked hard,” Dike said.

Kelli Gibson presented the board with information on DIBELS test scoring benchmarks from the beginning, middle and end of the school year. She said the district set goals to have 85 percent of kindergarten through second grade students proficient for their class by the end of the school year.

Gibson said the kindergarten class began the year with 31 percent of students proficient for their grade level. By the winter, 58 percent of the students tested as proficient, and by the end of the school year 90 percent of the kindergarten class had reached proficiency.

For the first grade, just 37 percent of the students were proficient at the beginning of the year. By the end of the school year, 91 percent tested proficient. The second grade started at 51 percent and finished the year at 81 percent proficient.

“Now our goal is to sustain that progress,” Gibson said.

Gibson said the district still has areas to work on, as the fifth grade tested at just 52 percent proficient at the end of the year and the sixth grade tested at 60 percent proficient at year’s end.

In the only action item Monday, the board approved a $14,231 invoice from Conditioned Air Mechanical of Grand Island to replace Trane coils in the commons area and home economics room. Hafer said there was a leak in the coil in the home ec room, but insurance would cover part of the cost of the coil and coolant replacement.

The board held public hearings to review the district’s student fee policy and its parent involvement policy. No one spoke on either policy during the hearing, and Hafer said there were no changes recommended for either policy.

The board also performed its annual review of the district’s anti-bullying policy. Hafer said there were no recommended changes to that policy either.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. July 12.

* Walk-in vaccination clinics available during the Expo

(Posted 7 a.m. June 15)

The North Central District Health Department will host walk-in COVID vaccination clinics in the area this week.

Walk-in clinics are available from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Rock County Fairgrounds during the Sandhills Ranch Expo, and again from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday during the second day of the Expo.

A walk-in clinic is available from 3:30 until 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Ainsworth Conference Center, and from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Friday in the Greater Sandhills Family Health Care clinic at Atkinson.

A total of 15,338 people in the district have been fully vaccinated in the nine counties served by the North Central District Health Department. That represents just shy of 43 percent of those 16 years of age and older. Another 40 people have received one dose of the vaccine

The health department was made aware of four new COVID-19 cases confirmed in the district during the past week. Those new cases include two in Boyd County, and one each in Keya Paha and Holt counties. 

* Thursday accident damages Main Street building

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

A one-vehicle accident Thursday afternoon caused extensive damage to an Ainsworth Main Street building.

According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, at approximately 5:45 p.m. Thursday, a 2008 Nissan Sentra, driven by Briana Lawrenz, 43, of Ainsworth, was traveling north on Main Street when the vehicle veered off the street, struck a parked 2005 Chevy Colorado, owned by Hazel Chase of Springview, ramped the south curb, struck a metal bench and water fountain before hitting a building at 246 N. Main St. and coming to a stop.

Lawrenz was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital following the accident.

Papstein said the Nissan was considered a total loss. Damage to the Chase Chevy was estimated at $4,000. The building, owned by Cynthia and Billy Kesler, sustained approximately $10,000 damage.

* GJW team bests 10 other cookers during Ribfest Saturday

(Posted 7:15 a.m. June 14)

The GJW team was judged to be the top rib cooker from among 11 teams that entered the annual ribfest cook-off Saturday at the Ainsworth Fire Hall.

The GJW team of Abraham Jimenez Pelcastre, Jose Maria Perez Diaz and Erwin Herberth Perez edged two teams from the Neligh Fire Department, one manned by Ben Zegers and the other by Rudy Zegers, who finished second and third in the competition.

The fire department reported a great crowd for the annual ribfest, with proceeds from the meal helping purchase equipment for the fire department. GJW donated the more than 200 racks of ribs cooked on Saturday for the meal.

* Area students named to Northeast honor lists for spring

(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 14)

Northeast Community College has released the President’s Honor List and Deans’ Honor List for both full and part-time students for the spring semester.

To be named to the President’s Honor List, students must earn a grade point average of 4.0 and be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours. Some 200 students made the President’s Full-time Honor List this past spring semester. Students named to the Deans’ Honor List must have earned a grade point average of 3.75 or above and be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours. Two-hundred-sixteen students were named to the Deans’ Honor List.

Another 354 students named to the President’s Part-Time list attained a 4.0 grade point average while taking at least six credit hours, and 81 students named to the Deans’ Part-Time list earned a grade point average of 3.75 or above while taking at least six credit hours.

Area students named to the spring semester honor lists at Northeast Community College include:

PRESIDENT’S HONOR LIST – Full-Time, Spring semester

Ainsworth – Jenna Williams.

Bassett – Brendan Bussinger.

Newport – Marcus Reynolds.

Stuart – Ethan Sattler.

Atkinson – Ellie Burkinshaw.

Butte – Kelsey Sextro.

DEANS’ HONOR LIST-Full-time, Spring semester

Johnstown – Henry Beel.

Stuart – Breanna Fahrenholz and Wyatt Paxton.

Atkinson – Hannah Brotsky, Daniel Clemens and Lily Fischer.

Naper – Gina McCarthy.

Butte – Cory Lechtenberg and Evan Reiman.

PRESIDENT’S HONOR LIST – Part-time, Spring semester

Ainsworth – Josie Ganser, Caeleb Irwin, Brandt Murphy, Elizabeth Smith, Madison Welch, Elizabeth Wilkins and Sophie Wilson.

Long Pine – Mila Pozehl.

Johnstown – CeeAnna Beel and Moriah Beel.

Stuart – Jenny Forker and Abigail Tubbs.

Atkinson – Jackson Butterfield.

Butte – Trevor Brooks.

DEAN’S HONOR LIST Part-Time, Spring semester

Ainsworth – Shawna Fernau, Adriana Hood and Cody Kronhofman.

Long Pine – Sailor Jewett.

Bassett – Karley Anderson, Carlee Fleming and Jaya Nelson.

Newport – Kaylee Hinton.

Springview – Benjamin Bruns.

Atkinson – Miranda Bendig.

Butte – Samanda Pickinpaugh.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

June 6

  • Provided assistance with an allied agency investigating a report of a possible sexual assault involving a Brown Co resident.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co. Hospital.
  • The Brown Co. Ambulance Association transferred an Ainsworth resident to Norfolk Faith Regional.
  • Received a report of an individual that had a vehicle lockout. Locksmith was contacted to assist the individual.

June 7

  • Investigated a report of a possible City Ordinance Violation involving a calf on property inside Ainsworth city limits.
  • Received reports of an assault that took place at the Brown Co Fairgrounds in Johnstown. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Investigated reports of a possible sexual assault involving a juvenile Ainsworth resident. Juvenile was placed into protective custody with the Department of Health and Human Services. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Received information and provided assistance for a Civil Standby at an Ainsworth residence.

June 8

  • Received information and provided assistance for a Civil Standby at an Ainsworth residence.
  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transported an individual from the Johnstown fairgrounds to the Brown Co Hospital.
  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transported a second individual from the Johnstown fairgrounds to the Brown Co Hospital.
  • Responded to the request of a welfare check for a child at an Ainsworth residence. Child had been safely removed from home prior to welfare check.
  • Responded to the request of a welfare check for an elderly Ainsworth resident. Individual was located and everything was reported normal.

June 9

  • Investigated a report of a hit and run accident on E. 3rd Street in Ainsworth.
  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a probation violation.
  • Responded to reports of a runaway juvenile from an Ainsworth residence. Juvenile was located and placed into custody of responsible caretakers.
  • Responded to a report of a struck deer on Hwy 183 near Keller State Park.

June 10

  • Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail into the custody of Lincoln Co Sheriff’s Department.
  • Responded to reports of a traffic accident at 3rd and Main St. in Ainsworth, the Brown Co Ambulance Association and Ainsworth Fire Department also responded. At this time one patient was transported to the Brown County Hospital.
  • The Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a struck gas meter at a residence on South Main Street.
  • Provided a motorist assist to a driver with a vehicle stopped on the east side of Ainsworth on Hwy 20.
  • Responded to an animal welfare call south of Long Pine.
  • Received reports of possible neglect involving a Long Pine resident.

June 11

  • Investigated reports of property damage caused from a motorist at an Ainsworth residence.
  • Investigated a report of possible stalking involving two Long Pine residents.
  • Responded to a report of an individual identified with an active arrest warrant. The Nebraska State Patrol provided assistance. Subject in question was not located at this time. Subject identified was a different male.
  • Investigated a report of a possible City Ordinance Violation at Ainsworth residence on N Ash Street.

June 12

  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transported a Long Pine resident to the Rock Co Hospital.
  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co Hospital.

Weekly Summary

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

    1- Handgun Permits Applied For

  18- Incident Reports Were Taken

   9- Paper Services Were Served

          233 – Phone Calls Were Received

 30 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

   5 – Titles Were Inspected

* Area students selected to attend youth agriculture institute

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

What started years ago, as a way of connecting high school students with agriculture, is still going strong today.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute, the longest running program of its kind in the nation. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture coordinates the institute with the help of the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council. Numerous area high school juniors and seniors were selected to attend the institute’s golden anniversary celebration this summer.

Among those selected to attend the institute are Alyssa Erthum, Ben Flynn, Josie Ganser, Logan Hafer, Tommy Ortner, Eden Raymond, Shelly Saner, Ty Schlueter, Ellie Welke and Elizabeth Wilkins of Ainsworth High School; Zach Dickau of Rock County; Sadie Jarecke of Stuart; and Landyn Mlady, Luke Olson, Madison Tunender and Grady Smith of West Holt.

“NAYI is a great opportunity for Nebraska juniors and seniors to learn about the agricultural industry and the many careers available in ag,” said NDA Communications Director and NAYC Advisor Christin Kamm. “With 50 years of history, we have parents who attended NAYI years ago, sharing NAYI experiences with their own high school juniors and seniors, who are looking forward to attending this year. NAYI’s theme this year is ‘Timeless Traditions,’ which will give us a chance to highlight NAYI through the years.”

The institute is a week-long event featuring speakers, workshops, agricultural education, networking with peers and industry leaders, professional development opportunities and leadership experience. This year, the institute will be held July 12-16 at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s East Campus.

NAYI and additional youth learning opportunities throughout the year are organized by the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council. The 21 college students who serve on NAYC are chosen by NDA to share their passion and knowledge about agriculture with young people across Nebraska. During the institute, youth council members provide valuable insight and advice about agriculture, college coursework and career building.

* Recent cases from Brown County District Court

(Posted 2 p.m. June 10)

During Brown County District Court proceedings Tuesday, Anthony McNutt, age 29, of Long Pine, entered guilty pleas to charges of possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, a Class 4 felony; and disturbing the peace, a Class III misdemeanor. McNutt will be sentenced Aug. 10 in District Court.

Peter Silipo, 70, of Ainsworth, appeared for sentencing Tuesday after being found guilty on four Class 1 misdemeanor counts of third degree assault and two Class III misdemeanor counts of disturbing the peace. Silipo was sentenced to $500 in fines.

* City Council opts to accept full allotment of solar power shares

(Posted 7 a.m. June 10)

The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday opted to speak for 394 of the 618 shares of solar power being made available by the construction of the solar array on the southeast side of East City Park.

Brittney Koenig with the Nebraska Public Power District told the council, based on its overall power usage, it was eligible to take a substantial portion of the power generated by the solar array. By taking all 394 shares, the city would save $284 per month on its power bill, as each share of the solar power nets a 74-cent monthly credit from NPPD since the cost to produce the solar power is lower than NPPD’s base rate.

Koenig said, if the city claims 394 shares, that would leave 224 shares available to the public.

“The average residence would be eligible for six shares,” Koenig said. “There is a $50 enrollment fee, but if the customer stays in the program for three years, the $50 is refunded.”

She encouraged the city to set a limit on the number of shares each customer could obtain, as there were two large commercial customers in the city who could otherwise claim all the remaining shares of solar power based on usage.

The council discussed whether to claim all 394 shares or to claim a smaller number and make more shares available to the public. The council determined, by taking all 394 shares and reducing its monthly power bill by $284, all city residents would benefit due to the city saving money on its monthly power bill.

NPPD will work with the city to set up an open house and allow the public to sign up for the remaining shares of the solar power that will be generated by the array. Construction at the site is underway, with the project scheduled for completion in the fall.

In other business Wednesday, Julie Mizner told the council how impressed she was with the skill level of the lifeguards at the Ainsworth Swimming Pool.

Mizner said she was recently at the pool with her son and her niece when she heard lifeguard Aubree Rice blow her whistle three times and dive into the pool. She noticed a swimmer struggling, and Rice was there almost immediately to assist the swimmer as other pool staff members hurried to assist.

“I was a Nebraska certified EMT, but I know I did not respond that quickly in a similar situation,” Mizner said. “I was extremely impressed with the way everyone responded, and I just want to express my sincere gratitude to Aubree and the entire pool staff. Without their response, someone might not have made it home that day.”

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said all lifeguards completed their training at the end of May. That training includes lifeguard certification, first aid and CPR training.

After approving upgraded insulation as part of a major rehabilitation of the recently completed city streets shop addition, the council Wednesday opted instead to go back to the existing insulation package after receiving updates on the cost of the insulation upgrade and the additional electrical work that would need to be completed to upgrade the insulation.

Council member Brad Fiala said, if the city did not upgrade the insulation, the heating and electrical work already completed could stay. If the city moved forward with the insulation upgrade, all the heating and electrical work would need to be taken out and put back.

“We can get by with the previous insulation package,” Fiala said.

In May, the council approved a quote from Buckley Steel for more than $100,000 in repair work to the city streets shop addition, which was constructed less than two years ago.

After further discussion, the council tabled making any changes to its recently passed ordinance regarding vacant buildings in the community.

After more than 60 property owners received letters from the city indicating the city believed those properties were vacant, the city received pushback from the public on the new ordinance and specifically the fine that could be levied.

Schroedl said the city received numerous responses from property owners who received the initial notice that would, in her opinion, exempt them from the ordinance.

“The building inspector canvassed the town and performed visual inspections, and the city office is familiar with properties that don’t have connected utilities,” Schroedl said. “The city’s list and building inspector’s list were cross-listed to create the original list of properties.”

Mayor Joel Klammer said the council talked during its May meeting about tweaking the ordinance.

“The list is a live document,” Klammer said. “It will be constantly changing.”

Councilman Vance Heyer said the ordinance’s definition of a vacant property was vague.

“Are there general definitions we can use?” Heyer asked. “Some of the definitions in the ordinance are vague or incomplete.”

Schroedl said the language in the ordinance was pulled directly from the state statute recently passed by the Nebraska Legislature.

“The city could refine further what was done by the legislature,” Schroedl said.

City Attorney Rod Palmer said he went to the Black’s Law Dictionary for the definition of vacancy. He said the Black’s Law Dictionary defines terms based on court rulings and precedent. He said that dictionary defines “vacant” as a place that is empty and not occupied for any purpose.

Heyer said there could still be a lot of gray area and ambiguity with that definition.

Fiala said he would like to see the ordinance shift to read that if someone owns a property and is using it only for storage or for occasional use but is maintaining the property, that would be acceptable.

“Some people put money into these properties to keep them maintained,” Fiala said. “I think those need to be exempt.”

Councilman Schyler Schenk said the purpose of the ordinance was to help fix the city’s housing shortage.

“I like the ordinance as it is,” Schenk said. “People have an opportunity to dispute it.”

Audience member Rod Worrell asked the council how the city could force someone to either rent or sell their private property.

“I don’t know how you could force me to sell a house I am not living in,” Worrell said. “That is ridiculous, but right now it is the law.”

Schroedl said the ordinance has created a dialog with some property owners who own dilapidated properties in the city, which was the intent.

Klammer said the city has time to work out the fine details of the ordinance.

Fiala said he was not comfortable with the ordinance as it currently reads, and believes the fees set in the ordinance for non-compliance were too high.

The council took no action on updating the language in the ordinance Wednesday, tabling the item to a future meeting and establishing a subcommittee with Fiala, Heyer and the Board of Health to go through the ordinance and suggest potential changes.

The council approved a detour route for Main Street during the D.C. Lynch Carnival June 11-13.

Schroedl said the detour would be set up Thursday evening, as the carnival would arrive late Thursday night.

“We have typically used 877th Road to Pine Street to Highway 20,” Schroedl said. “The county has redone 877th Road and it has steep ditches that wouldn’t allow two trucks to meet.”

Schroedl said the sheriff’s department indicated there had been a few accidents on that road with vehicles going into the ditch.

Schroedl said the city used South Street to Oak Street to Highway 20 in 2019, but the turn from South Street to Oak Street was not wide enough for truck traffic.

She said the city streets department identified West First Street to Osborne Street to Highway 20 as its preferred detour route.

“We need a resolution to make sure there is no parking on those streets during the detour,” Schroedl said.

She said the city did not pass a parking resolution in 2019, so there was no way to enforce the parking ban on South Street and Oak Street during that year’s detour.

Fiala said the sheriff’s department would need to help enforce the parking ban during the three-day detour.

“We should have probably had this on the agenda a month earlier,” Fiala said. “There is no perfect route, but this is the shortest detour route. Let’s do this earlier next year.”

An audience member expressed displeasure with the city placing no parking signs on Osborne Street several days prior to Wednesday’s meeting before any decision had been made.

Schroedl apologized and said the city should have covered the no parking signs. The signs were placed ahead of time just to be ready for the detour route, as the city also had to place barricades and detour signs Thursday.

The council approved the resolution banning parking from the detour route from Thursday night through Sunday night. Residents on Osborne Street are asked not to park on that street during those days.

In other action items Wednesday, the council approved a recommendation from the LB 840 Loan Committee to provide a matching grant for façade improvements to an applicant in the amount of $6,792. Schroedl said the total cost of the project is $13,000 and change, and the grant provides half the cost of the total project.

The council approved a special designated liquor license application for the Ainsworth Elks Lodge for a street dance July 17. A portion of Third Street from Main Street east to the alley will also be closed for that event.

Following a public hearing, the council accepted the six-month report from the LB 840 Citizen Advisory Review Committee. The committee indicated all loans from the program were current, and it had no recommended changes for the council.

The council reappointed Dr. Mel Campbell to a one-year term on the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors, and appointed Councilman Shawn Fernau to a one-year term on the Care Center Board to replace Leanne Maxwell. Maxwell, after serving on the board since its inception, indicated she was not planning to serve an additional term.

During her report, Schroedl indicated 78 residents had already signed up for Front Desk, a web-based software platform that allows residents to manage and pay their city accounts online as well as apply for pool passes and pet licenses.

Schroedl reported the city could be in line for about $200,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding, which would be provided by the federal government to the state and then distributed to cities. She said there was criteria on how the money can be spent.

The administrator reported the Board of Health recently reviewed several nuisance properties and dangerous buildings to see if any progress had been made. She said the city continues to work with the sheriff’s department for the issuance of nuisance violation notices.

Schroedl said the swimming pool has had some issues with water clarity. She said the clarity issue poses no health hazard and is likely just the result of the pool filter not getting sand filtered from the water.

She said she received notice from LARM that a resident may soon proceed with legal action against the city relating to a water main issue a couple years ago. She said the resident had withdrawn a claim against the city that LARM had denied in January. That action will likely precede a lawsuit, though a suit has not yet been filed. LARM’s legal department would address any legal action on behalf of the city.

Schroedl reported the conference center gym sub-floor has been damaged due to leakage from the fire suppression pump. She said she submitted a claim to the city’s insurance carrier and is working with the school to obtain estimates for repairs to the gym floor.

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

* Beel named KBRB Athlete of the Year

(Posted 2:45 p.m. June 9)

Cee Anna Beel has been named the 2020-21 KBRB Ainsworth High School Senior Athlete of the Year following a vote of the coaches, faculty and A Club members.

The KBRB Athlete of the Year Award is presented to a senior class member at Ainsworth High School who achieved success in sports during their high school career, and also exhibited excellent classroom work, leadership, character, service, coachability and personal conduct.

The student-athlete must have participated in multiple sports, and earned a varsity letter in two sports for at least two years.

Beel, a standout on the three-time state champion Bulldog cross country team, is just the fourth female athlete at AHS to earn three medals at the State Cross Country Championships.

Beel finished fifth in the state as a sophomore, 15th as a junior and 11th as a senior. The Bulldogs won state team titles during her freshman, sophomore and junior seasons and finished one point shy of a four-peat in 2020.

Beel earned a medal in 31 of the 32 high school cross country races she entered, with the only non-medal a 19th-place finish at the state meet during her freshman year.

She finished her career second in career cross country victories, and in her 32 meets, the team won 21 of them and finished as the runner-up in 10 more.

On the track, Beel qualified for the Nebraska State Track and Field Championships during her freshman, sophomore and senior seasons, with her junior campaign lost due to the pandemic.

Beel was the 3200-meter district champion as a sophomore and qualified for state in the 1600 meters in both her freshman and sophomore seasons.

She earned district championships as a senior in both the 1600 and 3200 meters, and earned an eighth-place medal in the 3200 meters at the state championship.

Beel plans to attend the University of Nebraska-Kearney. For being named the Athlete of the Year, she received a $500 scholarship from KBRB.

To hear a conversation with the newest KBRB Athlete of the Year, click on the audio link below.

* Jacobs reports care center making progress on hiring

(Posted 7 a.m. June 8)

Sandhills Care Center Administrator Penny Jacobs said the facility has made some progress in hiring new employees, and expenses for agency nursing declined during the past month.

Jacobs told the Board of Directors Monday the care center hired a full-time registered nurse and also hired an LPN with experience in nursing homes. She said the LPN is currently a traveling nurse, but when her current contract expires she will be with the Sandhills Care Center full time.

Jacobs said the care center also hired several people for summer help to assist in the facility.

“We still need a night nurse and CNAs,” Jacobs said. “We will need a cook and dietary aides this fall, as well as a business office manager and an activities director. Our new summer staff is helping out with activities now.”

Board chairman Phil Fuchs said it looked like the care center was moving in the right direction as far as filling open positions.

Jacobs told the board the facility is receiving more visitation requests and requests to take residents on outings. She asked that families provide the care center with 24 hours of notice so the staff can accommodate requests.

“We are still using the sun room for visits, and visits are still limited to one resident at a time,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said the facility averaged 19 residents during May, starting the month with 20 residents and finishing with 18. She said three residents were discharged during the month and one new resident was admitted to the facility.

The care center generated $134,628 in revenue during May, with expenses of $139,097 for a net loss during the month of $4,469.

Business Manager Sarah Schipporeit said the facility spent less during May on agency nursing at $28,061.

“We have hired two CNAs, and one of our PRNs has stepped up and taken some extra shifts,” Schipporeit said. “Our DON is no longer coming from an agency. We are moving forward positively.”

Agency nursing expenses in April were approximately $42,000.

Jacobs reported the state of Nebraska was increasing Medicaid reimbursement for nursing homes, so the care center would receive a 10 percent increase in reimbursement from the state beginning July 1 on top of the previous $20 per day reimbursement increase the state previously agreed to provide.

Fuchs reported the main switch and some of the other supplies for the new generator had arrived, but the care center was still waiting on the generator itself.

“I talked to Dustin (Barthel),” Fuchs said. “He is going to coordinate with NPPD to get some of the work done so we are ready to go when the generator arrives.”

Fuchs thanked Leanne Maxwell for her service on the board. Maxwell attended her final meeting Monday as a representative of the city of Ainsworth on the board. She has served on the care center board since its founding.

“We are going to miss your insight and knowledge of how the care center works,” Fuchs said.

Tom Jones attended his first meeting Monday as a board member representing the county. Ainsworth City Councilman Shawn Fernau attended Monday’s meeting, and said he would be appointed as the city representative to replace Maxwell during Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 12.

* Vaccination clinics available this week in the area

(Posted 6:30 a.m. June 8)

The North Central District Health Department has walk-in COVID vaccination clinics available this week for those who have yet to receive the vaccine.

Clinics are available from 2 until 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Ainsworth Community Schools parking lot, from noon until 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Rock County Public Schools parking lot, and from 8:30 until 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the O’Neill High School parking lot.

An additional vaccination clinic is scheduled from 10 until 11:30 a.m. Thursday in the Cherry County Hospital.

There are now 14,994 people in the district who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, representing 41.7 percent of those 16 and over. Another 219 people have received one dose of a two-dose vaccine.

The health department was made aware of two new COVID-19 cases in the district in the past week, with both cases confirmed in Holt County. The NCDHD reported seven people recovered from the virus during the past week in the nine-county district, including two people recovering in Holt County.

The NCDHD is offering the Pfizer vaccine to anyone 12 years of age and older. To schedule an appointment for someone in that age group, contact the health department at 402-336-2406.

* Alberts headed to Tokyo for Olympics with U.S. Swim Team

(Posted 12:30 p.m. June 7)

Wade Alberts of Ainsworth will again be working with the U.S. Swim Team, this time during the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics. 

As an intercollegiate track and field athlete at Nebraska Wesleyan University, Alberts was looking forward to the 1993 outdoor season. Fresh off his first national title as a member of Wesleyan’s 1,600-meter relay team at the NCAA III Indoor National Championships, Alberts tore his hamstring the first day of practice for the outdoor season.  

The hamstring injury turned out to be the start of his career as Alberts began looking at massage therapy as a way to assist his recovery.  

“I was working with our athletic trainer, and going through all of the rehab and physical therapy. Then my track coach, Ted Bulling, suggested massage therapy to help the healing process. It was something to supplement what we were doing in the training room. And as it turns out, by using my hands, I stumbled into a career that has allowed me to punch my ticket to my third Olympics,” says Alberts, who was a nine-time All-American in the sprints and horizontal jumps at NWU. 

In 1995, Alberts won the NCAA Division III outdoor long jump championship and began helping other athletes, such as University of Nebraska swimming legend and South African Olympian Penny Heyns, who won gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke at the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta. 

Heyns was the first athlete to work with Alberts. Alberts recalls finishing classes or track practice at Nebraska Wesleyan and driving across town to help Heyns recover from her grueling workouts.  

Since that time, Alberts has studied muscular therapy, applying new and ancient techniques along with massage, to relax and rejuvenate the muscles of Olympic, collegiate and professional athletes before, during and after competition.  

Alberts has parlayed his research and work into becoming a valuable member of the medical staff at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials. He will be in Omaha for Wave II on June 13-20, helping the athletes, before heading to Tokyo for the summer games, where he will work as muscular recovery therapist with all Team U.S.A. athletes, July 23-Aug. 8. 

“I never dreamed that working with Penny Heyns all those years ago would lead me to the Olympics,” said Alberts, who worked exclusively as a muscular recovery therapist for the 2008 U.S. swim team in Beijing, China. For the 2012 London Olympics, Alberts was promoted to the overall medical staff.  

“I can’t wait to get to Omaha for the trials and start ramping up for the Olympics,” said Alberts. “It will be intense, but helping these athletes prepare to perform at their peak level, and make the Olympic team, is what it’s all about. I love it.” 

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff’s Department

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

May 30

  • Received reports of two dogs missing in rural Brown Co. The animals were located and returned to their owner.
  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transported a rural Brown Co resident to the Brown Co Hospital.
  • Released an inmate from the Brown Co Jail on bond.
  • Investigated reports of a noise complaint on the 200 block of Oak St.
  • Responded to reports of a suicidal juvenile. Juvenile was placed into emergency protective custody and transported to Richard Young Behavioral Health Center in Kearney.

May 31

  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing at Hwy 183 and Hwy 20 Jct.
  • Responded to calves out on N Hwy 183 near 888th Rd.
  • Booked an individual into the Brown Co Jail on charges of Possession of a Controlled substance from the Nebraska State Patrol.
  • Received reports of a bull out on N Meadville Ave near 888th Rd. The owner was contacted and the bull was moved back into pasture.
  • The Long Pine Rural Firemen responded to a report of a grill on fire near a house in Long Pine.

June 1

  • Responded to reports of a noise complaint on the 100 block on N Park St. Individual was given a verbal warning.
  • Investigated multiple residences in violation of Ainsworth City Ordinance. Verbal notices were issued
  • Responded to reports of a noise complaint on the 200 block of Oak St. Individual was given a verbal warning.
  • Investigated reports of possible Adult abuse or neglect in Ainsworth.
  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co. Jail with a court commitment order.
  • Responded to reports of a gas drive off. The subject was located and resolved payment.

June 2

  • Responded to a report of a dog at large. The dog was returned to the owner and a verbal warning was given requiring the dog licensed per city ordinance, 3-203 stating any dog over the age of 3 months, within the city shall acquire a license for each animal.
  • Received reports of possible animal abuse or neglect at a Long Pine residence.
  • Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a gas meter hit at 3rd St and Harrington St in Ainsworth.
  • Long Pine Rural Firemen responded to a report of a possible garage fire in Long Pine.
  • Investigated reports of suspicious activity in rural Brown Co.
  • Investigated a report of a car/deer accident without injuries on the 9A Spur in Long Pine.
  • Investigated reports of a possible Violation of Probation Order. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Investigated reports of possible child abuse or neglect in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation with the Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Responded to reports of minors driving recklessly in Ainsworth.
  • Responded to a report of a possible distressed motorist on Hwy 183 near Bone Creek. Vehicle was not located at this time.

June 3

  • Investigated reports of a dog bite involving a juvenile in Johnstown.
  • Provided an agency assist with reports of reckless driving. Subject was located and no violations were observed at this time.

June 4

  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co Hospital.
  • Provided the Nebraska State Patrol with an agency assist on S Hwy 20.
  • The Brown Co Ambulance Association transferred a patient to the Ainsworth Regional Airport.
  • Investigated a report of child abuse or neglect in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation with DHHS.
  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a Bench Warrant. Subject was later released from the Brown Co Jail after paying fine.
  • Brown Co Ambulance Association responded to a Medical Alert in Long Pine.
  • Responded to a report of disturbance in Long Pine on S Cedar St. One subject was arrested for Driving Under the Influence. Subject was later released from the Brown Co Jail into the custody of responsible caretakers.

June 5

  • The Ainsworth Fire Department held swift water rescue training at the Niobrara River.
  • Responded to a report of a dog with possible heat exhaustion secured to a black flat bed pickup on Main Street.
  • During a traffic stop on Hwy 20 a subject was cited for an Open Alcohol Container violation.
  • Investigated a possible stranded motorist on Hwy 20 and Hwy 183 Jct.

Weekly Summary

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

     1 – Handgun Permits Applied For

   21 – Incident Reports Were Taken.

    2  – Paper Services Were Served.     

  190 – Phone Calls Were Received

     8 – 911 Emergency Calls Received 

     5 – Titles Were Inspected.

Monthly Summary

  8– Accidents

13– Arrests

85– Calls for Service

18– Citations were issued

  3– Defect Cards issued

12– Handgun permits issued

16– Paper Service served

              627– Phone calls were received

38– 911 emergency calls received

18– Titles inspected

12– Verbal & Written Warnings issued

* Brewer discusses end of legislative session

(Posted 7:45 a.m. June 2)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer visited with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie to talk about the end of the session in the Nebraska Legislature.
Brewer discussed the budget, the bills he worked on that received final approval, and others that did not make it through the legislative process.
To hear the conversation, click on the audio links below.

* Vaccination clinics available at Bassett and O’Neill

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

The North Central District Health Department will hold walk-in COVID vaccination clinics in the area Thursday and Friday. Those who have not yet been vaccinated may go to the Rock County High School gym from 4 until 6:30 p.m. Thursday, or to the Evergreen Assisted Living facility at O’Neill from 1 until 4 p.m. Friday.

The vaccine is now available to anyone 12 years of age and older. A total of 14,829 people in the nine-county district are completely vaccinated, representing 41.3 percent of residents 16 and older. Another 332 people have received one dose of the two-dose vaccine.

The health department reported no new cases of COVID-19 in the district since Thursday and announced 17 people had recovered from the virus, including three people in Holt County, two in Cherry County and two in Boyd County.

* Construction of new solar array underway at East City Park

(Posted 1:30 p.m. June 1)

The Ainsworth solar array project is being constructed on the south side of East City Park. The solar array is an agreement between the city, the Nebraska Public Power District, and developer GRNE Solar of Lincoln.

When complete, the 500-kilowatt Ainsworth facility will generate enough electricity to serve the equivalent of approximately 75-100 homes in the community when the sun is shining. The solar project will join current projects, including those already operational at Venango, Scottsbluff, Kearney, and future projects planned for Norfolk, York, and Ogallala.
Construction is scheduled for completion this fall, with solar shares becoming available to the community later this summer. Once all the shares are fully subscribed, a waiting list will be developed to be able to purchase shares as they become available in the future. Only individuals who receive a bill from NPPD can purchase solar shares.

“Our other community solar projects have received positive feedback from customers, and we expect the community of Ainsworth will have a very positive experience as well,” NPPD General Manager for Retail Services Pat Hanrahan said. “The project is a partnership between NPPD, the City of Ainsworth and GRNE and is an example of public power meeting the needs of our customers.”

The public is urged to use caution in the vicinity of the construction area.

* UN-L students working as Rural Fellows during summer

(Posted 7 a.m. June 1)

Working in pairs or trios, 35 University of Nebraska–Lincoln students will take part in the Rural Fellowship program while living and working in 17 communities across the state this summer.

During their 10-week residence, the fellows will collaborate with local leaders on improving the communities. Project goals include strengthening the communities’ web presence, attracting entrepreneurs, and developing city parks and trails.

This real-world application appears in the form of various projects. Each community assesses its individual needs and aligns them with the education and experience of its fellows. In Ravenna, students Maria Harthoorn of Ainsworth and Olivia Otte will create a new website and brochure to better market the city. In Valentine, students Connor Clanton and Victor Mpore will work on park improvements, including a new bandstand, zero-entry water area and renewed picnic area.

Jacy Hafer of Long Pine, Hanna Jemison of Columbus and Chantelle Schulz of McCool Junction will work in Chadron and Dawes County.

“Rural communities are the backbone of our economy and where the American Dream continues to thrive,” Hafer said. “Spending time in a rural community allows you to be part of something bigger than yourself and find the family you didn’t know you needed.”

“Communities are getting the innovation and drive of new thinkers, problem-solvers and leaders,” said Helen Fagan, program coordinator since 2018. “This gives communities access to some of the latest research and knowledge that students, as well as faculty, have learned.”

For students, “this not only builds their confidence,” Fagan said, “but it also helps them connect what they have been learning in the classroom to addressing challenges.”

The ability for communities to complete these projects is due, in part, to partnerships the fellows program has made with state and university systems, Fagan said.

“We are partnering with Nebraska Extension and Rural Prosperity Nebraska educators in a way that we haven’t been able to accomplish in the past,” Fagan said.

Additionally, the fellows program has partnered with the Nebraska Community Foundation, which launched its own Hometown Interns program in 2020, offering Nebraska college students the opportunity to return to their hometowns for a summer of service learning.

“Ultimately, an enriching summer experience in their Nebraska communities could encourage young Nebraskans to return after college,” said Jeff Yost, president and CEO of the foundation.

Fagan added: “The future of this partnership is really exciting for Nebraska.”

The fellows program saw an increase of nearly 200% in student and community applications this year. Fagan attributes that increase to the program’s success last year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year, we were one of the very few programs that didn’t cancel,” she said. “We planned very carefully and successfully got students to communities to accomplish work. Students were thrilled to have the opportunity while many of their friends’ programs were canceled. And communities were ecstatic that students would be able to do some much-needed work.”

For many of the fellows, the summer program offers more than simply adding a line to their resumes. They walk away better understanding what “community” means to them.

 

 

 

 

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