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Service Information can be found on the Obituaries Page

* Marlene K. McHugh, 72, of Ainsworth

* Dennis Taylor, 74, of Newport

* Robert F. “Rob” Olson Jr., 66, of Bartlett and rural Niobrara 11 a.m. June 21

* George Allard, 72, of Valentine 10 a.m. June 20

* Meeting reports located below for:

June 18 Brown County Commissioners

June 12 Ainsworth City Council

June 11 Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors

June 11 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

June 10 Brown County Commissioners emergency meeting

June 5 Brown County Commissioners

May 22 Brown County Commissioners

* Weed superintendent provides update to commissioners

(Posted 3:45 p.m. June 18)

Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum provided the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday with an update on efforts to combat noxious weeds in the county.

Erthum said he had almost completed spraying noxious weeds on all county road right of way. The weed superintendent said he still had to get to the East Calamus Road and stretches northwest of Long Pine. He said he used a lot of spray on South Pine Avenue.

“We attacked (leafy) spurge early,” Erthum said. “Now we are going after thistle.”

Commissioner Buddy Small asked Erthum if he was seeing a larger outbreak of leafy spurge this year.

Erthum said leafy spurge is appearing in places that it hasn’t before. He wasn’t sure of the cause, whether it was the wind or the amount of moisture that was causing the noxious weed to appear in more areas.

The weed superintendent said he had conducted 92 land inspections.

“The response from landowners has been overwhelmingly positive,” Erthum said.

He said both the city of Long Pine and village of Johnstown had been in contact about spraying for leafy spurge inside their limits.

“The Long Pine tree dump has had a lot of spurge on it,” Erthum said. “They have been doing a better job.”

He said he had checked the Ainsworth Transfer Station and had sprayed that area along with the Brown County Fairgrounds at Johnstown. Erthum said he will work with the Farm Service Agency on CRP acres when needed.

Erthum said the Barta Brothers Ranch, owned by the University of Nebraska, went through a vacuum after current Commissioner Denny Bauer retired from the Extension office. Erthum said there is now someone at the ranch who is doing some spraying and has hired a contractor to help spray problem areas.

“They are throwing what they can at it,” Erthum said. “It is nice to see an effort to address the problem.”

The weed superintendent said he had not had to conduct a forced spraying on any private property and assess the cost to the property owner in the past five years.

“There is a process we have to follow if a landowner does not cooperate,” Erthum said. “It takes some time.”

While Erthum said he respects private property rights, his position as weed superintendent is a balancing act.

“I don’t like to intrude on private property rights, but I have a job to do,” he said. “I look at what I do as a service to the county and its people.”

Erthum said, with more than 700,000 acres in Brown County, he appreciates when landowners notify him of potential problem areas.

“Landowners know best what is out there and I appreciate them letting me know,” Erthum said.

He said a vast majority of property owners are willing to spray when they are contacted about an infestation. He said most just need some education.

Erthum told the commissioners there were no grant funds available from the state this year to assist in spraying for noxious weeds, as the governor had reallocated those funds toward property tax relief.

The commissioners, with Bauer absent Tuesday, thanked Erthum for the update.

In other business, Brown County Hospital Administrator Mirya Hallock approached the board about adding more paved parking on the east side of the hospital.

“We are running out of space,” Hallock said. “We would like to add a parking lot. We have employees parking now where patients should.”

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said he had noticed that parking was an issue at the hospital. Hallock said it was especially an issue on days where surgeries were scheduled or when specialty clinic providers were on campus.

She said the city of Ainsworth had agreed to abandon a portion of Park Street south of Zero Street to allow for the additional paving.

“It is county property,” Hallock said. “I just want to make sure a cement parking lot is acceptable.”

Hallock said the new paving would accommodate approximately 60 new parking spaces.

County Attorney Andy Taylor said he would work with the hospital to create a legal description of the area the hospital wants to pave and present a resolution for the board to consider during its July 2 meeting.

In roads items Tuesday, the commissioners approved the purchase of a sod chopper from Cole Construction and Maintenance at a cost of $13,000. Since the front end disk was a unique item and not readily available from other sources, the commissioners did not have to go out for bids before approving the quote for the piece of equipment.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin asked the commissioners how they wanted to handle paying the remaining $80,000 due on the motor grader that was purchased for the roads department.

Turpin said the board could budget to pay for half of the cost of the grader and pay for the remainder using inheritance tax funds. The county could then budget in the 2025-26 fiscal year to replenish the inheritance tax fund.

“I assume you don’t want to finance $80,000,” Turpin said. “Or we could just budget for it and pay it all.”

Both Small and Dailey indicated they would prefer to budget for the entire $80,100 payment in the 2024-25 fiscal year since no other large equipment purchases were planned in the upcoming budget year.

Turpin reported he had completed a traffic study of Cedar Road south of Long Pine after the county received a request to vacate the road.

Turpin said Cedar Road has minimal vehicular use, less than five vehicles per day. He said there was an additional road that serves that area and would only add 2.6 miles of driving if Cedar Road were to be abandoned.

“It would benefit the county to maintain one road instead of two,” Turpin said. “It will reduce the county’s liability and will not landlock any property owners.”

Turpin said he recommended scheduling a public hearing on the road’s vacation so anyone with concerns would have a chance to address the commissioners. Turpin is required to notify all adjacent property owners by letter.

Taylor said the county would also need to notify the U.S. Postal Service since Cedar Road was still designated as a mail route. Turpin said he would provide that notification even though there were no longer any mailboxes on Cedar Road.

Small said the county could not abandon a mail route without the postal service’s permission.

The commissioners scheduled a public hearing regarding the abandonment of Cedar Road for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 6.

Turpin reported an engineer from Oak Creek Engineering had visited a site on Norden Avenue near property owned by Royce Greder. Turpin said the engineer did not see any drainage issues with the stretch of road.

“We had 2 inches of rain and I couldn’t see any spots where it looked like it had washed,” Turpin said. “If you tear it up and lose the vegetation, it will start to wash again.”

Turpin said the engineer was willing to visit the site with the commissioners if they preferred.

“If we do pipes like Denny suggested, we are going to need wider ditches,” Turpin said.

Dailey said he would visit with Greder before the county determines whether to pursue any potential drainage projects.

Turpin reported another area of Norden Avenue where the county did some work to improve drainage issues had washed a little, but he said the water went where the roads department wanted it to go.

The highway superintendent said the roof of the county’s Ainsworth roads shop was leaking substantially following the recent rain.

“We don’t want water running in on our expensive stuff in there,” Turpin said.

The board encouraged Turpin to look at the cost of making repairs to the roof.

Turpin said the Nebraska Department of Transportation was willing to place yield signs on the local Ponderosa Road detour route near Long Pine. He said, if the yield signs did not help with the traffic issues, the NDOT would consider placing stoplights at the site.

The highway superintendent said he was still waiting for the “no trucks” signs to be delivered so they could be placed on both Ponderosa Road and the Bar 25 Road where the county had closed bridges to commercial truck traffic for the duration of the Highway 20 construction project in the Long Pine hills.

Sheriff Brent Deibler said both the sheriff’s department and the Nebraska State Patrol were working the detour routes and were rerouting truck traffic when encountered from the roads the county closed. Deibler said State Patrol troopers were issuing citations Tuesday to any trucks found using the routes that were closed.

Brown County Deputy Emergency Manager Jessica Pozehl provided the commissioners with an update on potential grant opportunities the emergency management office would pursue on the county’s behalf.
Pozehl said Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties were not awarded cedar tree clearing grants this year since it had been more than 10 years since the three counties had any major wildfire issues.

She said the emergency management office had been awarded $9,600 in Homeland Security grant funds to develop a mobile emergency operations center. Pozehl said the office was working with area fire departments on potential grant opportunities as well.

The commissioners approved a payment of $29,750 to Shawn Fernau Construction to pay for the materials needed for the courthouse roof repair project. The company provided the county with an itemized list of the materials needed for the repair project.

During its final regular session prior to the close of the 2023-24 fiscal year June 30, the board approved resolutions transferring $300,000 from the miscellaneous general fund to the county highway fund, transferring $21,000 from the sheriff’s fund to the jail fund, transferring $1,300 from the miscellaneous general fund to the building and grounds fund, and transferring $100 from the miscellaneous general fund to the county treasurer fund.

The board discussed its annual contribution to the North Central Development Center. After agreeing to provide $10,000 to the NCDC as a contributing partner, Dailey said the county had only budgeted $8,000 in its 2023-24 fiscal year budget. NCDC Board member Graig Kinzie said it would likely not be an issue if the board was willing to provide the remaining $2,000 as part of its 2024-25 contribution.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. July 2.

* Area students named to Wayne State Dean’s List

(Posted 10:45 a.m. June 18)

Wayne State College included 1,154 students on its Dean’s List for exemplary academic achievement during the spring semester. Students listed on the Dean’s List are full-time undergraduate students who have achieved a GPA of 3.5 or above on a 4.0 scale for the semester. An asterisk (*) denotes a 4.0 GPA for the term.

Area students named to the Dean’s List for the spring semester are:

Ainsworth

Cameryn Goochey*, Madelyn Goochey, Brandt Murphy, Makenna Pierce and Zachary Welch*

Long Pine

Gavin Olinger

Bassett

Benjamin Barrow* and Carson Shaw 

Stuart

Brayden Almgren and Jett Kunz 

Atkinson

Gracie Beddow and Olivia Jarman 

Valentine

Riawna Reimers*

* Brown County Commissioners Tuesday agenda

(Posted 2:15 p.m. June 18)

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, June 18
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

1:15  Roll Call.

Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

Road Study for Cedar Rd – Turpin

Payment on Balance of new motor grader purchased – Turpin

Resolution to purchase sod chopper (front end disk) from Cole Construction and Maintenance – Turpin

Weed Update – Scott Erthum

Grant Update – Emergency Management

Roof material purchase – Dailey

NCDC 2023/2024 Contribution

Resolution correcting Resolution #2024-23

1:30  Mirya Hallock – Brown County Hospital Additional Parking or Parking Lot for Brown County Hospital

Resolution for a budgeted transfer of $300,000.00 from Miscellaneous General Fund within the General Fund to the County Highway Fund – Hardy

Resolution for a transfer of $100.00 from Miscellaneous General to the County Treasurer Fund all within the General Fund – Hardy   

Resolution for a transfer of $1,300.00 from Miscellaneous General to Buildings and Ground Fund all within the General Fund – Hardy

Resolution for a transfer of $21,000.00 from Sheriff Fund to Jail Fund all within the General Fund – Hardy

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 9 a.m. June 17)

June 9

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth and transported one patient to the hospital.  They later transported a flight crew and a patient to the airport.

Served a civil summons.

Provided foot patrol at carnival in Long Pine.

Responded to a report of a disturbance on 2nd Street in Ainsworth.  One male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail for criminal trespassing and disturbing the peace.

Responded to a report of a car deer accident on Highway 7 at mile marker 38.  The vehicle was not able to drive away from the scene, but no injuries were reported.

A Brown County arrest warrant was served on a male subject in Sioux Falls, SD.  The male is awaiting extradition court and will be brought back to Brown County.

June 10

Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing at the Highway 183/20 Junction.

Received a report of a stolen handgun that had been recovered.

The Brown County Ambulance provided ground transport to Norfolk, NE.

June 11

Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after receiving a personal recognizance bond.

Completed a fingerprint audit through the Nebraska State Patrol.

Responded to a minor accident in the courthouse parking lot.  No damage was found to both vehicles.

Served a civil summons.

Responded to a report of a reckless driver in Hidden Paradise.  A traffic stop was completed on the driver, and a written warning was issued to the driver for speeding and reckless driving.

June 12

Received a burglar alarm and was found to be a false alarm.

Received a statement regarding an incident involving terroristic threats, possession of weapon by prohibited person, and use of a firearm to commit a felony.  One male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail.

Served a civil summons.

Received a report of horses standing in a trailer for an extended period of time in Long Pine.  The driver was reached by phone and fixed the issue.

Responded to a report of a medical alert alarm in Ainsworth.  Upon arrival the individual denied further medical care.

Responded to a report of a disturbance at a gas station in Ainsworth.

June 13

Received a complaint regarding overgrown weeds and trash in Ainsworth.  The owner was notified and agreed to correct the issue within 7 days.

Served a protection order and four civil summonses.

Received a report of a male subject experiencing a mental health crisis.

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth and transported one patient to the hospital.

Responded to a report of gun shots within Ainsworth city limits.  It was found to be from a vehicle.

Issued a written warning for speeding.

June 14

Responded to a report of trespassing and loitering on Pine Street in Ainsworth.  The individual left the area.

Released a male subject from the Brown County Jail after they posted bond.

Responded to a report of a two-vehicle accident at a gas station in Ainsworth.  Minimal damage occurred to both vehicles and drivers exchanged information.

Responded to a report of a reckless driver on Highway 183.  The vehicle was not found.

Issued a citation for speeding and no valid registration.

June 15

Received a medical alert alarm in Ainsworth.  It was found to be a false alarm.

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a page in Ainsworth and transported one patient to the hospital.

Received a report regarding a check scam.

Responded to a 911 call regarding a reckless driver on Oak and Maple Street in Ainsworth.

Weekly Log

Calls:  183

911 Calls:  12

Incident Reports:  16

Vin Inspections:  7

Gun Permits:  0

* Council discusses East City Park projects

(Posted 9:30 a.m. June 12)

The Ainsworth City Council on Tuesday discussed potential improvement projects at East City Park with a representative from the Park Board and funding avenues for the priority project.

Park Board representative Cody Goochey told the council the Park Board presented the council with several proposals three years ago, but nothing had moved forward.

“The city has always said, if we could find the money, the city would support,” Goochey said. “We don’t know what our budget is or what gets earmarked for the park each year.”

Councilman Brad Fiala said, after the lengthy discussion on awarding ABC funds for a playground at the Ainsworth Child Development Center, he had many people asking about improvements at the city park.

“I would like to discuss our budget and put in maybe $50,000 to get started and see if we can double it with a grant,” Fiala said. “I would like to see a couple projects get done in 2025.”
Goochey said the Park Board had submitted estimates three years ago on the cost to construct a new basketball and pickleball court at East City Park to replace a dilapidated court.

With concrete, lighting, fencing and equipment, the projected cost of the project is between $200,000 and $215,000 depending on the council’s equipment preferences.

Goochey said the Park Board looked into the creation of a walking trail connecting the park to the Cowboy Trail. He said the projected cost for the 3,400 feet of new path was $68,000, but that estimate was from three years ago.

The Park Board has also looked into a potential splash pad at East City Park and the construction of a dog park east of the horseshoe pits.

Councilman Kent Taylor asked which project was the top priority for the Park Board.

Goochey said the basketball and pickleball court project was the top priority for the Park Board.

“We are looking for direction,” Goochey said. “There are things that get done at the parks that our committee knows nothing about. The Park Board would like to know what gets budgeted each year. I have been on the board for six years and I don’t know.”

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said most of the city’s committees make recommendations to the City Council.

“The committees do the leg work and take that to the council,” Schroedl said. “The council determines through the budget what can be done.”

Goochey said, when the Park Board made a presentation to the council three years ago on these projects, he thought that is what the park board was doing.

Fiala said he would work with the Park Board, as improvement to East City Park was one of his top priorities.

Councilman Dustin Barthel said he would also be willing to assist in getting projects moving forward.

“I want to see something get done,” Barthel said.

The council discussed applying for funding through the Ainsworth Betterment Committee and the Brown County Visitors Committee in addition to budgeting funds for potential improvements.

Goochey said the Park Board planned to meet monthly to try and keep moving forward on getting projects completed.

In other business Tuesday, the council approved vacating a portion of Park Street south of Zero Street on the east side of the Brown County Hospital to allow the hospital to construct additional parking lot pavement.

Hospital Administrator Mirya Hallock said hospital employees currently park in a gravel lot, and the Hospital Board would like to move forward with paving that area.

“We need more parking,” Hallock said. “I am not sure if I am asking you to abandon a portion of the road by the hospital or what we need to do.”

Schroedl said there is a platted road east of the hospital, but that portion of Park Street has never been developed.

“If we are not going to make it a road, we could abandon that portion,” Schroedl said. “I would recommend we keep an easement for any future utility work that might be needed.”

Mayor Joel Klammer asked if the council could simply permit the hospital to pave the area without abandoning the street.

Hallock said the hospital would also like to add some lighting to the area.

Barthel said he did not see an issue with abandoning the stretch of Park Street south of Zero Street.

The council approved having Schroedl move forward with abandoning that portion of Park Street to allow the hospital to expand its paved parking area.

After months of discussion, the council Tuesday approved a renewed agreement with the North Central Development Center for administration of the LB 840 program. The NCDC will receive $60,000 annually to administer the program, the same amount as the previous contract. The new contract will include that the city receives one seat on the NCDC Board and can recommend a member for an at-large seat on the NCDC Board. At least one of the seats is to be occupied by a current council member.

The contract was backdated to March 8, the date the previous contract expired.

In another economic development item, the council Tuesday approved a $10,000 façade grant from the LB 840 program to provide 50 percent of the cost of replacing windows and a door at the Brown County Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store.

At the outset of Tuesday’s meeting, Klammer read a letter of resignation from Councilman Shawn Fernau. Fernau, who resigned from the Sandhills Care Center Board Monday, indicated he was resigning from the council for personal reasons and thanked the city for allowing him to serve in the role.

Klammer said he was sorry to see Fernau exit the council.

“He was a good councilman,” the mayor said.

Fiala said Fernau had done a great job for the community in his role as a council member.

Klammer will make a recommendation to the council during its July meeting to appoint someone for the remainder of Fernau’s term, which expires at the end of 2024. The seat is up for election in November, and Klammer said he hoped a community member would file as a write-in candidate for the council seat.

Klammer also addressed questions he has heard following the city opting not to renew a contract with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement service.

Klammer said City Attorney Michael Sholes had provided a statement to the council that the mayor has the authority to determine whether a city police force is needed and at what level. Klammer said there is no legal requirement for a city of the second class to have its own police force.

The mayor said the sheriff’s department is still obligated to enforce criminal statutes in the city but is not responsible for enforcing city codes.

“We need to have a subcommittee meeting to look at hiring a code enforcement officer,” Klammer said.

The council approved allowing that subcommittee to move forward with advertising for a code enforcement officer and establish procedures for the position.

The council approved moving forward with an application for a $1 million Rural Community Recovery Program grant for site development for housing projects.

Schroedl said the grant opportunity was federal COVID money that was being made available by the state.

“There is a preference given to communities that had applied for a previous grant program that we were not awarded,” Schroedl said. “Eligible projects are redevelopment for housing or into public green spaces. We have green spaces already. The need is clearing and redevelopment for housing.”

The council approved a general administration contract with the Central Nebraska Economic Development District following its previous action to repurpose its housing rehabilitation reuse loan funds for a lighting project on South Main Street.

Schroedl said CNEDD will handle the general administration as the funds are repurposed. She said the contract was a formality, as the Department of Economic Development has approved the paperwork to repurpose the funds.

The council approved a pair of special designated liquor license requests Tuesday, one for the Silver Circle for an event running from 3 p.m. June 29 to 2 a.m. June 30 that also will close the alley behind the business and a small portion of Second Street. The second approved application was submitted by Bolo Brewing Co. for a Tour de Nebraska biking event from 1:30 until 4:30 p.m. June 27 at East City Park.

In a final action item Tuesday, the council approved removing Lendi Osborn from the city’s bank signature cards and adding Barthel as a signatory. Schroedl said she, the mayor and city employee Cody Nilson were the other bank signatories.

During her report, Schroedl said Stan Daniels had been hired to operate the garbage truck. She said the pool has opened for the season. The Nebraska Rural Water Association found a leak on the south side of the pool on a return line between the baby pool and the main pool. She said the line runs under the concrete pool deck.

The city administrator said she had received information from the League Association of Risk Management that a claim filed against the city and Ainsworth Community Schools by someone who tripped and fell on a sidewalk in front of the school had been settled for $17,500. LARM and the school’s liability insurer are each responsible for half the cost of the claim. Schroedl said the LARM attorney indicated the cost of the settlement was likely lower than the legal costs the city and school would have incurred by continuing the case through the court system.

Schroedl also reported a complaint had been issued against the city to the federal Department of Justice alleging the city violated the Open Meetings Act by having two council members and the mayor negotiate on the city’s behalf on the law enforcement contract.

The complaint alleges two council members and the mayor constituted a quorum of the council based off an executive order issued by the governor during COVID allowing for the mayor to count toward a quorum when the council otherwise lacked a quorum.

Schroedl said the city has always operated that as long as two or fewer council members participated, a quorum was not reached. The only time the mayor is used for a quorum is when two council members are not available for a meeting. She said no decisions were made during the subcommittee negotiations. The administrator said the Department of Justice would issue a letter of finding and its interpretation of the allegation to both the city and the complainant.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 10.

* Striping works moves east to Atkinson area

(Posted 2:30 p.m. June 11)

Roadway paint striping work is complete in the Ainsworth, Springview and Bassett areas. Striping work is progressing east to the Atkinson, O’Neill, Spencer and Burwell areas, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

Sir Lines-A-Lot of Edina, Minn., is the contractor for the project. Work includes repainting the yellow and white stripes on the roadways. This is a slow speed mobile operation. Be aware of wet paint when approaching the striping equipment. Anticipated completion is July.

* Care center to receive additional Medicaid funds

(Posted 12:30 p.m. June 11)

With the Sandhills Care Center scheduled to receive a $151,710 payment from Medicaid during June, the Board of Directors Monday voted to pay off the remaining line of credit previously taken out to cover a three-pay-period month.

Administrator Penny Jacobs told the board the facility was expecting the $151,710 Medicaid settlement payment, which occurs once per year based off the nursing home’s overall costs, prior to the end of the current fiscal year June 30.

The facility still owed $46,668 on its credit line, which the board approved paying off contingent upon the Medicaid settlement funds being received as anticipated.

During May, the Sandhills Care Center generated $269,588 in revenue with expenses of $258,749 for a net profit for the month of $10,839. The facility also received $33,111 in May from the voter-approved property tax levy.

The care center has received $59,457 of the approximately $100,000 in tax that will come from a 1-cent levy on property in Brown County.

The care center has yet to receive any tax funds from the voter-approved 10-cent levy on property inside the Ainsworth city limits.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl told the board the levy funds were co-mingled with the city’s general property tax funds. She said she was working with the city’s auditor on the proper way to account for the additional care center levy. When that is complete, Schroedl said it is just a matter of doing the math on how much property tax the city has received that goes to the care center.

“I will do my best to get that worked out and will let Bruce (Papstein) and Makenzie (Crane) know when I am done,” Schroedl said.

At the outset of Monday’s meeting, board member Shawn Fernau informed the board he was resigning for personal reasons. He said it had been an honor to be a part of the board, and he believes in the staff and the facility.

Board Chair Tom Jones told Fernau he appreciated his service to the board and the volunteer work he has performed to improve the facility, from assisting with snow removal and interior painting to other work.

“Your heart has been in the right place on this board,” Jones said.

Jacobs reported the care center is currently home to 29 residents and was expecting its 30th resident this week. She said, if the new resident arrives this week as planned, there would be a party as promised for the facility reaching 30 residents.

Of the current residents, 12 pay privately, 15 receive Medicaid assistance, one receives Medicare assistance, and one is on hospice care. She said 16 residents are from Ainsworth, seven are from Cherry County, three are from rural Brown County, and there is one resident each from Long Pine, Rock County and Keya Paha County.

Jacobs said the care center was still in need of charge nurses, and will need CNAs since the facility would lose several CNAs when school starts back up. She also reported the care center could use help in the dietary department.

Jacobs said state surveyors had been in the building recently, and the care center was tagged for a total of 13 violations. She walked the board through each violation, which included procedural issues, medication storage, emergency planning and resident care items.

“My kudos to the staff,” Jacobs said. “They did a good job while the surveyors were there. There is nothing on there that can’t be fixed.”

Jacobs said she was working to provide a plan of corrective action to submit to the state, which was due by Friday.

Board member Dr. Mel Campbell said state surveys always find something.

Jacobs discussed the potential need for the facility to install a handicap-accessible door into the building, with a push button opener. She said she received an email from the Nebraska Healthcare Association related to making sure nursing facilities have full access into buildings.

She said the front door was currently not fully handicap accessible. She said the facility at some point would probably need to install a handicap accessible door at the main entrance to the facility.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 8.

* Bridge work underway east of Inman

(Posted 10:30 a.m. June 11)

Work began Monday on Highway 20 east of Inman near milepost 321, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

JJK Construction of Ceresco is the contractor for the project. Work includes bridge repair. No traffic delays are expected. Anticipated completion is mid-August.

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

* Ainsworth City Council Tuesday agenda

(Posted 7 a.m. June 11)

Ainsworth City Council
Meeting 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 11
Ainsworth Conference Center
Agenda

  • I. Routine Business
    • Announcement of Open Meetings Act
    • Roll Call
    • Pledge of Allegiance
  • II. Consent Agenda – All items approved with the passage of one motion
    • Approve minutes from the May 8, 2024 regular meeting
    • Approval of claims
    • Treasurer’s report
    • Department head reports
    • Cemetery certificate
  • III. Mayor’s Appointments and Report
    • Mayor’s Report
    • Mayor’s Appointments
  • IV. Public Hearings
    • None
  • V. Old Business
    • Discuss and consider subcommittee recommendations regarding the Law Enforcement Agreement and Economic Development Services Agreement
  • VI. Regular Agenda
    • Discuss and consider a request for additional parking lot paving for Brown County Hospital on city property – Mirya Hallock, Brown County Hospital
    • Discuss and consider a recommendation from the LB840 Loan Committee to approve façade application #24-03 in the amount of $10,000
    • Discuss and consider authorizing the submission of a grant application for the Rural Community Recovery Program (RCRP) for site development of affordable housing in the requested amount of $1,000,000
    • Discuss and consider the approval of a general administration contract with Central Nebraska Economic Development District (CNEDD) for the repurposing of the Housing Rehabilitation funds
    • Discuss and consider Park Board updates and recommendations – Cody Goochey
    • Discuss and consider a Special Designated Liquor License (SDL) application for BCW Inc. dba Silver Circle Bar for an event on June 29, 2024 from 3:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. June 30, 2024, with street closing (alleyway) behind the bar and on 2nd Street from Main Street to the west alleyway during the event
    • Discuss and consider an SDL application for Bolo Brewing Co. for the Tour de Nebraska event at East City Park to be held on June 27, 2024 from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    • Discuss and consider updates to bank signature cards
    • City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Report

* Schlueter updates board on dual credit classes

(Posted 7 a.m. June 11)

During Monday’s meeting, Guidance Counselor Lisa Schlueter discussed with the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education the dual credit opportunities available for high school students and the work she does to assist students with applying for scholarships and filling out financial aid forms.

Schlueter told the board there have been 15 different dual credit class opportunities offered to students during the past few years.

“Students can take anything they want to take, but to take a class during the school day it has to be for dual credit,” Schlueter said. “Otherwise, they take online classes outside the school day and those go on their Northeast Community College transcript.”

Schlueter said, during the 2023-24 school year, 46 Ainsworth High School students took a total of 142 dual credit classes through Northeast. That was an increase from 39 students taking 114 dual credit classes during the 2022-23 school year.

Schlueter said she sends letters to students and parents in the spring since registration for the fall semester occurs in the spring. She said she sends additional letters in the fall for the second semester classes.

“Only five seniors graduating this year did not participate in at least one dual credit class,” Schlueter said.

She said the school has independent learning periods during the school day to allow students to work on the dual credit classes. The guidance counselor said the college has expanded its course offerings for the dual credit program.

Superintendent Dale Hafer said Northeast Community College is now offering classes tuition-free to students. He said the college did request a discontinuation of small payments that were made by the college to school districts offering dual credit courses since the college was no longer charging tuition to the students participating.

He said superintendents in the college’s service area agreed to the discontinuation of payments.

Schlueter also discussed how she provides information to seniors on scholarship opportunities available and sometimes has to individually encourage students to apply for scholarships for which they may be eligible.

She said she also can assist students with completing the federal FAFSA forms for potential federal loan and grant assistance.

In other business Monday, the board held annual public hearings on the school’s student fee policy and its parent and family involvement policy.

Hafer said students who qualify for free and reduced school meals can fill out a form to have student fees waived. He said 186 waiver forms were completed during the recently completed school year.

Hafer said the parent and family involvement policy helps parents to understand their rights. No changes were recommended to either policy.

The board also conducted annual reviews of the district’s bullying policy and its staff conduct with students policy.

Hafer said the bullying policy was fairly open-ended, and it needed to be because each situation was unique.

“We need to be able to work with kids and parents through these situations,” the superintendent said. “Sometimes it doesn’t even occur in the building, it can be through social media. We do have discipline issues at times related to bullying.”

Regarding the staff conduct with students policy, Hafer said administration goes over the policy annually with the staff. He said the policy covers inappropriate conduct with students, the obvious things and those that are not so obvious.

During action items Monday, the board approved the 2024-25 student-parent handbook and the 2024-25 teacher-staff handbook.

Hafer said one change made to the student-parent handbook involved the district’s drug and alcohol policy. He said the school board received some questions regarding the policy.

“There are varying opinions out there on what the consequences should look like,” the superintendent said. “A lot of work went into the current policy.”

Hafer said it was recommended that the district weave in a diversion program to lessen the first offense.

“The policy has some teeth, and there is a reason it is there,” Hafer said. “But this is a genuine push to address the mental health of students. It is an opportunity for the student to connect and help a kid if they need some help.”

High School Principal Steve Dike said adding the education component allows a student to reduce the activity suspension by 50 percent on a first offense. He said the diversion component would not be available for any subsequent offenses, as the students should know better.

For a student self-reporting a first offense, completing the diversion program would reduce the activity suspension from 30 school days to 15 school days.

The board approved the policy as presented.

In reviewing the teacher-staff handbook, Hafer said an addition was included this year regarding proper use of technology.

He said part of the policy deals with electronic communication as teachers and coaches provide information to students and athletes. He said everything is either done within a group message or includes a parent if electronic communication occurs individually.

The board approved that policy as presented.

The school board approved the second reading of a policy regarding workplace privacy, and approved the first reading of policy updates as recommended by the Nebraska Association of School Boards.

In a final action item Monday, the board approved a $10,000 payment to the North Central Development Center as a contributing partner. Hafer said the NCDC was assisting the district with a large grant application to replace playground equipment.

During his report, Hafer said the refurbishment of the track is going well. He said the new layer of coating has been completed. He said the company will return to paint lines and marks.

The superintendent reported Austin Jones has been hired as a custodian and will train with Nick Krause starting July 8 prior to Krause’s retirement. Hafer said the district was in need of another custodian and is advertising to fill that position.

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

* Concrete on Main Street to be poured Tuesday

(Posted 12:30 p.m. June 10)

Weather permitting, concrete paving will begin Tuesday on the first portion of the South Main Street project in Ainsworth.

According to Nebraska Department of Transportation Project Manager Carl Hart, the sanitary sewer, water lines and storm sewers are in place from Third Street to Highway 20. Base preparations have been completed in that block ahead of concrete surfacing.

Additional concrete pouring will occur later this week on the Third Street intersection.

Highway 7 will be closed to traffic beginning Monday, June 17, for Phase II of the project, which includes Main Street between First and Second streets. The First Street intersection with Main Street will remain open for cross traffic during Phase II.

Water and sewer connections to businesses will progress into Phase II of the project as removals are completed. Temporary sidewalk closures and service interruptions may occur during Phase II.

Anyone with questions on the Main Street renovation project may contact the Nebraska Department of Transportation District 8 office at 402-387-2471.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 10:45 a.m. June 10)

June 2

The Brown County Ambulance and the Sheriff’s office responded to an unconscious Male subject laying on a roadway in Long Pine.  The Male was taken to the hospital and later transported by a flight crew to another facility.

During traffic stops on this day a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for speeding 47 in a 35mph zone.  Other warnings were issued for speeding and failure to stop.

Served three civil service papers.

June 3

Received a report of a downed stop sign near 5th and Ash Street.  This was reported to the City of Ainsworth office and corrected.

Received a medical alert alarm but was found to be a false alarm.

Issued two verbal warnings for speeding on Pine Street in Ainsworth.

Received a report of domestic assault in Long Pine.  This is an ongoing investigation.

June 4

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a senior living facility and transported one patient to the hospital.

Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.

The Brown County Ambulance provided standby services at the Brown County Fairgrounds on the 4th, 5th

Issued a notice to correct overgrown weeds on Walnut Street and followed up with a previous overgrown lawn on 2nd Street that had been mowed.

Served two civil service papers.

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth.  One patient was transported to the hospital.

Issued a written warning for speeding.

June 5

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call near Ainsworth.  The patient denied transport at this time.

Released two inmates from the Brown County Jail after receiving personal recognizance bonds in court.

Received a report of stolen prescription medication.

June 6

Received an alarm for a Main Street business that was found to be a false alarm.

Received a report of a male subject in a mental health crisis.  Contact was made with the male in rural Brown County.  The male was issued a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol 2nd offense and booked into the Brown County Jail.

June 7

Responded to a report of gunshots inside City of Ainsworth limits.  Contact was made and was found to be a pellet gun.

Served a protection order.

Responded to a report of a two-vehicle accident on Main & 2nd Street.  No injuries were reported, and minimal damage occurred to both vehicles.

Two written warnings were issued for speeding and one citation was issued for misuse of a school permit.

Increased foot patrol supervision at the carnival in Long Pine for all three days.

June 8

Responded to a report of reckless driving in Ainsworth on 1st Street.  A Nebraska male driver was issued a citation for careless driving and disturbing the peace.

Provided increased traffic control for Highway 20 detour.

Weekly Report

Phone Calls:  179

911 Calls:  11

Vin Inspections:  0

Gun Permits:0

* Commissioners close McCullough bridge to truck traffic

(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 10)

During an emergency meeting Friday, the Brown County Commissioners unanimously voted to close the McCullough bridge on the Bar 25 road in northern Brown County to commercial truck traffic.

The move comes as trucks are detoured from Highway 20 through the Long Pine hills with a bridge replacement project underway. The Nebraska Department of Transportation designated Highway 7 north of Bassett to Highway 183 south of Springview as the detour route during the bridge replacement project.

The commissioners on Tuesday voted to close Ponderosa Road through the Long Pine State Park to truck traffic, as many commercial trucks were using that local detour route around the closed Highway 20 bridge.

The board Friday discussed trucks now using the Bar 25 Road to avoid the longer detour route after being barred from using the route through the Long Pine State Park.

With the potential for the McCullough bridge and Bar 25 Road being damaged from the increased truck traffic, the board unanimously voted to close that bridge to truck traffic as well.

That was the only item on Friday’s emergency meeting agenda. The next regular meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. June 18.

* Area students selected for youth institute

(Posted 7 a.m. June 7)

High school students continue to show their passion for agriculture and their enthusiasm to attend Nebraska’s premier youth ag event, the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute. The

Nebraska Department of Agriculture received a record number of applications from high school juniors and seniors across the state to attend NAYI this summer.

NAYI brings together hundreds of students every year to learn more about Nebraska agriculture, network with ag leaders and explore career opportunities. This year, NAYI will be held July 8-12 on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus.

Among the students selected to attend the youth institute are: Hannah Beel of Johnstown; Brynn Almgren of Stuart; Cale Buss, Naomi Sanchez, Teagan Butterfield, Elley Engelhaupt, Rylee Poessnecker and Hannah Olson all of Atkinson; Elizabeth Bernt of Butte; Delaney Rogers of Dunning; and Ariana Blume, Doc Lancaster, Finley Mosner, Alivia Patterson, Cadence Swanson and Kennedie Assman of Valentine.

“We were overwhelmed, but not surprised, by the record number of applications we received from students interested in attending NAYI,” said NDA Director Sherry Vinton. “NAYI is an incredible opportunity for young leaders to expand their knowledge of agriculture and connect with peers and network with agricultural professionals from around the state. These students are the future leaders and innovators of Nebraska’s ag industry. They will be the ones working together in the future to strengthen our state’s number one industry.”

NAYI is in its 53rd year, making it the longest running ag youth program of its kind in the nation. This year’s theme, “Leading Your Legacy,” is appropriate because students participating in the youth institute start a legacy of exceptional ag leaders in Nebraska. NAYI features motivational speakers, discussions on agricultural issues, career development, networking opportunities, leadership activities, a farm management game, a formal banquet, and a dance. NDA selects students to attend NAYI based on their leadership skills, interests, and involvement in agriculture.

The youth institute is coordinated by the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council, which is comprised of 21 college students selected by NDA for their passion, interest, and investment in the ag industry. During the youth institute, NAYC members provide valuable insight and advice about agriculture, college coursework and career-building.

“The Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council does a fantastic job showcasing the opportunities here in our state. It is our hope that after NAYI, the delegates will be better prepared for whatever path they choose in life and know that they will always have a part to play in Nebraska agriculture,” Vinton said.

* Cosgrove, Sedlacek to serve as NCF interns

(Posted 10:15 a.m. June 5)

Twenty-two college students from across Nebraska returned to their hometowns this May as members of Nebraska Community Foundation’s 2024 Hometown Interns cohort.

A Hometown Intern is a current college student who has completed at least one year of schooling or other learning experience and lives at home for the summer. They are compensated for their work through a generous gift from an anonymous donor to NCF.

This year’s interns will serve NCF affiliated funds in Rock County, Holt County, Arnold, Bertrand, Deshler, Diller, Dorchester, Friend, Hebron, Howells, Keith County, Leigh, Red Cloud, Shickley, Sidney and Valley County. Three previous Hometown Interns will serve as Youth Engagement Interns focused on helping the other interns reach their goals.

Allie Cosgrove will serve as the intern for the Rock County Community Fund and Ally Sedlacek will serve as the intern for Holt County Economic Development.

Hometown Interns began the summer at a retreat in Keith County where they connected with their peers and learned about Asset-Based Community Development, an approach to development that focuses on identifying and leveraging the strengths and assets within a community. Over the course of the summer, they will work alongside their supervisors and other members of their local affiliated fund on a mission to discover and unleash the assets in their community. Together, they will mobilize local wonders to help their hometown accomplish its goals and dreams.

“This internship isn’t just about gaining experience,” said NCF Community and Cultural Impact Specialist Becky Boesen. “It’s designed to be a journey of self-discovery and shared growth. Together, we’ll explore roads less taken, lift-up hidden assets, celebrate the uniqueness of our places, and co-create an experience alongside local affiliated funds that will add value to the future of both students and their communities.”

While the specific tasks and projects will vary from one internship to another, the Nebraska Community Foundation will provide numerous opportunities for interns to connect throughout the summer to give them space to learn from each other, share ideas and foster appreciation for their hometowns while contributing to community development efforts at the local and statewide level.

Past Hometown Interns have worked on wide variety of projects, including:

Documenting local history and storytelling

Creating unique learning experiences for local youth

Facilitating local arts and cultural activities

Interviewing local entrepreneurs and highlighting their innovations

Developing branding, graphic design or web-building projects

Leading community planning conversations

After five years of internships, the endeavor is showing inroads to ongoing people attraction efforts and dozens of interns have elected to remain in Nebraska, most of them in rural communities.

“Hometown Internships offer evidence for NCF’s longstanding belief that the key to bringing young Nebraskans back to our state is an invitation,” said NCF President and CEO Jeff Yost. “By extending to these students an opportunity to play a meaningful role in community-building, we are telling them we value their contributions to our state’s future and reminding them they will always have a place in Nebraska.”

* Board bans commercial trucks on Ponderosa Road

(Posted 10 a.m. June 5)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a resolution closing Ponderosa Road near Long Pine to all commercial truck traffic following the closure of Highway 20 in the Long Pine hills for a bridge replacement.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin told the board it might be a good idea to ban truck traffic on Ponderosa Road for the duration of the Highway 20 closure, as a large amount of traffic is using the shorter route through the Long Pine State Park instead of taking the Nebraska Department of Transportation detour using Highway 183 to Springview and Highway 7 to Bassett.

“It is extremely dangerous,” Turpin said.

Sheriff Brent Deibler said the sheriff’s department is doing the best it can to patrol the route.

“It is very much a safety hazard,” Deibler said. “I agree banning trucks is the best option.”

Commissioner Buddy Small said he had contacted a company about placing stoplights on either side of the bridge across Pine Creek on Ponderosa Road near Long Pine State Park. Small said having stoplights on each side would cost $200 per day, approximately $18,000 for the duration of the Highway 20 closure.

Commissioner Dennis Bauer said he believed the county should ask the Nebraska Department of Transportation to pay for the cost of placing the stoplights. If the state declines to pay for the stoplights, Bauer said the county should place stop signs on either side of the bridge.

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said the ambulance had to back up last week to allow oncoming traffic to cross the bridge even though it had its lights flashing.

The commissioners unanimously approved banning commercial truck traffic on Ponderosa Road for the duration of the Highway 20 bridge construction project.

In other roads items Tuesday, the board approved making approximately $43,000 in repairs to the county’s 1994 Caterpillar loader truck. Turpin said the county likely could not afford a new loader, and the 1994 Caterpillar had been a good vehicle for the roads department.

“That loader has been running poorly,” the highway superintendent said. “We knew it would need an overhaul.”

Turpin said the repair work included an engine overhaul, but there could be additional repairs needed when they start working on the truck. He said the work included a three-year warranty and a $2,950 parts credit. He said the county typically puts about 100 to 150 hours on the loader each year.

Turpin reported he had done work on the Norden Avenue hill near Ron Reinert’s property to help with runoff.

“It is very sandy, but it should drain better,” he said. “I still have a little more to do. There is a fiber optic cable where I would have liked to do more of a ditch.”

Turpin said he had contacted Lance Harter with Oak Creek Engineering to look at another area of Norden Avenue near property owned by Royce Greder and provide the county with options for drainage improvements.

In other business Tuesday, Deibler discussed including in the 2024-25 budget additional compensation for his serving as the county’s jail administrator.

Deibler said the jail administrator is a paid position in other counties, and sheriffs in other counties who serve as the jail administrator instead of having another person on staff are compensated for that role.

“Someone has to take on the liability of running the jail and taking in inmates as well as meeting the requirements of the state,” Deibler said. “It had been passed around in the past. We need to do it correctly.”

Deibler said he compared compensation for jail administration in Cherry, Knox and Antelope counties. While he said those counties had larger jails than Brown County, he receives requests to take in prisoners for other counties. The sheriff said he would be willing to house inmates for other counties once repairs to the jail are complete.

Bauer asked what Deibler’s daily duties would entail in serving as the jail administrator.

Deibler said he would be responsible for determining any health and safety issues for incoming inmates and would assume liability for the inmates in the jail.

Bauer said it seemed fair to him that Deibler be compensated for serving as jail administrator. The board approved additional compensation beginning with the start of the 2024-25 fiscal year July 1.

The commissioners also approved a contract between the county and Big John’s Restaurant for prisoner meal service after awarding the bid to the restaurant during a previous meeting. Big John’s will receive $9 for each lunch and $9 for each evening meal it provides to Brown County Jail inmates.

Deibler also requested the county contract with Metl Sandblasting of Stuart to restripe the parking lot at the courthouse. Deibler said he assisted custodian Tammy Grupe with restriping the parking lot last year, but the paint they applied did not last.

“The entity painting the jail does this professionally,” Deibler said. “He said it would last multiple years.”

The board approved using American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay for the $1,181 quote from Metl Sandblasting to restripe the parking lot.

The commissioners also approved using the federal ARPA funds to pay for tree removal and trimming at the courthouse park. Jerry Paulsen told the board at a previous meeting one tree needed to be removed and several needed to be trimmed.

County Attorney Andy Taylor said the commissioners would need a written quote from Paulsen before approving the work. That item was placed on the board’s June 18 agenda.

The commissioners approved making payments on both the Brown County Hospital addition bond and the Meadville Avenue highway bond. The $217,170 hospital bond payment was made from the hospital bond fund, while the board approved a transfer of $8,588 from the inheritance tax fund to make the interest-only payment on the highway bond.

Following discussion Tuesday, the commissioners approved hourly pay raises for several county employees. Custodian Tammy Grupe received a $2 per hour pay raise. Emergency Manager Traci Booth received a 75 cents per hour raise, and assistant emergency manager Jessica Pozehl received an increase of $2.63 per hour.

Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum and Veterans Services Officer Jake Graff each received $1 per hour pay raises, and Zoning Administrator Tom Jones received an increase of $3.17 per hour.

Dailey said the roads department employees received raises based on their annual evaluation.

“That might be something we should look into,” Dailey said.

Taylor encouraged the commissioners to begin conducting performance evaluations for all of the aforementioned county employees.

“I would support that strongly,” Taylor said. “You want to do that every year. Then, if there are any issues, it can be supported.”

In a final action item Tuesday, the board approved renewing its insurance through NIRMA and keeping its deductible per occurrence at $1,000. The premium increased by 3.98 percent.

At Bauer’s request, the board will hold a preliminary budget workshop at 11 a.m. Friday. The next regular meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. June 18.

* Commissioners approve route to isolated property

(Posted 7 a.m. June 5)

After numerous meetings and a public hearing, the Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a route for the construction of a road to a landlocked property in southwestern Brown County.

Grant Kobes, who purchased the former Long Lake State Recreation Area from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, requested the commissioners step in and establish a road in 2023 after he said he was unable to secure an agreement from neighboring property owners on a way to access the site.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission had an easement to the site when it was operated as a state recreation area, but that easement went away when the property sold.

After being unable to reach an agreement on access, Kobes requested the county step in and establish a route, as state statute requires county boards to establish access to isolated property.

During the board’s May 21 meeting, Attorney Todd Flynn, representing neighboring property owners, submitted a route that followed section lines he said the neighboring property owners approved.

Kobes had an engineering firm present four proposed routes during a previous public hearing on the matter.

Kobes on Tuesday presented two additional potential routes for the commissioners to consider based on Flynn’s suggestions. He said those two routes adhered pretty closely to section lines, which state statute said should be done when possible.

Kobes said he would still advocate for the first route he proposed, which he said was the most efficient and direct route to the property but did not follow section lines.

“I understand Route 1 does not follow section lines,” Kobes said. “That area does not lend itself to roads on section lines.”

Kobes said very few roads in the southern part of the county followed section lines but rather were constructed based on the features of the land.

County Attorney Andy Taylor said he was not an engineer and preferred to follow the state statute.

“I don’t believe Route 1 follows the law,” Taylor said. “Route 5 and Route 6 follow section lines and are compliant. My advice to follow statute best is Route 5.”

Route 5 would require the construction of 8,421 feet of road. Kobes’ preferred Route 1 required less than 5,000 feet of new road.

The commissioners unanimously approved Route 5, which followed Flynn’s proposal, for the construction of the road.

Commissioner Dennis Bauer asked what the next steps were in the process.

Taylor said the property must now be appraised so affected landowners can be compensated. He said a certified real property assessor must determine the value of the land that will be used to construct the road. The county attorney said the commissioners would need to find an appraiser to appoint.

Both Flynn and Kobes said they had worked previously with appraisers and could provide contact information to the board.

Bauer asked who would design the road and the standards that would be followed.

Taylor said the road could be built to minimum standards, but the decision rested with the commissioners.

Bauer said part of that consideration should be the type of road Kobes preferred, since he would be responsible for paying for the cost of the construction.

Kobes said he didn’t anticipate much travel on the road.

“I had minimum design standards in mind,” Kobes said.

Kobes asked if his engineering firm could move forward with survey work now that a route had been determined.

Taylor said proper procedure had to be followed, so surveyors could not access the site at this stage.

“The board has to issue an order, but it can’t until an appraisal is completed and the amount determined is paid to the treasurer,” Taylor said. “Then engineering and survey work can be completed.”

The board will place the matter on a future agenda for the appointment of an appraiser as the process now moves forward.

More information on Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners will air Thursday on KBRB.

* NDOT paint striping area highways

(Posted 3 p.m. June 3)

Roadway paint striping is complete in the Merriman and Valentine areas. Paint striping is progressing to the Ainsworth, Springview, Bassett and Atkinson areas, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

Sir Lines-A-Lot LLC of Edina, Minn. is the contractor for this project. Work includes repainting the yellow and white stripes on the roadways. This is a slow speed mobile operation. Be aware of wet paint when approaching the striping equipment.

After striping work is completed in the Ainsworth to Atkinson area, work will progress into the O’Neill, Spencer and Burwell areas. Anticipated completion is July.

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

* Brown County Commissioners Tuesday agenda

(Posted 1:30 p.m. June 3)

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, June 4
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

Roll Call.

Resolution for a budgeted transfer of $5,200.00 from Miscellaneous General within the General Fund to the County Treasurer Fund within the General Fund – Hardy

Approve Claims

Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

1994 Caterpillar 938F repairs – Turpin

Resolution regarding Ponderosa Road and Bridge Structures C000904210P & C000904205P in pursuant to State Statute 60-681 – Turpin

Isolated Land – Board

Approve payment of Highway Bond and Hospital Bond – Mitchell

Approve resolution to Transfer money from Inheritance Fund to the Highway Bond fund – Mitchell

Resolution for Sheriff Deibler to be compensated as Jail Administrator – Deibler

Food Service Contract for Prisoner Meals between Brown County Sheriff’s Office and Big John’s restaurant – Deibler

Restripe Courthouse Parking Lot – Deibler

Raises for employees.

NIRMA Insurance Renewal Deductibles – Hardy

Membership into North Central Nebraska Resource Conservation Development Planning

Tree removal/trimming from Courthouse Park.

Preliminary Board Budget Worksheet

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 10:15 a.m. June 3)

May 26

Responded to a report of a verbal disturbance on Woodward Street.  No citations were issued at this time.

Issued a citation for speeding on Highway 7 to a Nebraska driver traveling 87mph in a 65mph zone.  Another traffic stop resulted in a written warning for speeding.

May 27

Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing at Moonlake Road and Highway 20.

The Brown County Ambulance provided standby services at the Brown County Fairgrounds on the 27th, 28th,29th, and 30th for Rodeo Bible Camp.

Responded to a report of a gas drive off.  Contact was made with the vehicle West of Ainsworth on Highway 20 and they returned to pay their ticket.

Responded to a report of domestic assault on North Main Street in Ainsworth.  One male was issued a citation for Domestic Assault and booked into the Brown County Jail.

Speeding citations were issued for 49mph in a 35mph and 82mph in a 65mph.

May 28

Responded to a car deer accident on Highway 7, near mile marker 15.  The vehicle was towed from the scene, and no injuries were reported.

Received numerous reports of oversized loads not utilizing the correct detour route on Highway 20.  This is an ongoing issue that the Brown County Roads Department, the Nebraska Department of Transportation, and the Sheriff’s Office are all working on a resolution.

Served a protection order.

Received a report of a motorcycle driving recklessly in Ainsworth.  A verbal warning was issued to the driver.

May 29

Responded to a report of a car deer accident on Highway 183.  The vehicle was able to drive away from the scene, no injuries were reported, and a report was completed.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Office and the Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from Long Pine.  One patient was taken to the Brown County Hospital.

Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after receiving a personal recognizance bond.

A Brown County bench warrant was served to a Kansas female, who was initially arrested in El Dorado Kansas, and then extradited back to Ainsworth and booked into the Brown County Jail for possession of controlled substance and domestic violence assault. 

Responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle on 1st Street.  The vehicle was found to have broken down and the driver was awaiting a ride.

May 30

Received a report of a sexual abuse and a prohibited person in possession of a handgun.  One male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail.

May 31

The Brown County Ambulance and the Brown County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth. 

Received a report of a semi driving without taillights.  Dispatch was able to contact the driver by phone to resolve the issue.

June 1

Responded to a request for a welfare check on juveniles fishing without supervision.  The juveniles were found to be supervised.

Weekly Log

Calls:  101

911 Calls:  6

Incident Reports:  13

Vin Inspections:  0

Gun Permits:  3

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 11:30 a.m. May 30)

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

Cristy Abbott, age 50, of Nora Springs, Iowa, charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, fined $300; also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, $100; no operator’s license, $50; improper or defective vehicle light, $25.

Sadaq A. Mohamud, 32, of Bloomington, Minn., following too close, $50.

Tree’re A. Edwards, 28, of Omaha, speeding 36 mph or more above the limit, $300.

Mark J. Mathis, 61, of Springview, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Katelyn B. Richards, 25, of Ainsworth, no proof of insurance, $100; no valid registration, $25.

Shane T. Hamling, 26, of Wood Lake, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Dallas R. Ulibarri, 22, of Ainsworth, careless driving, $100.

Kelly L. Morris, 53, of Stapleton, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Riggin S. Blumenstock, 18, of Ainsworth, no proof of insurance, $100; no registration, $25; no operator’s license, $50.

Colton T. Troxel, 22, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Valenti V. Farfan, 31, of Grand Island, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Ysavella D. Gomez, 15, of Ainsworth, failure to yield the right of way, $25.

Levi E. Gum, 30, of Long Pine, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Robert R. Bailey, 62, of Johnston, Iowa, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75; passing in the same direction, $25.

Rodney G. Gilliland, 56, of Wakefield, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Evan M. Otruba, 52, of Cheyenne, Wyo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Michael R. Spotted Bear, 24, of Ainsworth, possessing an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Griselda Escobar, 34, of Ainsworth, no valid registration, $25.

Jonathan G. Hoadley, 34, of Platte Center, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

* Area students named to UNK Dean’s List

(Posted 9:15 a.m. May 30)

The University of Nebraska at Kearney announced students who earned a place on the dean’s list for the spring semester.

Students who are on the dean’s list must have completed 12 credit hours or more of classes with a 3.5 grade-point average or better on a 4.0 scale.

Area UNK students named to the dean’s list for the spring are:

Ainsworth – Raven Stewart

Johnstown – CeeAnna Beel

Purdum – Elizabeth Smith

Bassett – Josie Kuchera

Atkinson – Alexis Monasterio and Kelcie Osborne

Brewster – Brayden Guggenmos

Dunning – Kenna Rogers

Valentine – Logan Muirhead, Rhiannon Painter, Elliana Springer and Rhea Benson

* Weight limits placed on Long Pine State Park bridge

(Posted 8 a.m. May 29)

With Highway 20 in the Long Pine hills now closed for a bridge deck replacement project, many local travelers are forgoing the Nebraska Department of Transportation designated detour route using Highway 7 north of Bassett to Highway 183 south of Springview and are instead using a county road through Long Pine State Park.

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said, due to the high volume of truck traffic using Ponderosa Road, Kyner Street and Eighth Street northwest of Long Pine, the roads department has decreased the weight limit across the Pine Creek bridge near Long Pine State Park.

The weight limit has been dropped to 15 tons for truck and trailer combinations and 8 tons for straight trucks. The posted speed limit through that area is 25 mph, with the speed limit dropping to 20 mph on Ponderosa Road.

Turpin said he was especially concerned about the potential for accidents and the loss of life with the added traffic in that area. He said the added truck traffic also has the potential to damage the bridge, which would cut a potential route for emergency responders if the bridge had to be closed.

Turpin said weight limits will be enforced by a scale officer in the area, and the roads will also be patrolled for speeding violations. He urged the traveling public to be cautious if using the route as opposed to the designated NDOT detour.

Turpin visited with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie Wednesday. That conversation can be heard below.

* Nebraska April jobless rate among best in nation

(Posted 9 a.m. May 28)

The Nebraska Department of Labor announced Nebraska’s preliminary unemployment rate for April was 2.5 percent. The rate remained unchanged since October 2023 but was up 0.5 percentage points from the April 2023 rate of 2.0 percent.  Nebraska’s rate is ranked fourth lowest in the nation. North Dakota and South Dakota are tied for the lowest rate in the country at 2 percent. Vermont sits third with an unemployment rate of 2.1 percent, followed by Nebraska at 2.5 percent. Maryland and New Hampshire are tied for fifth at 2.6 percent.

The highest unemployment rate in April belonged to California at 5.3 percent. Nevada was the only other state above 5 percent in April at 5.1 percent. Illinois and Washington had rates of 4.8 percent in April.

The national unemployment rate for April was 3.9 percent, up 0.1 percentage points from the March rate of 3.8 percent and up 0.5 percentage points from the April 2023 rate of 3.4 percent.

Nebraska’s nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was up 7,102 jobs from March and was up 18,816 jobs since April 2023.

Private industries with the most growth between March and April were mining and construction (up 2,097 jobs); leisure and hospitality services (up 1,968 jobs); and trade, transportation, and utilities (up 920 jobs). Private industries with the most over-the-year growth were private education and health services (up 6,643 jobs); trade, transportation, and utilities (up 4,381 jobs); and leisure and hospitality services (up 3,316 jobs).

“Nebraska’s nonfarm employment reached an all-time high in April at 1,063,738,” Nebraska Commissioner of Labor John Albin said. “This was driven by record highs in Omaha and Lincoln of 516,399 and 198,570, respectively.”

Brown County’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.2 percent in April and was back below the statewide average. Rock County had the lowest unemployment rate in the area in April at 1.2 percent and the second-lowest rate in the state behind the 0.9 percent rate in Wheeler County.

Cherry County tied Garden County for the third-lowest jobless rate in the state at 1.3 percent. Holt County was also among the state leaders in April at 1.4 percent.

Keya Paha County’s April rate of 2.4 percent was below the statewide average, and Boyd County matched the state average at 2.5 percent.

Blaine County’s 4.1 percent rate in April was the highest in the area and tied Hooker County for the highest rate in the state.

The counts of employed and unemployed in the labor force are based on a survey conducted by the Census Bureau regarding employment status.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 7 a.m. May 28)

May 19

Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after they posted bond.

Received a report of an aggressive dog on Woodward Street.  The dog was not found.

Responded to a report of a portable greenhouse in which due to high winds blew into power and telephone lines.  Power and cable technicians responded to clear the debris.

May 20

Received a report of a cow out on Highway 183.

Served two paper services.

May 21

The Brown County Ambulance was paged to Highway 7 and transported one patient to the hospital.

Responded to a report of cattle on Highway 7, near mile marker 38.

The Brown County Ambulance transported a patient to Grand Island.

Responded to a report of terroristic threats in Long Pine.  A statement and an incident report will be sent to the Brown County Attorney’s office.

Received a report of a gift card scam. 

Received an adult protective services intake regarding a vulnerable adult.  This is an ongoing investigation.

May 22

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth at a senior living facility.  One patient was transported to the hospital.

Received a report of an individual scamming people in reference to the selling of puppies with a fake name and address.

Responded to a request for a welfare check.  A female was found deceased in her home.  No foul play is suspected at this time, and an investigation will be completed.

Issued two written warnings for speeding, and one for no registration in the vehicle.

May 23

Received multiple reports of spam callers on this day.  All reporters were encouraged to contact the Attorney General Fraud line.

Attended a fire drill at the Ainsworth Child Development Center.

Received a report of an individual driving an unauthorized motor vehicle through someone’s lawn.

Served a paper service.

Responded to a report of a driver having a medical emergency that had ran off the road near Highway 20 and the 9A spur.  The Brown County Ambulance was paged to the scene and transported one patient to the hospital.  The vehicle was towed from the scene but sustained no damage.

Issued one citation for speeding, and a written warning for failure to yield/stop.

May 24

Received a report of a vehicle window that was believed to be shot by a pellet or bb gun. 

Responded to a report of individuals drinking in a gas station parking lot.  The individuals were found to be drinking water.

The Brown County Ambulance transported a flight crew to the hospital to pick up a patient.

Received a report of a parking complaint near Bumble Bee Rd.

Issued a warning for speeding and driving on the shoulder of the highway, and a citation for no valid registration.

May 25

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

Weekly Totals

Calls:  139

911 calls:  2

Incident Reports:  10

Gun Permits:   4

Vin Inspections:  0

* Highway paint striping begins Tuesday

(Posted 10:45 a.m. May 22)

Weather permitting, roadway paint striping will begin Tuesday, May 28, in the Merriman and Valentine areas, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

Sir Lines-a-Lot of Edina, Minn. is the contractor for the project. Work includes repainting the yellow and white stripes on the roadways. This is a slow speed mobile operation. Be aware of wet paint when approaching the striping equipment. After striping is completed in the Valentine area, work will progress into the Ainsworth, Springview and Bassett areas. Anticipated completion is July.

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

* Commissioners discuss law enforcement contract

(Posted 10:15 a.m. May 22)

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners, Sheriff Brent Deibler discussed the apparent impasse on renewing a contract for law enforcement service between the sheriff’s department and the city of Ainsworth.

Deibler said he, County Attorney Andy Taylor and Commissioner Buddy Small had met with city of Ainsworth representatives Mayor Joel Klammer, City Administrator Lisa Schroedl and Councilmen Brad Fiala and Kent Taylor.

Deibler said the city initially offered $140,000 to renew a contract that was $276,000 for the current year. He said the city was told that offer would not be considered.

Taylor told the commissioners the county knew the last contract was a split vote by the council.

“This has been brewing for a while,” the county attorney said. “We knew it would be a matter of discussion and debate.”

Deibler said he understood the city was not willing to pay $276,000 for another contract. He said he offered a $200,000 contract to provide 20 hours per week of dedicated law enforcement to the city that would not include enforcement of city ordinances.

Deibler said he didn’t feel like the sheriff’s department was going to please the city on code enforcement based on the past year, so he was not interested in including code enforcement in a new agreement.

Deibler said the city’s negotiating team indicated they would address the contract during the May City Council meeting. He said he has not heard back from the city on any further negotiations.

The City Council, following discussion on the contract during its May meeting, took no action on approving a new contract or continuing negotiations with the sheriff’s department.

“The city said they will get their own code enforcement officer,” Deibler said. “There is no agreement on a contract. We put our best foot forward trying to get a contract done.”

Commissioner Denny Bauer asked Deibler to explain what will happen beginning July 1 after the current contract expires June 30.

Deibler said the sheriff’s department will still enforce criminal statutes inside the Ainsworth city limits but would no longer be handling code enforcement work for the city.

“This will take some of the load off my plate,” Deibler said. “It will relieve us from having to seek multiple deputies.”

Deibler said the lack of a contract would change the way the sheriff’s department patrols in the county.

Bauer said deputies having more of a presence in the county is not a bad thing.

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said Ainsworth residents would need to understand there will no longer be a deputy dedicated to Ainsworth.

Bauer asked how dispatching services would be handled without the city having a contract with the county for law enforcement.

“Who do people call if there is a loose dog?” Bauer asked.

Taylor said Ainsworth residents with animal issues or code enforcement concerns would have to contact the Ainsworth city office.

Deibler said the city would have to have their own system set up for ordinance enforcement and animal control. He said the sheriff’s department was still dedicated to handling criminal statute violations inside the city limits.

“This will change our patrolling and how we do business,” Deibler said.

No action was required by the commissioners Tuesday.

Deibler also discussed placing flashing speed signs on the east and west entrances to Ainsworth. He said the Nebraska Department of Transportation had recently moved the signs for reduced speeds on the east side of Ainsworth on Highway 20.

Deibler said Emergency Manager Traci Booth was assisting the sheriff’s department in working with the Department of Transportation, Rock County and the cities of Ainsworth and Bassett to apply for a grant to place the flashing speed signs on the Highway 20 east and west entrances to both cities.
Bauer said the flashing speed signs definitely grab your attention. Dailey said the speed sign in Atkinson helps to slow traffic down before making a turn and coming toward the school in that community.

In other business Tuesday, North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson approached the commissioners about the potential of receiving federal grant funding.

Olson said an opportunity came about a week ago for $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding that was being made available to 41 counties. Brown County was one of the 41 counties eligible to apply.

She said a letter of intent was due June 3 with an accelerated time frame. She said the grant can address dilapidated housing, improving public spaces or vacant lots among other qualified activities.

“Is the county interested?” Olson asked. “If so, we would need to appoint a committee and identify projects. We have to put in the letter of intent first.”

If awarded, Olson said the grant dollars would have to be spent by September 2026. She said there were no matching funds required of the county.

“It is a great deal if we can get something that works,” Olson said. “We do score extra points if there is some community match, through funding or in-kind contributions.”

Commissioner Buddy Small asked about a grant for a building to store county equipment. Olson said that type of project would not qualify for this particular grant.

Bauer said there is a dilapidated building in Long Pine the county acquired through a tax sale that would potentially work. He said that building could be torn down and donated to the city of Long Pine for a park. Olson said that project would qualify. She said she would work with the county on an estimated project cost and would get a letter of intent ready to submit.

In roads items Tuesday, the commissioners, by a 2-0 vote with Small absent from a portion of the meeting, approved a resolution having Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin conduct a study and provide the board with a recommendation on whether to abandon a portion of Cedar Road south of Long Pine.

Turpin said a petition had been submitted to the county clerk with the required signatures requesting the road be abandoned by the county. He said the stretch requested for abandonment is just shy of 3 miles and runs from the late Roger Brede’s property to the West Y.

Turpin will conduct a study of the stretch and submit a recommendation to the board on whether to proceed with abandonment.

Turpin said the roads department employees had recently attended equipment operator Level II and Level III training that was held in Rock County.

“The operators all seemed to respond to the training and had good attitudes,” Turpin said. “It was the most hands-on training we’ve ever had. We had three full days in the field.”

Turpin reported the new belly dump trailer and truck had arrived. He thanked the commissioners for approving the purchase of the new equipment. Bauer said it should cut down on the county’s repair bills. He said maintenance should be a priority on all new equipment.

Bauer discussed repairing cracks on the new Meadville Avenue asphalt.

“I haven’t seen many, but we might consider purchasing a crack sealer,” Bauer said.

Turpin said it was likely more cost effective to hire a contractor for crack sealing. Turpin said he planned to armor coat Meadville Avenue this year.

“In my training, I learned that armor coating asphalt sooner is better,” the highway superintendent said.

Royce Greder approached the commissioners about drainage issues on Norden Avenue near Road 881. He said water draining from the road brings sediment into his dam.

“The county did dirt work last fall north of Road 881 on the Norden Road,” Greder said. “I asked about putting drops in to slow the water down. Nothing has happened. Something needs to be done.”

Bauer said his suggestion would be to use drop downs and pipes to drain the water like the county had done years ago at another site.

“We could try that, it has worked well in that other spot,” Bauer said.

Turpin said that type of project would require an engineer.

“Since we have never apparently been able to fix it right, I think we will need an engineer to look at it,” Turpin said.

Dailey said the county did not have any other solutions for the drainage issues at the site, so an engineer would likely be required. Turpin suggested waiting until the new fiscal year to have an engineer visit the site. Bauer told Turpin to report back at the next meeting with a suggestion for an engineering firm to use and provide a potential date when they could visit the site.

Greder asked if the county would be willing to dredge his dam in exchange for the material that is excavated.

Bauer said he would be willing to do that one time in exchange for the material.

The commissioners also approved wage increases for roads department employees based on their performance evaluations and a recommendation from Turpin.

“I have had more positive comments about the roads department than negatives,” Bauer said. “That isn’t usually the case. I would like the roads department to be a desirable place for people looking (for work).”

Dailey said about 90 percent of any negative comments he receives about county roads come from the same few people.

Turpin said there wasn’t a single employee working for the roads department he couldn’t count on during a blizzard or other emergency.

“We have good help,” Turpin said. “I would like to keep them.”

The board also discussed whether to keep Turpin as a salaried employee or move him to an hourly wage.

Taylor said, as a salaried employee currently, Turpin was not entitled to overtime. He suggested moving Turpin to being paid on an hourly basis.

Bauer said he didn’t feel it was fair to Turpin to have him on a salary and ineligible for overtime when he also was out operating equipment at times.

“He’s not strictly in the office from 8 to 5,” Bauer said. “To me, he should be hourly.”

Turpin said he was fine either way. He said he would try not to have to put in a lot of overtime.

The board approved moving Turpin from a salary to an hourly wage.

In a final roads item, Turpin requested the purchase of a homemade front mount disk from Cole Maintenance and Construction for use by the roads department.

“I tested it, and it worked well,” Turpin said.

The cost for the equipment is $13,000. Taylor said that is an item that would normally need to go out for bids, but since it is a unique item, it does not require additional bids. He said he would draw up a resolution for the commissioners to consider at their next meeting.

The board approved a tuition reimbursement application for county employee Zach Welch.

Jim Jackman approached the commissioners with a request for the county to provide assistance to the East Woodlawn and Grand Prairie Cemetery Board to maintain the two small cemeteries in the county.

Jackman said the only income the cemetery board receives is through selling burial plots and a few donations. He said those two cemeteries were the only two in the county not funded through cities.

Taylor said, if the cemetery board submits a written proposal, the commissioners could address it during the next board meeting.

Bauer said he would not be opposed to providing some assistance to maintain the cemeteries.

“It is important to keep those up and not let them go,” Bauer said. “To me, that is a reasonable request, and I would consider it. It would need to go on the next budget year.”

Jackman said he would provide a written request to the board.

Bauer asked Taylor to check into $80,000 in funding to support the Sandhills Care Center potentially owed to the county by the city of Ainsworth.

Bauer said, prior to a bond being approved by voters, the county had provided the care center with $160,000 in additional funding with the understanding that the city would reimburse the county for half of that amount.

The city of Ainsworth and Brown County jointly own and operate the Sandhills Care Center. Both entities initially agreed to supply $80,000 in funding per year for five years.

Clerk Travee Hobbs said she believed the $160,000 provided by the county was in addition to the five-year agreement.

Taylor said he would pursue the matter with the city’s attorney.

The commissioners received a request from the Ainsworth Public Library to provide $11,000 in funding to support the library’s operations. The amount requested has remained the same for several years. The board will consider the request as it prepares the 2024-25 fiscal year budget.

The board approved an audit agreement between the county and Contryman Associates. The board also approved having Chairman Bauer sign a 2024-25 NACO Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance subgroup application.

At the outset of Tuesday’s meeting, Small said, in light of the recent Primary Election results, he felt he should step down as the board’s chairman. He nominated Bauer to serve as the chair, which the board approved by a 2-1 vote with Bauer against. The commissioners then approved Dailey to serve as the board’s vice chair.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. June 4.

* Commissioners close to decision on isolated land access

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

Again tackling an isolated land access issue that has been discussed for more than a year, the Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday indicated they plan to make a decision on a route at their next meeting after neighboring property owners said they had come to an agreement on a preferred route for a road.

Attorney Todd Flynn, who represents two surrounding property owners near the former Long Lake State Recreation Area, said his clients had met and were in agreement. He presented the board with a route to the site purchased by Grant Kobes of Gretna the neighboring property owners would not dispute.

“The route we are proposing is on section lines,” Flynn said. “It doesn’t divide their property.”

Flynn said state statutes indicate the county is to follow section lines when creating roads to isolated lands, and the route the neighboring property owners propose is compliant with the state statute.

Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor said the commissioners might agree with the route, but Kobes may want to review the proposed route and provide comment to the commissioners. He asked Kobes if he had seen the route proposed by the neighboring property owners.

Kobes said he had not seen the proposed route. He said he would like to have a copy of the proposed route to provide to his engineering firm. Kobes said he didn’t believe it would be possible to follow section lines completely because there were wetland areas across a portion of the section lines.

“I think the board should go forward with the route our engineers proposed,” Kobes said. “I really think it is the board’s decision.”

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey asked Flynn how long the proposed route would be. Flynn said the proposal from the neighboring property owners would require construction of approximately 7,200 feet of road.

“It does not divide neighboring property by staying on the section lines,” Flynn said.

Since the county had already held a public hearing on the matter and had discussed the issue across numerous meetings, Commissioner Dennis Bauer said he didn’t believe the county needed to wait 60 days from the previous hearing May 1 as suggested since the neighbors had now come to an agreement.

Bauer asked Kobes if he would have enough time to review Flynn’s proposal in time for the board to take action during its next meeting.

Kobes said he would have enough time for his engineers to review the proposed site. He again indicated part of the route proposed by the neighboring property owners goes through a wetland area.

Dailey said he believed the commissioners would be able to make a decision on the route during the board’s next meeting.

Kobes is responsible for all of the costs of constructing a road to the isolated property. The Game and Parks Commission had an easement to access the Long Lake State Recreation Area. However, when the property sold, that easement was no longer in effect, and Kobes had previously indicated he could not reach an agreement with neighboring property owners to access the site, leading to him filing the isolated land access request with the commissioners.

The item was placed on the board’s June 4 agenda for a potential decision on a route to the property.

More information from Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners will be aired Thursday on KBRB.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 5:15 a.m. May 20)

May 12

Issued a citation to a Nebraska driver for driving an unauthorized motor vehicle within city limits without flags or registration.

Received a report regarding the unauthorized use of pasture for cattle grazing.  The livestock owner was issued a citation for theft of services and abandonment of livestock.

Responded to a report of suspicious activity in East City Park.  No criminal activity was found at this time.

Received a statement form regarding an assault.  This is an ongoing investigation.

May 13

Received a report of a stolen vehicle from Osborne Street in Ainsworth.  The vehicle was later located in Minden, NE.  This is an ongoing investigation.

Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.

Responded to a report of a male subject in a mental health crisis.

Responded to a two-vehicle accident at the Highway 20 and 432nd Ave intersection.  No injuries were reported and both vehicles were able to drive away from the scene.  One driver was issued a citation for failure to yield while entering roadway.

Responded to a report of a domestic disturbance.

During a traffic stop near 428th Ave and 884th RD, a Nebraska male driver was issued a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol.  The male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail, where he later posted bond and was released.

May 14

Received a complaint regarding a barking dog on 1st Street.  The dog owner was called by dispatch and resolved the issue.

May 15

The Brown County Ambulance transferred a flight crew to the hospital to pick up a patient.

May 16

Issued a written warning for excessive barking to an owner on 1st Street in Ainsworth.

Received a traffic complaint regarding excessive speed and reckless driving within Ainsworth city limits.  A written warning was issued for speeding and failure to stop/yield.  A violation was issued for no proof of insurance.

Responded to a traffic complaint of a motorcycle driving in excessive speeds within Ainsworth City Limits. 

Responded to a report of a verbal disturbance on Woodward Street. 

May 17

Responded to a report of a semi on Highway 20 with an un-tarped load of rock.  The trailer was found to be tarped.

Booked a male subject into the Brown County Jail after receiving a district court commitment sentence.

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth.  One patient was taken to the Brown County Hospital.

After serving a search warrant, at an apartment complex on South Main Street, in Ainsworth, two subjects were booked into the Brown County Jail.  A male subject was issued a citation for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, possession of a controlled substance (meth and thc), and destruction of evidence.  The female subject was issued a citation for possession of a controlled substance.  During the search warrant, a dog bit a Brown County Sheriff’s Office deputy, and was euthanized on scene.  A Nebraska State Trooper and the Brown County Ambulance also provided assistance during the search warrant.

May 18

During traffic stops on this day a written warning was issued for driving on the sidewalk and a violation was issued for improper/defective vehicle lighting.

Calls:  128

911 calls:  5

Incident Report:  14

Gun Permits:  1

Vin Inspections:  0

* Recent cases from Brown County District Court

(Posted 8 a.m. May 19)

During Brown County District Court Tuesday, May 14, Thomas Wiedell, age 74, of Crosby, Minn., appeared for a hearing on his petitions to set aside Nov. 8, 2022, criminal convictions of terroristic threats and carrying a concealed weapon. Those petitions were denied by District Judge Mark Kozisek.

Also on Tuesday, Jeffrey Q. Keezer, 53, of Neligh, received sentencing after previously entering guilty pleas to three counts. Keezer received a $2,500 fine on a Class IIIA felony charge of terrorist threats, 30 days in jail on each of two counts of Class I misdemeanor violation of a protection order. Those sentences are to be served consecutively.

* Area students to graduate from UN-L

(Posted 1:30 p.m. May 16)

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln will confer more than 3,500 degrees during its May commencement exercises.

Area students graduating from UN-L are:

Ainsworth

  • Jonathan Edward Ortner, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness.

Valentine

  • Logan Michael Cate, College of Business, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with high distinction.
  • Skyler Hope Reagle, College of Business, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.

* Painter wins Brown County Commissioner race

(Posted 9:45 p.m. May 14, updated 7 a.m. May 15)

During Tuesday’s Primary Election, Brown County Republicans elected Don Painter as the party’s representative for Brown County Commissioner. Painter secured 407 Republican votes compared to 290 for incumbent Raymond “Buddy” Small. With no candidates running from the Democratic Party, Painter will secure a four-year term in November barring a write-in effort.

By a 230 to 138 margin, Rock County voters adopted an additional 3-cent property tax levy to support the Rock County Hospital’s operations and the Rock County Ambulance Association. Two cents of the 3-cent levy will go to support the hospital, while 1 cent of the levy will go to the Rock County Ambulance for either a replacement ambulance, a building to house the association’s fleet, or equipment for the ambulance.

In Keya Paha County, Tony Tiefenthaler secured the Republican nomination for Keya Paha County Commissioner in the West District. Tiefenthaler received 65 votes from West District Republicans. Kayla Schrantz earned 33 votes, followed by Darrell Olson with 31 and Beth Rutar with seven.

A total of 37.43 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in Brown County, with 761 of 2,033 registered voters submitting a ballot.

Voter turnout in Keya Paha County for the Primary Election was 49.2 percent, with 307 ballots cast among 624 registered voters. Turnout in Rock County was 36.12 percent, with 384 ballots cast among the 1,063 registered voters in the county.

All three area counties had turnout well above the state average. Statewide, 27.05 percent of registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s Primary Election. There were 333,299 ballots submitted from the 1,231,963 registered voters in the state.

More than 60 percent of Cherry County voters cast a Primary ballot, which was the second highest turnout in the state behind 61 percent in Garden County.

Holt County turnout was below the statewide average at 25.5 percent. A total of 46.5 percent of Blaine County voters cast a ballot, and 34.9 percent of registered voters in Boyd County participated in the Primary.

While both candidates will advance to the November General Election, Tanya Storer scored 58.5 percent of the vote in the race for the 43rd District seat in the Nebraska Unicameral. Tony Tangwall picked up 41.5 percent of the vote. The top two candidates in each legislative race advance from the Primary. Storer and Tangwall will square off again in November in an effort to replace Tom Brewer, who was unable to run for another four years due to term limits.

Storer received 444 votes in Brown County compared to 281 for Tangwall. Storer carried Rock County by a 212 to 127 margin, and she bested Tangwall in Keya Paha County by the count of 162 to 129.

There were no surprises in the Presidential Primary Tuesday. With both top candidates already securing the nomination, Donald Trump picked up a little more than 80 percent of the Republican Primary votes Tuesday, while President Joe Biden collected about 90 percent of the Democratic Party votes.

Republican U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer scored nearly 80 percent of the Primary vote in her run for re-election, while Republican U.S. Sen. Pete Ricketts scored 79 percent of the Republican Primary vote in his first run for a full term after being appointed to replace Sen. Ben Sasse, who resigned before his term was complete. Ricketts will face Democrat Preston Love Jr. in the November General Election, while Fischer’s only opponent in November is Independent candidate Dan Osborn.

In the U.S. Congressional races, 1st District Republican Rep. Mike Flood scored 81.5 percent of the Primary vote against challenger Michael Connely. Flood will face Democrat Carol Blood, who ran unopposed, in a rematch of a previous special election.

Republican 2nd District Rep. Don Bacon earned 62 percent of the Primary vote against challenger Dan Frei, and will have a rematch against Democrat Tony Vargas in November. Vargas ran unopposed Tuesday.

Republican 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith picked up 74 percent of the Primary vote compared to 18.5 percent for John Walz and 7 percent for Robert McCuiston. Smith will face Democrat Daniel Ebers in November. Ebers squeezed past David Else Tuesday, picking up 53 percent of the vote to Else’s 47 percent.

* Care Center Board pays down credit line debt

(Posted 1:30 p.m. May 14)

The Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors voted Monday to repay half of the money it had previously borrowed from a line of credit and provided Administrator Penny Jacobs with a 5 percent salary increase.

The care center generated $250,531 in revenue during April with expenses of $241,555 for a net profit of $8,976 for the month. The care center also received $10,442 in property taxes during March and another $22,668 in April from voter-approved levies.

With more than $68,000 in its account, the board opted to repay $46,668 from the $93,337 it borrowed from its credit line in April. The credit line was used due to the care center having three pay periods during the month instead of the usual two. Each pay period for the center is roughly $85,000.

The board voted to increase Jacobs’ salary by 5 percent. Board President Tom Jones said the increase was based off Jacobs’ annual performance review.

“Penny was directed that if Mark Iverson’s recommendations were implemented and we didn’t have any issues, we would revisit the increase in May,” Jones said. “Financials and other performance measures are trending the right way.”

Board member Shawn Fernau agreed, saying the board has seen a lot of improvement.

Board member Bruce Papstein said he read, nationwide, salary increases have been around 4 to 5 percent.

Board member Dr. Mel Campbell said the facility has been in the black in recent months, and he agreed a 5 percent increase would be appropriate.

Campbell asked if the board needed to revisit wages for the other positions in the facility. Jacobs said the care center is still very competitive with its current wages after the board previously implemented 30 percent increases across the board.

The board unanimously approved the 5 percent increase for the administrator.

Jacobs reported there are currently 27 residents in the Sandhills Care Center, with 12 paying privately, 14 receiving Medicaid assistance and one receiving hospice care.

She said two residents were admitted since the board’s previous meeting, with two residents discharged home and one resident being discharged to the hospital.

Jacobs said staff was currently working on two referrals for new residents, who would likely be admitted this week.

Jacobs said the facility was still in need of charge nurses.

The board reviewed a survey completed by care center employees. Jones said the care center scored well on several of the most important questions, including employees agreeing they know what is expected of them at work, having the equipment and materials to do their jobs effectively, having the opportunity to do what they do best on a daily basis, and feeling their supervisor cares about them as a person.

Jones said those were pretty good areas for the center to score high.

He said the scores were a little lower on questions related to receiving recognition or praise during the past seven days and receiving meaningful feedback in the past seven days. Jacobs said those scores were likely lower because both she and Director of Nursing Sara Mayhew had been out of the facility for about a week when the surveys were distributed.

Mayhew told the board she would like to see an effort made to improve first impressions of the facility, including improvements to the maintenance of the care center’s lawn.

Jones said the board and administrator were also working on a mission statement with a plan to post that statement prominently in the facility so residents, staff and visitors could see it.

“We don’t just want to write our mission statement down and put it in a book to forget about,” Jones said. “I’m pretty happy with these numbers. We will revisit this every six months.”

Board member Dennis Bauer agreed the numbers were not bad overall. He encouraged the administration to focus on the question in the survey relating to the care center always delivering on the promises it makes to residents and employees.

The survey was one of the recommendations made by consultant Mark Iverson during his visit to the facility.

Iverson also recommended the care center review its employee turnover rate each quarter. After a high employee turnover rate of between 11 and 16 percent in the first three quarters of 2023, the turnover rate decreased to about 8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2023 and was down to about 6 percent during the first quarter of this year.

Business Manager Makenzie Crane said much of the higher turnover rate in 2023 came from CNAs who had been with the facility for less than one year. She said some of those employees would either resign with no notice or just quit showing up for their shifts. She said some employees were let go for policy violations, excessive absences or insubordination.

Jones said the turnover rate was trending in the right direction.

“I think it is important to look at it,” Jones said. “The total number of employees went up because we have been hiring in-house instead of using agency.”

In a final agenda item Monday, the board discussed a recent meeting in Ainsworth with representatives from Northeast Community College regarding the school’s potential nursing class offerings in Ainsworth.

Campbell said he felt there was a lot of talking but not necessarily a lot of action.

“A lot of people expressed interest in having at least part of their nursing classes here,” Campbell said.

Papstein said some nursing classes could potentially be held in the Educational Service Unit building.

“If we have employees interested, we might consider assisting them with tuition reimbursement,” Papstein said.

Bauer said it might be good for the facility to assist in-house employees interested in furthering their education considering the high cost of agency nursing staff.

Audience member Mirya Hallock, the Brown County Hospital administrator, said the hospital has a tuition reimbursement program in place for hospital staff members furthering their education.

The board took no official action on the item.

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

* School Board approves security system upgrades

(Posted 7 a.m. May 14)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education on Monday approved spending close to $30,000 in district funds to upgrade the school’s security systems and supplement grant funding the school received.

Superintendent Dale Hafer told the board the district was awarded a $68,325 grant from the Nebraska Department of Education to cover upgrades to the school buildings’ door access points and controls. The district did not receive grant funds to cover the upgrade of security cameras that was included in the application.

Hafer said the cost to the school would be a little more than $29,000 to keep the camera system upgrades in the project.

“We have been talking for a few years about upgrading our security equipment,” Hafer said. “We held off because we knew this grant opportunity was coming. It was worth waiting.”

Hafer asked the board if it wanted to just stick to the items that were awarded in the grant or if the board wanted to undertake the entire project.

The quote to complete the entire upgrade was $97,607, submitted by Safe -N-Secure Security Equipment.

The superintendent said the district had the cost of the upgrade in its budget, but also had the option of using depreciation funds or special building funds to cover the cost not included in the grant.

Board member Brad Wilkins asked if the hardware needed for the door access upgrades would also be used for the camera equipment.

Hafer said there was some overlap in the equipment. He said everything that would be needed for the door access portion would be included in the grant, and the district would receive a second invoice for the camera equipment not covered by the grant funds.

Board member Scott Erthum said he believed the district needed to do everything at one time.

“If you try and piece it together it likely won’t work,” Erthum said. “The technology changes so fast.”

The board voted to approve the entire project and pay for the district’s portion using depreciation funds.

In other business Monday, the board approved using depreciation funds to purchase a control upgrade for its heating and cooling system.

Hafer told the board to think of the equipment upgrade as the motherboard that talks to all of the heating and air controls in the building. He said some of the current controls are from the 1990s and are causing issues with some of the district’s newer systems.

Board member Bryan Doke asked if replacing the control system would allow the district to see some additional efficiency in its heating and cooling costs.

Hafer said there would be improved efficiency.

“It will give us a better ability to troubleshoot some problem spots in the building,” Hafer said.

The board approved the $15,985 quote from Engineered Controls of Lincoln.

The board voted to increase the price of student breakfasts and lunches by 10 cents per meal for the 2024-25 school year. The increase was lower than was recommended by Lunchtime Solutions, the district’s meal program contractor.

Hafer said the lunch fund is sitting in a good spot, with around $100,000 in the account even after the district recently spent between $26,000 and $30,000 to replace the tables in the cafeteria.

“We can adjust these prices however we want,” Hafer said. “I don’t think we have to go quite as high as recommended, but we don’t want to leave them too long and then have to jump them 50 cents in a couple years.”

Hafer said the district typically increased meal prices by about a dime each year. He said Lunchtime Solutions based its recommendation off the Consumer Price Index, which climbed by 8.27 percent in the past year.

Board member Mark Johnson said increasing prices by a dime sounded good to him.

Student breakfast prices will increase to $2 for the 2024-25 year. Lunch prices for elementary students will increase to $3.45 per meal, with junior high and high school lunch prices increasing to $3.65 per meal.

The board approved a revision to its graduation requirements Monday, including a mandate passed by the Nebraska Unicameral that requires five hours (one semester) of computer science.

High School Principal Steve Dike said the change takes effect for the incoming freshman class. He said the district planned to offer the computer science class for one semester during students’ sophomore year and pair it with the five-hour communications requirement in the second semester.

Dike said the five-hour personal finance class would be moved to a student’s junior year and paired with one semester of life and career readiness.

The board approved the revision as presented.

In other action items, the board approved an option enrollment request to allow Tara Gaskins to option her incoming kindergarten student Lilliana Jameson to Rock County, and a request from Brooke Zeman to option her incoming kindergarten student Kenna Zeman to Rock County. Hafer said both students have siblings already attending Rock County.

The board also acknowledged a review of the personnel section of its board policies.

During his report, Hafer said the track refurbishing project would be undertaken in June when weather conditions allowed. He suggested the board hold a work session next week to address several items. The board set that session for 7 p.m. May 21.

Four middle school students who qualified for the National History Day national contest this year in Maryland presented their winning projects to the board.

Max Hasenohr, Paul Denny and Keith Munnu presented their winning group performance on the Pearl Harbor attack and the United States’ entry into World War II. Miranda Lambrecht presented her winning video of Woodrow Wilson and America’s entry into World War I.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. June 10.

* Polls open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday

(Posted 12:45 p.m. May 13)

Nebraska Primary voters will have a few decisions to make when they cast their ballots Tuesday.

While few local races will be decided during the Primary, several state and federal offices are being contested in partisan primary races.

Though the Primary races for President have been sewn up by Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, Nebraska voters will still see choices in both those races. Republicans have a choice between Trump, Nikki Haley and Perry Johnson, while Democrats can decide between Joe Biden and Dean Phillips.

Republicans have two U.S. Senate seat races to choose who represents the party during the General Election in November. Incumbent U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer is being challenged by Arron Kowalski in the Primary, while appointed U.S. Sen. Pete Ricketts faces John Glen Weaver and Mac Stevens in his effort to be elected to the seat.

Republicans will also choose between current 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith and challengers John Walz and Robert McCulston for the party’s nomination to the House of Representatives race in the fall.

Democratic Party voters have a decision between Daniel Ebers and David Else to represent the party in November for the House of Representatives seat held by Smith.

Two candidates are running to replace State Sen. Tom Brewer’s 43rd District seat in the Nebraska Unicameral. Tanya Storer and Tony Tangwall will both advance to the General Election, as the top two candidates in that race advance from the Primary and they are the only two candidates running to replace Brewer, who could not run for re-election due to term limits.

In Brown County, Republican voters have a choice for County Commissioner between incumbent Raymond “Buddy” Small and challenger Don Painter. No Democratic Party candidates filed for commissioner.

In Keya Paha County, four Republican candidates are vying to replace Mike Tuerk on the Board of Commissioners. Tuerk did not file for another term. Republican candidates for that seat are Tony Tiefenthaler, Darrell Olson, Beth Rutar and Kayla Schrantz. No one from the Democratic Party filed for the commissioner seat.

All voters in Rock County will be asked to vote on a special issue, which asks, shall Rock County on behalf of the Rock County Hospital and Rock County Ambulance be allowed to levy a property tax not to exceed 3 cents per $100 in valuation beginning with the 2024 fiscal year and continuing until the 2029 fiscal year, with 2 cents going toward Rock County Hospital operations and 1 cent going to the acquisition of medical equipment, supplies and training for the Rock County Ambulance, for a sinking fund for the purchase and equipping of one or more replacement ambulances, and/or the construction of a building to house ambulances and supplies. Rock County residents will vote either for or against the levy.

All other local races for offices such as city council, school board and village board will appear during the November General Election ballot.

Brown County voters cast their ballots Tuesday in the Ainsworth Conference Center. Rock County voters cast ballots in the Bassett Fire Hall. Keya Paha County voters cast their ballots in the Springview Activity Center. Polls are open Tuesday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

For the first time, voters must present a valid form of identification in order to vote in a Nebraska election.

* Area students set to graduate Friday from UNK

(Posted noon May 13)

Graduate and undergraduate degrees will be conferred for 702 spring graduates at University of Nebraska at Kearney commencement exercises 10 a.m. Friday, May 17, in UNK’s Health and Sports Center.

Area students scheduled to graduate from UNK are:

Ainsworth
Raven Stewart, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in modern languages and receiving magna cum laude distinction.

Farncesca Castillo, graduating with a Master of Science degree in clinical mental health counseling.

Bassett
Carter Camp, graduating with a Master of Arts in Education degree in physical education.

Brewster
Keesha Albrecht, graduating with a Master of Arts degree in English.

Valentine
Jaime Eggert, graduating with a Master of Arts in Education degree in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade reading.

Jordan Kelber, graduating with a Master of Business Administration degree.

Rhea Benson, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration.

Butte
Heather Atkinson, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education with a special education endorsement and receiving summa cum laude distinction.

Dunning
Amanda Payne, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 7 a.m. May 13)

May 5

During a traffic stop on 4th Street in Ainsworth, a Nebraska male subject was issued a citation for speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol, and subsequently booked into the Brown County Jail.  The male was later released after posting bond.  A Nebraska male passenger was issued a citation for open alcohol container also during the traffic stop.

The Brown County Ambulance provided standby on the 5th and the 6th at the Brown County Fairgrounds.

Responded to a request for a welfare check in Ainsworth.  The Brown County Ambulance was paged to the scene and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.

Received a report of a dog bite on Park Street.  The owner was issued a citation for dangerous dog.

May 6

The Brown County Ambulance responded to two different pages in Ainsworth, both resulting in one patient being transported to the hospital.

Received a report of multiple dogs attacking a male individual in Keller Park.  This is still under investigation.

Responded to a report of two loose dogs on Dawes Street.  The dogs were taken to the vet clinic and later claimed by their owner.

Responded to a report of a dog attack that occurred on 1st Street in Ainsworth.  The juvenile victim had to seek medical treatment due to the bite.  Due to the nature of the attack the dog was euthanized.  The dog owner was also issued a citation for dangerous dog.

May 7

Responded to a report of a two-vehicle accident on South Main Street in Ainsworth.  Brown County Ambulance and Ainsworth Fire Department also responded.  No injuries were reported, and one vehicle was towed from the scene.

Issued a notice to correct an overgrown lawn to a homeowner on 2nd Street in Ainsworth.  The violation was corrected.

Responded to a physical disturbance on 5th Street, all parties were separated.

Responded to a report of a civil matter involving easement rights of a property.

May 8

Responded to a report of child abuse/neglect in Ainsworth.  This is an ongoing investigation.

Received a report of a struck gas meter in Ainsworth.  The Ainsworth Fire Department responded to secure leak until a Black Hills Energy technician could arrive.

Received a report of vandalism that occurred to a vehicle in the East City Park.

Responded to a report of suspicious activity near the Ainsworth track and field. 

May 9

Responded to a report of a loose dog on Elm Street.  The dog was taken to the vet clinic and later claimed by its owner.

Received a report of stolen property from an apartment complex in Ainsworth.  This is an ongoing investigation.

Responded to a report of a missing juvenile in Ainsworth.  The juvenile was found to not be missing, just not where they were allotted to be.

Responded to a report of a small fender-bender accident on Wilson Street in Ainsworth.  No injuries were reported, and both vehicles had minimal damage.

Received a report of theft of property in Ainsworth on North Main Street.  This is an ongoing investigation.

May 10

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from Long Pine and transported one patient to the hospital.

Received a barking dog complaint on Maple Street.  No barking was found.

May 11

Received a report of assault on South Main Street.  This is an ongoing investigation.  A report will be sent to the County Attorney’s office.

Received a report of loose cattle on the roadway near the 183/20 Highway junction.  The owner quickly removed them.

Received a report of a hit gas line in Long Pine.  The Long Pine and Ainsworth Fire Departments were paged to secure the scene until a technician could arrive on scene.

Received reports regarding a motorcycle driving in excessive speeds in Ainsworth.  The driver was not found.

Weekly Totals

Phone Calls:  134

911 Calls:  4

Incident Reports:  17

Vin Inspections:  2

Gun Permits:  1

* Council approves $25,000 for ACDC playground

(Posted 10:30 a.m. May 9)

The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday continued deliberation on an application from the Ainsworth Child Development Center for $70,000 in funding to support the construction of a playground for the Main Street daycare.

The council tabled action in April on a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to award $70,000 in ABC funds for the projected $140,000 project.

Council members in April indicated they had received more calls in opposition to awarding public funds for the private daycare than they had heard on any other recent agenda item.

ACDC Board member Nancy Steinhauser said her board was initially shocked by how expensive playground equipment was to purchase.

She said the city provided $36,000 to the Ainsworth Golf Course recently, and that was for just one piece of playground equipment.

Steinhauser said the ACDC located some used turf and found some other ways to cut costs on the project. She said the group was able to get the cost down to $50,000 for materials and would try to have all the labor donated for the construction of the playground for the facility.

“The ACDC is a non-profit entity serving a need in Ainsworth and the area,” Steinhauser said. “Childcare needs have been a priority for the community, and the center has brought that to reality.”

Steinhauser said the project was recently featured on KETV in Omaha as a community that was addressing the lack of adequate childcare.

She said the playground portion was not included in the ACDC’s initial budget and fund-raising. The board felt ABC was a good potential source of funds for the project.

“It makes me proud the area is benefitting from this center,” Steinhauser said. “We want to work with you. We just won’t do the slide feature this year, and we will use volunteers wherever we can.”

Councilman Brad Fiala said he was glad the child development center was willing to undertake the project in stages.

“I have had calls about taking that money and fixing up our park that everyone can use,” Fiala said. “A lot of projects need to be done out there.”

Steinhauser said she understood public access was a potential issue.

“ABC granted a lift to the care center, which is not accessible to the public,” Steinhauser said. “I didn’t think that was a bad use of those funds. I don’t feel we are out of line asking for this.”

ACDC Board member Haley Miles said she understood the perceptions of the public relating to the cost of the playground project, and the board had looked hard at costs.

ACDC Board member Devyn France said she agreed the funds need to be used to better the community, which is why the funds are there.

Mayor Joel Klammer told France she was right that the funds need to be used.

“I think this has opened people’s eyes about the ABC fund,” Klammer said.

Klammer said he did not like to go against recommendations made by the city’s committees, and the ABC Committee recommended providing $70,000 in funding.

“No one from the public goes to the committee meetings,” the mayor said. “The recommendation from the committee generated public comments.”

ABC Committee representative David Spann said the ACDC presented a request to the committee and there was a lot of give and take.

“We came up with $70,000 as being money well spent,” Spann said.

Councilman Shawn Fernau said his phone rang off the hook Wednesday afternoon, with about half of the callers supporting funding the project and half against.

Fiala said he had calls asking why the council was not supporting the daycare center.

“We have awarded two façade projects and $200,000 as a forgivable loan for the center,” Fiala said. “The city is supporting that business on Main Street. We have said yes to a lot of things. I could justify $25,000.”

Fernau asked if the center could get something done for $25,000. Steinhauser said that would cover the cost of the turf and concrete for the project.

Audience member and former City Councilman Vance Heyer said there had been a lot of discussion about public accessibility.

“This project provides a huge public benefit,” Heyer said. “This is not an in-home vs. center issue. People from outside see that this community has childcare covered. That is huge for people looking at moving here to take a job when there are hundreds of jobs open.”

Heyer said the ABC fund regenerates off sales tax.

“There will be more funds available,” Heyer said. “This is a critical need.”

Audience member Mark Miles said he appreciated the dialogue between the council and the childcare center.

“You are going to get pushback on anything you do,” Miles said. “When you talk about the use of these funds, everyone in the community is impacted by this center. Even if it is only 40 or 50 kids going there, it still impacts everyone. The first questions asked by people being recruited here are housing and daycare. I encourage you to consider $50,000.”

Councilman Kent Taylor said the ABC program is designated for community improvement projects such as parks, the pool, cemeteries, fire departments and other projects that benefit the community.

“It is pretty broad,” Taylor said. “Like Brad talked about, there has been support from the city with $220,000. This is politics at a local level. People are questioning if this is a proper use of tax dollars.”

Audience member Leanne Maxwell said the council has shown support for the childcare center.

“An ABC contribution shows you will give more to help something the community needs,” Maxwell said. “This project means so much to the community. These women have stuck their necks out big time for this.”

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said a recent survey asked Brown County residents if there were enough daycare opportunities available in the county.

“Ninety-three percent of respondents said ‘no,’” Olson said. “We have in-home daycare providers, and they are all important.”

Fernau asked if in-home daycare providers could apply for ABC funds.

Olson said the ACDC qualifies for different things that in-home daycare providers don’t, and there are some funds that in-home daycare providers qualify for that the ACDC does not.

“It is just based on how they are all structured,” Olson said.

Fiala made a motion to approve $25,000 in ABC funds for the playground project, with Taylor providing a second.

Audience member and former Councilman Tonny Beck said, as a council member, you have to make decisions you feel are the best for the community regardless of the people chirping in your ears. He said, if people think they can make better decisions, they can sign up and run for a council seat.

“Don’t sit up there and do nothing because you are scared,” Beck said. “Approve the funds the committee recommended. I challenge you to do that. Don’t cave to the squeakiest wheel.”

Beck said he and his wife Michelle would donate the remaining $25,000 toward the project if the council would step up and award $50,000.

Fernau said he agreed with Beck, but he planned to abstain from the vote because he has done work for the childcare center.

Councilman Dustin Barthel said he was conflicted about whether ABC funds should be awarded to the private daycare.

“It doesn’t fit the criteria to me, because it is not public,” Barthel said.

By a 2-1 vote with Fiala and Taylor in support, Barthel against and Fernau abstaining, the council approved $25,000 in ABC funding toward the Ainsworth Child Development Center playground project.

In a related item Wednesday, the council approved a building permit for the playground project submitted by the child development center. A portion of the proposed playground site is located on city property that was previously leased to the center.

In other business, accountant Michael Hoback from firm AMGL of Grand Island presented the council with a report from the audit of the city’s finances for 2023.

Hoback said the audit went smooth considering this was the first year AMGL performed the audit for the city.

The city had previously used Dana F. Cole to handle its annual audit.

Hoback said the city had strong cash reserves in its water and sewer funds. While the city has over $1 million in cash in the general fund, much of that total is restricted for specific uses and the city has little cash in the general fund that is not assigned.

Hoback compared the city’s financial picture to other similar-sized communities. He said the city of Ainsworth has outstanding sales tax revenue for a community of its size. The city generates $407 per capita in sales tax each year. The average for similar-sized communities is $308 per capita.

Hoback said the city was also in excellent shape regarding its outstanding debt ratio to its overall property valuation. He said a 5 percent ratio is good and a 3 percent debt ratio is excellent. The city’s ratio is 0.13 percent, but that will likely go up with the renovation projects on North Main and South Main streets.

He said one issue for the city was a lack of segregation of duties related to financial protocols. However, he said all but one of the 80 communities AMGL audits have that same issue simply due to a limited number of paid staff members.

Hoback recommended the city spread its cost for administration salaries among all its funds instead of all the office staff salaries coming from the general fund.

“Salaries aren’t getting allocated across all funds,” Hoback said. “Those are usually split up between the different departments.”

Hoback said spreading those salaries out among the different departments was warranted, as those funds are administered by city staff.

“That would allocate those wages more fairly,” Hoback said. “The city as a whole has good cash reserves. A lot of reserves are in water and sewer, but there is not much in the general fund. You just need to reallocate some of those expenses.”

Barthel said reallocating those salaries among the departments would help relieve some of the stress on the city’s general fund.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the council can reallocate where those funds are taken as part of the budget process.

Fiala asked Hoback if he provides recommendations on how the city can work on its budget. Hoback said he would return in July or August and hold a budget workshop with the council as it prepares its 2024-25 fiscal year budget.

Brittney Koenig with the Nebraska Public Power District provided the council with an overview of the services provided by NPPD as the city’s operating utility. Koenig said the city owns its distribution system and NPPD serves as the operator.

Koenig said NPPD remits 12 percent of revenue to the city, which amounted to $286,615 in 2023 into the city’s general fund. NPPD remitted another $29,233 in sales taxes to the city, and $113,903 in gross revenue tax that in 2023 that was paid to Brown County.

Koenig said NPPD earned its third consecutive Diamond Level Reliable Public Power Provider designation from the American Public Power Association. She said just 122 of more than 2,000 public power entities received that highest-level designation from the APPA. She said NPPD in 2024 marked its 11th consecutive year with no overall retail power rate increases.

In action items Wednesday, the council:

* Approved two pay applications of $461,210 and $171,781 to Myers Construction for the North Main Street renovation project.

* Approved a contract with engineering firm Olsson Associates for engineering services on the South Main Street renovation project not to exceed $96,750.

* Approved declaring a 1998 Chevy boom truck as surplus property and a bid of $3,100 submitted by Duane Anderson for the vehicle after it was advertised for sale.

* Approved a $10,000 façade grant application for a Main Street business for 50 percent of building improvements which include a sign, and window and door awnings. The approval was contingent upon the sale of the property being completed to the applicant, as Klammer said the sale of the property was not yet finalized.

* Approved using Walnut Street between Second and Third streets as the route for this year’s alumni parade as requested by the 25-year alumni class with Main Street under renovation.

* Approved the reappointment of Bruce Papstein and Cody Goochey to three-year terms on the Park Board.

* Approved the reappointment of Harlan Welch and the appointments of Jake Graff and Jason Nelson to three-year terms on the Board of Adjustment.

* Approved the reappointment of Evan Evans and RoseMary Saner to three-year terms on the Ainsworth Betterment Committee.

* Approved the reappointment of Tony Allen to a three-year term on the Cemetery Board.

* Approved the reappointment of Devron Crawford and the appointment of Chris Lammers to three-year terms on the Planning Commission.

During her report, Schroedl said contractors were finding water service lines into businesses on South Main Street were old and deteriorated enough that they are not confident new water lines being installed could be hooked into the existing lines without leaks or breaks.

Schroedl said, after discussion with Olsson Associates, she believed the best option would be for the city to take the new service lines through the walls of the buildings and cap them inside the buildings. She said the cost to stub the lines through the walls would be on the city, with the building owners then encouraged to utilize a plumber to connect internal plumbing to the stub at their cost.

She said, if the building owners chose not to replace the lines while the work was being done now and the old lines would fail with the added water pressure, the cost to dig up the lines and then replace the concrete would run between $15,000 and $25,000.

Schroedl said the cost to attach to the new stub now and prevent that potential issue should be substantially less for those building owners. She said she, Water Superintendent Brad Miller and Jess Hurlbert with Olsson Associates would begin visiting building owners to review options.

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

* Council does not adopt law enforcement contract

(Posted 7 a.m. May 9)

The Ainsworth City Council Wednesday did not take action to renew a contract with Brown County for law enforcement service.

Mayor Joel Klammer said the issues on the contract began about five years ago when the county increased the city’s cost by 35 percent over a three-year period.

“As most folks know, we again negotiated a contract last year and at that time the city was able to review the statutes and also look at what other communities were paying for law enforcement,” Klammer said.

The mayor said, after comparing Ainsworth’s law enforcement contract with other communities of similar size, it appeared the city was paying more for law enforcement than its peer communities.

“We tried to negotiate some changes in the law enforcement contract, but quite honestly, most of the options proposed by the city were not accepted,” Klammer said. “In the end we made the decision to proceed with a one-year contract.”

In discussing a contract for the upcoming year with Brown County Commissioner Buddy Small, Sheriff Brent Deibler and County Attorney Andy Taylor, Klammer said it became clear the two entities were not going to be able to reach an agreement.

Councilman Brad Fiala, who was part of the city’s negotiating team, said the contract proposed to the city did not include any code enforcement.

“They wanted $200,000 for a law enforcement presence in Ainsworth 20 hours per week,” Fiala said.

Klammer said the city plans to hire a code enforcement officer to process city code violations.

“This is not a decision that was taken lightly, nor was it made in haste,” the mayor said. “For the moment, this appears the best path forward.”

Councilman Kent Taylor said, to him, the issue came down to the enforcement of city ordinances.

“Even if we approved a contract, we would still have to hire a code enforcement officer,” Taylor said. “It was clear from the start that ordinance enforcement was not on the table.”

Fiala said he believed the city could hire a code enforcement officer and get better service.

Councilman Dustin Barthel asked if the county was at all willing to negotiate the contract.

Klammer said he talked to Commissioner Small about it, who indicated he visited with the sheriff and his answer was there was no room for negotiation.

“In no way should this lack of a law enforcement contract suggest the city does not support law enforcement,” Klammer said. “We will continue to assist the county sheriff’s office as they carry out their statutory obligation to enforce the laws of the state for all the citizens of Brown County.”

Fiala said the sheriff’s department was still responsible for responding to calls in the city.

“The presence in Ainsworth won’t be there as it has in the past when we had a contract,” Fiala said. “We are still county residents, but there won’t be as much presence in Ainsworth. When a resident calls, they might not be there as quickly.”

Klammer said he expects the city will utilize more technology for surveillance of critical areas moving forward and could adjust its approach as needed.

The mayor said the city has no say in what the county does with the sheriff’s department budget.

“We tried to negotiate last year and were told the city needed to contribute more so more officers could be hired,” Klammer said. “The city proposed a tiered structure based on the number of officers. That was rejected.”

Klammer said the current contract expires June 30. If the council was not interested in accepting the proposal from the county, then no action was needed.

The council took no action on agreeing to a contract, and did not vote to pursue additional negotiations.

The council on Wednesday also discussed its contract for LB 840 administration with the North Central Development Center.

Barthel and Councilman Shawn Fernau have served as the city’s sub-committee for negotiations on the LB 840 contract with the NCDC.

Barthel said, after discussions on accountability for both parties, he proposed continuing the contract with the addition of a council member as a member of the NCDC Board of Directors. The city currently has one board seat as a contributing partner, which is filled by City Administrator Lisa Schroedl.

A council member would be recommended to fill an at-large seat on the NCDC Board.

“We want the checks and balances,” Barthel said. “We are paying a large portion of their budget. We want to see the city gets priority on projects.”

Fiala said he would like to see all contributing partners of the NCDC pay the same across the board.

“Then we wouldn’t have to rely on LB 840 so much,” Fiala said. “I am all in favor of the NCDC, I just feel the city is contributing quite a bit.”

NCDC Executive Director Kristin Olson said LB 840 was put in place in part so the NCDC did not have to rely as heavily on the city’s general fund budget.

“Our job is to give you a return on your investment,” Olson said. “We have to prove we have given you a return. We have reduced our LB 840 request from $75,000 a few years ago down to $60,000.”

Olson said the city needed to work together with the NCDC.

“Come up with a list of priority projects,” Olson said. “Let us know what we can help you with. There are things we can help with if you let us know.”

Fiala asked if there was a way the NCDC could reduce its ask further from the LB 840 fund.

NCDC Board member Graig Kinzie said the development office does not operate on a large budget.

“The only way to reduce the NCDC budget is to reduce staff,” Kinzie said.

After the NCDC reduced its LB 840 contract from $75,000 to $60,000, Kinzie said the board had to cut from two full-time staff down to one. The NCDC has a part-time person who assists with some office duties after hours because that person has another full-time job.

Kinzie said the NCDC entered into a contract with the city of Bassett to administer its LB 840 program as well, and that has allowed the board to hire a part-time staff person to assist Olson with development projects.

Fernau said he was ok with the contract.

“I think communication will be helped with adding a council member to the board to go along with Lisa,” Fernau said.

A contract will be presented for the council’s consideration during its June meeting.

* Allen wins Fine Arts Student of the Year

(Posted 10:45 a.m. May 8)

Ainsworth High School senior Taylor Allen was named the 2024 Harriet Hughes Outstanding Fine Arts Student during Fine Arts Awards Night April 30 in the Learning Center.

Allen receives a $750 scholarship from the Hughes Memorial, the Brown County Arts Council and the Ainsworth Star-Journal.

In addition to being named the Outstanding Fine Arts Student, Allen received three major speech awards, including the Outstanding Varsity Speaker, the Senior Oratory Award and the Jess Duden Memorial Speech Team Member of the Year.

Allen was also named the Thespian of the Year during the awards night.

Seniors Cole Bodeman and Mason Titus were the other finalists for the Outstanding Fine Arts Student of the Year. Bodeman received the Patrick S. Gilmore Award and the John Phillip Sousa Award in band. Bodeman also received the Dave Streich Mock Trial Award.

In addition to the awards mentioned above presented during Fine Arts Awards Night were the following:

Chorus
National High School Choral Award – Grace Goodwin

Outstanding Juniors – Grace Goodwin and Emma McMurtrey

Outstanding Sophomore – Madison Phares

Outstanding Freshman – Miranda Phares

Most Improved – Jordan Beatty, Colby Beegle, William Biltoft, Ty Bolli, Cassie Cole, Daniel Cole, Jodie Denny, Saul Fernandez, Damian Hernandez, Abbigail Paulson and Nacona Shurter

Band
Outstanding Senior – Cole Bodeman

Outstanding Junior – Emma McMurtrey

Outstanding Sophomore – Colby Beegle

Outstanding Freshmen – Erick Hitchcock and Jon Strand

Letter Winners – Colby Beegle, David Cook, Jodie Denny, Erick Hitchcock, Miranda Phares, Jon Strand and Braeyden Ziemba

Most Improved – David Cook, Erick Hitchcock, Madison Phares and Miranda Phares

Mock Trial
Most Valuable – Emma Kennedy

Most Improved – Erick Hitchcock

Newcomer of the Year – Lura Hodge

Speech
Outstanding Novice – Erick Hitchcock

Thespians
Thespian Initiates – Colby Beegle, Ty Bolli, Cassandra Cole, Jodie Denny, Grace Goodwin, Erick Hitchcock, Madison Phares and Brianna Starkey

Drama
All-Southwest Conference – Taylor Allen, Trey Appelt, Cole Bodeman, Puridy Haley and Katherine Kerrigan

All-District Performances – Taylor Allen, Trey Appelt, Cole Bodeman, Puridy Haley, Katherine Kerrigan and Kiley Orton

* Ainsworth City Council Wednesday agenda

(Posted 9 a.m. May 8)

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

  • Call to Order
  • I. Routine Business
    • Announcement of Open Meetings Act
    • Roll Call
    • Pledge of Allegiance
  • II. Consent Agenda – All items approved with the passage of one motion
    • Approve minutes from the April 10, 2024 regular meeting
    • Approval of claims
    • Treasurer’s report
    • Department head reports
  • III. Mayor’s Appointments and Report
    • Mayor’s Report
    • Mayor’s Appointments
      • Park Board (3-year terms):  Reappointments of Bruce Papstein and Cody Goochey with terms ending 1/1/2027
      • Board of Adjustments (3-year terms):  Reappointment of Harlan Welch with term ending 1/1/2026; Appointments of Jake Graff and Jason Nelson with terms ending 1/1/2027
      • Ainsworth Betterment Committee (3-year terms):  Reappointments of Evan Evans and RoseMary Saner with terms ending 10/14/2026
      • Cemetery Board (3-year terms):  Reappointment of Tony Allen with term ending 12/9/2026
      • Planning Commission (3-year terms):  Reappointment of Devron Crawford with term ending 12/2/2026; Appointment of Chris Lammers to fill the vacancy left by Kent Taylor, with term ending 12/2/2025
  • IV. Public Hearings
    • None
  • V. Old Business
    • Discuss and consider subcommittee recommendations regarding the Law Enforcement Agreement and Economic Development Services Agreement
    • Discuss and consider the recommendation by the Ainsworth Betterment Committee (ABC) to grant funding in the amount of:
      •  $70,000 to the Ainsworth Child Development Center for their proposed playground project
  • VI. Regular Agenda
    • Discuss and consider a request to modify leased property
    • Financial audit report for fiscal year ended September 30, 2023 – AMGL, P.C.
    • NPPD Retail Update – Brittney Koenig, NPPD
    • Discuss and consider pay applications 2 and 3 for Myers Construction for the Ainsworth Main Street Rehabilitation North project
    • Discuss and consider the contract for services with Olsson for the Main Street Rehabilitation South project
    • Consider Resolution #24-02:  Declaration of surplus property and offering of property for sale by sealed bid
    • Consider bids received for surplus property:  1998 Chevrolet PU/Boom Truck
    • Discuss and consider a recommendation by the LB840 Loan Committee to approve façade grant application #24-02 in the amount of $10,000
    • Discuss and consider an alternative parade route and street closings for the 2024 Ainsworth alumni parade:  closing of Walnut Street between 2nd Street and 3rd Street on June 29, 2024 from 9:00 am to 11:00 am
    • City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Report

* Commissioners table making up-front roof payment

(Posted 7 a.m. May 8)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday tabled making a payment for a portion of the proposed roof repair project at the courthouse.

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said Shawn Fernau Construction had requested a $28,750 payment, which represented half of the cost of the project, in advance so materials could be purchased and a subcontractor hired for the work. Dailey said the subcontractor requires money in advance before they will come out to work on the project.

County Attorney Andy Taylor said the only way for the county to legally pay anything up front would be to have a signed contract between the county and Shawn Fernau Construction.

“We can pay for materials up front if a contract is in place,” Taylor said. “It is reasonable to pay for materials up front, but we need to know the cost of those materials.”

Taylor said, without a contract signed by both parties, the work would need to be completed first with a claim then submitted to the county for payment.

Dailey said tabling action would just delay the project for yet another month. The item was placed on the board’s May 21 agenda.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners, with Denny Bauer absent, met with Jerry Paulsen regarding the removal of a tree in the courthouse park.

Paulsen said a tree east of the courthouse was rotten and could be blown down by a strong wind.

“It needs to be removed,” Paulsen said. “Several other trees need to be trimmed.”

Paulsen estimated the cost to remove the tree would be $1,500, with an additional $3,000 in tree trimming work needed.

Commissioner Buddy Small asked if the tree trimming and removal could wait a few weeks until the county begins a new budget year July 1. The board determined $10,400 remained for the current fiscal year in the building and grounds budget, but that line item was also responsible for paying the courthouse custodian.

Paulsen said he could work to take down the tree and do the trimming work now, but would wait until after July 1 to bill the county for the work.

Shari Luther and Mike Rudnick from the Brown County Veterans Memorial Committee met with the board and Paulsen regarding the courthouse sprinklers hitting the veterans memorial at the courthouse park.

“There is residue from the hard water on the north wall from the sprinkler system,” Luther said. “I know we can’t control how the wind blows, but could a soaker be used for that area?”

Luther said the veterans memorial cost $90,000 and she would hate to see it damaged.

Paulsen said none of the sprinklers come near the memorial.

“It has to be strictly from the wind,” Paulsen said. “The sprinklers don’t hit it otherwise.”

Small asked Paulsen if he could check the wind before watering the area. Paulsen said the sprinklers run at night.

“That is the only time we can do it,” Paulsen said. “We already keep the sprinklers far enough away from that area that we have to use smaller sprinklers there most of the time.”

Rudnick said the committee may have to see if there was anyone available who could perform stone restoration. He said 30 veteran names were being added to the memorial. The cost to add each name is $200.

The board approved Larry Zeigler, Audrey Wilson, Tony Allen, Luther and Rudnick to terms on the veterans memorial committee, with Zeigler and Wilson’s terms expiring in 2026 and the remainder of the terms expiring in 2027.

The commissioners discussed the county’s vacation accrual policy. Taylor said there was a potential discrepancy between how employees have been treated and the language in the policy.

“The way it has been handled is they get additional time starting in the sixth year of employment,” Taylor said.

Deputy Clerk Becky Hardy said the county’s policy indicates vacation time accrues at three-quarters of a day per month for the first five years of employment, with vacation time increasing to one day per month from years six to 10. She said the new payroll software wouldn’t start the full-day accrual until after six years of employment the way it was set up.

Dailey said the way he read the policy is the employees get the additional vacation time when they start their sixth year, not after they complete it. Small said he agreed with that interpretation of the policy.

Hardy said that is also how she read the policy, but she wanted to be sure before making the change in the software.

Hardy also discussed health insurance policy renewal rates for 2025. Hardy said Blue Cross and Blue Shield is changing the way it looks at premium rates. Instead of setting rates based on the entire Nebraska Association of County Officials pool, she said the company was instead pulling out individual counties and looking at different variables.

Using the new formula, Hardy said Brown County’s premiums would actually decrease by 7 percent for the upcoming plan year. She said some counties in the pool may see their rates go up by as much as 10 percent.

Hardy asked the board how they wanted to set up employee contributions for insurance premiums and the cash in lieu of insurance.

Hardy said the county currently pays 78 percent of the premium with the employee responsible for 22 percent. Cash in lieu is paid at 75 percent of the county’s contribution for those who opt not to take insurance through the county.

The board approved keeping the percentages the same.

Treasurer Bruce Mitchell asked the board which line item it wanted to use to pay for an interest-only payment on the highway bond. Mitchell said the hospital bond payment was handled, but the board needed to decide where it wanted to take the roughly $8,000 to $9,000 payment for the highway bond. The board determined the payment would likely be paid from the inheritance tax fund, with Taylor tasked with drawing up a resolution for the next meeting.

Mitchell said there are three payments remaining on the hospital addition bond before that bond is paid in full.

In other action items Tuesday, the commissioners renewed the county’s membership in the Central Nebraska Economic Development District at a cost of $1,496, and approved making budgeted transfers of $25,000 from the miscellaneous general fund to the building and grounds fund and $300,000 from the miscellaneous general fund to the county highway fund.

Several agenda items Tuesday were tabled due to the absences of Bauer and Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin from the meeting. Turpin was attending a weeklong road grader training in Rock County with a majority of the roads department.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. May 21.

* Area student-athletes named Academic All-State

(Posted 7:45 a.m. May 7)

The Nebraska School Activities Association announced the recipients of Spring 2024 Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association Academic All-State Awards. The program recognizes students who meet the criteria for nomination by their school in the season of their activity.

Each year the NSAA and the NCPA recognize students during Fall, Winter, and Spring Seasons who are nominated by their schools for their individual academic excellence, leadership, and significant contributions in their NSAA activity.

Area students named Academic All-State for spring activities are:

Ainsworth
Jordan Beatty and Cole Bodeman in music, Trey Appelt and Jonathan Strand in boys track and field, and Jocelyn Good and Katherine Kerrigan in girls track and field

Keya Paha County
Jameson Painter in boys track and field, and Karlene Kepler in girls track and field

Rock County
Branson Anderson and Keian Fischer in boys golf, Ella Mitchell and Kyla Pyle in music, Mason Hagan in boys track and field, and Morgan Lewis in girls track and field

Stuart
Dawson Heiser and Hunter Tubbs in boys golf, Lacey Paxton and William Paxton in music, Cory Gubbels and Luke Ludwig in boys track and field, and Addisyn Ketteler and Reagan Stracke in girls track and field

West Holt
Mason Crumrine and Dominick Ogden in boys golf, and Maddie Davis in music

Boyd County
Evan Harmon in boys golf, Zoe Kaczor in music, Will Nelson and Ethan Zeisler in boys track and field, and Jaylee Lechtenberg and McKenzie Snyder in girls track and field

Sandhills
Kallan Cox and Shelby Schukei in music, Kyle Cox in boys track and field, and Charlsie Teahon in girls track and field

Valentine
Leighton Reagle and Reeves Witte in boys golf, Katelyn Bitner in journalism, Grant Springer and Marybelle Ward in music, Lex Larsen and Grant Springer in boys track and field, and Kimber McGinley and Alivia Patterson in girls track and field

* Area schools earn NDE grants for building security

(Posted 3 p.m. May 6)

Nebraska schools have been awarded $10 million in safety and security grants for security-related infrastructure projects, ensuring a safer learning environment for students statewide.

Rock County Public Schools received the third-largest grant in the state, picking up $516,000 in grant funding for a remodeled entryway to the middle and high school.

Ainsworth Community Schools received a $68,325 grant for door and entryway access security improvements. The grant includes updated digital security cameras for the school campus.

Stuart Public School received a $3,500 grant for keycard entry.

West Holt Public Schools picked up a $20,000 grant for door locking systems.

Valentine Community Schools landed a $161,532 grant for a door locking system for all of the schools in the system.

The Nebraska Department of Education received 217 applications, including 162 from public and 55 from nonpublic schools, vying for a share of the $10 million allocated for critical projects.

Each application underwent a rigorous review process by NDE staff with knowledge of school safety strategies. Applications were also reviewed for alignment with the four pillars of School Safety & Security: Prevention, Preparedness, Response, & Recovery. The pillars served as a foundational guideline in determining the most effective allocation of funds.

Ultimately, 171 school districts were awarded grants, signifying a substantial step forward in the statewide commitment to creating safer educational environments for all students. The total amount initially requested by the applying schools amounted to more than $55 million, demonstrating the significant need and desire for enhanced security measures across Nebraska’s educational institutions.

* Work continues on Highway 7 in Ainsworth

(Posted 2:30 p.m. May 6)

Work continues to progress as planned on the Highway 7 renovation project in Ainsworth.

NDOT project manager Carl Hart said Monday the underground utility contractor has installed the main trunk line of the sanitary sewer for Phase 1. Beginning Monday, installation of the new water main commenced with the contractor working from north to south. 

New water and sewer service connections to businesses will also begin. Hart said there may be temporary service interruptions and sidewalk closures as connections are made to businesses. All new service lines will extend to the store front or to the edge of the right of way.

Following installation of the new water main and service connections, work will begin on the storm sewer. Once the storm sewer work for phase 1 is substantially complete, concrete paving will begin.

* Area students receive UNMC degrees

(Posted 1:45 p.m. May 6)

Diplomas and certificates were conferred on more than 1,100 University of Nebraska Medical Center students during ceremonies held May 2 at Lincoln, Norfolk and Kearney and May 4 at Omaha and Scottsbluff.

Those from the area receiving degrees from UNMC were Sadie Martin of Bassett, who received a Master of Science degree in nursing; and Cherokee Ferguson of Springview, who received a Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree.

* Brown County Commissioners Tuesday agenda

(Posted 1:30 p.m. May 6)

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, May 7
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

1:15     Roll Call.

Approve minutes of the 4-16-2024 Commissioner meeting.

 Approve minutes of the 5-1-2024 Special Commissioner meeting.

Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

Approve ½ of roof repair payment – Dailey

Determine which fund to pay Highway Bond out of – Mitchell

Clarify Personnel Policy Re: Vacation Accrual Rate – Attorney/Hardy

Clarify County Highway Superintendent Turpin as a salary or hourly position – Attorney/Hardy

Budgeted Transfer $25,000.00 from Miscellaneous General to Buildings and Grounds all within the General Fund – Hardy

Budgeted Transfer $300,000.00 from Miscellaneous General to County Highway all within the General Fund – Hardy

Blue Cross Blue Shield Renewal Rates for 2025, Set employee contributions & Cash in Lieu for 2024-2025 Plan year – Hardy

2024/2025 Membership to the Central Nebraska Economic Development District

Raises for employees – Board

Approve Claims

2:00      Jerry Paulson – Trimming & Tree removal – Small

2:05     Brown County Veterans Memorial Committee – Resolution for new board members and watering on memorial – Shari Luther

* Brown County Hospital awards scholarships

(Posted 11 a.m. May 6)

The Brown County Hospital announced the recipients of three scholarships awarded by the hospital to graduating seniors and current students already enrolled in college.

This year’s scholarship recipients are Brielle Bussinger, a 2022 Rock County High School graduate pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing; Dominic Prewitt, a 2016 Ainsworth High School graduate pursuing a nurse practitioner degree in anesthesia; and Jocelyn Good, a pending 2024 Ainsworth High School graduate who plans to pursue a nursing degree in pre-physical therapy.

Each student receives a $750 scholarship from the Brown County Hospital.

* West Holt Medical Services awards scholarships

(Posted 11 a.m. May 6)

West Holt Memorial Hospital announced graduating seniors Addison Karo of West Holt and Savannah Kramer of Stuart have been selected as the recipients of the West Holt Medical Services scholarships for 2024.

Karo plans to attend the University of Nebraska-Kearney in the fall with a position in the Kearney Health Opportunities Program majoring in pre-medicine.

Kramer also plans to attend UNK and pursue a degree in biology with the intent of becoming a radiologic technician.

West Holt Medical Services annually awards two $500 scholarships to a graduating senior from West Holt and Stuart high schools seeking a post-secondary education in a healthcare related field.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

April 28

Responded to a report of trespassing on a rural property near Johnstown.

Issued written warnings for traffic stops on Highway 7 and 20 for no registration and driving on the shoulder.  A citation was issued for no valid registration.

Received a report of a domestic dispute in Ainsworth.  The involved male subject was later arrested in Holt County for driving under the influence of alcohol.  A report will be sent to the Brown County Attorney’s office regarding the domestic altercation.

April 29

Received a parking complaint on Woodward Street.  Contact was made with the vehicle owner, and it was moved.

Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.

Responded to a report of a disturbance on Elm Street.  All parties were separated, and a no trespassing letter was issued to a male subject.

Responded to a report of cattle on Highway 7, near mile marker 37.  The owner was identified and removed them from the roadway.

April 30

Received a complaint regarding no speed limit signs posted on the detour route.  Arrangements were made and the signs were placed in the detour route.

Received a report of fraudulent bank transactions. 

May 1

Issued a verbal warning for speeding on Meadville Ave to a package delivery service vehicle.  A written warning was issued to a Pennsylvania driver for speeding on Highway 20.

Responded to a report of unauthorized use of ATVs on shoulder of a highway.  All drivers agreed to drive ATVs in the road ditch.

May 2

Received a report of a loose dog on Pine Street.  A verbal warning was issued to the dog owner.

Issued a citation for no valid registration.  A speeding citation was issued to a driver on Meadville Ave for 65mph in a 55mph zone.  Another speeding citation was issued for 95mph in a 65mph zone.

Received a report of suspected child/abuse neglect. 

May 3

Issued a speeding citation during a traffic stop on Highway 7 for 11-15mph over the posted limit.

Responded to a report of an altercation between two dogs on 5th Street.  A citation will be issued to the owner of the loose dog.

May 4

The Brown County Ambulance provided standby coverage for a rodeo event at the Brown County Fairgrounds on the 4th and the 5th.

Served a protection order.

Received a report of an individual selling a saddle that was believed to be stolen.  The saddle was found to not be stolen.

The Brown County Ambulance transported a patient to Kearney.

Warnings were issued for speeding, and defective vehicle lighting during traffic stops.

Weekly Totals

Phone Calls:  84

911 Calls:  0

Incident Reports:  15

Vin Inspections:  0

Gun Permits:  2

* Highway 83 project in Valentine awarded

(Posted 1:30 p.m. May 3)

The West Fourth Street in Valentine project has been awarded to prime contractor Paulsen, Inc. of Cozad and is scheduled to be constructed in 2025, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

The 0.74-mile project is located on Highway 83 in Cherry County. The project starts 0.06 miles west of the Highway 83 and Highway 12 junction at mile marker 213.42 and ends at mile marker 214.16.

Work includes reconstructing Highway 83, which requires removing and replacing the existing concrete pavement. The project also includes improvements to sidewalks, storm sewer, roadway lighting, and repairs to the bridge over Minnechaduza Creek. The city of Valentine plans to concurrently update city owned utilities along Highway 83/Fourth Street.

The project will be constructed in phases. The phase from the Highway 83 and Highway 12 junction to Edna Street will require complete closure and traffic will be detoured on Cherry, West Third and Edna Streets.

The detour is scheduled to be in place during the summer months while school is not in session. The phase from Edna Street to the end of the project will be constructed under traffic with lane closures controlled by temporary traffic signals. Access to adjacent properties will be maintained during construction but may be limited at times due to phasing requirements.

Additional information regarding the project will be provided as the construction start date approaches.

For more information contact Darrell Lurz at the Nebraska Department of Transportation Valentine office at (402) 376-1352.

* Commissioners hold hearing on land access

(Posted 7:30 a.m. May 2)

The purchaser of the former Long Lake State Recreation Area came no closer to finding a route to a property he is unable to access following a public hearing on the route held by the Brown County Commissioners Wednesday.

Grant Kobes first approached the commissioners a year ago saying he had purchased the former state recreation area in southwestern Brown County from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The Game and Parks Commission had access to the site located in Section 22 Township 27 Range 24 through an easement with a neighboring property owner. When the land sold, the easement dissolved. Kobes said he has had no success coming to an agreement with neighboring landowners on a route to access the property.

With no success privately, Kobes previously requested the commissioners step in, as counties are required by state statute to provide access to isolated land. The statute indicates section lines should be followed when possible to establish access in instances when a property is landlocked.

As part of that process, the commissioners, with Denny Bauer absent Wednesday, held a hearing to obtain public comment on any suggested route. The decision is ultimately up to the commissioners to establish access, with the landlocked property owner responsible for paying for all costs associated with the establishment of the route. That includes purchasing property from neighbors whose land is used to establish a route.

Kobes said he was excited to be a part of the community.

“I am requesting approval of a route to the property so I can continue survey work and the construction of a road,” Kobes said.

Kobes hired a surveyor to find property boundaries and an engineering company to design potential routes to the property. He presented the board with four possible routes to access the property. He said it was impossible to only use section lines to establish a road as the section lines go through wetland areas.

Kobes said the preferred route to his property would be just shy of a mile long at 5,134 feet and would run across two neighboring properties owned by the Wales family and the Villwok Ranch. He said the preferred route follows existing driveways through the Wales and Villwok properties.

Kobes said the second route was about 500 feet longer and ran through the Wales’ yard, which he said would not be preferable. The third and fourth routes he said were not viable and would create the most environmental impact going through flooded areas and blowouts.

Property owner Greg Wales said he did not want to see the route go through his yard.

Kobes said only 2-1/2 miles of the entire Moon Lake Road run on section lines, and only 1 mile of the 19-mile Elsmere Road is located along section lines.

Commissioner Buddy Small said it was his understanding that the Villwok Ranch had recently been sold.

Attorney Todd Flynn said the property had indeed been sold to Mr. Tom Milligan, who Flynn represented.

Flynn suggested proceedings be halted for 60 days to allow Milligan time to review the issue and see if an agreement with Kobes could be reached. He said a delay might also be warranted since the county attorney was not able to attend Wednesday’s hearing.

“The new owner has only had the property for five days,” Flynn said. “That time might give the new owner the ability to work on a proposal with Mr. Kobes.”

He said having a new landowner may allow for some traction on establishing a road.

Small said County Attorney Andy Taylor was in Kearney Wednesday attending a state conference.

Kobes said he did not agree that another 60-day delay was warranted.

“I need to get to that property this year,” Kobes said. “There are cedars that need to be cleared and leafy spurge that needs to be sprayed. That will affect the neighbors.”

Kobes said the portion of the former Villwok Ranch he needed to cross was about 100 yards and has an existing driveway. Kobes said every route the engineering company proposed used the same 100 yards of the Villwok Ranch, now owned by Milligan.

“I don’t see any reason to build a second road,” Kobes said. “We have tried to work with Mr. Flynn and his clients for more than a year. He would have no dialogue with me or my attorney.”

Flynn said he had talked with two different attorneys who had represented Kobes at one point.

“I propose postponing for 60 days to allow the landowners to come up with a proper proposal,” Flynn said. “There is nothing in state statute about expediting the process. The statute is clear that the road follows section lines when possible. If we have time to look, maybe there is a route that gets Mr. Kobes to his isolated property.”

Small said he was agreeable to postponing the proceedings.

“Things would be different if the county attorney was here,” Small said.

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey asked Milligan if he needed 60 days to review the matter.

Milligan said he did, as this was a busy time of year.

“We are calving right now,” Milligan said. “It is an extremely busy time of year.”

Surveyor Matt Tinkam with Lamp Rynearson said he started a boundary survey more than a year ago.

“I am having difficulty finding some corners,” Tinkam said. “I cannot enter some property to finish the survey and I have been told I cannot enter some property to finish my work.”

Tinkam asked if his company could move forward with field work so the survey could be completed and all parties could have a better understanding of the properties being discussed.

“We can’t proceed until we can enter the Wales and Villwok properties,” Tinkam said.

Flynn, who also represents the Wales family, said his client did not want anyone entering the Wales property at this time, an opinion he said the county attorney shared.

“In 60 days, we should be able to come forward with a proposal,” Flynn said.

The commissioners took no action following the hearing. The board would not have taken action Wednesday regardless of the outcome of the hearing. Any action to establish a route would be taken during a regular board meeting.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. May 7.

* Ainsworth Community Schools Academic Awards

(Posted 7:15 a.m. May 1)

Ainsworth Community Schools recognized the top high school students Tuesday during its Academic Awards presentation.

Awards presented Tuesday include:

Math
Technical Math Student of the Year – Gus Ganser
Geometry Students of the Year – Londyn Dunbar, Jaylee Good, Erick Hitchcock and Kiley Orton
Precalculus
Outstanding Achievement – Emma Kennedy
Outstanding Vision – Carlos Pedreira and Logan Schroedl
Above and Beyond Leaders – Kadence Fletcher, Katherine Kerrigan, Karli Kral, Carter Nelson and Carlos Pedreira
Algebra II
Outstanding Achievement – Jaden Lee
Outstanding Vision – Aiden Jackman
Above and Beyond Leaders – Terrin Barthel and Tessa Barthel
Algebra I
Outstanding Achievement – Holden Beel, David Cook, Puridy Haley, Jon Strand and Kinsey Walz
Outstanding Dedication – Cassandra Cole, Damian Hernandez, Madison Palmer and Miranda Phares
College Algebra Academic Excellence – Jocelyn Good
Applied Statistics Academic Excellence – Korah Dunbar
Calculus
Academic Excellence – Mason Titus
Awesome Attitude – Cole Bodeman
English
Speech Communications Outstanding Students – Lura Hodge, Bailey Bowen and Makenzy Cheatum
Public Speaking Outstanding Students – William Biltoft and Adysson Sears
English II Outstanding Students – Nelly Hoche, Payton Moody, Addah Booth and Megan Jones
English III
Outstanding Achievement – Jordan Beatty, Logan Schroedl, Emma Kennedy and Jaden Lee
Outstanding Effort – Angel Ajin, Jacob Held, Grace Goodwin and Jolyn Pozehl
English I
Outstanding Achievement – Puridy Haley, Kiley Orton and Erick Hitchcock
Outstanding Effort – Ty Bolli and Addison Held
English Composition Outstanding Achievement – Kadence Fletcher, Jocelyn Good and June Iturbide
English Composition II Outstanding Achievement – Trey Appelt, Tessa Barthel, Korah Dunbar, Kadence Fletcher, Jocelyn Good and June Iturbide
Science
Physical Science
Friendly Neighbor – Braylin Rudnick
Mad Scientist – Jonathan Strand
Extra Mile – Addison Held
Awesome Attitude – Kenley Welke
Rising Star – Madison Palmer
Academic Excellence – Puridy Haley, Erick Hitchcock and Kiley Orton
Biology
Friendly Neighbor – Addah Booth
Mad Scientist – Jace Johnson
Extra Mile – Adysson Sears
Awesome Attitude – Witten Painter
Rising Star – Saul Fernandez
Academic Excellence – Megan Jones
Ecology
Awesome Attitude – Carter Nelson
Academic Excellence – Nelly Hoche
College Biology
Mad Scientist – Jakelynn Minor
Rising Stars – Breanna Fernau and Carter Nelson
Academic Excellence – Tessa Barthel
Anatomy & Physiology
Friendly Neighbor – Korah Dunbar
Mad Scientist – Lura Hodge
Academic Excellence – Jocelyn Good
Earth Science
Academic Excellence – Aiden Jackman
Awesome Attitude – Terra Shoemaker
Extra Mile – Grace Goodwin
Friendly Neighbor – Mason Painter
Rising Star – Gus Ganser
Chemistry
Academic Excellence – Emma Kennedy
Awesome Attitude – Jordan Beatty
Extra Mile – Miah Ortner
Rising Star – Jhett Hollenbeck
Mad Scientist – Logan Schroedl
Physics
Academic Excellence – Mason Titus
Rising Star – Carlos Pedreira Arizmendiz
Extra Mile – Kendyl Delimont
Mad Scientist – Cole Bodeman
Social Studies
Government
Student of the Year – Cole Bodeman
Future Politician – Carlos Pedreira Arizmendiz
Psychology and Sociology Outstanding Achievement – Nelly Hoche
Social Studies
Outstanding Achievement – Puridy Haley, Londyn Dunbar and Erick Hitchcock
Most Improved Freshman – Madison Palmer
World History
Excellence in World History – Payton Moody, Megan Jones and Adysson Sears
Most Improved – Adolfo Rojas Salazar
Most Enthusiastic – Jace Johnson and William Biltoft
American History Outstanding Students – Logan Schroedl, Jordan Beatty, Emma Kennedy and Jaden Lee
Language
Spanish I Students of the Year – Puridy Haley, Jaylee Good and Kiley Orton
Spanish II Students of the Year – Sam Titus and Megan Jones
Spanish III Students of the Year – Bailey Bowen, Makenzy Cheatum, Taylor Allen and Owen Blumenstock
Spanish IV Student of the Year – Katherine Kerrigan
Agriculture
Intro to Agriculture
Student of the Year – Londyn Dunbar
Friendly Neighbor – Kenley Welke
Floriculture/Nursery & Landscape
Student of the Year – Kiara Troxel
Friendly Neighbor – Tessa Barthel
Plant Science & Agronomy
Student of the Year – Trey Appelt
Friendly Neighbor – Aiden Jackman
Ag Business & Ag Sales
Student of the Year – Makenzy Cheatum
Friendly Neighbor – Terra Shoemaker
Animal Science & Large Animal Management
Student of the Year – Megan Jones
Friendly Neighbor – Addah Booth
Natural Resources & Wildlife Management
Students of the Year – Lura Hodge and Gracie Kinney
Friendly Neighbors – Riggin Blumenstock and Preselyn Goochey
Art
Artist of the Year – Kiara Troxel
Drawing Students of the Year – Bailey Bowen and Nelly Hoche
Beginning Artists of the Year – Christopher Fernandez and Megan Jones
Painting Students of the Year – Brian Eick and Gracie Kinney
Pottery Students of the Year – Trevor Johnson and Renata Pedreira Arizmendez
Artistic Honorable Mention – Airyan Goochey and Karli Kral
Integrated Technology
Students of the Year – Logan Schroedl and Jolyn Pozehl
Strength & Conditioning
Extra Mile – Cole Swanson
Shop
Student of the Year – Traegan McNally
Family & Consumer Science
Food and Nutrition Outstanding Students – Puridy Haley and Kiley Orton
Medical Terminology Outstanding Student – Jocelyn Good
College Nutrition Outstanding Student – Jocelyn Good
Interpersonal Relationships Outstanding Student – Katherine Kerrigan
Life and Career Readiness Outstanding Students – Jacob Held and Ryan Salzman
Interior Design Outstanding Student – June Iturbide
Fashion Design Outstanding Student – Kiara Troxel
Child Development Outstanding Student – Jordan Beatty
Families in Crisis Outstanding Student – Jaden Lee
Business
Personal Finance Outstanding Students – Payton Moody and Megan Jones
Information Technology Outstanding Students – Erick Hitchcock and Braeyden Ziemba
Accounting I Outstanding Students – Hannah Beel and Riggin Blumenstock
Accounting III Outstanding Student – Korah Dunbar
Omaha World Herald Honorable Mention Students – Trey Appelt and Jocelyn Good
Principal’s Leadership Award – Trey Appelt
Graduation Speaker – Trey Appelt
Southwest Conference Academic All-Conference – Trey Appelt, Jocelyn Good, Mason Titus, Taylor Allen, Kendyl Delimont, Katherine Kerrigan, Tessa Barthel and Traegan McNally

* Improvements made to area state parks

(Posted 9 a.m. April 30)

Plenty of improvements in Nebraska’s north-central state parks await visitors this year. Projects completed in 2023 or to be finished in 2024 will appeal to an array of park users. The following is a roundup of those improvements and projects:

Smith Falls State Park

Visitors again are enjoying the sight of Smith Falls, Nebraska’s tallest waterfall. The waterfall at Smith Falls State Park, and the newly constructed 500-foot boardwalk to it, reopened in 2023, replacing the wooden boardwalk.

The $2.7 million project includes a boardwalk built of composite decking on a steel frame with aluminum handrails and is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. New benches provide places for visitors to rest and a platform over the stream has been added midway up the walkway.

Calamus State Recreation Area

A new activity is available for visitors of popular Calamus State Recreation Area as an archery range has been built at a cost of just more than $6,000.

Long Pine State Recreation Area

Two Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant vault toilets are expected to be replaced this year at Long Pine State Recreation Area.

Keller Park State Recreation Area

Campers at Keller Park State Recreation Area will find RV campsites that received an electrical upgrade at a cost of more than $300,000. Two ADA-compliant vault toilets are expected to be replaced this year.

Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area

Good news for campers at Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area, the West Beeds campground will expand by 14 Electric Plus sites and a new shower house in a $900,000 project to be completed this year.

Victoria Springs State Recreation Area

A roof was replaced at Victoria Springs State Recreation Area for more than $5,000.

These state park system projects largely have been funded by Capital Maintenance Funds, which were established by the Nebraska Legislature in 2016 to help preserve Nebraska’s public outdoor recreation facilities and parklands; state and federal funding sources; and Nebraska Game and Parks’ funds generated from user fees of the state park system.

Sherman Reservoir State Recreation Area

The demand for modern camping facilities in central Nebraska is high. At Sherman Reservoir State Recreation Area, West Ridge Campground has been expanded in a $1.1 million project. The campground now has 61 campsites with Electric Plus (30/50 amp) service. A shower house roof also was replaced.

* Water shut-off scheduled for portions of Ainsworth

(Posted 7 a.m. April 30)

City of Ainsworth Water Superintendent Brad Miller reported some Ainsworth residents will have their water turned off Tuesday morning.

Miller said Myers Construction will shut off water for customers on Main Street between Sixth and Seventh streets, Sixth Street from Walnut to Woodward streets, and Woodward Street from Fifth to Sixth streets.

Miller said the shut off is needed as part of a new water line being installed by Myers Construction in the area.

* Ainsworth Quiz Bowl team competes at state

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

The Ainsworth High School Quiz Bowl team traveled to Hastings Wednesday to compete in the ESU State Quiz Bowl.

Thirty teams comprised the bracket for the double elimination competition. Teams are not separated by classes because each ESU sends the top two teams from their competitions. Ainsworth began the day by defeating Nebraska Lutheran. They were defeated in a close match by Southern Valley and were eliminated by Kearney.

The top three teams for the day were Elkhorn North, Norris, and Elkhorn South.

Ainsworth’s quiz bowl team finished the year with 10 wins and 9 losses. Team members include Cole Bodeman, Carlos Pedreira Arizmendiz, Mason Titus, Grace Goodwin, Emma McMurtrey, William Biltoft, Sam Titus, Ty Bolli, David Cook, and Erick Hitchcock.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 6:30 a.m. April 29)

April 21

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a residence in Ainsworth and transported one patient to the hospital.

During a traffic stop on Highway 183, a California driver was issued a citation for speeding and possession of controlled substance.  Two additional traffic stops resulted in a citation issued for speeding 78mph in a 65mph zone and a warning.

April 22

Responded to a report of vandalized signs and damage to county roads near the intersection of 887th and 429th Ave. 

Responded to a request for a welfare check in Ainsworth.  The individual was located and reported safe at this time.

Responded to a report of suspicious activity near 3rd and Pine Street in Ainsworth.  No criminal activity was found at this time.

During a traffic stop on Highway 20 a written warning was issued to a Colorado driver.

April 23

Responded to a report of livestock waste spilling from a semi/trailer on Highway 7.  The driver was issued a citation for waste spillage and a violation for expired plates.

Received a report of an individual being harassed in Ainsworth.

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth.  One patient was transported to the hospital.

Responded to a medical alert alarm in Ainsworth.  It was found to be a false alarm and the individual was reported safe.

During traffic stops on this day a citation was issued for failure to yield, and no valid registration.  A written warning was also issued for speeding.

April 24

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call, West of Ainsworth.  One patient was transported to the hospital and was later transported to the airport to meet an aircrew.

Responded to a report of cattle on the roadway near Highway 7 and 877th Rd.

April 25

Responded to a report of suspicious activity on Walnut Street in Ainsworth.  No criminal activity was found at this time.

During a traffic stop near Osborne & South Street in Ainsworth, a ATV driver was issued a citation for no flag, registration, and speeding.

April 26

During traffic stops on this day citations were issued for no valid registration and improper/defective vehicle lighting.  A written warning was issued for speeding and operating an ATV without lights/flags.

April 27

Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.

Responded to a report of a loose dog near 2nd and East City Park.  No dog was found at this time.

During a traffic stop near 3rd & Harrington a written citation was issued for expired registration and no proof of insurance.

Responded to a business on 4th Street reporting a theft. 

Received a report of suspicious activity near East City Park.

Responded to a report of cattle on the roadway on Highway 7, near mile marker 29. 

Weekly Report

Phone Calls:  108

911 Calls:  5

Incident Reports:  15

Vin Inspections:  4

Gun Permits:  0

* Rock County, Atkinson libraries receive grants

(Posted 4:30 p.m. April 25)

The Nebraska Library Commission recently awarded Nebraska Library Internship Grants totaling $21,000 to 18 Nebraska public libraries. The internship grants will support public library interns who will contribute to the scope and value of the diverse programs and activities in Nebraska’s public libraries.

Among the libraries receiving internship grants are the Rock County Public Library and the Atkinson Public Library.

Nebraska Library Commission Director Rod Wagner said, “The internships are a great opportunity for students to get involved in library work. Beyond earning money and gaining valuable work experience, the student is exposed to the broad range of library services and programming. Internships provide an opportunity for the student to view the library as a viable and satisfying career choice. In addition, interns bring a fresh perspective and their own unique talents to the library.”

Student interns will learn about library work as they shadow staff, assist with day-to-day library operations, and implement special projects. Some of the activities that students will participate in include:

  • Summer Reading Programs for youth, teens, and adults
  • Help plan and conduct makerspace classes, STEAM activities, story time, computer classes, and Pioneer Days events
  • Assist with library outreach at the Farmer’s Market
  • Partner with local historian to work in the Heritage Room
  • Field trips to visit other public libraries
  • Partnerships with the Community Club, Library Foundation, 4-H, FFA, and County Extension
  • Basic library duties: circulation, shelving, weeding, attending library board and city/village council meetings, processing acquisitions

Funding for the project is supported and administered by the Nebraska Library Commission, in partnership with the Nebraska Library Systems.

* Work to begin Monday on Highway 12

(Posted 3:45 p.m. April 25)

Weather permitting, work will begin Monday on Highway 12 east of Burton between milepost 65 and milepost 80, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

Werner Construction of Hastings is the contractor for the project. Work includes box culvert construction, guardrail replacement, asphalt overlay, grading, culvert pipes, flumes and curb, luminaire replacement and seeding.

Traffic will be maintained with a pilot car and flaggers. During box culvert construction there will be a 12-foot width restriction with temporary traffic signals at milepost 79. Anticipated completion is November 2024.

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

* Work to resume on Highway 183

(Posted 12:30 p.m. April 25)

Weather permitting, work will resume Monday on Highway 183 south of Springview, between mileposts 207 and 211, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

Western Engineering Company of Iowa is the contractor for this project. Work includes grading,

culvert, flume work, guardrail placement and erosion control. Traffic will be maintained with a pilot car and flaggers. Anticipated completion of the project is November.

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

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 11 a.m. April 25)

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

Rudy S. Martinez, age 51, of Houston, Texas, charged with speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, fined $75.

Rick E. Eberhardt, 70, of Norfolk, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

William J. Welke, 67, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Brittnee A. Schenk, 33, of Ainsworth, no valid registration, $25.

Daniel E. Shipley, 48, of Grand Island, no operator’s license, $300; also charged with driving left of center, $25; and possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.

Trenton D. Fernau, 36, of Crookston, passing on the right side, $25.

Robyn L. Zeigler, 31, of Ainsworth, overtaking/passing prohibited, $25; no valid registration, $25.

Baillee B. Palmer, 19, of Ainsworth, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125; no valid registration, $25.

Wrett T. Killion, 22, of Long Pine, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200; careless driving, $100; no valid registration, $25.

Madalynn M. Witte, 19, of Aberdeen, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Carolyn A. Rayman, 24, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Braden J. Hempey, 24, of Sioux City, Iowa, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Terri J. Vanhouten, 45, of Long Pine, no valid registration, $25.

Garrett M. Smith, 21, of Lakewood, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Joy N. Two, 27, of Buffalo, N.Y., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

* Link to NBA 1990s interview with Larry Rice

(Posted 12:30 p.m. April 24)

Dr. Larry Walklin with the Nebraska Broadcasters Association held an extensive interview with the late Larry Rice back in the mid 1990s following Larry’s induction to the Nebraska Broadcasters Hall of Fame. The interview is almost an hour long, but it is an excellent look into the insight of one of the legendary broadcasters in the state of Nebraska.

The interview follows Larry’s life and career from his start in Missouri to his entry into Nebraska with business partner Gil Poese and the founding of KBRB.

The full interview can be found by clicking the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inXJKWmfzJk

Anyone wanting to share a personal story about Larry may email kbrb@sscg.net to be included in a future post.

* AHS athletes recognized during All-Sports event

(Posted 7 a.m. April 24)

Four Ainsworth High School seniors were recognized as 12-sport athletes Tuesday during the annual All-Sports Tailgate Party, hosted in McAndrew Gymnasium by the Ainsworth Lions Club.

Karli Kral, Cheyan Temple, Trey Appelt and Carter Nelson participated in three sports during all four years of their high school careers to earn the 12-sport recognition.

Temple and Nelson were named the 2024 John Nelson Sportsmanship Award winners, given annually to the athletes deemed by coaches for outstanding sportsmanship.

Coaches Trey Schlueter and Katie Winters kicked off the fall sports awards by naming Class D State Champion Katherine Kerrigan as the girls cross country most outstanding runner. Kerrigan led the Bulldogs to a Class D State runner-up finish, one of two state trophies displayed in McAndrew Gymnasium Tuesday.

Holden Beel received the boys cross country MVP. Tessa Barthel and Ty Bolli received Best Teammate Awards.

Girls golf coach Heather Lutter presented Jaden Lee with the most outstanding player award. Braylin Rudnick was named the most improved golfer.

Football coach Jessi Owen announced numerous school records broken during a 9-1 season that culminated in a district championship and second-round playoff appearance.

Traegan McNally set the career tackles record with 220 and also set the single-game passing yardage record with 248 yards.

Carter Nelson set receiving records with 195 yards in a game, 658 yards in a season, and 2,346 yards in a career. Nelson also set the school’s career interceptions record with 10. Jacob Held set the single season tackles record with 112 along with a state-best and school record 17 sacks on the season.

Trey Appelt, Jacob Held, Carter Nelson and Traegan McNally were named to All-State football teams. Appelt will play in this year’s Shrine Bowl and Nelson represented Ainsworth in both the All-American Bowl and the Polynesian Bowl.

Owen named Trey Appelt and Jacob Held as co-defensive players of the year. Traegan McNally was named both the offensive player of the year and the teammate of the year.

Aiden Jackman received the special teams player of the year award and Sam Titus was named the practice player of the year.

Carter Nelson was the 2023 Football MVP.

Volleyball coach Jeri Graff announced Brianna Fernau set the single season school record for digs with 454.

Kendyl Delimont was selected as the Volleyball MVP, with Gracyn Painter receiving the team’s Hustle Award and Brianna Fernau the team’s Heart Award.

Moving to winter sports, three-time district champion and three-time state medal winner Jolynn Pozehl was named the Girls Wrestling MVP by coach Todd Pollock. Pozehl finished as the state runner-up in her weight class, and eclipsed the 100-career win plateau in her junior season.

Boys wrestling coach Jake Graff named Jackson Irwin as the team’s MVP. Aiden Jackman received the most improved wrestler award and Mason Painter and Kaden Evans earned the team’s hard luck awards.

Girls basketball coach Sandi Nelson presented co-most valuable player awards to Kendyl Delimont and Gracyn Painter from the 2023-24 district runner-up team.

Jocelyn Good was named the team’s offensive MVP and received the teammate of the year award. Cheyan Temple was named the team’s defensive player of the year. Preselyn Goochey was the team’s most improved player, and Kenley Welke received the newcomer of the year award.

Boys basketball coach Jake Nelson named three seniors, Traegan McNally, Carter Nelson and Trey Appelt, as the team’s co-MVPs, saying the Bulldogs’ run to the Class D-1 state championship game would not have been possible without all three players. All three seniors eclipsed 1,000 career points during the season, which has likely never been done in Nebraska high school basketball history.

Nelson set school records for career blocks and steals. Trey Appelt set the school record for career rebounds.

McNally received the Bryent Wilkins Teammate of the Year Award. Jacob Held was named the team’s impact player, and Logan Schroedl received the most improved player award.

Moving to the spring season, track and field coach Jake Nelson handed out awards from the 2023 season with the 2024 season still in progress. Carter Nelson and Katherine Kerrigan were named the 2023 track and field most valuable players. Carter Nelson and Cameryn Goochey picked up the track and field teammates of the year for 2023.

Boys golf coach Julie Micheel named Ethan Fernau as the 2023 boys golf MVP.

Jessi Owen announced Cole Swanson and Trevor Pike as the boys Lifters of the Year, with Kendyl Delimont receiving the girls Lifter of the Year Award.

Cheer coach Juli Murphy presented All-American Cheerleader awards to seniors Taylor Allen, Brianna Fernau and Karli Kral.

The meal Tuesday was provided by the Ainsworth Lions Club, with Activities Director Luke Wroblewski serving as the emcee of the event.

* Team Jack supports drug that earns FDA approval

(Posted 7 a.m. April 24)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday granted approval for tovorafnib (now OJEMDA) for patients six months of age and older for the treatment of pediatric low-grade glioma.  The Team Jack Foundation invested in this drug in 2017 as a phase 1 study at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The drug was purchased by Day One Biopharmaceuticals to continue to accelerate the drug to market in 2020.

This treatment was approved under accelerated approval based on response rate and duration of response. With the approval, Day One received a rare pediatric disease priority review voucher from the FDA.

In 2017, the Team Jack Foundation committed $300,000 to TAK 580 (now tovorafenib) for the phase I study of the drug that would benefit children with low-grade gliomas. Low-grade gliomas account for approximately two-thirds of all childhood brain tumors and are the most common central nervous system tumors in children. Due to the initial outcomes of this study, in 2019, Team Jack committed an additional $500,000 for both TAK 580 and another phase I trial called MEK 162.  Most low-grade gliomas arise due to defects in a single signaling pathway called RAS/RAF. The investment allowed physicians to investigate this new molecularly targeted drug that turns off this pathway. This results in a more effective, less toxic treatment for children with this type of brain tumor.

Team Jack Executive Director Kylie Dockter said, “Today proves that with the generosity and support of many individuals and organizations in Nebraska and beyond, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of children fighting brain cancer. This is a huge win for children fighting low-grade gliomas. We won’t stop fighting for kids with brain cancer until there is a cure.”

* Work begins Monday on Highway 11

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

Weather permitting, work will begin April 29 on Highway 11 from the west junction of Nebraska Highway 11/12 east through Butte and north to the South Dakota state line, from mileposts 181 to 189, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

Knife River Midwest of Sioux City, Iowa, is the contractor for the project. Work includes culvert replacement, grading, bridge repair, milling, surface reclamation and asphalt paving operations.

Traffic will be maintained with temporary traffic signals and a pilot car and flaggers. A 10-foot width restriction will be in place at the start of the project for the bridge repair operations. Anticipated completion is late summer 2025.

* Ainsworth students qualify for National History Day

(Posted 10 a.m. April 23)

Ainsworth Middle School students Paul Denny, Max Hasenohr and Keith Munnu qualified for the National History Day competition in June at College Park, Maryland, by winning their category Saturday during the National History Day state contest.

Held on the Nebraska Wesleyan University campus at Lincoln, the Ainsworth group qualified for the national contest with their junior group performance titled “How the Attack on Pearl Harbor Changed the World.”

Nine Ainsworth students competed Saturday during the state contest, with Denny, Hasenohr and Munnu advancing to the national contest in June.

Ainsworth National History Day advisor Nichole Flynn said the students worked hard on their projects since last fall. All projects used the theme “Turning Points in History.”

* Area students receive Seal of Biliteracy

(Posted 9 a.m. April 23)

The Nebraska Department of Education and the Nebraska International Language Association have awarded 142 Seals of Biliteracy to 141 Nebraska students in April.

The Nebraska Seal of Biliteracy is to recognize high school students who have achieved a high level of proficiency in English and at least one other language.

Among the students receiving the Seal of Biliteracy are Brooklynn Butterfield and Lily Vogel of West Holt High School. Butterfield and Vogel received their Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish.

Students apply for the Nebraska Seal of Biliteracy after demonstrating proficiency based on the Nebraska World Language Standards structured around communication, cultures, connections, communities, and cognition within a language other than English.

* Area meat processors receive grants

(Posted 7:15 a.m. April 23)

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture selected 76 meat processing facilities to receive grants from the Independent Processor Assistance Program to support the growth of meat processing in Nebraska. In total, more than $5.19 million will be awarded from a portion of Nebraska’s share of American Rescue Plan Act federal funds to support projects designed to improve and/or expand Nebraska’s meat processing capabilities.

Among the recipients is Husker Meats of Ainsworth, the Valentine Locker, and Holt County Locker.

“When meat processing facilities increase capacity, that can lead to increases in product development and marketing opportunities, which are good for Nebraska’s economy,” said NDA Director Sherry Vinton. “Increased capacity adds value to Nebraska’s meat products today and strengthens the meat processing industry for tomorrow. We’re pleased to be able to use this funding to invest in Nebraska communities with a passion for meat processing.”

Of the 76 meat processing facilities to receive IPAP grants, 26 are receiving these grant funds for the first time. NDA awarded approximately $4.75 million of grants in the first round of IPAP funding in September 2022. The fifty remaining awardees received funding in the first round and are receiving additional funding now.

The meat processors who received the grant money had to meet certain criteria which included: being an existing meat processor facilitating improvements, enhancements, or expansions to increase harvest capacity and/or product throughput; operating as either a USDA-FSIS facility or a federally regulated custom-exempt slaughter and processing facility; being domiciled in the State of Nebraska and registered in good standing with the Secretary of State to conduct business in Nebraska; existing sales revenue of less than $2.5 million; and employing fewer than 25 people.

* Bassett students qualify for NHD national contest

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

Two students from Bassett Grade School qualified for the National History Day competition at Washington, D.C., this summer. Alyza Ammon created a website entitled, “Pearl Harbor: Turning Farming Into Food Assistance” and Ansley Rowan created an exhibit entitled, “Grace Abbott: Turning Child Labor Around”. 

Both Rowan and Ammon finished first in their category during the National History Day state contest, held Saturday on the campus of Nebraska Wesleyan University.

* The lasting impact of Larry Rice

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

KBRB on Sunday lost its founder, Larry Rice, who died at the age of 86. Words cannot adequately express everything Larry meant to each and every current and former KBRB staff member.

Larry made a lasting impact on everyone who had the pleasure of calling him the boss, from employees who worked for KBRB for decades to high school students who worked at the station part time.

Larry’s impact extended to those who tuned in each day to hear him on air. He was a constant and reassuring presence in all our lives. It is tough to find someone in the area who doesn’t have at least one personal Larry Rice story.

Larry led KBRB through his dedication to the area, from covering local news to calling play by play during high school games to heading out toward an approaching storm in his pickup with a Marti antenna unit pointing back to the studio to broadcast approaching severe weather in real time.

Larry was not big on correcting KBRB employees’ shortcomings directly, but the occasional typed note indicating his expectations and requiring a signature that the message was read and understood was all it took for any needed course corrections.

Larry never asked an employee to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself, and he led by that example for 40 years. His integrity and his work ethic were an inspiration to all of us who worked for him.

Getting a laugh out of Larry was infectious, and once you got that laugh all you wanted to do was make it happen again.

Personally, I am so grateful Larry was willing to take a chance on selling KBRB to a 28-year-old who didn’t have two nickels to rub together. I will always aspire to the example he set, and I will never take for granted the opportunity Larry provided to shepherd KBRB through its next chapter.

For 40 years over a Hall of Fame career, Larry devoted himself to KBRB and north central Nebraska.

To Linda, Natalie, Eric, Lorinda, Kyle and your families, thank you so much for sharing this fantastic human being with us. I’m sure it wasn’t always easy giving up some of that time with him so he could share a part of himself with the rest of us, but take comfort in the knowledge that everyone who had the privilege of knowing Larry was better for the experience.

Anyone who would like to share a story about Larry may email kbrb@sscg.net and we will post a selection of those memories here on the KBRB web site.

Larry was inducted into the Nebraska Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 1993. His induction video can be viewed at https://hof.ne-ba.org/larry-rice/

* Twin Lakes Road in Rock County closed

(Posted noon April 22)

Rock County Commissioner Faye Smith reported Monday that Twin Lakes Road in southern Rock County is closed until further notice.

A culvert failed, washing out the road. The road will remain closed until culvert repairs can be made.

* NPPD to plant trees Wednesday with area students

(Posted 7 a.m. April 22)

The Nebraska Public Power District will celebrate Arbor Day by planting 15 trees at Long Pine.

NPPD will plant the 15 trees on the Cowboy Trail Wednesday with the help of fourth-grade students from Ainsworth Elementary School and Bassett Grade School. Students will help plant 10 of the trees and will learn about power line safety, digging safety, and tree planting tips in addition to presenting the Arbor Day projects they worked on in class. The remaining five trees will be planted by the city. The tree planting is set to begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

“Planting trees is a great way to give back to the communities we serve and a fun way to get students involved,” NPPD Marketing Content Specialist and event organizer Christy Avery said. “The celebration provides a great opportunity to teach local students about the importance of trees as well as the importance of powerline and electrical safety when planting trees.”

NPPD was recently acknowledged by Tree Line USA for the 18th consecutive year for meeting the organization’s standards of training employees in quality tree care and educating the public on tree planting for energy conservation and appropriate planting near power lines.

The Tree Line USA program recognizes electric utilities that demonstrate practices that protect and enhance America’s rural and urban trees. NPPD’s membership in the Tree Line USA program, sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation, provides an avenue to help promote the safety and reliability of power lines through public education programs about the proper planting of trees and vegetation.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

Brown County Sheriff’s Department activity

April 7

Responded to a report of suspicious activity near East 1st Street.  No criminal activity was found at this time.

Four citations were issued for traffic infractions including speeding and no valid registration.  Two warnings were issued for speeding.

April 8

Three citations were issued for traffic infractions on this day including no valid registration, failure to stop, no proof of insurance, and speeding.

Responded to a report of a vehicle accident near the intersection of Highway 20 and 432nd Ave.  No injuries were reported, but damage was sustained to both vehicles.  A citation was issued to one driver for passing where prohibited.

April 9

Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after they received a personal recognizance bond.

Issued a citation for no proof of insurance during a traffic stop on Highway 20.

The Brown County Ambulance transported a patient from a senior living facility to the hospital.

April 10

Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after serving a court commitment sentence.

The Brown County Ambulance responded to two 911 calls in Ainsworth on this day and transported both patients to the hospital.

During a traffic stop on Highway 7, a citation was issued for speeding 6-10mph over the posted speed limit.

Responded to a report of suspicious activity on Dawes Street in Ainsworth.  No criminal activity was found at this time.

April 11

Received a report of a phone spam using the Sheriff’s Office number. 

During a traffic stop on Highway 20 a speeding citation was issued for 11-15mph over the posted speed limit to an Ohio driver.

Responded to a report of a domestic dispute on Main Street in Ainsworth.  This is an ongoing investigation.

April 12

The Brown County Ambulance transported a flight crew to the hospital and back to the airport with a patient.

Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.

Responded to a report of a minor in possession in Ainsworth.  The minor was issued a citation for possession/use of tobacco.

Responded to a report of trespassing, near the 3rd and Main Street intersection in Ainsworth, in a construction zone.  A verbal warning was issued to two male subjects to obtain permission and they agreed to leave the scene.

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call North of Ainsworth and transported one patient to the hospital.  Later, ambulance personnel transported the flight crew to the hospital to pick up the patient and take them back to the airport.

Responded to a report of a small two vehicle accident at the Ainsworth Track and Field.  Minimal paint damage occurred to both vehicles, and no report was needed.

During a traffic stop on Main Street in Long Pine, a citation was issued for no insurance and operating ATV without a license.  Another traffic stop on this day resulted in a written warning issued for speeding.

April 13

Raven, Calamus, and Ainsworth Fire Departments were paged to a tractor fire on Mule Deer Rd.

Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after serving a court commitment sentence.

Responded to a request for traffic control while a disabled vehicle was removed from the side of the roadway on Highway 20.

Provided preliminary breath tests for prom dance and post prom activities.

During a traffic stop on 4th Street, a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for careless driving.  A Nebraska passenger was issued a citation for open alcohol container.

During a traffic stop on Highway 7, a Wyoming driver was issued a citation for speeding 84mph in a 65mph zone.  During another traffic stop on this day, a driver was issued a warning for operating an ATV without lights/flag.

Weekly report

Phone Calls:  138

911 Calls:  7

Incident Reports:  19

Vin Inspections:  6

Gun Permits:  2

April 14

Responded to a report of a domestic disturbance on Meadville Ave.  Parties were separated.

During a traffic stop on Highway 7, a South Dakota driver was issued a citation for speeding 76mph in a 65mph zone.  During another traffic stop on this day, a written warning was issued for speeding.

The Brown County Ambulance transported a patient from the hospital to a medical facility in Kearney, NE.

April 15

South Pine Fire Department responded to a fire South of Bassett near 854th Rd.

The Brown County Ambulance provided lift assistance in Ainsworth, and the patient denied further transport at this time.

All available Brown County Fire Departments responded to a mutual aid request in Southern Cherry County.

During traffic stops on this day a warning and a violation was issued for failure to display plates.

April 16

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call near Witness Rd and transported one patient to the hospital.

Responded to a report of cattle out near Rauscher Ave and Highway 20.  The owner was identified and removed them from the roadway.

April 17

Responded to a report of a car/deer accident on Meadville Ave.  The vehicle was towed from the scene, no injuries were reported, and an accident report will be completed.

During a traffic stop on Highway 20, a written warning was issued for no valid registration to a Nebraska driver.

April 18

Responded to a report of loose horses on Highway 183.  The owner was later identified and removed them from the roadway.

Responded to a report of cattle out on Richardson Road.

April 19

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a senior living facility in Ainsworth and transported one patient to the hospital.

With the assistance of Flandreau Sheriff’s Office (South Dakota) an active arrest warrant was served on a male subject.  The male posted bond and was released.

During traffic stops on this day, five written warnings were issued for speeding.

Received a report of check fraud that occurred in an Ainsworth business.

April 20

During a traffic stop on Highway 20, a citation was issued to a Nebraska driver for 98mph in a 65mph zone.  Another stop on this day resulted in a citation for no valid registration.

Responded to a report of suspected shoplifting at a business on 4th Street in Ainsworth.  One male subject was issued a citation for theft/shoplifting.

Weekly report

Phone Calls:  124

911 Calls:  4

Incident Reports:  11

Vin Inspections:  0

Gun Permits:  1

* Commissioners discuss road project request

(Posted 2:45 p.m. April 16)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday discussed a request to remove trees from county right of way to improve drainage conditions.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said he received a request from Pat Schumacher asking the county to perform some ditch work on a portion of 429th Avenue.

“He wants it done to drain a meadow,” Turpin said. “We would have to take out a lot of trees.”

Commissioner Buddy Small asked how many trees would need to be removed from the area. Turpin said the roads department would have to take out more than 50 trees, some of them sizeable.

“How long would that take?” Small asked.

Turpin said it would likely take a week using the county’s excavator and a couple dump trucks.

“We have a lot of things going on to take out a lot of trees just to drain a meadow,” Turpin said. “Even if we did the work, it still might not drain that meadow.”

Turpin said the Migratory Bird Act also discouraged the removal of trees between April and October.

Small said he did not think it was a good idea to undertake that work with other projects the roads department needed to address.

Commissioner Denny Bauer said that would also set a precedent if the county did that type of work.

“Everyone will want work done to drain meadows,” Bauer said.

In other roads department items Tuesday, Turpin said he had looked at the Norden Avenue site with Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey that was requested for drainage work during the previous board meeting.

“We came up with a few things to try and help,” Turpin said. “I am not sure it will totally fix it. I think I am going to work on that myself.”

Turpin said, with the moisture, the roads department had been out blading roads and hauling in rock and gravel where needed. He said they planned to undertake some culvert work and try and get to a project on 426th Avenue near property owned by Brian Vogelsang.

In other business, the board approved a bid of $21,816 submitted by Bats 2 Rats of Lincoln to mitigate bat issues in the courthouse.

Small said the Bats 2 Rats contractor had met with Shawn Fernau and everything is now coordinated.

“If approved, they are ready to go this Saturday, Sunday and Monday,” Small said.

Bauer said it was probably better to mitigate the issue than have the county be sued if someone was exposed to a bat and had to go through vaccination for rabies.

Sheriff Brent Deibler discussed a drainage issue between the courthouse and sheriff’s department buildings he said was likely a source of some of the issues the county has had with water entering the basements of both buildings.

“We would benefit greatly by putting in concrete to drain water away,” Deibler said. “The run-off from both buildings is shooting into this spongy area.”

Deibler said a lot of the problems the sheriff’s department basement has had relates to that area.

“We put work into the building, I don’t want to see it ruined,” the sheriff said.

Bauer said it would take about 14 yards of concrete to complete the project. At $141 per yard and the labor involved, it would likely be about $4,000 to put 5-inch-thick concrete in the area between the buildings.

The concrete could be poured to allow water to drain away from both buildings and into the park area to the east.

“I am not asking for a decision today,” Deibler said. “I just ask you to think about it.”

Small said the county was getting close to the end of the fiscal year, and the project could be completed as part of the next fiscal year budget.

The commissioners encouraged Deibler to visit with one of the concrete companies to get on the list to have the work done.

The board Tuesday opened two bids from local restaurants to provide meals to inmates of the Brown County Jail. D&B Café bid $8 per sack lunch and $11 per hot evening meal. Big John’s Restaurant bid $9 per lunch and $9 per dinner.

The board voted to approve the overall low bid of $18 per day submitted by Big John’s Restaurant.

The county did not receive any bids after advertising for a paint removal and painting project in the Brown County Jail. Deibler said he would contact some people to see if he can get anyone interested in the project.

“I don’t know what else to do,” Deibler said.

The board approved a recommendation from the Brown County Visitors Committee to appoint Joyce Hutcheson to the committee to fill the remainder of Larry Rice’s term. Rice, a longtime member of the Brown County Visitors Committee, submitted his resignation due to health issues.

Visitors Committee member Rod Palmer said Rice had been a really good member of the board. He said Hutcheson would help the committee address one of its major concerns, which is the lack of lodging tax being collected by vacation rental property owners in the county.

Extension Educator Hannah Smith presented the 2024-25 Extension office budget to the commissioners. Smith said the budget proposal was a $2,100 increase from the current year, but included a wage increase for office manager Mary Jo McCall as well as a summer internship position.

Smith said the Extension office tried to offset some of that increase by trimming other areas of the budget.

Brown County shares the Extension office budget with Rock and Keya Paha counties, with Brown County paying 42 percent of the total, Rock County 33 percent and Keya Paha County 25 percent based on population.

Smith said the increase to Brown County amounted to $900. The board accepted the budget, with the final decision on budget matters being made in September when the county’s 2024-25 budget is finalized.

In final action items Tuesday, the commissioners approved a sign renewal permit to the Nebraska Department of Transportation for a “Welcome to Brown County” sign located in western Brown County adjacent to Highway 20 and approved a budgeted transfer of $30,000 from the sheriff’s department fund to the jail fund.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. May 7.

* Highway 20 bridge project to begin May 20

(Posted 10:45 a.m. April 16)

Work is scheduled to begin May 20 on the Highway 20 bridge replacement project in the Long Pine hills.

Project contractor Iowa Civil Contracting of Victor, Iowa, has submitted an updated schedule. Initial work will consist of preparing for temporary supports to jack up the ends of the bridge to correct settlement and accommodate reconstruction of the bridge abutments. The initial work can be performed under traffic and may require temporary lane closures.

Once the bridge ends are temporarily supported the bridge will be closed to traffic. The contractor cannot completely close the bridge to traffic prior to May 28 and Highway 20 must be reopened to traffic by Aug. 30.

During the closure period, traffic will be detoured to Highway 183 and Highway 7. The detour will begin 3 miles west of Long Pine using Highway 183 north toward Springview and then on Highway 7 to Bassett. Once bridge abutment reconstruction is complete a bridge deck overlay will be applied. This work is anticipated to occur in the fall under traffic with temporary lane closures.

Specific information regarding the bridge replacement project will be provided as the construction start date approaches.

For more information, contact the Nebraska Department of Transportation Ainsworth office at (402) 387-2471.

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

* Schaaf, Hoerle receive WHMS scholarships

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

The West Holt Medical Services Foundation announced the winners of the 2024 Dolores Batenhorst Keating Scholarship.

Taylor Schaaf is a 2021 graduate of West Holt High School and is pursuing a degree through the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Schaaf said she plans to return to the area to start her nursing career and eventually advance her career into mental health.

Lillian Hoerle is a 2023 graduate of Chambers High School attending Wayne State with plans to pursue an associate’s degree in nursing at Northeast Community College. Hoerle said she plans to work in the area while eventually pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

The West Holt Medical Services Foundation began managing a memorial fund in 2010 established in the memory of Dolores Batenhorst Keating. Each year, the annual interest of that fund is used to award up to three $1,000 scholarships to individuals pursuing a degree in the medical field who meet the criteria.

* Brown County Commissioners Tuesday agenda

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

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 16
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

1:15 p.m.      Roll Call.

Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

Sign Permit No 802002518NB located on Highway 20 near mile marker 251.80 – Clerk

Agreement to mitigate bat problems – Small

Budgeted transfer of $30,000.00 from Sheriff Fund to the Jail Fund  all within the General Fund – Clerk

BKR 2024-2025 Budget Approval – Hannah Smith

Brent Deibler discuss cement between Courthouse and Sheriff Office – Deibler

Approve Claims

1:30     Visitors Promotion Committee appoint new member – O’Hare

1:45   Open sealed bids for Jail Paint removal and Paint epoxy project – Sheriff   

2:00     Open Sealed bids for Prisoner Meals – Sheriff

2:15    Ebony Cooksey – Broadband development updates & Nextlink

2:30  Judd Allen Nebraska Association of County Officials Blue Cross Blue Shield update

Correspondence Letters

* Work starts Monday on Highway 97

(Posted 1 p.m. April 11)

Weather permitting, work will begin Monday, April 15, on Highway 97 between mileposts 110 and 115. This project will improve approximately 5 miles of Highway 97 around Merritt Reservoir, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

Werner Construction of Hastings is the prime contractor for the project. Work will include asphalt resurfacing, pavement widening, culvert work and grading. Traffic will be maintained with a pilot car and flaggers. Anticipated completion is late June.

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

* Council tables action on ACDC grant application

(Posted 9:30 a.m. April 11)

The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday tabled action on a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to award a $70,000 grant to the Ainsworth Child Development Center for playground equipment.

ACDC representative Karen O’Hare said the full bid for the playground project for the center on Main Street is $140,000.

She said the facility was open and currently serving 15 families with seven full-time staff members. By May 13, she said the facility would have nine full-time staff members and would serve 46 children.

O’Hare said 20 percent of the total funds to open the facility were raised locally, with the rest coming from outside grants and donors.

ABC Committee Chair David Spann said the child development center was an amazing project and a benefit to the community.

“It is a $2 million project and is debt free,” Spann said.

Spann said the ABC fund has about $166,000 in it, and the committee recommended approving $70,000 toward the playground project, which represented half of the total cost.

Several council members said they had been contacted by numerous members of the public who were against providing tax dollars for a private playground.

Councilman Brad Fiala said he received several calls from people with concerns.

“I had other daycares call asking if they could then receive money for playground equipment,” Fiala said. “I know it is non-profit, but it is still a business.”

Fiala said $140,000 was a substantial price tag for a playground project.

“People are questioning that amount,” Fiala said. “Can you start smaller and then build it out over time?”

Devron Crawford, who serves as the contractor for the ACDC, said a substantial amount of the project is dirt work, which includes leveling the area, adding rock and then an artificial surface.

ACDC representative Hayley Miles said no one on the ACDC Board is benefitting financially from the daycare. She said it was a benefit to the community that children have a place to go.

“We did this out of necessity,” Miles said.

She said the center is helping the community retain workforce, and the ACDC wanted all daycare providers to succeed.

ACDC representative Devyn France said the daycare project has made the public aware of how important all daycare providers are to the community.

Councilman Kent Taylor said it is not that people are against the daycare project, but they are against tax dollars going for a private playground.

“I did not get any positive comments either,” Taylor said.

Councilman Dustin Barthel said awarding tax dollars for the project essentially monopolized the playground equipment so the only children who could use it were those who attended the child development center. He said no one who talked to him were in favor of the council awarding tax dollars for the project.

“My issue is it can’t be opened to the public,” Barthel said. “It hurts other private daycares. We are going to develop the rest of the mini park. Is there any way to make this public access?”

O’Hare said, after consulting with their insurance provider, the playground could be opened up to the public after the child development center’s hours of operation if someone from the center was available to supervise.

“Could the city cover the liability insurance?” O’Hare asked. “I don’t think it would be a problem to work with the city.”

France said 7 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. on weekdays would fall under the child care center’s liability insurance. She asked if the remaining hours could fall under the city’s insurance if the playground were to be opened to the public.

Mayor Joel Klammer said that would be much more palatable to the public.

“I have also received a lot of calls on this, and most were against approving that amount,” the mayor said. “There were a lot of concerns about taxpayer money being used for a private playground.”

Fiala said there were a lot of questions about insurance and public access that couldn’t be answered yet, so he was in favor of tabling action on the matter until next month.

Barthel said the issue was dead in the water for him unless the playground would be open to the public.

Klammer reminded the ACDC representatives that the area of the proposed playground was city property that was being leased to the ACDC, so the center would still need council approval for any playground project and would need a building permit.

The council tabled action on the application.

Acting on another recommendation from the ABC Committee Wednesday, the council approved $30,000 in ABC funds to go toward a new swimming pool. City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the ABC Committee had been putting $30,000 into the fund every year for the nine years she has been employed by the city.

Spann told the council the ABC Committee was likely not willing to continue putting more money into the fund in the future without there being a concrete plan for building a new pool.

Fiala said the $30,000 each year was probably not even keeping up with inflation.

“We are not even close,” Fiala said. “Even on the cheaper side it is going to be $2.3 million. We have been putting in $30,000 per year for years and have no plan.”

Taylor agreed $30,000 per year really wasn’t getting the city anywhere.

“Those tax dollars are just sitting there,” Taylor said. “They are accruing interest but they are not doing anything.”

By a 2-1 vote with Taylor against, the council approved the ABC Committee recommendation to add $30,000 to the new swimming pool fund.

Klammer thanked the ABC Committee for its volunteer work.

“The committee spent several hours on these two applications,” the mayor said.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved a recommendation from the LB 840 Committee for a façade grant for the Ainsworth Child Development Center in the amount of $7,578 for improvements to its building, and approved an extension request for an additional year to complete work on a previously approved façade grant application for the building housing the pharmacy on Main Street.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said the extension was requested due to the Main Street construction project. The façade grant covers window replacement on the second floor of the building, and Olson said contractors would have a tough time during Main Street construction trying to complete that work.

Klammer said the council likes to see the façade projects completed within a year, but this project likely would not be able to be completed in that time. The application was originally approved by the council in March 2023.

The council discussed heavy trucks using residential streets with Main Street under construction.

Streets Foreman Kevin Shaul said he believed the city needed to work on establishing a truck route and enforcing it.

“There are probably 20 or 30 trucks running on First Street daily,” Shaul said. “The streets aren’t going to handle that traffic. It is not hot yet and it is already getting torn up. I don’t know what the answer is, but there won’t be anything left of First Street by the end of the summer.”

Shaul said First Street can’t be closed to through traffic because it is an emergency route.

Fiala said, if the city put up signs indicating that truck traffic was not allowed, who would be able to enforce it.

“Come July, it is going to be a mess,” Fiala said.

Taylor suggested placing stop signs at each intersection on First Street to discourage trucks from using the street.

Shaul said, if it was enforced, stop signs would probably discourage trucks from using First Street and make them more likely to use the Pine Street detour route.

Taylor said the city really needed to move forward with a paving district for First and Pine streets.

“I think we need to have that on the next agenda,” Taylor said. “Housing and streets need to be the top priority for us.”

The council approved having the streets department place stop signs on the First Street intersections between Pine and Main streets while Main Street is under construction.

In a final action item Wednesday, the council approved upgrading the city’s utility billing, payroll and finance software with gWorks.

Schroedl said she had been dragging her feet about updating the software because of the pricing, but she said the company had now changed its structure to a flat rate that was more comparable to the city’s current system.

She said the annual cost for the software would be $13,900 per year, which is still an increase from the $11,000 per year the city is currently paying. She suggested the city start paying for the software out of its utility funds since that is what the software is primarily used for instead of using general funds.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. May 8.

* City ends housing rehabilitation loan fund

(Posted 7 a.m. April 11)

A program used by low-income Ainsworth residents for decades to make improvements to their homes came to an end Wednesday, as, under the potential threat of the program’s funds having to be returned to the federal government, the Ainsworth City Council voted to end the program and repurpose the remaining funding to pay for the lighting portion of the Main Street renovation project.

During public hearings on the issue, City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the Community Development Block Grant owner-occupied housing rehabilitation program has been available to low-income Ainsworth homeowners since the mid to late 1990s. There is currently $158,000 in the fund.

“It has been a good program for the community,” Schroedl said.

Schroedl said the funds initially came from the federal Housing and Urban Development department. She said HUD is now making a push to recapture any funds that are deemed to be idle.

“This fund isn’t idle, but it does have a substantial balance,” the city administrator said.

Schroedl said there are currently 13 outstanding loans from the revolving fund, with homeowners paying monthly on loans made to improve their homes. The low-interest loans are typically $20,000 to $25,000 with payments made back into the fund to be loaned out again.

After months of discussion, Schroedl said the Nebraska Department of Economic Development is anticipating a federal audit and is fearful the funds will try and be recaptured.

“The state recommended using the funds for a different purpose and getting the money spent,” Schroedl said.

Carla Kimball with the Central Nebraska Economic Development District said this federal audit came out of the blue.

“There is nothing the community did wrong,” Kimball said. “When HUD comes down, they come down hard. We want the money to stay in the community.”

Schroedl said HUD recently audited the state of Wisconsin. Communities in that state had $28 million in similar housing rehabilitation loan programs. She said HUD took all but $2 million of those funds.

“We talked about a lot of ideas, and the best fit seemed to be the downtown lighting,” Schroedl said. “We originally talked about using ARPA funds for the lighting project, so we can use those funds for a different purpose now.”

Councilman Kent Taylor asked about the loans that have already been made from the program that are currently being repaid.

“Can we use what is coming in to loan back out?” Taylor said.

Schroedl said the city receives between $900 and $1,000 per month in repayments on the 13 current loans. She said that money would also have to be repurposed when it is repaid.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said many other communities in the state are in the same situation. She said the city’s housing study shows a need for housing rehabilitation as well as the development of sites for new homes.

“I would like to see you consider using the funds for site acquisition and demolition,” Olson said. “Demolition could occur fairly rapidly. Other communities are repurposing their funds for housing.”

Audience member Lisa Chohon said there were a couple nuisance properties located near her home. She said she hoped the funds could be used to help remove nuisance properties in the community.

Mayor Joel Klammer said it was his understanding that if the city tried to wait a year to use the funds for another purpose they could get swept away.

“I don’t see us getting demo accomplished before they come take the funds,” Klammer said.

Schroedl said the timeline was the issue with trying to use the funds for another purpose.

“The DED suggested repurposing the funds by this summer,” Schroedl said. “They could be used for other purposes, but they suggested using them as soon as possible. The lighting project was their recommendation.”

Councilman Brad Fiala said, if the funds could be used to demo nuisance houses, that would be more important to him than using the money for the lighting project.

“Lighting is the easiest and quickest way to resolve it,” Fiala said. “We have tried for years to figure out how to get old houses demolished. I like the lighting project, but if we don’t use it on demo, when are we going to have another chance? There are numerous properties that need to be cleaned up.”

Councilman Dustin Barthel said if there was a chance to use the money for demolition in a timely manner before it was lost, he was in favor of exploring that option.

Schroedl said she did not disagree that getting rid of nuisance properties was important. She said the timeline for trying to acquire and demolish nuisance properties would potentially run the risk of the city losing the funds.

Barthel asked Kimball if it was her recommendation that the city shouldn’t try and use the money for anything else but the lighting project.

Kimball said time was of the essence, and her fear was HUD would take the funds from the city if they were not used quickly to pay for the lighting project.

“HUD will be coming in August to do some auditing of their programs,” Kimball said. “If they say they want their money back, it is a very short time for the state to collect and return that money.”

Audience member Graig Kinzie said, since time was the issue, could the council potentially agree to address the nuisance property issue using general funds in upcoming budgets since the city would be saving $158,000 by using the money to pay for the lighting portion of the Main Street project.

Councilman Kent Taylor said demo has been on his list of priorities for years.

“It is time to put something in the budget to remove some of those properties,” Taylor said.

By a 3-0 vote with Councilman Shawn Fernau absent Wednesday, the council approved ceasing the CDBG housing rehabilitation program and repurposing the $158,000 fund balance toward a public works lighting project in the downtown Ainsworth area from South Street to Highway 20.

In other business Wednesday, the council heard a request from representatives of the Ainsworth Child Development Center to create one-way traffic in the alley west of Main Street while that street was under construction and closed.

ACDC representative Karen O’Hare said the center’s employees park in the back and parents are dropping off their children in the alley.

“When children are being dropped off, they are coming from the north and the south and there is only room in the alley for one,” O’Hare said.

Fiala said he knew with the Main Street construction that the alleys were busy.

“I know we need to try and make it as safe as possible,” Fiala said.

He asked if the child development center had contacted other businesses on how one-way traffic would affect them.

O’Hare said she had not spoken to other businesses about making the alley traffic one-way.

City employee Jade Egle said the garbage truck had to travel from north to south on the west alley to empty trash, and the truck had to travel south to north to empty trash from the alley east of Main Street.

Fiala suggested the city only address the one block of Main Street instead of trying to make the entire alley on the west and east sides of Main Street one way.

“If we get a bunch of feedback, we may have to address it again,” Fiala said.

Taylor said motorists using the rest of the alleys would just have to continue to drive cautiously and be courteous.

Barthel said he was concerned the city would be opening a can of worms by making one block a one-way.

The council voted to make the alley on the west side of the 200 block of Main Street one-way traffic from north to south until construction on that block of Main Street was complete.

City Streets Foreman Kevin Shaul said, if the city had signs or could borrow a couple from the state, he could get the signs up this week.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. May 8.

* Sandhills Care Center census on the rise

(Posted 3 p.m. April 9)

The census at the Sandhills Care Center continued its upward trend in March, with 28 residents currently calling the facility home. Despite the increase in census, the Care Center Board on Monday was forced to borrow $58,800 from its line of credit due to three employee pay periods falling in the next month.

“It is a three-payroll period month, so the finances won’t look the greatest,” Business Manager Makenzie Crane said.

During March, the Sandhills Care Center generated $240,187 in revenue with expenses of $217,493 for a net profit of $22,694 for the month. However, with each two-week payroll ranging between $80,000 and $90,000, having three pay periods fall during April required the board to borrow from its line of credit.

“If not for the three pay periods, we would have been in the black,” board member Dr. Mel Campbell said.

Administrator Penny Jacobs said the census in the facility continues to build, with two new residents admitted during the month and one resident passing.

Of the 28 residents, 16 are from Ainsworth, seven are from Cherry County, three are from rural Brown County, one is from Long Pine and one is from Rock County.

Jacobs said 13 residents pay privately, 11 receive Medicaid assistance, two receive Medicare assistance, one resident is Medicaid-pending and one resident receives hospice care.

Jacobs reported the care center had hired a full-time LPN, a full-time employee in the dietary department and a part-time CNA during the past month. She reported the assistant director of nursing was no longer employed with the facility, and a charge nurse had resigned.

Jacobs said the facility was still in need of charge nurses and CNAs.

Board Chairman Tom Jones said the care center likely needed to set new goals for residency in the facility. A report submitted by consultant Mark Iverson with The Warrior’s Mindset, who the care center hired to review the facility’s operations, showed the facility at 61 percent occupancy, which Iverson indicated was low.

“Mark said most of the facilities he has worked at operate at 97 percent capacity,” Jones said. “What level do we need to be shooting for? We need to start thinking higher than 27. What can the facility and staff support?”

Board member Bruce Papstein said Iverson recommended the facility set a target of averaging 34 residents.

Campbell said the facility was working off 27 residents being a break-even point for the facility, but the goal of the facility could certainly be higher.

Jacobs said she planned to have a big party for the staff and residents if the census reaches 30. She said the number of residents the care center and staff can support was dependent on the level of care needed.

“A resident with behavioral issues requires one-on-one care while they are awake,” Jacobs said.

She said, if the care center could admit additional residents with no behavioral issues, the current staffing level was adequate.

Jones said Iverson spent several days in the facility observing its operation and provided some good ideas for the board and administration to incorporate.

“One of the main things he wanted us to prioritize was developing a mission statement and values statement,” Jones said.

Crane said the administration staff have plans to update the facility’s mission and values statement as well as some policy and procedure recommendations. Crane said the staff was also working to update the facility’s web site.

In the only action item Monday, the board discussed installing an underground sprinkler system at the care center. The board received two bids for sprinkler installation in 2023 but did not approve either, so bids would need to again be solicited.

The board asked to have three bids obtained for the work, and to provide the board with options for installing the sprinkler system in phases.

Prior to adjourning, the board held an executive session to further discuss recommendations made by the consultant with The Warrior’s Mindset.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. May 13.

* School Board spends remaining federal funds

(Posted 7 a.m. April 9)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education voted Monday to spend the district’s remaining federal COVID funding on a curriculum upgrade and educational materials for classrooms.

Superintendent Dale Hafer told the board the new reading curriculum and educational panels were items the district would have purchased anyway, so using the remaining federal funding would save the district from having to use general funds for those items.

The new reading curriculum from Savvas cost $30,959, and the interactive classroom panels from Kansas City Audio Visual cost $28,745.

Hafer said the district had about $60,000 in the federal ESSER III funds remaining. Six of the eight interactive classroom panels were paid for using the federal funds, with two panels for the special education program purchased using special education funds, for which the district receives 80 percent reimbursement.

Hafer said he wanted to get the federal ESSER III funding spent during the current school year if possible to save district from having additional federal reporting requirements for the 2024-25 year.

The board, with President Brad Wilkins absent, approved both purchases.

In another action item Monday, the board approved the 2024-25 school calendar. The first day for students will be Aug. 14, with the final day of class May 15, 2025. Graduation is scheduled for May 11, 2025.

The board also approved a review of a portion of the administrative section of its board policies.

During his report, Activities Director Luke Wroblewski told the board he has been working on the volleyball and basketball schedules for the 2024-25 year following the district’s decision to exit the Southwest Conference.

Wroblewski said the volleyball schedule was full except for missing one tournament since Ainsworth will not compete in the Southwest Conference Tournament.

He said three of the eight Southwest Conference Schools, including Broken Bow, Valentine and Cozad, will remain on the basketball schedule. The activities director said he had been able to secure games against O’Neill St. Mary’s, Anselmo-Merna, Niobrara-Verdigre, Mullen and Hyannis to replace the other Southwest Conference regular season games that were lost.

Wroblewski also reported the NSAA Board had voted to implement a shot clock for all classes for the 2024-25 basketball season. He said the equipment from Daktronics would cost between $6,500 and $7,000, and the district would need to have another person on hand to operate the shot clock.

“There will be some training and added expense,” Wroblewski said of the addition of a 35-second shot clock.

The activities director also reported the track would be refinished sometime in either late May or June.

During his report, High School Principal Steve Dike said 34 seniors were on track to graduate May 12. Graduation is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on that day.

Hafer reported the Nebraska Legislature was working on several bills that could affect school funding, including a proposal to provide $3,000 per student in foundation aid, an increase from the current $1,500 per student. He said, if passed, there would also be some spending controls placed on districts.

Hafer reported the transportation, building and grounds committee met March 28 and recommended the district continue to lease the 2007 MCI coach bus from Coach Masters of Kearney at a cost of $3,300 per month. Had the district opted to lease a newer bus, the cost would have increased to $3,850 per month.

Hafer reported, as of now, he was not anticipating the district having any vacant staff positions for the 2024-25 school year. He said one staff member had interviewed and been offered a position closer to their hometown but opted to stay with the district.

The superintendent said the district’s needs relating to special education and the English Language Learners program continue to increase. He said the board may need to consider additional help with the ELL program and an alternative setting to serve special education students with behavioral disabilities.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. May 13.

* Friday fire damages home and garage in Ainsworth

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

A Friday afternoon fire damaged a home and garage in Ainsworth.

According to Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Devin Painter, the fire was reported at 5:20 p.m. Friday in a home near the intersection of Harrington and Second streets owned by Andy and Bea Taylor.

Painter said, upon arrival, heavy flames were present on the north side of the garage. Ainsworth paged the Long Pine Rural Volunteer Fire Department for mutual aid and began dousing the attached garage to try and keep the fire from spreading to the residence.

Painter reported one resident was home when the fire started and was able to safely evacuate. Painter said firefighters were able to keep the fire from destroying the residence, though the residence did sustain some fire damage along with heavy smoke damage. The garage and its contents were a total loss.

The assistant chief said firefighters remained on scene until approximately 10:30 p.m. Friday.

In addition to the Ainsworth and Long Pine volunteer departments, the Brown County Ambulance Association and Brown County Sheriff’s Department also responded to the scene.

Painter said the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating how the fire in the garage started.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

March 31

Received a report of loose dogs near South Main Street in Ainsworth.  An owner was identified and able to pick up their dogs.

April 1

Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.

April 2

Received a report of suspected child abuse/neglect.  No criminal activity was found at this time.

Received a traffic complaint of a reckless semi driver, Westbound on Highway 20.  A written warning for driving left of center and on shoulder was issued at this time.

April 3

Received a report of an abandoned vehicle near 874th Rd and 431st Ave.

Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail to serve a court commitment sentence.

Responded to a burglary alarm on 432nd Ave.  No criminal activity was found at this time.

Responded to a report of suspicious activity at a hotel in Ainsworth.

The Brown County ambulance responded to a medical alarm in Ainsworth.  One patient was transported to the Brown County hospital.

During a traffic stop on Highway 20, a citation was issued for speeding 11-15 mph over the posted speed limit to a Missouri driver.

April 4

Received a report of cattle out near 882nd and Hwy 7 intersection.  The owner was notified and removed them from the roadway.

Received a report of a loose dog on Ash St.  A dog at large citation was issued.

April 5

Responded to a report of littering along Highway 20.  An owner was able to be identified and contacted to remove it from the ditch.

Issued three warnings for speeding on this day.

Ainsworth and Long Pine Fire Departments, Brown County Ambulance, and the Brown County Sheriff’s Office all responded to a report of a house fire on Harrington Street in Ainsworth.  The Nebraska State Fire Marshall is investigating.

April 6

The Brown County Ambulance and Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth.

During a traffic stop on Highway 20 a citation was issued for speeding 77mph in a 65mph zone.  During another traffic stop a citation was issued for no valid registration, no proof of insurance.

 Weekly Summary

Telephone Calls:  118

911 Calls:  16

Incident Reports:  44

Vin Inspections:  7

Handgun Permits:  5

* Board discusses drainage issue on Norden Avenue

(Posted 2:45 p.m. April 2)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday discussed a drainage issue on Norden Avenue with a property owner.

Ron Reinert told the board water draining from Norden Avenue is washing sand into his pasture.

“When we get a substantial rain it washes into the pasture and covers the grass,” Reinert said. “The cows can’t eat sand, so I would like something to be done to address it.”

In addition to losing the forage, Reinert said invasive weeds and sandburs then grow back in place of the pasture grass.

“I appreciate you listening to my concerns,” Reinert said. “I don’t really have a solution, but working the west side of the road might be feasible.”

Reinert said it may take the removal of a lot of sand to create a ditch on the west side of Norden Avenue. He said he had an area near the site where the county could deposit the sand it removes.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the roads department had tried to work that area in the past.

“It is terribly sandy there,” Turpin said. “The best thing would be to remove the water in several places instead of letting it build momentum as it runs downhill.”

Turpin said creating trenches works ok, but they don’t last very long before filling back in.

County Attorney Andy Taylor said if the county just dug out the ditch it would be fine, but trying to change the way the water drains would require a study as it could potentially impact other areas.

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey agreed to visit the site with Turpin and try to create a plan to present to the board.

During his report Tuesday, Turpin said the roads department completed a grading project on Road 883 and would start a project soon on 426th Avenue.

With the Highway 7 detour now active, Turpin said the roads department would have to start blading that route twice per week.

“We added some gravel, but it will probably not stay smooth with that much traffic,” the highway superintendent said. “We will do our best.”

Turpin said he also had 30 bridges he would need to inspect this year in the county.

In other business Tuesday, Taylor reported he would begin operating out of his new office on Main Street April 3, and would be completely moved out of the courthouse office by April 15.

The commissioners agreed to allow Veterans Services Officer Jake Graff to move from the basement of the courthouse into the attorney’s former office upstairs. Probation Officer Harlin Welch will move into Graff’s basement office from his current office in the basement.

Graff said, “With a lot of HIPPA things I talk about with veterans, I just need some more privacy.”

Graff said Fridays were of particular concern due to the number of people in the basement to visit the driver’s license examiner. He said the upstairs office would afford additional privacy.

The board approved having Chairman Buddy Small sign a bill of sale for a surplus ambulance owned by the county that was used by the Brown County Ambulance Association. Pro Electric bid $7,500 to purchase the surplus ambulance.

The commissioners also approved having Small sign the annual state review of Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum’s performance as presented. Erthum said there were no deficiencies found with the county’s program.

Dailey reported he had visited with Shawn Fernau on the courthouse roof repair project, and Fernau agreed to coordinate the repair work with the bat mitigation contractor.

Treasurer Bruce Mitchell presented the board with a tax sale report. Due to reporting requirement changes made at the state level, only three bidders were in attendance for the recent tax sale instead of the previous 18 who attended before statutes changed requiring bidders to inform the property owner that the bidder had purchased the delinquent tax on a parcel.

Mitchell said, with fewer bidders, the county sold just $9,734 in delinquent tax on seven parcels. Three other property owners had since paid their delinquent taxes, leaving unpaid property tax on 54 parcels. Mitchell said very few of the 54 remaining parcels with delinquent taxes were desirable.

Someone purchasing delinquent property tax on a parcel receives either a substantial amount of interest when the owner pays the delinquent tax or can eventually foreclose on the parcel if the tax is not paid.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. April 16.

* Work begins Wednesday on Highway 281

(Posted 8 a.m. April 2)

Weather permitting, work will begin Wednesday on Highway 281 between mileposts 148 and 158 from the junction of Highway 70 to the Wheeler/Holt County line north of Bartlett, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

Werner Construction of Hastings is the prime contractor for the project. Work includes culvert replacement, bridge repair, and milling and asphalt paving operations. Traffic will be maintained with temporary traffic signals and a pilot car and flaggers. Anticipated completion is mid to late July.

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

* Brown County Commissioners Tuesday agenda

(Posted 2 p.m. April 1)

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 2
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

Roll Call

Tax Sale Report – Mitchell

Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

Ron Reinert – Drainage on Norden Road north of Plum Creek

Courthouse roof

Agreement to mitigate bat problems – Small

Environmental Services Report regarding air quality testing within the Courthouse – Small

Quarterly Custodian report – Hobbs

Update from County Attorney on office move – Taylor

Assignment of County Attorney’s former office – Small

1:45      Scott Erthum – Annual review – Erthum

2:00      Scott Goodloe – Board signatures on Bill of Sale for ambulance – Goodloe

Correspondence Letters

Approve Claims

Public Comment

* Main Street project delayed one day by weather

(Posted 9:45 a.m. April 1)

Due to the winter weather advisory in the area, the Nebraska Department of Transportation will close Main Street between Highway 20 and Second Street beginning on Tuesday.

Originally scheduled to close Monday, Carl Hart with the NDOT Ainsworth District office said A&R Construction is holding off the start of the project for one day due to the weather forecast.

Main Street will close starting on Tuesday. Work will continue on Main Street throughout the summer.

A&R Construction of Plainview is the prime contractor for the project. Work includes replacement of water lines, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, lighting, concrete pavement and sidewalks.

The NDOT will provide regular updates as the project progresses. Main Street will be renovated from Highway 20 to South Street.

Highway 7 traffic will be detoured utilizing Road 877 and 431st Avenue/Pine Street. A 12-foot width restriction will be in effect. Anticipated competition is December.

Construction will be completed in five phases with work beginning at the Highway 20 intersection and progressing south. Each phase is estimated to take two months to substantially complete.

Local traffic access to Main Street will be maintained while phases are not under construction. Phases with active construction will utilize side street parking with pedestrian access to the businesses maintained during business hours.

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

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 9:15 a.m. April 1)

March 24

Received a report of an abandoned vehicle on 431st Ave.  The owner was called and moved the vehicle.

March 25

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from a rural area in Johnstown.  One patient was transported to the Brown County Hospital.

March 26

Issued a citation for speeding 84mph in a 65mph  zone on Highway 7.

Responded to a report of a loose dog on Oak Street.  The dog was taken to the Vet Clinic.  After a week of advertising the dog was adopted by a new owner.

The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call along Highway 20.  One patient was taken to the Brown County Hospital.  They also responded to a senior living facility and transported another patient to the hospital on this day.

During a traffic stop on Highway 7, a citation was issued for speeding 84mph in a 65mph zone.

March 27

The Brown County Ambulance picked up a flight crew from the airport and transported them to the Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient.

Responded to a request for a welfare check on juveniles not attending school.  They were located and reported safe at this time.

Paged the Ainsworth water department after receiving a phone call of water running into a home on Osborne Street.

During a traffic stop on Highway 7, a Nebraska male was issued a citation for driving under revocation and no proof of insurance.  The male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail, where he posted bond and was released.

March 28

Received a report of a vehicle in violation of city ordinance.  The vehicle owner was issued a citation and towed.

During a traffic stop near the intersection of 4th and Walnut Street, a male subject was issued a citation for driving during revocation and no valid registration.  He was booked into the Brown County jail and later posted bond and was released.

Two written warnings for speeding were issued on this day.

Received a report of a physical disturbance at an apartment complex in Ainsworth.  No citations have been issued at this time.

March 29

Received a request for a welfare check in Ainsworth.  All parties were reported safe at this time.

Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.

During a traffic stop on Highway 20, a citation was issued for speeding 80mph in a 65mph zone.  Another stop on Highway 7, a citation for speeding and possession of marijuana was issued. 

During a traffic stop near the intersection of 4th and Pine Street, a citation was issued for driving under suspension, no valid registration, and failure to stop.  The driver was booked into the Brown County Jail and later released after posting bond.

During a traffic stop in Long Pine near 3rd and Main Street, a driver was issued a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol and defective vehicle lighting.  The driver was booked into the Brown County Jail and later released after posting bond.

March 30

Assisted another agency on locating a male subject with an active warrant from Boyd County.  The male was later arrested in Holt County.

Responded to a report of a verbal disturbance at a medical facility. 

Issued two written warnings for speeding on this day.

Weekly Summary

Calls:  111

911 Calls:  4

Incident Reports:  14

Gun Permits:  1

Vin Inspections:  4

March 17

Provided a welfare check in Ainsworth.  The subject was located and reported safe at this time.

Issued a citation for speeding 48 mph in a 35mph zone and no proof of insurance.  A written warning for speeding was also issued on this day.

March 18

Received a report of an open door to a business on Main Street.  The owner was called, and no criminal activity was found at this time.

The Brown County Ambulance transported a patient from Brown County Hospital to Kearney, NE.

The Ainsworth and Johnstown Fire Departments responded to a fire located in a cornfield approximately 3 miles North on Rauscher Ave.  Trucks were out of the barn around an hour.

Issued citations for speeding 101mph and 80mph in 65mph speed zones on Highway 20.

March 19

Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office jailed a male subject on a Brown County District Court warrant.  The male subject was brought back to Brown County and booked into jail while awaiting his court date.

Responded to a report of a missing person who was in a mental health crisis.  Nebraska State Patrol was called for assistance.  The individual later returned.

Received a report of a suspected child abuse from Department of Heath and Human Services.  This is an ongoing investigation.

Received a report of a dog being attacked by another dog on Oak Street in Ainsworth.  Written statements were received, and the dog was taken to a vet clinic for medical treatment.  This is an ongoing investigation.

March 20

Assisted Nebraska State Patrol on a traffic stop on Highway 20 in Brown County. 

March 21

Received a report of loose horses on Highway 7.  Owners were called and removed them from the roadway.

Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.

March 22

Issued a citation for speeding 80mph in 65 mph zone on Highway 183.  Other citations were issued for passing on the right side and no proof of insurance or working lights.  Three warnings for speeding were also issued on this day.

Received a report of a loose dog near 1st & Harrington Street.  The owner was later identified and called to pick up their dog.

March 23

Received a 911 call reporting a fire near 883rd Rd.  Ainsworth and Long Pine Fire Departments were paged to the structure around 8PM.  Bassett Fire Department was also paged for assistance.  The Brown County Ambulance was also paged to the scene.  Trucks returned to the barn around 12:30 AM.

Weekly Summary

Calls: 121

911 Calls:  7

Incident Reports:  11

Gun Permits:  4

Vin Inspections:  4

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 10:15 a.m. March 28)

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

Kalynn B. Giesbrecht, age 23, of Tracey Mills, Canada, charged with speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, fined $125.

Terry J. Vassar, 35, of Ainsworth, no proof of insurance, $100; also charged with no license on person, $100.

Katie L. Shifflet, 35, of Holbrook, no valid registration, $25.

Jimena R. Velasco, 20, of Lawrenceville, Ga., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Triston D. Griffin, 27, of Charlotte, N.C., first offense resisting arrest, $1,000.

Brandon D. Holmes, 39, of Baker, La., driving under suspension, $300; speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Braxton K. Jefferis, 21, of Bassett, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Knicolus J. Fernau, 40, of Ainsworth, violating a stop or yield sign, $75.

Janet A. Alberts, 70, of Long Pine, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Anne E. Quigley, 75, of Valentine, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Sherri R. Johnson, 35, of Ainsworth, two counts of having dogs running at large, fined $50 on each county and ordered to pay $191 in restitution.

Amber D. Hollenbeck, 29, of Bassett, assault by mutual consent, ordered to pay $96 in restitution.

Michael A. Petter, 68, of Ainsworth, violating a protection order, sentenced to six months of probation.

John L. Tripp, 46, of Ainsworth, disturbing the peace, $250.

Bryan W. Reed, 65, of Ainsworth, first degree criminal trespassing, sentenced to six months of probation.

Marco Manoatl Tetlalmatzi, 39, of Ainsworth, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Bradley J. Schumann, 42, of Berthoud, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Max E. Eggert, 40, of Valentine, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

* Kerrigan takes first in NECC test

(Posted 7:15 a.m. March 28)

Ainsworth High School had 22 students participate Wednesday in the Northeast Community College Scholastics at Norfolk.

Medal winners were Katherine Kerrigan, who took first place in Geography; Cole Bodeman placed third in American Government; and Emma Kennedy placed third in Public Speaking.

* Swanson named strength coach at UN-L business school

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

The Clifton Strengths Institute at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has selected 46 students to serve as new strengths coaches for the 2024-25 academic year. The students will join more than 100 returning coaches to mentor about 1,000 new students enrolled in the College of Business’ Professional Enhancement I: Investing in Strengths.

Among the students selected as a strength coach is Gracie Swanson of Bassett.

The required course for all first-year business students empowers them to excel using their natural talents, learned from taking the Clifton Strengths assessment. Strengths coaches help new students develop as they learn to leverage their top strengths.

“A student’s college experience can be the most transformative years of their life, especially during times of life transitions and self-discovery,” said Alyson Lenz, assistant director of the strengths program. “Within the College of Business, students can identify their natural talents and dive into the qualities that make them unique. Focusing on their strengths, along with their student strengths coach’s guidance and support, sets students up to be successful and more confident throughout their college careers.”

The program requires all new coaches to enroll in Strengths Coaching, Theory and Practice this spring, where they learn about strengths-based development and techniques to maximize individuals’ potential. These skills are used to make positive impacts within the college and community, and in their professional careers.

“Our student coaches play a pivotal role in fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of students’ unique talents,” Lenz said. “They possess a passion and energy for investing in others, cultivating trusting relationships and empowering students to excel, leaving a lasting impact beyond the classroom.”

Each new strengths coach receives personalized guidance from experienced student mentors.

“We believe prioritizing investment in these new coaches’ development is essential,” Lenz said. “This mentorship ensures they are well-equipped to effectively support first-year students while remaining authentic to their unique approach and coaching philosophy.”

* Nebraska jobless rate fifth lowest in U.S.

(Posted 1 p.m. March 27)

The Nebraska Department of Labor announced the state’s unemployment rate for February is 2.5 percent. The rate has remained unchanged for six straight months and is up 0.4 percentage points from the February 2023 rate of 2.1 percent.

Nebraska has the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in the nation. North Dakota’s 2.0 percent rate was the lowest in the U.S. in February, with neighboring South Dakota second at 2.1 percent. Vermont at 2.3 percent, Maryland at 2.4 percent and Nebraska round out the five states with the lowest unemployment in the country.

California has the highest jobless rate in the U.S. at 5.3 percent in February. Nevada at 5.2 percent, New Jersey and Illinois at 4.8 percent, and Washington and Alaska at 4.7 percent round out the states with the highest unemployment rates in the country.

The national unemployment rate for February is 3.9 percent, up 0.2 percentage points from the January rate of 3.7 percent and up 0.3 percentage points from the February 2023 rate of 3.6 percent.

“February saw a larger than normal increase in total nonfarm jobs in Nebraska, growing by 11,322,” said Commissioner of Labor John H. Albin.  “This is the largest month to month increase for February going back to 1939.”

The counts of employed and unemployed in the labor force are based on a survey conducted by the Census Bureau regarding employment status.

Nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was 1,048,697 in February, up 11,322 from January and 19,645 from February 2023.  Private industries with the most growth month to month were private education and health services (up 2,034 jobs), professional and business services (up 1,639 jobs) and leisure and hospitality (up 1,337 jobs).

Private industries with the most over the year growth were private education and health services (up 7,059 jobs); trade, transportation, and utilities (up 3,460 jobs); and leisure and hospitality service (up 3,031 jobs).

Brown County’s unemployment rate in February crept upward to 3.0 percent and is now above the statewide average. Blaine County, at 4.6 percent, had the highest unemployment rate in the state in February.

On the flip side, Rock County’s February jobless rate of 1.9 percent was the third lowest in the state, trailing only the 1.8 percent rates in Wheeler and Grant counties.

Cherry County at 2.0 percent, Holt County at 2.2 percent and Keya Paha County at 2.3 percent all saw unemployment rates lower than February’s statewide average. Boyd County experienced a jobless rate of 3.2 percent.

* Main Street work to commence April 1

(Posted 2 p.m. March 26)

Weather permitting, work will begin April 1 on Highway 7 in downtown Ainsworth, from South Street to Highway 20, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.

A&R Construction of Plainview is the prime contractor for the project. Work includes replacement of water lines, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, lighting, concrete pavement and sidewalks.

Construction will be completed in five phases with work beginning at the Highway 20 intersection and progressing south. Each phase is estimated to take two months to substantially complete. Work on phase 1 will begin the week of April 1 with complete closure of Main Street from Second Street to Highway 20.

Local traffic access to Main Street will be maintained while phases are not under construction. Phases with active construction will utilize side street parking with pedestrian access to the businesses maintained during business hours. Additional information will be provided as the project advances.

Highway 7 traffic will be detoured utilizing Road 877 and 431st Avenue/Pine Street. A 12-foot width restriction will be in effect. Anticipated competition is December.

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

* Saturday fire destroys rural Ainsworth home

(Posted 7:45 a.m. March 25)

A rural Ainsworth man’s home was destroyed by a fire Saturday evening northeast of Ainsworth.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at 8 p.m. Saturday, firefighters responded to a report of a structure fire approximately 6 miles north and 2-1/2 miles east of Ainsworth.

Upon arrival, Fiala said the home, owned by Wayne Westcott, was completely engulfed with flames coming out of the roof.

The fire chief said the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Raven and Bassett Volunteer Fire departments responded and began to try and douse the structure, but winds pushed the flames throughout the entirety of the home and attached garage.

“There was just no way to get enough water on it,” Fiala said.

No one was home at the time of the fire. However, two family pets were lost in the fire. In addition to the home and all its contents, the fire spread to the attached garage, destroying everything including two vehicles and two motorcycles.

Fiala said the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, and the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office would try and determine how the fire may have started.

Firefighters returned to their respective fire halls at approximately 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

* Stuart is Class D-2 State Speech Runner-Up

(Posted 7 a.m. March 25)

Class D-2 State Speech Championships
Kearney
Team Sweepstakes
1. Chambers, 140; 2. Stuart, 130; 3. Osmond, 108; 4. O’Neill St. Mary’s, 92; 5. Arnold, 90; 6. Falls City Sacred Heart, 50; 7. Sioux County, 46; 8. Potter-Dix, 36; 9. Scribner-Snyder, 34; 10. Arthur County, 32.

Stuart Results
Entertainment Speaking – Will Paxton, state champion

Extemporaneous Speaking – Will Paxton, state champion; 3. Dawson Heiser.

Oral Interpretation of Poetry – 2. Lacey Paxton; 5. Brynn Almgren.

Serious Prose – 3. Drew Schmaderer.

Program of Oral Interpretation – 3. Lacey Paxton; 7. Elly Steinhauser.

Oral Interpretation of Drama – 5. Drew Schmaderer, Gavynn Mustin, Elly Steinhauser, Hunter Tubbs and Ben Paxton; 11. Bryer Almgren, Brynn Almgren, Addisyn Ketteler, Maddux Alder and Megan Karo.

Humorous Prose – 7. Ben Paxton.

Persuasive Speaking – 10. Dawson Heiser.

* Area students named Academic All-State

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

The Nebraska School Activities Association announced the student recipients of the Winter 2023-2024 Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association Academic All-State Awards.

Each year the NSAA and the NCPA recognize students during Fall, Winter, and Spring seasons who are nominated by their schools for their individual academic excellence, leadership, and significant contributions in an NSAA activity.

Area students named Academic All-State for the winter season are:

Ainsworth

Trey Appelt and Logan Schroedl in Boys Basketball, Kendyl Delimont and Jocelyn Good in Girls Basketball, Taylor Allen and Brianna Starkey in Speech, Jackson Irwin and Sam Titus in Boys Wrestling, and Londyn Dunbar and Megan Jones in Girls Wrestling.

Keya Paha County

Jackson Hallock in Boys Basketball and Brenna Caulfield in Speech.

Rock County

Hunter Craven in Boys Basketball, Adisyn Anderson and Morgan Lewis in Girls Basketball, and Branson Anderson and Kip Leonard in Wrestling.

Stuart

Benjamin Paxton and Hunter Tubbs in Boys Basketball, Gracie Kaup and Reagan Stracke in Girls Basketball, and Lacey Paxton and William Paxton in Speech.

West Holt

Mason Crumrine and Drake Nemetz in Boys Basketball, Makinley Cadwallader and Monica Chavez in Girls Basketball, Sidney Burkinshaw and Carter Gotschall in Speech, Caleb Davis and Grant Osborne in Boys Wrestling, and Maddie Davis and Madalyn Pistulka in Girls Wrestling.

Sandhills

Kyle Cox in Boys Basketball, Charlsie Teahon in Girls Basketball, Ella Held and Cora Martindale in Speech, Rhett McFadden in Boys Wrestling, and Emily Chavez and Shelby Schukei in Girls Wrestling.

Boyd County

Adrien Baer and Will Nelson in Boys Basketball, Paige Drueke and Lanie Lechtenberg in Girls Basketball, and Liz Kersch and McKenzie Snyder in Speech.

Valentine

Traven Fletcher and Lex Larsen in Boys Basketball, Kaetryn Bancroft and Kimber McGinley in Girls Basketball, Finley Mosner and Marybelle Ward in Speech, and John Lloyd Fulton and Will Sprenger in Boys Wrestling.

* Ainsworth students advance in History Day competition

(Posted 9:15 a.m. March 22)

Nine Ainsworth Middle School students participated at the district level of the National History Day contest, and all nine finished in the top three of their category to advance to state competition. This year’s theme was “Turning Points in History.” 

Isabelle Arens earned first place for her junior individual performance, “Rural Electrification.” The team of Max Hasenohr, Paul Denny and Keith Munnu received first place for their junior group performance, “How the Bombing of Pearl Harbor Changed the World.” 

Miranda Lambrecht earned second place for her junior individual documentary titled “Woodrow Wilson’s Turning Point: America’s Entry into World War I.”  

The junior group exhibit had a lot of competition with 22 entries. Both of the Ainsworth Middle School entries placed in the top three to earn a spot at the state contest. Leighton Konkoleski and Buck Ruhter earned first place for their exhibit titled “The Dust Bowl.” Beau Ortner and Callen Pierce received third place for their junior group exhibit, “The Battle of Midway.”

All these sixth-graders have qualified to compete in the state contest on Saturday, April 20, at Lincoln. The students will share their projects in the school cafeteria at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 16.  Everyone is welcome to attend and view the presentations.

* Bright Horizons receives $2 million award

(Posted 7 a.m. March 21)

Bright Horizons learned Tuesday it was one of the recipients of a substantial grant from the MacKenzie Scott Yield Giving Foundation. As part of $650 million donated by Scott’s charitable organization, Bright Horizons received a $2 million grant.

In March 2023, Yield Giving launched an open call for community-focused organizations with a purpose of enabling individuals and families to achieve substantive improvement in their well-being through foundational resources.

Yield Giving was initially planning to provide 250 awards of $1 million each. After 6,353 applications were received and applicants went through a several-step review, Yield Giving announced it was awarding $640 million to 361 non-profit organizations, with many receiving $2 million gifts.

Bright Horizons was one of the fortunate organizations benefitting from Scott’s philanthropy, receiving $2 million toward its effort of eliminating domestic violence and sexual assault in 10 counties in north central and northeastern Nebraska.

“This gift provides an amazing opportunity to provide long-term stability for our agency and the families we serve,” Bright Horizons Executive Director Linda Olson said.

Bright Horizons began serving families affected by domestic violence and sexual assault in 1978. The agency serves the residents of Brown, Rock, Keya Paha, Holt, Boyd, Antelope, Knox, Madison, Pierce and Stanton counties. It has offices located at Ainsworth, O’Neill and Norfolk.

In the past year, Bright Horizons answered 5,321 crisis calls and provided services to 1,201 individuals.

Scott’s Yield Giving Foundation has now awarded more than $16.5 billion to more than 1,900 non-profit organizations. Northeast Community College previously received a substantial grant from Scott’s foundation.

More information about Scott’s Yield Giving Foundation can be found online at www.leverforchange.org

* Commissioners approve bid for dump trailer

(Posted 3:30 p.m. March 19)

The Brown County Commissioners accepted a bid from RDO Truck Center of Norfolk for a new dump trailer for the roads department after opening three bids Tuesday.

RDO Truck Center bid a 2025 R Way trailer at a cost of $65,562. The bid included a one-year full warranty and a five-year limited warranty.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the R Way dump trailer was the closest model to the Load King, which he said he preferred due to the trailer’s durability.

“This is a heavier trailer, it is more solidly built,” Turpin said. “I think this is the better trailer of those I looked at.”

Aria CSS of Sarasota, Fla., bid a Manac trailer at a cost of $56,595, and Jim Hawk Truck Trailers of Council Bluffs, Iowa, bid an Armor Lite trailer at $59,477. That bid also carried a $2,487 delivery fee, while the bid from the Florida company did not mention how delivery would be made.

Turpin said the roads department could drive a truck to Norfolk to bring back the R Way trailer from RDO Truck Center.

Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said he felt it was worth the extra $5,000 to go with the trailer with the heavier gauge steel.

“That is the one I am in favor of,” Dailey said.

Commissioner Buddy Small said the R Way trailer was made with considerably stronger steel.

Turpin said the county has done quite a bit of business with RDO Truck Center.

“They have always been good to work with,” the highway superintendent said.

Turpin said he initially received price estimates of $77,000 for a new belly dump trailer, so the bids came in better than he anticipated. He said RDO Truck Center indicated it could have the new trailer ready for pickup prior to the end of the current budget year. Turpin said he included the cost of the trailer in the current year’s budget.

Commissioner Denny Bauer said the quote from Aria was more of an estimate, because the bid included that the price may change from the manufacturer.

The board unanimously approved the bid from RDO Truck Center.

In other roads department items, Turpin said the county had received $132,309 in FEMA funding for the Camp Witness bridge.

“The last project we are waiting on for reimbursement is $106,231, plus about $30,000 in administrative costs,” Turpin said.

When those final two reimbursements are made, Turpin said the county will finally be able to close out the 2019 flood and recover all the funding it was eligible to receive from FEMA.

Bauer applauded Turpin’s effort for sticking with each project and receiving reimbursement.

Turpin said the county also received $149,341 in federal funding through the highway buyback program. Of that total, he said $76,697 goes toward road surface projects and $72,644 is allocated for bridge rehabilitation.

Turpin reported the roads department was in the process of pulling shoulders to recover gravel from the edges of several county roads.

“Some roads will be bumpy for a while until the sod works off,” Turpin said. “We do pick up a lot of gravel that way.”

The highway superintendent said the roads department planned to work on grading projects on Road 883 and 426th Avenue.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners tabled quotes for bat removal from the courthouse and improvements to the building so bats could not return.

Small said he contacted five companies, with two of those companies coming to the courthouse to look at the project. He said one company bid $29,865 for the work, while Bats 2 Rats Wildlife Control & Prevention submitted a bid of $21,816 to seal the entire building and keep the bats from being able to get in.

Dailey said he would be more comfortable with having the bat-proofing work done after a contractor makes repairs to the courthouse roof.

“If we do any work to the roof after he is here, he will have to come back or he won’t guarantee his work,” Dailey said. “I know the bats are an issue, and I don’t know how long it will take for the roof repair work to get done. I just don’t want to pay for it twice or three times.”

The board tabled action on the item until its April 2 meeting. Dailey agreed to contact the company that had offered to do the roof repair work to discuss a timeline for the project and the possibility of meeting with the bat control contractor to develop a plan.

The commissioners opened one bid Tuesday for the Brown County Ambulance Association’s 2000 ambulance, approving a bid of $7,500 submitted by Pro Electric.

Ambulance Association representative Scott Goodloe said the bid was substantially higher than the previous high bid of $1,000 for the vehicle, which the county had rejected.

County Attorney Andy Taylor informed the commissioners he planned to move his office into a building on Main Street and out of the courthouse.

“We had issues with soundproofing in the current office,” Taylor said. “We can’t have that with confidential information.”

Taylor said the new office would be open to the public until 6 p.m. on weekdays.

“The county attorney position is part-time,” Taylor said. “And I can’t run a private practice from the courthouse.”

Taylor said the Holt, Rock and Cherry counties attorneys all have their own offices and do not work out of their respective courthouses.

“I am not aware of any part-time county attorneys who have offices in a courthouse,” Taylor said.

Small said both Veterans Services Officer Jake Graff and District Probation Officer Harlin Welch had expressed interest in moving into the upstairs office currently occupied by the county attorney.

Small said Welch was agreeable to moving into Graff’s current office in the lower level of the courthouse if Graff were to move into the upstairs office.

Taylor said he planned to be out of the courthouse office in early April.

Sheriff Brent Deibler met with the board requesting the go-ahead to advertise for bids to remove paint from the interior of the Brown County Jail and paint the jail’s interior and add epoxy flooring.

Deibler said the various projects at the sheriff’s department building are moving along, from the brickwork to the heating and air.

Bauer asked the sheriff if he had any idea what the painting work might cost. Deibler said the removal and new paint would likely run between $10,000 and $20,000.

The commissioners and county officials listened on a Zoom call as Nick Smith with MIPS demonstrated the company’s time management system that allows for biometric or cellular phone-based clocking in and out for county employees. The system also calculates overtime, vacation and sick leave.

The cost for the MIPS software is $570, with an ongoing cost of $193 monthly.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. April 2.

* Seniors eligible for additional COVID vaccine dose

(Posted 7 a.m. March 19)

The North Central District Health Department provided an update on changes with COVID-19 vaccinations and the rise in Measles cases in the US.

On February 28, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ approved a recommendation for adults ages 65 years and older to receive an additional updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine dose. Adults 65 years and older have been hit harder by COVID-19, with more than half of COVID-19 hospitalizations during October 2023 to December 2023 occurring in that age group. The CDC advised that an extra dose of the updated COVID-19 vaccine may bring back protection that has weakened since a fall vaccine dose, giving more protection to adults ages 65 years and older.

To be eligible for this dose, you must be 65 years or older and have had your most recent COVID-19 shot at least 4 months ago.

The NCDHD also reminds the public Measles cases are on the rise in the United States, and while Nebraska has not seen cases yet, now is the time to make sure you and your family are up to date on vaccinations. 

The state of Nebraska issued a statement encouraging prioritization of vaccinations to safeguard communities. MMR, the vaccine that covers Measles, is given at 12-15 months and at 4-6 years. 

It is safe and is 97% effective after 2 doses. If you plan to travel, talk to your provider or NCDHD about options for children that are too young to be vaccinated. If you are not sure about your vaccination history or do not know if you have had measles, contact your provider or NCDHD to see options available.

Contact your local clinic, hospital, pharmacy and NCDHD to see where you can get a COVID-19 or MMR vaccination. NCDHD’s vaccination schedule is available at www.ncdhd.ne.gov or by calling 402-336-2406.

For more information on COVID-19 or Measles, check out www.ncdhd.ne.gov

* Meadville Avenue projects highlight department’s 2023

(Posted 3 p.m. March 18)

Asphalt paving on Meadville Avenue and the completion of a new bridge across the Sand Draw Creek on Meadville Avenue highlighted the projects completed during 2023 by the Brown County Roads Department.

The $2.12 million bridge was paid for using primarily federal funding after a box culvert at the site was demolished by flooding in September 2019. The county also opted to take advantage of low interest rates at the time to issue bonds to pay for more than $2 million in new asphalt paving on 7.5 miles of Meadville Avenue.

The bridge and the new paving were both completed in 2023, as were five other projects.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin listed 17 projects on the county’s one-year plan, many of which are for grading and gravel resurfacing on several county roads.

The most expensive project on the one-year plan is $139,000 for armor coating the entire new 7.5-mile asphalt stretch of Meadville Avenue. All the other projects on the one-year plan are estimated to cost $54,000 or less to complete, with the roads department using its own forces for those grading and gravel resurfacing projects.

Among roadways targeted in the one-year plan are portions of Roads 876, 879, 880, 883 and 886, portions of 422nd, 423rd, 426th and 430th avenues, and portions of Norden Avenue, East Calamus Road, Raven Road, Moon Lake Avenue and the northern gravel portion of Meadville Avenue.

Major projects on the roads department’s six-year plan include replacing a bridge on the Bar 25 Road at an estimated cost of $517,000, rehabilitation of a bridge on 426th Avenue at an estimated cost of $135,000, and the rehabilitation of a bridge on 432nd Avenue at a cost of $95,000.

Two 10-mile stretches of the Elsmere Road are slated for armor coating in the six-year plan at a projected cost of $185,000 for each portion.

The remaining projects on the six-year plan are grading and gravel resurfacing projects on portions of several county roads.

* Brown County Commissioners Tuesday agenda

(Posted 1:45 p.m. March 18)

Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 19
Brown County Courthouse
Agenda

1:15 p.m.     Roll Call.

Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Update

Brent Deibler – Bids for sandblasting jail

Move County Attorney office out of Courthouse – Taylor

Mitigate bat problems agreement – Small

1:30 p.m.   Open Sealed Bids for Bottom Dump Trailers – Turpin

1:45 p.m.   Zoom meeting with Nich Smith MIPS time management system         

2 p.m.  Open sealed bids for surplus Ambulance – Goodloe

Approve Claims

Correspondence

Public Comment

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 18)

March 10

  • Responded to a traffic complaint on Highway 20 near the Highway 183 Junction. Contact was made with the driver and a verbal warning was issued.
  • During traffic stops on Highway 20, two warnings and three citations were issued for speeding.
  • Responded to a report of excessive dog barking on 7th Street in Ainsworth. The dog owner was called and removed the dog from outside.

March 11

  • Responded to a report of a semi-trailer, who had lost several large round bales on Highway 20 after a securement strap failure, near the 9A Spur. No damage was reported to the vehicle, minimal damage did occur to the guardrail.  The Nebraska Department of Transportation was called to assist.
  • Released a male subject from the Brown County Jail after serving a court commitment sentence.
  • Received a traffic complaint of a motorcycle in excessive speeds driving in Ainsworth. Deputies were unable to locate the vehicle.
  • During a traffic stop on Highway 20 a citation was issued for no valid registration.

March 12

  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity at a rural location on 879th This is an ongoing investigation.
  • Issued a written warning for speeding on Pine St to a Colorado driver.
  • The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from Ainsworth and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.

March 13

  • No reportable news on this day.

March 14

  • Responded to an accident in the alley on the 300 Block of North Main Street. Both vehicles had minimal damage and drove away from the scene.
  • The Brown County Ambulance were paged twice on this day, each resulting in transporting one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Responded to a report of a loose dog near Oak and 6th Street in Ainsworth. The owner responded to the scene and was assisted in catching the dog.

March 15

  • Received a report of suspected harassment. This is an ongoing investigation.
  • During traffic stops on this day, five warnings were issued for speeding, one violation was issued for improper vehicle lighting.
  • Responded to a report of a barking dog near the 200 Block of 5th Contact was made with the owner who agreed to take the dog inside.
  • The Brown County Ambulance transported a flight crew to pick up a patient at the hospital and take back to the airport.

March 16

  • During traffic stops on this day, two warnings and two citations were issued for speeding that included no valid registration and no proof of insurance.
  • Responded to a report of an accident involving an abandoned vehicle that had struck a power pole near 877th and 428th The driver was identified and issued a citation for leaving the scene of an accident, no valid registration, no proof of insurance.
  • Responded to a report of a barking dog on Maple Street. No barking found.
  • Responded to a life alert button activation in Ainsworth. The Brown County Ambulance was also paged and transported one patient to the hospital.

WEEKLY SUMMARY

INCIDENT REPORTS:  17

PHONE CALLS: 97

911 CALLS:  4

VIN INSPECTIONS:  5

HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS: 0

PAPERS SERVED: 2

* Atkinson receives $362,600 CDBG for mobile clinic

(Posted 3:45 p.m. March 14)

K.C. Belitz, director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, joined leaders in Atkinson Thursday to celebrate the official unveiling of a new mobile health clinic. DED awarded $362,600 to the City of Atkinson through the Community Development Block Grant Program’s Emergent Threat funding opportunity to enable West Holt Medical Services to complete the clinic. The mobile clinic will provide onsite health services and free up hospital capacity during seasons of peak demand. It will regularly visit rural communities within the WHMS service area such as Atkinson, Stuart, Bartlett and Chambers.

“I applaud the team at West Holt Medical Services for finding a creative way to make healthcare more accessible to communities in northern Nebraska,” Belitz said. “For earlier generations of rural Nebraskans, it was common for doctors to make house calls. This mobile clinic revives that model of convenient, local access to high-quality healthcare.”

Belitz praised the local cooperation that led to completion of the mobile health clinic. The City of Atkinson, West Holt Medical Services, and Central Nebraska Economic Development District worked closely to bring the project to fruition.

“The mobile medical clinic will prove to be an incredible tool in providing patient care in the underserved areas surrounding Atkinson and Stuart, and we are excited to begin with Chambers this spring,” said Jeremy Bauer, CEO of West Holt Medical Services. “We appreciate the great support from the Central Nebraska Economic Development District, the City of Atkinson, the State of Nebraska for the funding opportunity, and all of the team members at West Holt Medical Services who played key roles—from acquisition to implementation.”

* City Council approves streets plan

(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 14)

The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday approved a one- and six-year streets plan that does not call for any additional projects in the current year with the North Main Street project underway and the NDOT’s renovation of Highway 7 through Main Street in Ainsworth preparing to begin this spring.

The city’s six-year plan calls for concrete paving on several city streets, including portions of First, Harrington, Elm, Pine and Eighth streets, as well as portions of Seventh Avenue and Old Highway 7.

Audience member and former councilman Tonny Beck urged the council to begin the process now of creating a paving district for First and Pine streets.

“I have been on the council twice,” Beck said. “Pine and First have been on the six-year plan for the better part of 15 years. Paving districts take a fair amount of time. If you want to do something for 2025, you need to start now.”

Beck said First Street will not survive the additional traffic it will see during the Main Street renovation project.

“I probably own more of that assessment than anyone and I would vote yes and pay my share,” Beck said. “I don’t know how opt outs would go on First and Pine, but you have to get going.”

Councilman Brad Fiala said he agreed that those two streets needed to be replaced.

“Pine Street is going to be a problem during the detour,” Fiala said. “First Street has been a mess for years.”

Councilman Dustin Barthel agreed the city needed to start the process of creating a paving district.

“Pine Street and First Street are going to be wrecked,” Barthel said of the additional traffic that will use those two streets during the Main Street detour.

Councilman Kent Taylor said creating a paving district was definitely a high priority for him.

“We can’t keep top-coating forever,” Taylor said. “It is an infrastructure need for our town. The city can issue a district or property owners can issue a petition.”

Beck said First Street has at least 6 or 7 inches of armor coating material on it, as evidenced by the level of the street compared to its manhole covers.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said a paving district would likely be the next major project for the city after the completion of the Main Street project.

“We have had some money come off our debt service,” Schroedl said. “We just don’t know how much Main Street is actually going to cost yet.”

The city’s six-year plan, in addition to the concrete projects, also includes armor coating for portions of Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth and Oak streets, as well as asphalt paving for the city’s northern portion of Old Highway 7.

Following the discussion, the council approved the streets plan as presented.

In a related item, the council approved the first payment on the North Main Street renovation project, which includes new water and sewer lines as well as concrete paving from Highway 20 north to the wastewater treatment plant.

Work has commenced on the northern portion of the project. The council approved a payment of $219,246 toward the project.

In other business Wednesday, Ainsworth Golf Course representatives Todd Kicken and Robert Magill provided the council with an estimate for the cost of a new clubhouse and discussed potential funding sources for the project.

Kicken said the estimate for the structure is $360,125, and the course is planning for about double that amount with utility work and equipment costs to make the clubhouse move-in ready.

In addition to applying for a grant through the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, which had been previously discussed, North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said there were several potential private statewide funding sources available.

“Parks and recreation tend to score well on those applications,” Olson said.

The group also discussed potential local funding from the city’s Ainsworth Betterment Committee, the Brown County Foundation, and the Brown County Visitors Committee to assist with the cost of the project.

Kicken said the course would also try to obtain pledges from among its membership.

“If 20 people pledged $5,000, that would provide us with a big chunk,” Kicken said.

Magill said the golf course sees between 60 and 70 kids participating in its youth program, which has led to an increase in participation at both the junior high and high school levels.

“We are hosting district golf this year,” Magill said. “A lot of schools are far enough away that it should result in hotel stays, food and fuel here. We are also hosting the Sandhills Cattle Association Tournament this year.”

No action by the council was required, as the group will continue to work toward securing funding for the new clubhouse.

The council approved a request from the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department to conduct a controlled burn on a grassed area owned by the city near the KBR Solid Waste Transfer Station.

Mayor Joel Klammer said he received a call from Cameron Koch with the fire department, who indicated the department would like to hold a controlled burn at the site for training purposes.

Fiala said the fire department is required to conduct the training, but it would only be conducted when conditions allow.

There is currently a burn ban in effect for Brown County due to the dry conditions.

The council approved the controlled burn at the site when conditions allow.

Olson presented a quarterly report on the LB 840 program, which the NCDC administers for the city.

Olson said there was currently about $200,000 in the LB 840 fund. Some of that total has been allocated for projects but has not yet been spent down.

“It has been a strange year,” Olson said. “I think there are a lot of businesses waiting on the street project to be completed. I expect we will see more façade applications when the Main Street project is done.”

Olson said numerous businesses along the Highway 20 and Main Street corridor have already been updated using façade grants through the LB 840 program, which provide for half the cost of business frontage improvements up to $10,000.

Olson said she is working on several larger projects, any one of which would likely use up all of the LB 840 funds. She said several projects end up utilizing other funding sources instead of LB 840.

The council discussed the LB 840 contract between the city and the NCDC, with Barthel questioning the $60,000 provided by the city for the contract to the NCDC when only a handful of projects are approved for funding from LB 840 each year.

Barthel said the city has heard complaints at times about the ability to reach someone with NCDC or the time it takes to receive responses.

Olson said the NCDC is basically operating as a staff of one currently, with one part-time person assisting with some clerical work.

Olson said the NCDC Board voted to enter into a contract with the city of Bassett to provide LB 840 administration for that community, so the board was in the process of adding part-time staff to assist the office.

“I can’t be everywhere all the time,” Olson said.

Olson said it is difficult to keep set office hours as she is frequently meeting with prospects and attending meetings on projects.

Barthel said he and Councilman Shawn Fernau, who is also a part of the LB 840 contract subcommittee for the council, had met with a member of the NCDC Board to discuss their concerns and would await a proposal from the NCDC Board on addressing those concerns.

Both Barthel and Fernau expressed support for economic development in the community, but indicated their questions were the amount of funding coming from the LB 840 fund to support the administration contract when a limited number of applications receive approval from the council each year.

Olson said, numerous times, projects she works on that would be eligible for LB 840 funding end up using different funding sources because the LB 840 funds are limited, especially for larger projects.

“That doesn’t mean we are not putting in the work,” Olson said.

Wednesday’s agenda also included a subcommittee update on the city’s law enforcement agreement with Brown County.

Klammer said he had nothing new to report to the council regarding that agreement at this time.

During her report, Schroedl said Kevin Shaul announced his plan to retire from the streets department May 1. Schroedl said Jade Egle has been hired as the streets foreman, and the city would advertise to fill Egle’s former position as the refuse truck operator.

The council thanked Shaul for his work.

Schroedl also reported office staff member Lendi Osborn had resigned her position with the city to pursue a new opportunity.

Schroedl and Klammer both expressed their appreciation for Osborn’s work in the city office.

The city administrator reported she is still working to try and obtain the remaining reimbursement due to the city from FEMA from flood damage back in 2019. Schroedl said she believed the city was close to receiving approximately $500,000 in reimbursement to the streets department.

If that reimbursement is received, the only remaining reimbursement would be for administrative expenses handling the paperwork and reported requirements associated with the flooding.

Schroedl said the city would begin the search for summer help at the pool and park soon. She said applications for summer positions can be obtained from the city office.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. April 10.

* Stuart finishes as district speech runner-up

(Posted 11:30 a.m. March 13)

Class D2-3 District Speech
Stuart High School
Team Scores

1. Osmond, 304; 2. Stuart, 282; 3. Elgin, 126; 4. Niobrara, 56; 5. Wheeler Central, 48; 6. Cody-Kilgore, 46; 7. Verdigre, 38; 8. Keya Paha County, 0.

Stuart results (top three qualify for state)
Entertainment Speaking – 1. William Paxton; 4. Maddux Alder

Extemporaneous Speaking – 1. William Paxton; 2. Dawson Heiser

Program Oral Interpretation – 1. Lacey Paxton; 2. Elly Steinhauser

Poetry – 1. Lacey Paxton; 3. Brynn Almgren

Serious Prose – 1. Drew Schmaderer; 4. Elly Steinhauser

Persuasive Speaking – 1. Dawson Heiser; 5. Andrew Yemma

Oral Interpretation of Drama – 2. Benjamin Paxton, Drew Schmaderer, Elly Steinhauer, Gavynn Mustin and Hunter Tubbs; 3. Addisyn Ketteler, Bryer Almgren, Brynn Almgren, Maddux Alder and Megan Karo

Humorous Prose – 3. Benjamin Paxton; 6. Maddux Alder

Informative Speaking – 6. Addisyn Ketteler

* Area UN-L students receive Engler Scholarships

(Posted 8 a.m. March 13)

The Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has announced the recipients of scholarships for the 2024-25 academic year. The one-time scholarships will be awarded to over 100 students totaling $189,000 for the ensuing academic year.

Students receiving scholarships from the area are Libby Wilkins of Ainsworth; Logan Hafer of Long Pine; Ty Schlueter of Wood Lake; and Brooklyn Buell, Jaya Nelson and Jillian Buell of Bassett.

The Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program was established in 2010 as a gift from the Paul and Virginia Engler Foundation. The mission of the program is to embolden people on the pursuit of their purpose through the art and practice of entrepreneurship.

The program offers an academic minor while serving as an intersection in which students from a diverse array of majors and business interests can come together in pursuit of the American Dream.  

* Ainsworth City Council Wednesday agenda

(Posted 6:30 a.m. March 13)

Ainsworth City Council
Meeting 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 13
Ainsworth Conference Center
Agenda

  • Call to Order
  • I. Routine Business
    • Announcement of Open Meetings Act
    • Roll Call
    • Pledge of Allegiance
  • II. Consent Agenda – All items approved with the passage of one motion
    • Approve minutes from the February 14, 2024 regular meeting
    • Approval of claims
    • Treasurer’s report
    • Department head reports
  • III. Mayor’s Appointments and Report
    • Mayor’s Report
    • Mayor’s Appointments
  • IV. Public Hearings
    • 1 and 6 Year Street Improvement Plan
  • V. Old Business
    • None
  • VI. Regular Agenda
    • Consider Resolution #24-01:  Adopting a long-range six-year plan of highway, road, and street improvements based upon priority of needs
    • Ainsworth Golf Course report – Todd Kicken and Robert Magill
    • Consider a request by the Ainsworth Fire Department to conduct a controlled burn on city property
    • LB840 quarterly report from NCDC – Kristin Olson
    • Consider application for payment #1 of the Main Street Rehabilitation – North project in the amount of $219,246.80
    • Discuss and consider subcommittee recommendations regarding the Law Enforcement Agreement and Economic Development Services Agreement
    • City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Report

* Graff elected NARD Board President

(Posted 2:30 p.m. March 12)

The voting members of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts Board of Directors elected new officers during their board meeting Monday.

Marty Graff, NARD President (Ainsworth, Nebraska)
Marty Graff of the Middle Niobrara NRD was elected president of the NARD Board and NARD Risk Pool Board. Graff has served on the Middle Niobrara NRD Board 29 years and on the NARD boards since 2018. He farms with his wife, Brenda, and sons near Ainsworth.

Ryan Reuter, NARD Vice President (Minatare, Nebraska)
Ryan Reuter of the North Platte NRD was elected vice president of the NARD Board and NARD Risk Pool Board.

Mason Hoffman, NARD Secretary-Treasurer (Juniata, Nebraska)
Mason Hoffman of the Little Blue NRD was elected secretary-treasurer of the NARD Board and NARD Risk Pool Board. He farms outside of Hastings and has served on the Little Blue NRD Board since 2016 and on the NARD boards since 2021.

Dr. Orval Gigstad, NARD Past President (Syracuse, Nebraska)
Dr. Orval Gigstad from the Nemaha NRD serves as past president of the NARD Board and NARD Risk Pool Board. He served as president from 2022-2024 and has been on the boards since 1996. Gigstad has served on the Nemaha NRD Board since 1993 and serves as chair of the National Association of Conservation Districts Northern Plains Region.

In addition to the president, vice president, secretary-treasurer and past president, the NARD Board executive committee includes Terry Martin, Legislative Committee chair representing the Upper Republican NRD, and Bob Hilger, Information and Education Committee chair representing the Lower Platte North NRD.

Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts Managers Committee
On March 6, the NRD managers elected J. Scott Sobotka, general manager of the Lower Big Blue NRD, as chair of the Managers Committee; and Wade Ellwanger, general manager of the Lower Niobrara NRD, as vice-chair of the Managers Committee.

Scott Sobotka, Lower Big Blue NRD
J. Scott Sobotka was promoted to general manager of the Lower Big Blue NRD in January 2022. He has served the district for 22 years as a land resources specialist and most recently as assistant manager.

Wade Ellwanger, Lower Niobrara NRD
Wade Ellwanger was promoted to general manager of the Lower Niobrara NRD in March 2023. Prior to his promotion, he served the district for six years as a water resources coordinator and assistant manager. He also has more than 20 years of production management experience in the ag industry.

* North Main Street project underway in Ainsworth

(Posted 2 p.m. March 12)

Due to the North Main Street construction that is occurring between Highway 20 and Seventh Street, traffic access will be temporarily halted along portions of North Main Street in Ainsworth.

Construction crews will be working south one block at a time to replace sewer and water main lines.

When the construction reaches your block, the city would advise you to access your properties through the alleys and/or parking along side streets. The city asks residents to please not park vehicles along North Main Street. Construction crews will first replace the sewer main and then come back through to replace the water main.

The city will contact residents when sewer and water services will be interrupted at your residence to disconnect/reconnect your services. The time of interruption of those services should take generally less than an hour and there will not be a cost associated to the homeowner for the reconnections.

Following the completion of the installation of the utility lines, concrete paving will be poured. The city office will contact individual homeowners and residents regarding instructions for garbage service during the construction period. Should anyone have any questions, contact the city office at 402-387-2494.

* Sandhills Care Center census rises to 27

(Posted 2 p.m. March 12)

The Sandhills Care Center now cares for 27 residents and generated a profit of $46,654 during February. However, with three pay periods falling in the month of April, the Board of Directors voted Monday not to make an additional payment on its remaining line of credit balance of $34,537.

The board had the revenue to make a payment on the credit line and wipe out the balance, but agreed to do so would mean the facility would likely just have to borrow from the line of credit again in April to fund the three-pay-period month.

The care center pays its employees every other week, so there are two months each year when the facility pays employees three times instead of two. Payroll each two weeks is typically $80,000 or more, so the facility will experience elevated expenses in April.

Board member Dr. Mel Campbell suggested holding off making a repayment to the credit line in anticipation of the higher expenses in April even though the facility was profitable in February and had a little more than $53,000 available after expenses were paid.

Board member Dennis Bauer agreed, saying, “I think we should just let it ride for a month. That way we won’t have to borrow as much.”

Administrator Penny Jacobs told the board the census in the facility had increased by two since the board’s February meeting, with 27 residents now calling the care center home. She reported three new residents were admitted since the board’s February meeting, with one resident discharged to the hospital and passing away.

Of the 27 current residents, 15 pay privately, 10 receive Medicaid assistance, one receives hospice care and one resident is Medicaid-pending.

Jacobs said 17 are residents of Ainsworth, with three from rural Brown County, one from Long Pine, five from Cherry County and one from Rock County.

Jacobs reported the facility has hired additional CNAs and is now fully staffed at that position. She said the care center is still in need of two full-time charge nurses as well as a part-time cook.

In addition to the $46,654 in profit for the month, the care center also received $26,346 in funds collected from the voter-approved bonds in both the city of Ainsworth and Brown County.

The board, with Chairman Tom Jones absent Monday, approved a contract with Dr. Kenneth Wasmund to serve as the facility’s medical director, replacing Dr. Campbell. The board approved Wasmund’s request of $1,000 monthly as compensation to serve as the medical director.

Jacobs said there were initial questions about whether the care center’s insurance or the Brown County Hospital’s insurance would cover Dr. Wasmund in his capacity as medical director. Jacobs said the care center’s insurance will cover Dr. Wasmund when he sees and treats residents in the care center.

Board member Shawn Fernau said he has felt for a long time the $350 monthly payment made to Dr. Campbell was not sufficient compensation.

Dr. Campbell said serving as the facility’s medical director includes being on call when needed, seeing residents and attending staff meetings on resident care.

The board, with Fernau abstaining, approved a quote from Fernau Construction to replace damaged flooring at the nurses’ station in the facility. Fernau said the flooring was coming up and looked nasty.

He quoted $715 to replace the flooring at the nurses’ station.

Fernau also offered to donate the labor to paint different areas of the facility’s interior if the care center purchases the paint. He said the main room could use some brightening.

Jacobs said they were leaning toward using Bulldog colors in the main area since many of the residents were big Bulldog fans.

Dr. Campbell said, since painting in the building was a maintenance cost, it did not need to be approved by the board. The board thanked Fernau for donating his time to assist with the painting.

In a final action item Monday, the board approved Board of Directors bylaws as presented. Office Manager Makenzie Crane said the bylaws reflected all changes requested by the board during its February meeting.

The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. April 8.

* School Board approves purchase of cafeteria tables

(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 12)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education voted Monday to use school lunch account funds to purchase new tables for the cafeteria.

Superintendent Dale Hafer told the board the school’s lunch fund was in positive territory and the school needed to spend some of the funds to make upgrades.

“There is about $100,000 in the account and we should only carry forward about $70,000,” Hafer said. “The lunch fund has done well since making the switch to Lunchtime Solutions.”

Hafer said the board had looked at replacing the cafeteria tables in the past but then had to replace the walk-in cooler and freezer system.

Hafer said he obtained two quotes for the rectangular cafeteria tables that will allow for easier maintenance. The new tables carry a 15-year warranty.

The board, with Scott Erthum absent Monday, unanimously approved the $23,747 purchase from Shiffler Equipment.

In other business Monday, the board approved an annual contract with Educational Service Unit 17 for special education services. Hafer said the special education portion of the contract would increase by 6 percent for the 2024-25 school year due to increased staffing costs and the school having some additional need. The special education contract for 2024-25 is $695,490, up from $656,132 in the current school year.

Hafer said the district receives 80 percent reimbursement from the state for the cost of providing special education services, with approximately $100,000 of additional funds provided by the federal IDEA program.

Hafer said the $30,000 nursing contract with ESU 17 for nursing services for the entire student body was unchanged for the 2024-25 school year. The board approved both contracts.

In a final action item Monday, the board approved the review of sections 300 to 302 of its board policies. Hafer said no major changes were being proposed, so a simple review of the policies was sufficient.

Board President Brad Wilkins told Hafer he has done a good job keeping the board’s policies updated and in compliance with state statutes.

High School Principal Steve Dike reported the school received the Class D-1 Sportsmanship Award from the Nebraska School Activities Association during the boys state basketball tournament.

“This is a community award,” Dike said. “From the players to the student section to the fans, hat’s off to the community. I couldn’t be more proud of the kids.”

Hafer shared an email he received from someone from outside the area who attended the state basketball tournament complimenting the Ainsworth team for its sportsmanship and behavior.

“The kids showed a lot of class,” Hafer said. “The cheerleaders, the band, everyone did a nice job. It was a great experience.”

During his report, Activities Director Luke Wroblewski reported a shot clock would be implemented for all classes of high school varsity basketball for the 2024-25 season. He said the cost to purchase the shot clock and lighted backboards would be between $5,000 and $7,000, with additional costs for installation. He said the school would need a separate shot clock operator.

Hafer reported he was in the process of applying for a grant from the Nebraska Department of Education to upgrade the district’s security camera and door locking system. Hafer said the application, if approved, would install a digital security camera system and provide additional door access options.

He said the total cost of the upgrades is approximately $97,000.

“It would be nice to get half of the cost awarded or more, but it might be an all or nothing application,” Hafer said.

Hafer reported, after 24 years with Ainsworth Community Schools, custodian Nick Krause had submitted a letter of resignation effective Aug. 31 as he planned to retire.

“I know he loves this place,” Hafer said. “We are excited for him to be able to enjoy retirement.”

The superintendent said he planned to begin advertising for a custodian in the spring to start work during the summer.

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

* Area students participate in district speech meets

(Posted 7 a.m. March 12)

Class C2-3 District Speech
Hartington-Newcastle
Team Results

1. Hartington-Newcastle, 340; 2. Ponca, 130; 3. Hartington Cedar Catholic, 116; 4. Bloomfield, 94; 5. Ainsworth, 80; 6. Summerland, 62; 7. Boyd County, 58; 8. Neligh-Oakdale, 20.

Ainsworth Results (top three qualify for state)
Serious Prose – 4. Taylor Allen

Persuasive Speaking – 4. Taylor Allen; 5. Hannah Beel

Duet Acting – 6. Hannah Beel and Puridy Haley
Extemporaneous Speaking – 6. Erick Hitchcock

Oral Interpretation of Drama – 6. Brianna Starkey, Kiley Orton and Puridy Haley

Humorous Prose – 6. Willa Flynn

Poetry – 6. Brianna Starkey

Boyd County Results
Program Oral Interpretation – 3. Elizabeth Kersch

Duet Acting – 3. Elizabeth Kersch and Zoe Kaczor

Entertainment Speaking – 4. McKenzie Snyder; 5. Brooklyn Eckert

Class C1-5 District Speech
West Holt High School
Team Results
1. Boone Central, 302; 2. Battle Creek, 216; 3. West Holt, 162; 4. West Point-Beemer, 104; 5. Elkhorn Valley, 48; 6. Norfolk Catholic, 40; 7. Stanton, 18; 8. Lutheran High Northeast, 10.

West Holt Results (top three qualify for state)
Humorous Prose – 1. Mary Hamilton; 4. Teagan Butterfield

Poetry – 1. Abigail Thiele; 6. Iris Sanchez

Entertainment Speaking – 2. Drew Martin

Persuasive Speaking – 3. Lily Vogel

Informative Speaking – 3. Sidney Burkinshaw; 6. Madison Kratz

Oral Interpretation of Drama – 3. Abigail Thiele, Carter Gotschall, Mary Hamilton, Nate Cambras and Sidney Burkinshaw

Serious Prose – 5. Madysen Kramer

Duet Acting – 6. Aubrei Clouse and Samantha Coffin

* Several search warrants executed Friday at Stuart

(Posted 4 p.m. March 11)

The Holt County Sheriff’s Department and the O’Neill Police Department, with the assistance of the Nebraska State Patrol and the Nebraska Brand Committee, executed six search warrants in Stuart Friday.

A search warrant was served at a fifth wheel camper located at 221 N. Main St. A handgun and four rifles were allegedly found during a search of the camper. Christopher Deepe, age 48, of Broken Bow, was arrested on a charge of Possession of a Deadly Weapon by a Prohibited Person and was transported to the Holt County Jail.

A search warrant was served at a business located at 221 N. Main St. A rifle was allegedly found during the search. Tyler Bain, 41, was arrested during a search of his residence at 203 E. Fourth St. on a charge of Possession of a Deadly Weapon by a Prohibited Person and was transported to the Holt County Jail.

Search warrants were also served at 302 E. Third St., at a fifth wheel camper located at 219 S. Main St., Lot #7, and at 219 S. Main St. Lot #5. Timothy Johnson, 48, was arrested on charges of Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Marijuana less than 1 ounce, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person. Johnson was transported to the Holt County Jail.

* Area entities receive NDEE grants

(Posted 10:30 a.m. March 11)

Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy Director Jim Macy announced the awarding of $6.7 million in grants to support 132 projects across the state that promote waste and litter reduction and recycling.

The grants are provided through NDEE’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Grants program and the Litter Reduction and Recycling Grants program. The two programs help fund litter and waste reduction projects, recycling programs, and pay costs for scrap tire cleanups and collections for household hazardous waste, electronic waste, and pharmaceuticals.

“There were many outstanding applications submitted to NDEE this year,” Macy said. “These grants will assist many important local efforts to promote litter and waste reduction and help handle the costs of proper disposal of many materials, such as household hazardous waste and scrap tires.”

The city of Atkinson received a $37,644 grant to collect up to 200 tons of scrap tires in the community. O’Neill picked up a $115,700 grant to clean up 600 tons of scrap tires.

The Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District at Valentine received a $59,665 grant to renovate and implement green infrastructure projects at the district office headquarters. The Upper Loup Natural Resources District at Thedford received a $27,600 grant to assist with the cost of transporting recycling trailers and collection totes from sites across the district.

Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive funds are generated by a fee on solid waste disposed of in landfills, an annual retail business sales fee, and a fee assessed on the sale of new tires. Grants are provided to local integrated waste management projects, and can include recycling systems, household hazardous waste collections, and composting. For 2024, 22 projects totaling $2,259,601 were funded under the Business Fee and Disposal Fee categories.

Also included in the Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive program are Scrap Tire funds, which are generated from a $1 fee on new tires purchased in Nebraska. In 2024, 59 grants totaling $1,837,862 were awarded. These grants will fund 28 scrap tire cleanup events across Nebraska. Enough funding was awarded to cleanup up 5,461 tons of scrap tires. Funds will also be used to partially reimburse the cost of many products made from recycled scrap tires, such as artificial turf football, soccer, baseball, and softball fields, athletic running tracks, and playground surfacing.

Litter Reduction and Recycling funds are generated from a fee charged to certain manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of products that commonly contribute to litter. The program has provided grants annually since 1979. In 2024, 51 litter grants totaling $2,600,011 were awarded in the public education, cleanup, and recycling categories.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

(Posted 3:30 p.m. March 11)

March 3

  • Received a report of a loose dog on Woodward Street. The owner was found and reunited with their dog.

March 4

  • Brown County Ambulance responded to a lift assist request in Ainsworth. Patient denied transport for further medical treatment.
  • Brown County Ambulance responded to senior living facility and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
  • Issued a written warning for speeding during a traffic stop on Highway 20.

March 5

  • Issued 2 Citations for speeding 51mph and 45mph in a 35mph zone within Ainsworth city limits.
  • Issued violation citations for no proof of insurance and no valid registration on Highway 20 traffic stops.
  • Released a male subject from the Brown County Jail after serving a district court commitment sentence.
  • Responded to a traffic complaint of a reckless driver on Highway 20, near the Highway 183 junction.
  • Responded to a report of a small “fender bender” on North Main Street. Damage was minimal and no accident report was done.
  • Responded to a report of suspected animal abuse/neglect. No citations were issued at this time.

March 6

  • Received a report of loose dogs on Ash Street in Ainsworth. The owner was notified, and they picked up their dogs.
  • Received a report of cattle out on Highway 7. The owner was called and removed them from the roadway.
  • Received a parking complaint about vehicles parked blocking the alley near Maple Street. Contact was made with the drivers who agreed to move.
  • Issued a written warning for speeding on Highway 7.

March 7

  • No reportable news on this day.

March 8

  • Issued a citation for speeding and no valid registration on Meadville Ave 69mph in a 50mph zone. Another citation was issued for speeding on Highway 20 for 80mph in a 65 mph.  Written warnings were issued for driving left of center and improper or defective vehicle lighting.
  • Received a report of cattle out on South Pine Ave. The owner was called and they removed them from the roadway.
  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing near Highway 7 and 877th Road.

March 9

  • Issued a citation for misuse of a learner’s permit and failure to yield. A written warning was also issued for driving on shoulder of highway.
  • Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing on Highway 7, near the Richardson Road intersection.
  • Received a report of a loose dog in Long Pine. All information was transferred to their animal enforcement officer.
  • Received a report of a pony and some calves on the loose on Meadville Ave. The owner was called and removed them from the roadway.
  • Responded to a report of suspicious activity on Oak Street in Ainsworth. No criminal activity was found at this time.

WEEKLY SUMMARY TOTALS

INCIDENT REPORTS:  8

PHONE CALLS: 78

911 CALLS:  3

VIN INSPECTIONS:  3

HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS: 2

PAPERS SERVED: 4

*Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary

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

February 25th
• Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Long Pine. The patient refused transport.
• An individual was booked into the Brown County Jail for a Court Commitment.

February 26th
• A Nebraska male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail for Domestic Assault.

February 27th
• An individual was released on bond from the Brown County Jail.
• Responded to a request for a welfare check on an infant in Ainsworth. The infant was located and found safe at this time.
• Received a report of suspected adult abuse/neglect. This is an ongoing investigation.
• Received a report of cattle standing on the roadway on Meadville Ave. The owners were quickly identified and removed them from the roadway.
• Aided a motorist on Highway 20 in need of a tow truck.

February 28th
• Released a male subject from the Brown County Jail after completing a court commitment sentence.
• Provided traffic control for a cattle crossing at 877th Rd and Highway 7.
• The Brown County Sheriff’s Office and Brown County Ambulance responded to a two-vehicle accident at 6th and Main Street in Ainsworth. Both drivers refused medical assistance.
• Responded to a request for a welfare check at a rural Brown County address. The subject was located and reported safe at this time.
• Served a no trespassing order to a rural Brown County resident.

February 29th
• Brown County Sheriff’s Office received a report of suspicious activity on South Main Street in Ainsworth. No citations were issued at this time.
• Johnstown and Ainsworth Fire Departments responded to a request for mutual aid assistance for a grass fire near Pony Lake on Highway 83. Trucks were out of the barn from approximately 2pm to shortly after 6pm.

March 1st
• Officer issued a Citation for speeding 82-mph in a 65-mph zone. Two additional warnings were issued for speeding on this day.
• Released a male subject from the Brown County Jail after serving a court commitment sentence.

March 2nd
• During a traffic stop a citation was issued a citation for failure to stop and no proof of insurance. A warning was also issued to a Nebraska driver for speeding on this day.

* Fire in Cherry County burns 283 acres

(Posted 7:15 a.m. March 2)

A wildfire on the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge near Pony Lake was reported to the Region 26 Emergency Management & 911 Dispatch office at 2:07 p.m. Thursday. As of Friday afternoon, the fire had burned 283 acres of Sandhills grassland.

Although the point of origin is unknown at this time, the wildfire began off Highway 83 near mile marker 180 north of Brownlee Road.

Fire personnel were successful in holding the fire within the burned area Thursday night. Fire lines were reinforced Friday to hold the fire within the burned area.

Responding to the fire were two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fire engines, the Nebraska Forest Service engine, Cherry County Emergency Management, and Volunteer Fire Departments from Ainsworth, Cody, Kilgore, Purdum, Thedford, Valentine, and Wood Lake. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

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