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Service Information can be found on the Obituaries Page
* Al Hansen, 71, of Ainsworth pending
* Carolyn June Titus, 68, of Paola, Kan. 2 p.m. Oct. 8
* Harry Neil Helenbolt, 88, of Stuart 9:30 a.m. Oct. 2
* Phil Kliewer, 73, of Atkinson 10:30 a.m. Sept. 30
* Jaynell Schaaf, 76, of Atkinson 11 a.m. Sept. 29
* Meeting reports located below for:
Sept. 20 Brown County Commissioners
Sept. 14 Ainsworth City Council
Sept. 12 Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors
Sept. 12 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education
Sept. 6 Brown County Commissioners
Aug. 31 Ainsworth City Council special meeting
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 1:45 p.m. Sept. 28)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Christy A. Cozad, 38, of Valentine, charged with speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, fined $25.
Corey L. Palmer, 52, of Ainsworth, no valid registration, $25.
James F. Wright, 50, of Long Pine, no valid registration, $25.
Dillon R. Bacon, 22, of Ainsworth, two counts of third-degree assault, sentenced to one year of probation on each count.
Malinda K. Hodge, 30, of Ainsworth, no valid registration, $25; also charged with no proof of insurance, $75.
Glenn L. Johnson, 62, of Ainsworth, assault – threatening in a menacing manner, sentenced to two years of probation.
Jack D. King, 59, of Johnstown, first offense reckless driving, $500.
Imrojdeep Singh, 37, of Bondurant, Iowa, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Cathy J. Krieger, 52, of Bassett, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Amber K. O’Hara, 49, of Lincoln, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Thomas D. Mehrens, 45, of Valentine, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Phoenix R. Stich, 19, of Bassett, first offense driving under the influence, $500, six month’s of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200; refusing to submit to a pretest, $100; minor in possession, $500.
Blaze Westervelt, 22, of Gilbert, Ariz., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Dawn L. Brady, 62, of Anderson, Ind., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Kevin L. Frost, 19, of Atkinson, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125; no proof of insurance, $100; no valid registration, $25.
Steven K. Bartak, 72, of Long Pine, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $25.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 28)
- Investigated an Accident on 1st Street where a gas meter was hit. Fire Department and Black Hills Energy were notified and responded.
- Issued 2 Citations for Speeding 6-10 mph over the speed limit.
- Issued 1 Citation for Speeding 11-15 mph over the speed limit.
- Responded to a call from Long Pine ref Suspicious Activity ref dead cattle. This is still under Investigation.
- Responded to a local Ainsworth Business in reference of a City Ordinance Violation regarding Grass and weeds over 8” tall
- Individual came to Sheriff’s Office to register a Complaint about Animal Cruelty and Neglect. Owner of Animal was spoken to and the animal was put into another Individuals Care
- Issued Citation for speeding 6-10 mph over the speed limit.
- Issued Citation for speeding 21-35 mph over the speed limit.
- Issued Citation for No Valid Registration
- Responded to a City complaint in reference to a complaint on a property on Maple Street. There was an Unregistered or inoperable vehicle on site and Grass and Weeds over 8”
- Responded to a report of Cattle on the road, Highway 7 at Mile Marker 32. The Owner was located but couldn’t respond immediately. The Officer was able to get the cattle into the pasture.
- Responded to a report of a Verbal Disturbance at a Local Apartment Complex
- Responded to a call of a suspected Death in Long Pine, Individual was pronounced Dead at the Scene.
- Brown County Ambulance was on Standby for football game
- Responded to a Disturbing the Peace call on 8th St in Ainsworth. Suspected Individual left the area and was given a verbal warning.
- Responded to a Welfare Check at an Ainsworth residence, Brown County Ambulance was called and resident transported to Brown County Hospital
- Responded to a report Vandalism at the Long Pine Cemetery. Officers found that there had been damage to a memorial Bench. Investigation is ongoing.
- Responded to investigate littering by a local business employee.
- Brown County Ambulance transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown County Hospital
- Individual came to the Sheriff’s Office to fill out a statement form in reference to Harassment.
- Responded to a local business in reference to a handgun left in the bathroom sink. Later was identified and claimed by the owner.
- Brown County Ambulance responded to a lift Assist at an Ainsworth Residence.
- Brown County Ambulance transferred a patient from Brown County Hospital to the Ainsworth Airport
- Responded to a Local Business in reference to a Harassment call.
- Responded to a Traffic Complaint from East City Park. Vehicle was later pulled over and Driver was Cited for DUI and was booked into the Brown County Jail
- Issued 1 Citation for speeding 11-15 mph over the speed limit.
- Issued 1 Citation for speeding 16-20 mph over the speed limit
- Issued 1 Citation for Violating Stop or Yield sign
- Brown County Ambulance transported a local resident to the Brown County Hospital
- Brown County Ambulance responded to a local residence for a Lift Assist
- Brown County Ambulance transported a Long Pine Resident to the Brown County Hospital
- Brown County Ambulance transported a patient from an Ainsworth Residence to the Brown County Hospital.
- Brown County Ambulance was on Standby for the Football Game.
- Brown County Ambulance transferred a patient from Brown County Hospital to Norfolk.
- Individual came to Sheriff’s Office to file a traffic complaint in reference to Vandalism of County Roads.
- Individual was released Brown County Jail on Bond
19- Incident Reports Were Taken
155- Phone Calls Were Received
8- 911 Emergency Calls Received
11- Titles Were Inspected
3- Handgun Permits Applied For
1 – Paper Services Were Served
* Ten miss one game on KBRB Football Contest card
(Posted noon Sept. 26)
Ten contestants missed just one of the 14 games during Week 5 of the KBRB Football Contest. Of the 10 who missed one game, nine missed Northwestern’s home win over Minnesota in the college ranks.
With 10 in the running for this week’s gift certificates, the tiebreak was the closest to the actual score of Nebraska’s 28-14 victory over Louisiana Tech. All 10 picked the Huskers to win, and all 10 were within 14 points of the final score.
Lois Kaup of Stuart picked a perfect tiebreak score of 28-14 Huskers to win the $40 first-place certificate for Week 5. Mike Schrad of Ainsworth picked the Huskers, 27-17, missing the final by just four to claim the second-place $20 certificate.
Kim Shaw of Bassett missed the final by six points to just miss out. Tony Allen of Ainsworth and Travis Mundorf of Springview missed the total by 10 points after missing just one game on the contest card.
Kooper Delimont, Kristie Mundorf and Dwight Neiman each missed the total by 11 points, followed by Amy Salzman at 13 points and Terry Allen at 14 points off the actual score.
Winners may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios or make arrangements with the sports staff to have certificates delivered outside of Ainsworth.
Week 6 KBRB Football Contest cards are available now from Buckles Automotive in Ainsworth, Speedee Mart locations at Ainsworth and Atkinson, Long Pine Lumber, the West Plains Bank of Springview, Circle B Livestock of Bassett, and from Tri County Bank branch locations at Stuart, Atkinson and Bassett. Certificates can be redeemed for merchandise from any contest sponsor.
Cards must be submitted by 4 p.m. Thursday or carry a Thursday postmark if mailed.
* Nebraska’s August jobless rate steady at 2 percent
(Posted 9:30 a.m. Sept. 26)
Nebraska’s unemployment rate for August is 2.0 percent. The rate is unchanged from the July rate of 2.0 and is down 0.6 percentage points from the August 2022 rate of 2.6 percent.
Nebraska has the sixth-lowest jobless rate in the nation. Maryland’s unemployment rate of 1.7 percent leads the country. New Hampshire and Vermont are tied for the second-best rate in the nation at 1.8 percent, followed by North Dakota and South Dakota at 1.9 percent.
The highest unemployment rate in the nation in August belonged to Nevada at 5.4 percent. California had the second-worst rate at 4.6 percent, with New Jersey at 4.2 percent and Delaware, Illinois and Texas rounding out the bottom five at 4.1 percent.
“While the size of the labor force is steady over the year, the number of employed workers is up 6,191 over last August, and the number of unemployed workers is down 5,898,” said Commissioner of Labor John H. Albin.
Brown County’s unemployment rate in August was above the state average at 2.4 percent. Blaine County had the highest unemployment rate in the state in August at 3.3 percent.
Holt County’s jobless rate of 1.3 percent in August tied for the second lowest in the state. Only sparsely populated Grant County at 1.2 percent had a lower rate in August. Rock County was also among the lowest rates in the state in August at 1.4 percent. Cherry County’s unemployment rate was 1.5 percent, with Keya Paha County matching the state average at 2 percent and Boyd County above the state average at 2.2 percent.
Nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was 1,041,468 in August, down 5,042 from July but up 13,578 from August 2022. The private industry with the most growth month to month was private education and health services (up 190 jobs). Private industries with the most over the year growth were leisure and hospitality services (up 4,353 jobs), private education and health services (up 3,790 jobs), and other services (up 3,176 jobs).
The national unemployment rate for August is 3.8 percent, up 0.3 percentage points from the July rate of 3.5 percent. The rate is up 0.1 percentage points from the August 2022 rate of 3.7 percent.
* Mountain lion killed in Valentine Thursday
(Posted 8:30 a.m. Sept. 25)
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, in cooperation with the Valentine Police Department, killed a sub-adult male mountain lion Thursday after several sightings during the past week.
The 103-pound mountain lion was killed in accordance with Nebraska Game and Parks Commission policy, which calls for the removal of mountain lions found inside city limits.
The lion was spotted on a trail camera Tuesday on hole eight of the 10-hole Frederick Peak Golf Course. That sighting shortened the Valentine Girls Golf Invitational played Tuesday from 18 holes to nine holes, though none of the participants encountered the cat during the event.
Additional sightings of the mountain lion were reported during the week. The cat was killed Thursday on the north side of the city.
* Stuart electric customers to see outages next week
(Posted 12:30 p.m. Sept. 20)
The Village of Stuart will begin the process of switching its electrical system over starting Tuesday, Sept. 26. The switchover will be completed by dividing the village into three sections, with each section completed on a different day.
Electric customers are asked to reference maps located throughout the community at various businesses or in the village office for the day each section will be affected. Outages each day are planned from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. The Village and four outside electrical crews will work to return power as expediently as possible.
Customers are asked to turn off large breakers or unplug major appliances and electronics but leave one light in the “on” position to alert when power has been restored. Customers are asked not to run generators without contacting the village, as generators could possibly feed power back into the system and cause injury.
The village of Stuart apologizes for the inconvenience. Once completed, the system will be more reliable, more environmentally friendly, and will allow more efficient connections to the new, larger generator and solar farm being installed in the village in the next few months.
* County asks for $3.91 million in property tax
( Posted 11:30 a.m. Sept. 20)
After hearing from concerned property owners during a state-mandated hearing Monday to explain a proposed increase in property tax, the Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday held a public hearing on the county’s 2023-24 budget and property tax request, with a few audience members asking questions regarding how and where county tax dollars were being spent.
The $3.91 million in property tax requested by the county for the 2023-24 fiscal year marked a 22.5 percent increase from the $3.19 million requested for the 2022-23 budget.
More than $100,000 of that increase came from a voter-approved 1-cent levy to support the Sandhills Care Center. The 2023 tax year is the first year the five-year levy is being collected. An additional $426,689 in property tax is being collected to pay for the voter-approved Brown County Hospital addition bond. That bond will be paid completely in June 2026.
The Brown County Rural Fire Protection District will receive 3 cents in levy, which amounts to $269,962, and the Brown County Agricultural Society is receiving $70,000 in property tax, which is just more than one-half cent of levy.
A total of $3.38 million is being requested to support the county’s general operations. The general fund levy is 33.7 cents in tax per $100 in property value, with the total levy at 37.9 cents. The total property tax levy jumped from 32 cents for the 2022-23 fiscal year to 37.9 cents for the 2023-24 year, an 18.14 percent increase. Had the county kept its property tax request the same and accounting for the 1-cent Sandhills Care Center levy, the county levy would have been 31.9 cents.
The county’s total valuation increased by 3.75 percent to over $1.03 billion. New construction in the county amounted to $4.71 million in added valuation. The remaining $50 million increase in the total valuation came from increased valuation of existing property.
Audience member Chuck Lemp said people in the county are in a bad place financially.
“Many ranchers are this close to losing their place,” Lemp said. “We can’t afford any more taxes. We have cut expenditures in our house. We are all between a rock and a hard place. Raising taxes is the rock, the overall economic picture is the hard place.”
Lemp said he didn’t have an answer for the commissioners on how to solve the issue, but he asked them to take into account that a lot of people in the county are struggling. He said most of the people who attended the Monday hearing expressed that they were against the county raising taxes.
Former sheriff Bruce Papstein questioned the budget requested by the Brown County Sheriff’s Department for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
“It sounds like I took a beating at that meeting Monday,” Papstein said. “I was a conservative sheriff. You can’t always have everything you want. I don’t understand it. With that kind of budget increase, that’s eight or nine people, not the three officers we have.”
The sheriff’s department spent $580,492 during the 2021-22 fiscal year and spent $709,957 during the 2022-23 fiscal year. The department’s proposed 2023-24 budget is $924,850.
Papstein asked for the justification for the purchase of several new vehicles and updates to the sheriff’s department building.
“We used to spend $40,000 on a vehicle, now it is $70,000 or $80,000,” Papstein said. “Where does it end?”
Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey asked Papstein when was the right time to finally do something to the sheriff’s department building.
“That building was a disaster,” Dailey said.
Sheriff’s department employee Tanya Cole, who helped prepare the department’s budget, said there were repairs that had to be made or the department was notified the jail would not pass code the next time.
“We are going off what we were told by the inspector we needed to do,” Cole said.
Sheriff Brent Deibler said there were numerous problems with the building that had to be addressed.
“When we flush the toilet, water runs into the basement,” Deibler said.
Papstein said the department did not have an issue passing code during his time as sheriff.
“We used that building all the time, and the building passed code every year,” Papstein said.
In addition to the sheriff’s department budget increasing, the county’s miscellaneous general fund asked for $2.96 million for the 2023-24 fiscal year after spending $1.88 million in 2022-23. That was down from the $1.97 million spent from the miscellaneous general fund during the 2021-22 fiscal year.
The roads department spent $2.14 million during the 2022-23 fiscal year, which was a decrease from the $2.21 million spent during the 2021-22 fiscal year. The proposed roads budget for 2023-24 is $2.51 million.
The county spent $86,093 during the 2021-22 fiscal year in the emergency management budget. Emergency management spent $143,297 during the 2022-23 fiscal year and asked for $201,325 for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
Commissioner Buddy Small said, if the county doesn’t raise taxes to cover rising costs it incurs, then services have to be cut.
“These are difficult decisions for the commissioners to make,” Small said. “There are a lot of good things happening in Brown County. We have some businesses expanding, getting big and paying a lot of taxes – feed lots, hog facilities, ag-supporting businesses. One of my fears is if we start letting things go backwards, when do we stop with that? They do go backwards in some counties.”
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said expenses for the roads department to operate have increased substantially, especially the cost of fuel. Turpin said he budgeted an additional $100,000 for fuel costs for the previous fiscal year, and it wasn’t enough.
“I raised it another $50,000 this year, and that still might not be enough with fuel prices,” Turpin said.
He said, when he was first hired as the highway superintendent 10 years ago, a new motor grader cost $240,000.
“Now, it is over $400,000,” Turpin said. “We can’t keep delaying on equipment. It comes back to bite you.”
Turpin said, with a bad winter requiring substantial snow removal efforts, the 2022-23 budget year was as close as he has ever come to running out of money in the roads department budget.
“I could shave $100,000 out of my budget, but when people call and want gravel on their road, they won’t remember that I cut $100,000 from my budget,” Turpin said. “They will chew me out.”
Lemp complimented Turpin on the condition of the roads in the county.
“We have the best roads in the county we have had in 50 years,” Lemp said. “Kenny has done a great job. But the big picture is it is extraordinary times in our country today. This is probably the worst shape financially our country has been in since the 1930s.”
Commissioner Dennis Bauer said it was clear by the comments made during the meeting Monday that people did not want to see taxes increase.
“I would consider reducing everyone’s budget by 5 percent from what is in the budget document as a show of good faith,” Bauer said. “That would cut the budget by about $200,000 across all departments.”
Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor said that made it sound like each office was asking for too much and padding its budget.
“I use a desk I brought from home, an office chair I brought from home,” Taylor said. “I think we are asking for a bare bones budget as it is. I think the offices have done their best to keep their budgets as low as possible.”
Taylor said the county could cut the services it provides, but he recommended against the board going that route.
“I’m not pounding the table wanting to pay more taxes, but which child molester should I not prosecute because I don’t have the funds?” Taylor said. “If we don’t have the money to fix the roads, who pays the liability when there is an accident? What happens if emergency management can’t respond to a flood?”
Treasurer Bruce Mitchell said he took over for an outstanding official in former Treasurer Deb Vonheeder.
“She had the lowest budget in any office,” Mitchell said. “I increased it by $5,000. Most of that is salary. I have to continue to go to trainings to maintain my treasurer status. If you cut my office by 5 percent, I can’t go to trainings and keep my certification.”
Cole said it was painful for those preparing the office budgets to ask for an increase.
“Times are tight in our own households,” Cole said.
Bauer said everyone in the farming and ranching community is in tough shape.
“We always end up cutting the roads department budget because that is the biggest line item,” Bauer said.
Small said there were 81 people who attended the Monday session out of more than 2,500 registered voters in the county.
Dailey said everyone expects the county to tighten its belt yet still provide the services.
“We can cut roads, rural fire, weeds, services the general public receives,” Dailey said. “People want cuts, but not if it affects their road or their fire department.”
Dailey said he was in the same position as a lot of the people who spoke during the meeting Monday.
“I bought land in the county to raise cattle,” Dailey said. “I took a second job to try and make it work. I had to admit to myself that I was never going to be able to make it work and I sold out.”
Dailey said, in his current business, he faces a similar situation as the county does.
“When my prices increase, I have to pass it along to the customer,” Dailey said.
He said he didn’t like having to raise prices in his business, but there is no choice.
Bauer said the best way for property owners to see relief from taxes is to support new development in the county.
“When new development projects come up, maybe the silent majority needs to come voice approval for these projects that have been denied,” Bauer said. “Sometimes we better approve those projects for the overall good of the county. The best way forward is to get the county to grow.”
Following the public hearings, the commissioners unanimously approved the 2023-24 budget and property tax request as presented.
Additional notes from Tuesday’s meeting will air later this week. The next regular meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Oct. 3.
* Mundorf wins KBRB Football Contest in tie-break
(Posted 8:15 a.m. Sept. 20)
Area prognosticators are getting dialed in on the KBRB Football Contest. Six contestants missed just two games, and more than two dozen missed only three on the Week 4 contest card.
With six missing two games, that sent us to the tie-breaker, Nebraska’s 35-11 victory over Northern Illinois for the first win in the Matt Rhule era.
Tommy Stout of Springview and Joyce Stahl of Bassett missed two games but picked Northern Illinois to win the tie-breaker, which eliminated them. Maxine Brink of Atkinson, Lois Kaup of Stuart, and Travis Mundorf and Logan Mundorf of Springview picked Nebraska to win. Travis Mundorf predicted a 31-10 Nebraska victory, missing the total by just five points and winning the $40 first-place certificate. Maxine Brink picked the Huskers, 21-7, missing the total by 18 points to win the $20 second-place certificate. Lois Kaup had the Huskers, 17-14, to miss by 21 points, and Logan Mundorf picked a 42-28 final to miss the total by 24 points.
Winners may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios.
Week 5 KBRB Football Contest cards are available now from Buckles Automotive in Ainsworth, Speedee Mart locations at Ainsworth and Atkinson, Long Pine Lumber, the West Plains Bank of Springview, Circle B Livestock of Bassett, and from Tri County Bank branch locations at Stuart, Atkinson and Bassett.
Cards must be submitted by 4 p.m. Thursday or carry a Thursday postmark if mailed.
* Painter, Shane top shooters Saturday in Elks Trap Shoot
(Posted 7:45 a.m. Sept. 18)
Witten Painter broke 45 of 50 rocks Saturday to win the high school boys division of the annual Ainsworth Elks Lodge Youth Trap Shoot. Painter finished three rocks ahead of Blaine Frizzell, who connected on 42 of 50 shots. Ian Shane took third with 39 of 50 targets broken.
In the junior high boys division, Case Shane matched Painter’s performance with 45 of 50 rocks broken to win by eight over Charles Corkle, who hit 37 of 50 rocks. Teigan Marbry and Carson Koch tied for third with 34 of 50 targets hit.
In the girls division, Braylin Rudnick hit 27 of 50 targets to win by five over Rowan Lemunyan, who was successful on 22 of 50 shots. Makenna Koch took third in the girls division with 15 rocks broken.
The Elks supplied the rocks, shells and a meal to the participants Saturday.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Sept. 18)
- After receiving a medical alert alarm, the Brown County Ambulance was paged and transported one patient to the hospital.
- Provided traffic control near Moon Lake Ave and Highway 20 intersection for a livestock owner to remove cattle from the roadway.
- Received a report of criminal mischief and disturbing the peace from a main street business. A Nebraska male subject was issued a citation for criminal mischief.
- Received a report of barking dogs from 3rd Street in Ainsworth. A written warning was issued to the dog owner.
- During a traffic stop on highway 20 a citation was issued for no valid registration.
- The Brown County Ambulance transported a flight crew to pick up a patient from the hospital.
- Raven, Calamus, and Ainsworth Fire Departments responded to a tractor fire on Elsmere Road.
- During traffic stops on this day speeding citations were issued for 47mph in a 35mph zone, and 82mph in a 65mph zone. A citation was issued for no valid registration. Also, on this day a citation was issued to a Minnesota driver for possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana over 1oz.
- Received a report of a male subject stating terroristic threats in Long Pine. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Received a medical alarm alert in Ainsworth. The Brown County Ambulance responded and provided a lift assist. No transport was needed at this time.
- Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail for a 3-day court commitment sentence.
- Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail for a 99-day court commitment sentence.
- Responded to a disturbance on 878th The Brown County Ambulance was also paged to respond to the scene. The patient refused transport.
- Attended a fire drill at the Ainsworth Community Schools.
- Received a report of a civil matter in Long Pine involving discrepancies in ownership of appliances in a rental property.
- Assisted an allied agency in locating a male subject that was involved in an accident.
- Received a complaint involving overgrown weeds on 1st Street in Ainsworth. A notice to correct was issued to the owner.
- Issued a notice to correct overgrown weeds on 2nd Street in Ainsworth.
- Issued notice to correct overgrown weeds and trash and debris in need of removal to a homeowner on 5th Street in Ainsworth.
- Responded to a report of a disturbance on 8th Street in Ainsworth.
- Issued a citation for assault to a Nebraska male subject for their involvement in a prior incident.
- Issued a notice to correct to a 4th Street business for overgrown weeds.
- Received a noise complaint near a 4th Street business in Ainsworth. No excessive noise was found.
- Received a noise complaint from Cedar Street in Ainsworth. No excessive noise was found.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, a citation for speeding 87mph in a 65mph zone was issued to a Nebraska driver.
- Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after completing a court commitment sentence.
- Received a complaint regarding overgrown weeds on 7th Street in Ainsworth. A notice to correct was issued to the homeowner.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from Ainsworth. One patient was transported to the hospital.
- Received a 911 call reporting reckless driving on Harrington Street in Ainsworth. The vehicle appeared to have lost control on the loose gravel, nearly striking pedestrians that were walking on the sidewalk. This is an ongoing investigation.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, a citation was issued to an Iowa female driver for possession of marijuana 1 oz or less, no operator’s license, no proof of insurance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and defective vehicle lighting.
- Two other traffic stops resulted in citations issued for speeding 80mph in a 65mph zone, failure to restrain child passengers, and driving on the shoulder of the highway.
Phone Calls: 132
911 Calls: 6
Inmates Currently Housed: 1
* City Council adopts $12.07 million budget
(Posted 7:45 a.m. Sept. 14)
With the first year of a voter-approved 10-cent property tax levy kicking in to support the Sandhills Care Center, the Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday adopted a $12.07 million budget that requests $550,118 in tax from property owners in the city limits.
The property tax levy approved by the council following a public hearing is 60 cents per $100 in property value. Of that total, 45 cents in levy will generate $450,096 to support the city’s general fund, 5 cents in levy will generate $50,010 to support the city’s interlocal agreements, including its law enforcement agreement with Brown County. An additional 10 cents in levy will generate $100,021 to support the Sandhills Care Center as approved by voters in the city. Brown County property owners will pay an additional 1-cent levy to generate a similar amount for the care center.
The city of Ainsworth could not exceed a state-imposed 50-cent property tax levy limit without the approval of voters. City voters overwhelmingly approved the additional 10-cent levy effective with the 2023 tax year for a period of five years to support care center. The 2023-24 fiscal year is the first budget year the additional levy appears on property tax statements.
“There are a couple really big projects in the next year,” City Administrator Lisa Schroedl told the council. “The North Main water, sewer and paving could start as soon as Nov. 7. The Highway 7 project on Main Street is slated to start in March and end in November. That could all fall in this next fiscal year.”
The $550,118 in tax that will be collected from property owners in the city represents a more than 80 percent increase from the $390,000 in property tax collected during the 2022-23 fiscal year. That increase, a major portion of which relates to the 10 cents in voter-approved levy for the nursing home, has prompted the city to hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18, in the Ainsworth Community Schools Learning Center after legislation adopted at the state level requires governmental entities to hold a public hearing if their property tax request exceeds 3 percent in a year.
Schroedl said city officials will be present during the hearing to explain to those in attendance why the property tax request exceeds 3 percent. She said, even though the additional property tax levy was already approved by voters, the new statute requires the city to hold the public hearing on the increase.
The value of property in Ainsworth increased by 5.26 percent to a total of just over $100 million. Had the city kept its property tax asking the same as the 2022-23 fiscal year, the levy would have been 42.7 cents per $100 in property value for the general fund.
Though the city adopted a $12.07 million budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year, actual disbursements will undoubtedly come in much lower. State statute requires cities to budget as if they would spend all of their available resources each year.
For example, though it had more than a $7.9 million budget approved for 2022-23, the city actually spent $3.38 million during the fiscal year, which was down from the $3.7 million spent during the 2021-22 fiscal year.
The city spent $2.65 million for general operating expenses in the 2022-23 fiscal year, down from $2.96 million in 2021-22. Capital improvement spending in 2022-23 was down more than $20,000 from the previous fiscal year to $105,000. Capital outlay spending decreased from $204,463 during 2021-22 to $182,864 in 2022-23. The city also decreased the amount it spent to service its debt, from $165,724 in 2021-22 to $147,348 in 2022-23.
The city’s 2023-24 fiscal year budget is substantially higher than the previous two years due to the city factoring in the receipt of $4.53 million in federal funding, compared to just $2,000 in the federal receipts line item for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
Schroedl said the difference in this year’s budget is solely the addition of the two major streets projects. She said the North Main water, sewer and paving project carries a $3.5 million price tag, and the downtown revitalization project is estimated at $2 million.
The $4.53 million in federal funding is attributable to those two projects and includes loan and grant funds already approved as well as funds from a potential downtown revitalization grant for the Main Street project the city is hoping to receive.
Schroedl said the city does not have any other large projects planned for the 2023-24 fiscal year as it focuses on the Main Street corridor. She said the city did allocate some funding toward potential parks projects if there are grant funds available to potentially assist in those identified projects.
The budget shows the city carrying a cash reserve of $2.1 million. Having a cash reserve in place is necessary for city governments due to the city operating water and sewer utility service and garbage service.
The $2.1 million cash reserve projected for the end of the 2023-24 fiscal year actually represents a decline from the cash reserve the city carried forward following its two most recently completed fiscal years.
The city maintained a $4.58 million reserve upon the completion of the 2021-22 fiscal year, and the reserve is projected at $4.56 million following the completion of the 2022-23 fiscal year at the end of this month.
The 2023-24 fiscal year begins Oct. 1 for the city. The fiscal year for county governments begins July 1, even though county governments also do not adopt their fiscal year budget until September, three months after the budget year has started.
The city of Ainsworth has $1.76 million in bonded debt for various improvement projects, with the city owing $1.38 million in principal and $376,661 in interest to service the debt.
Following public hearings Wednesday, the council adopted the 2023-24 city budget and approved the property tax request. The council also approved a 1 percent increase in its restricted funds authority.
In a discussion continued from the August meeting, City Park Board member Brian Delimont asked the council to consider eliminating the turnaround area southeast of the football field to allow for a shot put ring to be constructed in that area.
Delimont said the Park Board did not want to move forward in discussions with the school until it had the blessing of the council to use the area and remove the turnaround area.
“Kids are having to run across the road to the current shot put ring from the track,” Delimont said. “This would keep everything closer together.”
Councilman Brad Fiala asked how many track meets are hosted at East City Park. Delimont said the high school and junior high each host a meet each year, and there is the potential for Ainsworth to host the Southwest Conference and district meets periodically.
Fiala asked if visiting football teams park their busses in the area proposed for the new shot put ring.
Delimont said the busses typically drop off the players near the crow’s nest on the south side of the football field and then back up and park by the Legion Field dugout. He estimated the change would result in the loss of five or six parking spots on the southeast side of the football field.
Councilman Dustin Barthel, who visited the site with members of the Park Board prior to Wednesday’s meeting, said his main concern was losing the T-ball field.
“As long as we are not losing that field and can still drag bleachers in there when we need them, I’m for it,” Barthel said. “I would like to see that field maintained and not be a sandbur patch.”
Delimont said if the city was ok with eliminating the turnaround, the Park Board would discuss maintenance of the area with the school.
“We may go to the school and have them say they are not interested,” Delimont said. “If that happens, it won’t go any further.”
The change was requested by the track and field coaches.
Mayor Joel Klammer recommended the council indicate its support for the project pending the presentation of a final plan.
“You may want to approve a final plan instead of a concept, because the concept of the building they wanted to put in out there is different than what was actually built,” Klammer said.
The council approved the Park Board’s request to close off the turnaround on the southeast side of the football field pending a final design plan.
The council approved amendments to the city’s fee schedule, including the addition of a documents reproduction fee of $25 per hour with a $25 minimum charge and changes to cemetery plot and grave opening and closing fees.
Schroedl said the city has been receiving requests from entities that aren’t local asking for public records to be reproduced. With those requests requiring staff time to complete, she recommended adding a fee for those requests.
She said 2014 was the last time cemetery fees were adjusted.
“We are not at a cost recovery point with the current fees,” the city administrator said.
Schoedl said the Cemetery Board recommended an increase for burial plots to $400, with the elimination of a fee differential for residents vs. non-residents.
Grave opening and closing fees would increase to $450 for a traditional grave opening and $250 for a cremation, with an additional $100 charge if the plot needs to be thawed first.
Fiala said, when he first got on the council, he looked into the city’s cemetery fees.
“We are cheaper than most places,” Fiala said.
The council approved the changes to the city’s fee schedules, and also included a provision that graves would not be opened or closed on Sundays. Schroedl said it usually takes two to three employees to open and close graves, which results in mandatory overtime being paid for work done on Sundays.
The council discussed a letter received from Brown County Sheriff Brent Deibler providing the city with notice that the sheriff’s department would no longer open and close the Ainsworth Conference Center and the Ainsworth South Cemetery effective at the end of September.
Klammer said the letter came as a bit of a surprise given the city’s recent negotiations with the sheriff’s department on the law enforcement contract.
The mayor said the city talked about including specific language in the contract on the duties to be performed by the sheriff’s department but the groups agreed, to better allow for flexibility, not to include specific language. That is why he said it was disappointing that the sheriff cited that duty not being included in the language of the contract as the reason for the discontinuation.
“We do have language that includes duties normally performed,” Klammer said. “Since that has been performed for at least the last 22 years, that is a duty normally performed.”
Barthel said, after all that the sheriff’s department and council have been through to get a contract signed, this was counterproductive.
“From a public safety standpoint, we want law enforcement to make sure the building is clear each night,” Barthel said. “The fact that the sheriff comes and locks up deters some bad behavior. I think there will be a lot more problems if the sheriff’s department doesn’t come in and secure the building at night.”
Fiala agreed, saying he didn’t feel it was safe for city employees to have to lock up the Conference Center and have the responsibility of removing people from the facility and making sure no one remains inside.
“I feel like that is a job for law enforcement,” Fiala said.
Klammer said there is language in the contract to review disputes over the standards of service. Klammer said he would call for a committee meeting and see where that leads.
“That will be the first step,” the mayor said. “It is disappointing, but we will figure it out.”
Dan Spier discussed the city’s ordinance for temporary signs on sidewalks.
“I am starting to see more and more of them,” Spier said. “You should either enforce the prohibition or change the ordinance.”
Klammer said the ordinance does say that signs cannot be placed on a street or sidewalk, but some signs are as simple as promoting a Bingo night or a bake sale.
“The Elks and the Legion put some signs out occasionally,” Klammer said. “I would hate to prohibit those. Maybe we need to tighten up the language.”
Spier said he didn’t have an issue with most of the signs.
“To me, a Let’s Go Brandon sign on Main Street is crossing a line,” Spier said.
Councilman Kent Taylor, who was appointed Wednesday by the council to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Vance Heyer, asked Spier if he just had an issue with a sign that was political.
“I don’t want to rain on someone doing a bake sale,” Taylor said.
Spier said, according to the way the ordinance was written, all signs are against the law, even though a lot of organizations place them.
Barthel said he would hate to keep people from being able to post a bake sale or junk jaunt sign or a graduation party sign.
Klammer said the city could take a look at the ordinance and told Spier if he saw a sign violating the ordinance he could ask the sheriff to enforce the ordinance.
The council approved a recommendation from the LB 840 Loan Committee for a façade grant application up to $10,000, which would cover 50 percent of façade improvements.
Schroedl said the applicant, Willow Creek Mercantile, was a new business going in on Main Street.
“It will be a good improvement to a vacant building,” Schroedl said.
North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said the business was going into a building near the intersection of Third and Main streets that has been vacant for years.
“It is exciting to see something going in there,” Olson said.
In a final action item Wednesday, Barthel was appointed as the council president to replace Heyer after Taylor was sworn in to fill Heyer’s vacancy on the council.
During her report, Schroedl said the city received credit on a $2,400 invoice from Macqueen Equipment for repairs done to the air-conditioning system on the city’s new garbage truck after the city argued the work should have been under warranty.
She said Jade Egle deserved a medal for driving the garbage truck all summer with no air-conditioning. She said Frontier Diesel had since fixed the system.
She reported mediation with Brahmer Construction had failed, so the city’s civil suit against the company would proceed to trial Dec. 5-7 in Brown County District Court.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council was moved to 5 p.m. Oct. 18.
* Rock County beginning work on 442nd Avenue
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Sept. 14)
Rock County Roads Department Foreman Darrell Olson reported work is underway on 442nd Avenue to pull up the shoulders of the road. More commonly known as the 7-mile road, work began at the intersection of Road 873 and will move north for 3 miles to Road 876 near RK Feeders during the next three weeks.
Olson said the roads department will try to maintain the ability for traffic to move through the area under improvement, however, motorists are encouraged to use an alternate route if possible.
* Whipple, Nolles receive Farm Bureau award
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 13)
The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation awarded 24 teachers with funds in support of agricultural education and FFA programs in Nebraska.
Recipients are all agricultural education teachers in their first through fifth year of teaching. Teachers are eligible for increasing awards over time. As the teachers’ impact grows in the classroom, in their FFA chapters, and in their communities each year, the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation aims to recognize and support their efforts. A longtime program of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation, the award was renamed in recognition of an estate gift from Dr. Allen Blezek. Dr. Blezek was an agricultural education teacher, the first director of the Nebraska LEAD program, and a founding member of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation board of directors.
Among the 24 recipients of the funds this year are Emily Whipple of Ainsworth Community Schools and Katie Nolles of Stuart Public School.
“The Dr. Allen G. and Kay L. Blezek Teacher Retention Award is an investment in the future of Nebraska agriculture,” said Megahn Schafer, executive director of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation. “We are very proud to support these teachers as they get established in their classrooms and communities. The return on investment is clear as the number of schools that offer agricultural education and FFA grows, and alumni go on to contribute to Nebraska’s number one industry.”
* Upsets ruled Week 3 KBRB Football Contest
(Posted 2:30 p.m. Sept. 12)
Week 3 of the KBRB Football Contest proved to be the toughest yet, with all of our area prognosticators struggling with several upsets in both the high school and college slates of games.
Four misses among the 14 games on the Week 3 card put four contestants in the running for this week’s certificates. Lois Kaup, Bryan Murphy, Tommy McGill and Becky Schelm each missed four games on the Week 3 card. There were close to 20 contestants who missed five games to just miss the cut.
That sent us to the tie-breaker, Nebraska’s 36-14 loss to the Colorado Buffaloes. Bryan Murphy was the lone contestant to pick the Huskers to win, which eliminated him from the tie-break.
Of the three contestants who picked Colorado, Tommy McGill’s prediction of 28-17 Buffaloes missed the final score by 11 total points. That earned McGill the $40 first-place certificate. Second place was close, with Becky Schelm picking the Buffaloes to win by a 28-21 margin to miss the total by 15. Lois Kaup picked the Buffaloes, 17-14, missing the total by 19 points. Schelm earns this week’s $20 runner-up certificate.
Winners may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios.
Week 4 KBRB Football Contest cards are available now from Buckles Automotive in Ainsworth, Speedee Mart locations at Ainsworth and Atkinson, Long Pine Lumber, the West Plains Bank of Springview, Circle B Livestock of Bassett, and from Tri County Bank branch locations at Stuart, Atkinson and Bassett.
Cards must be submitted by 4 p.m. Thursday or carry a Thursday postmark if mailed.
* Care Center Board discusses potential regulations
(Posted 2 p.m. Sept. 12)
Sandhills Care Center Administrator Penny Jacobs informed the Board of Directors Monday of proposed federal regulations from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services that could impact the operation of the facility if given final approval.
Jacobs said, under the federal CMS proposal, nursing homes would have to provide 24-hour per day, seven days per week nursing coverage, and would be responsible for having .55 of an hour per resident per day for nursing coverage.
“As of today, 49 percent of facilities would not meet these requirements,” Jacobs said. “Less than 20 percent of facilities would have enough RN hours.”
Board member Dr. Mel Campbell asked if there was an allowance based on the size of the facility. Jacobs said the proposed regulations were one size fits all, and there would be no additional reimbursement provided to facilities to meet the new requirements.
Campbell said, “You would almost have to have two RNs on at all times for 27 residents.”
Jacobs said nursing homes could be penalized financially or lose their license if they do not meet the new requirements.
“We have fought hard to keep this facility open,” Jacobs said. “This is disheartening. We are asking people to send letters to let CMS know how detrimental this would be.”
Board chair Tom Jones said, if the new regulations are approved, it would be almost impossible to keep the doors open for smaller facilities.
“It is ridiculous it is one size fits all,” Jones said.
Board member Bruce Papstein asked when the new regulations would become effective.
Jacobs said, while the regulations have not yet been finalized, the facility would have five years after finalization to meet the nursing hour requirements, but would have just three years to implement the 24-7 nursing coverage.
More information on how to submit a letter to CMS in opposition to the proposed regulations can be found on the American Healthcare Association web site.
The Sandhills Care Center generated $252,920 in revenue during August with expenses of $211,806 for a net profit of $41,114 for the month. The facility also received a previously committed $10,000 donation from the Brown County Foundation to help pay for its air-conditioning upgrades.
Jacobs reported there were currently 27 residents in the care center, with 13 paying privately, 11 receiving Medicaid assistance, one resident was Medicaid pending, and two were receiving Medicare assistance. She said the facility had admitted one new resident during the past month with one death. She said one resident would be moving to the VA home at Scottsbluff soon.
Of the 27 residents, 14 were Ainsworth residents, one was from Long Pine, three were rural Brown County residents, two were Rock County residents and seven were Cherry County residents.
Jacobs reported the nursing home had hired one full-time CNA and one part-time PRN during the month. One CNA resigned and one was terminated for policy violations during the past month.
She said the facility would lose its director of nursing Oct. 6. Jacobs said she had received three resumes for the position and would be reviewing those and scheduling interviews.
The board discussed advertising for bids to replace the roof and gutters of the facility that were damaged during the May hail storm. The facility’s insurance policy included a $100,000 deductible for roof damage, so the care center will have to fully fund the cost of the roof replacement.
Board members discussed whether the roof needed to be replaced immediately, and which type of shingle to use when advertising for bids.
The board opted to advertise for Class 4 shingles with the understanding that those shingles could result in a reduced insurance premium should the board look at a different policy.
The board approved a quote from Walton Concrete to add additional concrete between the curb and sidewalk at the facility instead of having green space between the current curb and sidewalk.
Board member Shawn Fernau said the old concrete has been removed and is ready to be re-poured.
“It makes sense to have the sidewalk go to the curb,” Fernau said. “My crew will donate the labor to get the site prepared.”
The current concrete project cost $7,835, with the additional stretch of concrete approved by the board adding $7,804 to the project.
The board also approved a $20,222 bid from Securitas of Lincoln to install new security doors at the facility. Jacobs said Securitas has the current system at the facility, and the company had always been good to work with.
The board received bids of $24,635 from ECC of Lincoln and $111,012 from Civica for the project.
The board discussed the best way to conduct a performance review of the administrator. Jones said he researched options and found some generic forms the board could use to help with an evaluation.
Jones said there was also software the board could purchase or it could contract with an outside firm to handle the review.
Papstein said he believed the board could find a form and conduct the evaluation itself.
Jones said it was important for board members to stop into the nursing home from time to time and observe how the facility is operating.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 9.
* School Board reduces tax asking for 2023-24 budget
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 12)
The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education adopted a $14.94 million budget Monday following a public hearing that will ask property owners for $6.10 million.
The tax request includes $5.53 million to support the general fund for the 2023-24 fiscal year and $568,210 to support the special building fund, which was used to finance the agriculture and industrial technology building addition.
Though the board approved a $14.94 million budget, actual disbursements will likely come in well below that total. The district spent $9.74 million during the 2022-23 budget year, which was a slight increase from the $9.62 million spent during the 2021-22 fiscal year.
“We went over a lot of options during our budget retreat Aug. 28,” Superintendent Dale Hafer said. “We presented five different options. The board recommended combining a couple of those.”
With total property valuation in Brown County increasing above $1 billion for the first time in the county’s history, the $6.1 million in property tax amounts to a levy of 60.5 cents for every $100 in property value. The tax levy includes 54.9 cents per $100 in property value to support the general fund, with 5.6 cents to support the special building fund.
Total property valuation in the school’s taxing district increased by 3.44 percent from the 2022-23 year, from $974.5 million to $1 billion.
“This is a similar budget to last year,” Hafer said. “There is nothing earth-shattering. Consistency has been one of our main goals. The overall budget went up 1 percent. There were some increases in cost, including a 3-1/2 percent increase in special education.”
With state aid in the amount of $621,928 anticipated for the 2023-24 budget, a substantial increase from previous years, the district’s property tax levy dropped by 12 percent from the 2022-23 budget. The tax rate declined from 68.4 cents per $100 in valuation during the 2022-23 fiscal year to 60.5 cents for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
“The tax reduction is a little more than our foundation aid from the state,” Hafer said. “Most is a decrease in the general fund. The bottom line is, it is important to the board to accomplish goals and maintain programs but be able to reduce taxes.”
The amount of dollars taxed also declined by 12 percent, from $6.67 million to support the general fund and special building fund in the 2022-23 fiscal year to $6.10 million for the 2023-24 fiscal year. Had the district left the dollar amount it asked from taxpayers the same as the 2022-23 fiscal year, the levy rate would have only dropped to 66.1 cents. The amount of dollars the district is collecting from taxpayers for the 2023-24 fiscal year is roughly $565,000 less than the previous year.
The Ainsworth Community Schools District has a total of $1.43 million in bonded debt, the majority of which is for the agriculture and industrial technology building addition project. The district will pay $562,527 to service its debt for the 2023-24 fiscal year, with $535,000 in principal payments and $27,527 in interest. The 2024-25 fiscal year will include a similar debt payment of $561,952. For the 2025-26 fiscal year, the amount to service existing debt will drop to $102,000.
Board President Brad Wilkins said, “I am proud of as a board member and happy as a property owner that we have kept our tax asking about unchanged,” Wilkins said. “We invested ESSR funds wisely in computers and curriculum. That allows us to maintain a conservative ask from our patrons.”
Hafer said, even by substantially cutting the amount of property tax requested, the district is in pretty good shape financially.
“We have put our depreciation funds to good use,” the superintendent said. “Then we don’t have to tax for those things. We are maintaining.”
With board member Jessica Pozehl absent Monday, the board approved the 2023-24 budget and property tax request unanimously.
In the only other action item Monday, the board approved the first reading of several policy revisions as recommended by the Nebraska Association of School Boards. Hafer said most of the revisions relate to special education policies with minor language changes and adjustments for legislation. He said there are also updates to the suspension and expulsion policy, taking into account legislation passed.
During his report, Hafer said the district is currently using a substitute coach bus from Coach Masters as the bus the district leased experienced a coolant leak. He said the replacement bus is the same year and type of bus, with fewer miles. He said the board would need to revisit the $3,300 monthly lease as this was the final year of the two-year agreement.
Hafer said a strategic plan review has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26, in the cafeteria. Stakeholders who helped create the strategic plan will be invited to hear an update on progress made, and the public is welcome to attend.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 9.
* Ainsworth streets to be armor coated Monday
(Posted 7:30 a.m. Sept. 11)
TopKote will be in Ainsworth today (Monday) armor coating city streets. The city of Ainsworth streets department urges everyone to make sure vehicles are removed from the streets scheduled for armor coating. Any vehicles left on the streets will be moved if the owner cannot be contacted.
Streets scheduled for armor coating include:
First Street from Osborn to Main streets
Second Street from Osborn to Main streets
Second Street from Cedar to Harrington streets
Third Street from Woodward to Main streets
Woodward Street from Second to Third streets
Oak Street from First to Second streets
Oak Street from Highway 20 to Fifth Street
Maple Street from Highway 20 to Fifth Street
Third Street from Elm to Harrington streets
Cedar Street from Second Street to Highway 20
First Street from Harrington to Fullerton streets
Harrington Street from Second Street to Highway 20
Meadville Avenue from Highway 20 to the Ainsworth Irrigation District canal
The Seventh Avenue cul-de-sac
Merten Street from Second to Third streets
* Tuesday fire causes smoke damage to Springview business
(Posted noon Sept. 6)
A Tuesday afternoon fire in a Springview business destroyed a cooler compressor and caused smoke damage in the building.
According to Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, at approximately 5 p.m. Tuesday, a fire was reported in Homeland Grocery at 101 N. Main St. Hallock said a compressor motor on a cooler in the basement of the building locked up, starting a fire.
Hallock said the fire was contained to the basement, with the rest of the building sustaining smoke damage. Firefighters were on the scene until approximately 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Homeland Grocery reopened for business Wednesday afternoon.
* Shaw wins KBRB Football Contest for Week 2
(Posted 11:45 a.m. Sept. 6)
It was another tough week for picking high school and college games during Week 2 of the KBRB Football Contest. There were no perfect cards submitted for the second straight week, and the winner missed two contests.
Walker Shaw of Bassett missed just one game on the high school side and one game on the college side, including the most widely missed game of the week, Colorado’s upset victory over 2022 National Runner-Up TCU. Walker receives the $40 first-place certificate for Week 2.
Eight contestants missed three games on the Week 2 card, which sent us to the tiebreaker, Nebraska’s heartbreaking 13-10 loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Just three of the eight contestants who missed three games had Minnesota pegged to win, and the closest to the 13-10 score was Jacque Richey of Springview, who picked the Gophers to win, 27-13. That earns Richey the second-place $20 certificate.
Other contestants missing three games were Doug Walton, Tony Stahl, Tony Allen, Terry Allen, Jaci Swanson, Travis Mundorf and Kallie Mundorf.
Winners may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios.
Week 3 KBRB Football Contest cards are available now from Buckles Automotive in Ainsworth, Speedee Mart locations at Ainsworth and Atkinson, Long Pine Lumber, the West Plains Bank of Springview, Circle B Livestock of Bassett, and from Tri County Bank branch locations at Stuart, Atkinson and Bassett.
Cards must be submitted by 4 p.m. Thursday or carry a Thursday postmark if mailed.
* Commissioners discuss Meadville Avenue speed limit
(Posted 10:30 a.m. Sept. 6)
With the Sand Draw Creek bridge now open and new asphalt greeting motorists on Meadville Avenue, the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday discussed the current 50 mph speed limit for Meadville Avenue and the likelihood that motorists will try and drive faster with the improved surface.
Commissioner Dennis Bauer said he had been approached by several people who asked about the county increasing the speed limit since the road has been improved.
“I have had a lot of requests to raise it to 60 mph,” Bauer said.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said he didn’t believe increasing the speed limit was a good idea.
“If they are going that fast they will start tearing up the gravel once they get off the pavement,” Turpin said. “There would need to be a speed study done.”
Sheriff Brent Deibler said the faster heavy trucks travel on Meadville Avenue, the quicker the road will be torn up.
“Coming down to the new bridge at that speed will cause wear and tear,” Deibler said.
The sheriff said a motorist cited for speeding tried to argue the speed limit was 65 mph as part of the state highway system. Turpin said Meadville Avenue is not a part of the state highway system, and the decision rests with the commissioners on setting the speed limit.
Deibler said he would like to see the reduced 35 mph speed limit on the southern edge of Meadville Avenue near Ainsworth extended to the next intersection north of town.
Bauer suggested Turpin work with an engineering firm and see if the company would allow Turpin to conduct a speed study and then have the engineering firm propose a speed limit for Meadville Avenue.
Commissioner Buddy Small said he was not in favor of increasing the current 50 mph speed limit, and Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said he would not be in favor of increasing the speed limit above 55 mph. Turpin will look into conducting a speed study and report back to the board.
In other roads department items, Turpin reported the roads department had completed the Calamus River bank stabilization projects.
“Those turned out well,” the highway superintendent said. “We may need to add some trees and dirt, but it took the current away from the bank.”
Turpin said the roads department had cleaned a ditch on Road 880 between 432nd Avenue and 433rd Avenue.
He said there was a lot of irrigation water currently filling road ditches in the county.
“I am not sure if there are solutions to that, but that is not what the roads were designed for,” Turpin said.
Deibler said he has met with several farmers to make sure pivot end guns get shut down before they start watering county roadways.
“We have addressed several areas,” Deibler said.
Turpin said the county has a policy in place that if the roads department has to place additional gravel on roads due to pivot irrigation systems watering them, the irrigator can be charged for the cost of the repairs.
The commissioners approved a lease purchase agreement with Cornhusker International Trucks Inc. for a 2024 International truck. Turpin reported the commissioners could receive a lower interest rate financing the purchase through NACO’s Source Well contract, which would save the county approximately $8,000 in interest. After a $60,000 down payment, the county would pay $37,766 annually for three years. After the three-year period, the county owns the truck.
Bauer said he preferred purchasing equipment by spreading out the payments instead of having a large expenditure in one budget year.
“The trucks will all eventually be newer this way with more resale value, and we won’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in repairs,” Bauer said.
In other business Tuesday, Brown County Emergency Manager Traci Booth met with the commissioners on several items. She provided the board with an update on the new Regroup emergency alert system that went live Sept. 1 with its first test alert.
Regroup provides emergency alerts to residents through either phone calls, text messages or emails. There is no charge for residents to sign up to receive alerts. The link to sign up for Regroup can be found on the KBRB web site on the news page. Booth said about 10 percent of residents had signed up to receive messages, and her goal was to get the participation rate to 25 percent.
The commissioners approved the 2023 Local Emergency Operations Plan as presented. The plan lays out response plans and identifies local contacts.
Booth also discussed the process for updating the county’s hazard mitigation plan. She said the current plan was agreed to by the former members of the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency. She said that plan will be replaced in 2026, and she would work with partners on the new plan. Booth asked the commissioners to appoint a representative for the hazard mitigation planning process. Dailey volunteered to represent the county.
The commissioners appointed Small as the county’s representative to the Lexington Area Solid Waste Agency, with Bauer appointed as the alternate.
Deibler met with the board regarding the removal of an old generator and power plant from the sheriff’s department basement. The sheriff said the generator was obsolete, and Jones Salvage had agreed to disassemble the unit and remove it from the building in exchange for the parts.
“It would help us immensely for storage,” Deibler said.
The board approved authorizing Jones Salvage to remove the generator and power plant in exchange for the salvage value of the equipment.
Deibler asked the commissioners if they would consider allowing employees to enroll in a deferred compensation retirement plan through the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement System.
Deibler said there is no county match required, it would be a voluntary program for employees who were interested. Deibler said he had a deferred retirement account through NPERS when he was employed by the Nebraska State Patrol, and would be interested in continuing to make contributions to his retirement plan.
County Attorney Andy Taylor said he had researched the retirement program. In 1999, Taylor said the commissioners had approved a deferred compensation plan through the National Association of Counties. However, he said the clerk at the time had apparently never moved forward with enrolling the county in the program.
“You can’t do NPERS if you belong to another plan,” Taylor said. “So, we just need to do some checking. We can do a resolution at the next meeting if we get it all cleared up.”
Though not an agenda item for action Tuesday, Deibler discussed with the board the sheriff’s department being responsible for locking and unlocking the Ainsworth Conference Center and Ainsworth Cemetery each morning and night.
“I will be real blunt, I have no interest in doing either one of them, nor do I think it is my officers’ responsibility to do it,” the sheriff said.
Deibler said members of the public want the Conference Center open at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning to walk or shoot hoops. He said if officers have been out on calls during the night they may not be able to drive to town to unlock the Conference Center. He said he believed it should be the city’s responsibility to lock and unlock the Conference Center daily.
“We were tasked with that when I took the office over for the past eight months and I am relieving myself of it and am not going to do it anymore if you guys are on board with that,” the sheriff said. “It is a poor use of our manpower on the weekends.”
Audience member Rod Worrell said the sheriff’s department likely took over those duties when taking over originally for the city of Ainsworth’s police force long ago.
“It is not on the commissioners’ agenda, but you might want to bring it up to the Ainsworth City Council at their next meeting Wednesday, Sept. 13, instead of just saying we are not going to do it anymore,” Worrell said.
Deibler said there was nothing in the sheriff’s department’s contract with the city indicating locking and unlocking the Conference Center was a requirement of the department.
Bauer said, “Do what you want to do, but I do like the idea of going to the City Council and maybe giving them two weeks’ notice that they are going to have to find someone else.”
In budget transfer agenda items, the board approved transferring $50,000 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to its American Rescue Plan Act fund to better track how federal funds received through ARPA are used.
Treasurer Bruce Mitchell said the county was allocated two $50,000 payments from the federal government through the LATCF program. While the second payment was deposited to the ARPA account, the first was deposited to the county’s miscellaneous general fund and he wanted to make sure the money went to the same line item. He said the county had not yet allocated any of the funds to be spent.
The board also approved a budgeted transfer of $300,000 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the county highway fund.
The commissioners also approved an agreement with the city of Ainsworth for a shared party wall at the Ainsworth Fire Hall that will also be incorporated into the new Brown County Ambulance barn. Taylor said he had reviewed the agreement addressing the shared wall and had no issues with it.
After advertising for bids for repairs at the courthouse building and receiving no interest, Taylor told the commissioners they could now go out and solicit estimates to get the work completed. Board members indicated they would try to find a contractor willing to take on the project, which includes replacing a vent and insulating the air conditioning duct work to avoid condensation from forming and causing water damage.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Sept. 19.
* Traffic Accidents
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Sept. 6)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated three recent motor vehicle accidents in the county.
The first occurred at 10:58 a.m. Aug. 24 on Highway 7 near milepost 42. A collision occurred between a 2004 fifth-wheel trailer, driven by Randy Johnson, 72, of Ainsworth, and a parked 1975 Ford pickup, owned by Shelly Happold of Long Pine. The collision caused the Ford to strike a parked 2014 Dodge pickup.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the trailer was estimated at $1,000. The Ford pickup sustained approximately $2,000 damage, and the Dodge pickup sustained approximately $1,000 damage.
The second accident investigated by the sheriff’s department occurred at 9:27 a.m. Aug. 28 on Highway 7 near milepost 42. According to the report, a collision occurred between a 2004 Jeep Liberty, driven by James Parker, 55, of Long Pine, and a parked 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser, owned by Betty Douglas of Long Pine. No injuries were reported. Damage to the Jeep was estimated at $500. The Chrysler sustained approximately $1,500 damage.
The third accident occurred at 2:36 a.m. Friday, Sept. 1, on Highway 7 near milepost 18. According to the report, a 1996 Peterbilt semi, driven by Larry Hepper, 60, of Mobridge, S.D., was traveling north when the semi struck an animal in the roadway. The driver stated he believed the animal was an elk but could not be sure.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Peterbilt was estimated at $5,000.
* Rock County students select homecoming candidates
(Posted 4 p.m. Aug. 31)
Homecoming is this week at Rock County High School, culminating in the football game for the North Central Knights against Arcadia-Loup City.
Homecoming queen candidates at Rock County are seniors Dalya Dearmont, Keira Taylor, Lanie Pospichal, Adi Anderson and Morgan Lewis.
Homecoming king candidates are Dylan Benemerito, Mason Hagan, Kadyn Swanson, Hunter Craven and Zach Parker.
Royalty will be crowned following Friday’s football game.
* Council approves bid to repair hail damage
(Posted 2:45 p.m. Aug. 31)
After reviewing two sealed bids during a special meeting Thursday, the Ainsworth City Council approved an $82,584 quote from May Construction to make repairs to hail-damaged city infrastructure.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said numerous city properties were damaged during the May hailstorm, including the Ainsworth Conference Center shingles and gutters, the Ainsworth Public Library shingles and gutters, the roof of the East City Park concession stand, the roof of the press box at East City Park Legion Field, the UV building at the wastewater treatment plant, and the bath house and filter building at the Ainsworth Swimming Pool.
Compass Roofing quoted $81,667 for the work. However, it was determined Compass Roofing quoted 5-inch replacement gutters for the Conference Center and library buildings as was included in the insurance quote from the League Association of Risk Management, the company that handles the city’s insurance.
William May said his bid included 6-inch gutters, which were the same as the current gutters on both buildings. A representative from Compass Roofing said the company quoted the 5-inch gutters but planned to work with the city’s insurance company to try and get 6-inch gutter replacement approved.
City Council members indicated they preferred to have the same size gutters as were currently on the buildings. When factoring in the cost difference between 5-inch gutters and 6-inch gutters, the Compass bid increased to roughly $83,487, and May Construction’s 15-year warranty compared to a two-year warranty offered by Compass, the council approved the bid from May Construction.
Councilman Shawn Fernau, who abstained from the vote, said he had worked with both companies, and both did quality work. He said the two bids were very similar for a sealed bid process, and the prices quoted were less expensive than the prices he would have quoted for his construction company to do the work.
The city has a $5,000 deductible for the total work through its LARM insurance.
Following public hearings Thursday, the council approved authorizing Mayor Joel Klammer to sign an application for a $435,000 Community Development Block Grant for funding assistance for the Main Street revitalization project.
A representative from the Central Nebraska Economic Development District, which is handling the grant application for the city, said public hearing notice published recently had an error in the total project cost as $35,000 in costs were omitted from the total.
The total cost of the revitalization project is $1.85 million, of which the city would be responsible for $1.41 million if the $435,000 CDBG application is approved.
In a related item, the council approved a four-factor analysis and a determination that the city did not meet the threshold required to provide notice to residents on the grant application in a second language.
Schroedl said the analysis was required as part of the CDBG application and determined whether the city could effectively communicate with citizens regarding the project. CNEDD’s analysis determined the city did not meet the threshold that would have required communication with citizens in a language other than English.
With Councilman Brad Fiala abstaining, the council approved applying for a USDA Rural Development grant in the amount of $50,000 for a new truck for the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.
Fiala said the multi-use vehicle would be shared by the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department and the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District. Fiala said the rural fire board was not eligible to apply for the grant, but the city could apply.
The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sept. 13.
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 2:30 p.m. Aug. 31)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Tamara F. Andersen, age 55, of Castle Rock, Colo., charged with speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, fined $75.
Erik Trejo Pascual, 34, of Omaha, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Gabriela Orosco-Ramirez, 24, of Aurora, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Roland E Paddock, 72, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Gabriel Ortiz, 23, of Chicago, Ill., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Cierra S. Schaeffer, 25, of Kalispell, Mont., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Macey A. VonHeeder, 24, of Ainsworth, violating a stop or yield sign, $75.
Mercedes L. Entenmann, 25, of Fargo, N.D., possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000.
Tony R. Ruhter, 53, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Katherine D. Byrd, 38, of Elk Grove, Calif., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Nicholas W. Schott, 33, of Battle Creek, first offense driving under the influence, fined $500, also sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for one day served, and driver’s license revoked for six months.
Mohammed Muntaka, 50, of St. Louis, Mo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Stephen H. Barclay, 43, of Duvall, Wash., first offense reckless driving, $500.
Kasey Johnson, 35, of Ainsworth, nuisance ordinance violation, ordered to pay court costs only.
Patrick T. Riskowski, 63, of Omaha, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Ashley R. Happold, 28, of Ainsworth, unlawful entry without a park permit, $25.
Clay C. Smith, 27, of Keenesburg, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Indermit S. Gill, 62, of Bethesda, Md., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Dustin D. Dailey, 29, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Benjamin D. Wills, 41, of Stonecreek, Ohio, no operator’s license, $75.
Melissa J. Quinn, 43, of Winter Springs, Fla., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Brandie R. Messersmith, 21, of Rose, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Coby T. Elliott, 36, of Hull, Texas, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Tanner O. Yager, 19, of Valentine, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Blair Gibbens, 25, of Gothenburg, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Shane H. Urbin, 21, of Wood Lake, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Lance M. Pedersen, 21, of Columbus, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Andrew D. Kuyper, 45, of Lennox, S.D., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Matison R. Harvey, 25, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Cameron L. Sadek, 24 of West Fargo, N.D., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500.
Jeremy M. Saldivar, 25, of Grand Fork, N.D., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500.
Kolby W. Blake, 39, of Bassett, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Joyce A. Pojar, 34, of Madison, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Bradley E. Severson, 57, of La Crescenta, Calif., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.
Austin E. Mayfield, 16, of Burwell, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Trevor B. Heinemann, 26, of Egan, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Dennis L. Kronberg, 73, of Wausa, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Matthew C. Willett, 44, of Carlsbad, Calif., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
* Sand Draw bridge complete, Meadville Avenue open
(Posted 2:30 p.m. Aug. 30)
Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported Wednesday bridge work is complete at Sand Draw Creek at Meadville Avenue, and the road is now open to traffic.
Damaged during flooding in March 2019 and completely destroyed by a second round of flooding in September of that year, the previous box culvert at the site was redesigned as a full-span bridge and was a partnership between the State of Nebraska and Brown County, using federal disaster funding.
Meadville Avenue had been detoured away from the site since March 2019. While the bridge work was underway, the Brown County Commissioners also approved new asphalt paving for Meadville Avenue, which was completed earlier this year.
Turpin reminds motorists, despite the new asphalt, the speed limit on Meadville Avenue is 50 mph and will be enforced.
* State’s jobless rate remains among lowest in nation
(Posted 2:15 p.m. Aug. 30)
Nebraska’s unemployment rate for July is 2.0 percent. The rate is up 0.1 percentage points from the June rate of 1.9 percent and is down 0.4 percent from the July 2022 rate of 2.4 percent. The state’s ranking is tied for fifth lowest in the nation.
New Hampshire had the lowest unemployment rate in the country in July at 1.7 percent. Maryland and Vermont tied for the second-lowest rates in the U.S. at 1.8 percent. South Dakota’s jobless rate was 1.9 percent in July, followed by Nebraska and North Dakota at 2.0 percent.
“The Omaha and Grand Island metro areas had historical highs for employment in July at 502,009 and 45,381, respectively” said Commissioner of Labor John H. Albin. “This is the second straight month for a historical high in Omaha.”
Nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was 1,046,155 in July, up 9,172 from June and up 19,898 over the year. Private industries with the most growth month to month were mining and construction (up 1,781 jobs), professional and business services (up 1,500 jobs), and other services (up 907 jobs). Private industries with the most over the year growth were leisure and hospitality services (up 5,029 jobs), private education and health services (up 4,045 jobs), and mining and construction (up 4,031 jobs).
Brown County’s unemployment rate ticked upward in July to 2.7 percent. Brown County’s July rate was the highest in the area with the exception of Blaine County’s 4.5 percent rate, which was the second highest in the state behind only Gage County.
Rock County experienced the lowest unemployment rate in the area in July at 1.5 percent. That was tied for the fourth-lowest rate in the state. Wheeler County had the lowest July unemployment rate at 1.1 percent.
Holt County’s unemployment in July was 1.6 percent, followed closely by Cherry County at 1.7 percent. Keya Paha County’s unemployment rate was slightly higher than the state average at 2.2. percent, with Boyd County at 2.3 percent.
The national unemployment rate for July is 3.5 percent, down 0.1 percentage points from the June rate of 3.6 percent. The rate is unchanged from the July 2022 rate of 3.5 percent.
* Small grass fire reported Tuesday afternoon
(Posted 11:30 a.m. Aug. 30)
The Johnstown and Ainsworth volunteer fire departments responded to the site of a small grass fire Tuesday afternoon northwest of Ainsworth.
According to Mark Johnson with the Johnstown Volunteer Fire Department, the fire occurred at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in a pasture owned by Mark Miles north of Highway 20 on the east side of Rauscher Avenue.
Johnson said a bearing on a mower went out, sparking a small grass fire in a pasture north of the Miles’ residence. The fire was contained to less than 1 acre, and no damage was reported.
* Wilkins wins KBRB Football Contest opening week
(Posted 11 a.m. Aug. 29)
It may take a little time to get the lay of the land in the high school and college football scene for our area competitors, as Week 1 of the KBRB Football Contest turned out to be a tough one.
Three misses among the 14 games on the card were the best efforts, with three entries missing three games on the Week 1 card.
Hally Wilkins, Olivia Beel of Johnstown and Kim Shaw of Bassett each missed three games, which sent us to the tiebreaker, the combined number of touchdowns in the Ainsworth and North Central high school game Friday.
Wilkins guessed 12 combined touchdowns in that one, missing the total of 11 touchdowns by just one. That earned Hally Wilkins the first-place $40 certificate for Week 1. Olivia Beel and Kim Shaw each guessed nine combined touchdowns, which sent us to our second tie-breaker, the card that was submitted earlier. That gave Olivia Beel of Johnstown the edge and the second-place, $20 certificate.
Certificates may be picked up from the KBRB Studios and may be redeemed at any football contest sponsor. Week 2 cards are available now from those sponsoring locations, which include Buckles Automotive in Ainsworth, Speedee Mart locations at Ainsworth and Atkinson, Long Pine Lumber, the West Plains Bank of Springview, Circle B Livestock of Bassett, and from Tri County Bank branch locations at Stuart, Atkinson and Bassett.
Cards must be submitted by 4 p.m. Thursday or carry a Thursday postmark if mailed.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 29)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Aug. 16 south of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 5:53 p.m. Aug. 16 on Highway 7 near milepost 42, a 2003 Chevy Suburban, driven by Rikus Jansen Van Vuuren, 27, of Stapleton, was traveling north when the vehicle left the roadway and entered the east ditch. The vehicle then traveled back onto the highway and slid off in the west ditch, striking a fence before coming to rest.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $1,000. The fence sustained approximately $500 damage.
* Local emergency alerts available through Regroup
(Posted 3:30 p.m. Aug. 28)
The Brown/Rock Emergency Management Agency is launching Regroup as a mass notification system for the public. The agency asks the public to sign up to receive weather alerts from NOAA and emergency alerts. The alerts can be received via text message, email, or a voice phone call.
Sign up via the web at https://BREMA.app.regroup.com/contacts/sign_up or download the Regroup Mobile App using the registration code BREMA2023. After registering, when logging in, the Network is BREMA.
To receive text messages only, Text 31002 and to subscribe to the following channel(s), type in the message box “join ________” to receive that alert.
Rock County Weather Alerts – join rockweather
Rock County Emergency Alert – join rockalerts
Rock County Public Alerts – join rockpublic
Brown County Weather Alerts – join weatherbrown
Brown County Emergency Alerts – join alertsbrown
Brown County Public Alerts – join publicbrown
In coordination with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, Rock County Sheriff’s Department and area fire chiefs, there will be a test of the All-Hazard Outdoor Warning Siren at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1. Regroup subscribers should receive the following alert: “This is a test of the All-Hazard Emergency Alert. This is only a test of the All-Hazard Emergency Alert.”
Frequently referred to as the tornado siren, the single tone emergency alert is an all-hazard outdoor warning siren. Regroup mass notification will include essential information and instructions for those signed up. The emergency management agency thanks the public for its contribution to the test. Knowing your responsibilities before, during, and after an emergency can assist in recovery. After signing up, check with family, friends, and neighbors to help them subscribe. If further assistance is needed, contact Traci Booth at (402) 684-9055 or Jessica Pozehl at (402) 684-9077.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 8:45 a.m. Aug. 28)
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to two 911 calls in Ainsworth on this day each resulting in the transport of one patient to the hospital.
- Responded to a domestic disturbance in Ainsworth.
- Received a report regarding improper disposure of manure on a Brown County roadway.
- Three warnings for speeding, and one citation for no operator’s license were issued on this day.
- The Brown County Ambulance transported a flight crew to pick up a patient from the hospital.
- Assisted motorist with flat tire on Highway 20.
- Provided a civil standby for two individuals to exchange property.
- Received a request for a welfare check on a female subject in Ainsworth. The female was located and reported safe at this time.
- Received a report of an erratic driving vehicle on Highway 20. Contact was made with the Nebraska driver.
- A warning and two citations for speeding were issued on this day during traffic stops. One speeding citation included the violations of no valid registration and no proof of insurance as well.
- Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail to serve a 3-day court commitment sentence.
- Responded to a report of a verbal disturbance at a 4th Street business.
- Received multiple reports of a dog in distress near 2nd & Cedar Street in Ainsworth. The dog was found to have shade and water.
- One warning for speeding was issued on this day.
- Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail to another arresting agency.
- Responded to a report of an abandoned camper in a business parking lot.
- Assisted a motorist on 4th Street in Ainsworth.
- A citation for speeding 80mph in a 65mph zone and a violation for defective vehicle lighting was issued on this day.
- The Brown County Ambulance transported one patient to the hospital.
- Responded to a two-vehicle accident near 3rd and Walnut Streets in Ainsworth. Both vehicles had minor damage.
- Received a report of a pivot watering the roadway on 434th Contact was made with the owner who agreed to correct the issue.
- Received a report of unauthorized motor vehicles being operated inside Ainsworth city limits without helmet usage and with juvenile children on board. Contact was made with all drivers and verbal warning issued.
- Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after serving 3 days of a court commitment sentence.
- Received a report of a disturbance that occurred outside of Brown County’s jurisdiction. All information was transmitted to the appropriate agency.
- Issued notices to correct for city ordinance violations of expired registrations, overgrown weeds, and abandoned vehicles.
- Assisted a motorist at the 9A Spur and Highway 20 junction.
- Three citations and one warning were issued for speeding on this day.
- Received a request for a welfare check on a male subject in Ainsworth. The male was located and reported safe at this time.
- Issued one warning for speeding to a Nebraska driver on this day.
- Received a report of a physical disturbance on Ash Street in Long Pine. One Nebraska male subject was issued a citation for assault and criminal trespassing.
911 Calls: 15
Incident Reports: 16
Handgun Purchase Permits: 2
Vin Inspections: 2
Inmates Housed: 2
* Gilliland receives Journalism Education Award
(Posted 7:15 a.m. Aug. 25)
The Journalism Education Association named eight teachers with its Rising Star Award to honor their commitment to scholastic journalism and media advising. They will be recognized during the fall National High School Journalism Convention.
Rising Star awards are presented to advisers who are in their first five years of advising a school media program, have shown dedication to scholastic journalism and have had success advising at least one media program.
Among the 2023 Rising Stars is Kirsten Gilliland, a teacher at Omaha Bryan High School and a graduate of Ainsworth High School.
Gilliland currently advises the yearbook and newspaper at Omaha Bryan and will be introducing more broadcasting into the program. She formerly advised the yearbook and newspaper at Grand Island Northwest.
* State Patrol investigating death near Burwell
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 25)
The Nebraska State Patrol is investigating a suspicious death that occurred in Garfield County Wednesday morning.
At approximately 6 a.m. Wednesday, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department requested assistance from troopers in response to a reported deceased individual who had been located along Highway 91, several miles east of Burwell. Troopers and State Patrol investigators responded to the scene.
The deceased individual has been identified as Amanda Summers, 33, of Trumbull. The State Patrol is the lead agency in the investigation.
As part of the investigation, investigators arrested Calvin Measner, 22, of Burwell, early Thursday morning, on charges of obstructing a peace officer and tampering with evidence. Measner was lodged in the Garfield County Jail. The death investigation is ongoing.
* Highway 97 south of Valentine closed for bridge repair
(Posted 12:45 p.m. Aug. 23)
The Loup River Bridge on Highway 97 between Mullen and Valentine at mile post 92.5 has been closed for emergency repairs and is limited to local traffic only, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
Closures will be enforced north from Mullen and at the Brownlee turn off south. The bridge is limited to one lane traffic at 35 mph. Passenger vehicles only. No commercial traffic nor vehicles with trailers are allowed. The closure will be in effect until further notice.
Motorists are reminded to drive cautiously in and near work zones, to buckle up, and put phones down.
* KBRB Football Contest cards available now
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 22)
Football Fridays and Saturdays are back, and that means it is again your chance to win by playing the free KBRB Football Contest. Each week through the high school football season, pick up a KBRB Football Contest card from a participating sponsor for your chance to win a $40 first-place certificate or a $20 second-place certificate.
Just pick the winners of the featured high school and college football games, write your name, town and phone number on the card and either drop it off to the KBRB Studios by 4 p.m. each Thursday or drop it in the mail with a postmark no later than Thursday.
KBRB Football Contest cards are available from Buckles Automotive in Ainsworth, Speedee Mart in Ainsworth and Atkinson, Long Pine Lumber, the West Plains Bank of Springview, Circle B Livestock of Bassett, and from Tri County Bank branches at Bassett, Stuart and Atkinson.
Cards for Week 1 are available now, so get one picked up and try out your football prognostication with KBRB Football Contest.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summaries
(Posted 3:30 p.m. Aug. 21)
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a request for a lift assist in Ainsworth. No transport was needed at this time.
- During three traffic stops citations for speeding were issued for 76, 77, and 85mph in 65mph zones.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a page from a senior living facility and transported one patient to the hospital.
- Received a report of vandalism that occurred at a 4th Street business in Ainsworth. A citation was issued for criminal mischief and the male subject was banned from entering the business.
- The Brown County Ambulance transported a flight crew to the hospital to pick up a patient.
- Received a report of suspected stolen square hay bales and a livestock trailer. The trailer and bales were found to be a civil matter and a civil standby was done for the property exchange.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth and transported one patient to the hospital.
- Received a report of a suspicious vehicle in the East City Park of Ainsworth. No criminal activity was found at this time.
- Attended a fire drill at the Ainsworth Community Schools.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a page for a lift assist in Ainsworth. No transport was needed at this time.
- Received a report of a disturbance at a gas station in Ainsworth. The male subject was removed from the business.
- Received report of a one vehicle accident that occurred near the intersection of Goldenrod Road and Highway 7. The vehicle ran off the road causing property damage to a fence. No injuries were reported, and the vehicle was able to drive away from the scene.
- Responded to a report of a loose dog near the Ainsworth Community Schools.
- Received a report of harassment occurring to an Ainsworth resident.
- Dispatchers and Deputies attended a training course in Ainsworth.
- Received a report of suspected truancy in Ainsworth. The juveniles were accounted for and reported in a different school district.
- The Brown County Ambulance transported a patient from the Rock County Hospital to Oneill Hospital.
- Received a request for a welfare check on a male subject in Ainsworth. The male was located and reported safe at this time.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 7, a citation for speeding 79mph in a 65mph zone was issued. Two warnings for speeding were also issued on this day.
- Received a report of suspicious activity near the intersection of 3rd and Main Street. No criminal activity was found at this time.
Phone Calls: 116
911 Calls: 4
Incident Reports: 13
Vin Inspections: 1
Handgun Purchase Permits: 2
Housed Inmates: 3
- Responded to a request for a welfare check on a male subject in Ainsworth. The male was located and reported safe at this time.
- Responded to a report of a one vehicle accident on Highway 20, near mile marker 235. A vehicle struck a bull on the roadway. No injuries were reported, and the vehicle was able to drive away from the scene.
- Responded to a verbal disturbance in Ainsworth. No citations were issued at this time.
- During a traffic stop, a citation was issued for failure to stop.
- The Brown County Ambulance transported a patient to the Rock County Hospital.
- Received a report of excessive barking on Cedar Street in Ainsworth. The dog owner was issued a verbal warning.
- Received a report of an activated Life Alert alarm in Ainsworth. It was found to be a false alarm.
- Received a report of soliciting at a gas station in Ainsworth. The male subject was unable to be located.
- Received a report of harassment to an Ainsworth individual.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a request for a lift assist in Ainsworth. No transport was needed at this time.
- Received city ordinance reports for overgrown weeds on Wilson Street, and unlicensed vehicles on Cedar St. Both homes were issued notices to correct.
- Received a report of a pivot watering the roadway on 430th Ave. The pivot owner was called and agreed to correct the issue.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 241, a Wyoming driver was issued a citation for speeding 78mph in a 65mph zone and no operator’s license.
- Received a report of an abandoned vehicle at the City of Ainsworth Conference Center. The owner was located and came to remove the vehicle.
- Responded to a report of a female who had been assaulted. The Brown County Ambulance also responded to transport the female to the hospital. One male subject was issued a citation for domestic assault and booked into the Brown County Jail. The male later posted bond and was released.
- Provided a civil standby for a property exchange.
- The Brown County Ambulance was paged to an Ainsworth address and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
- The Brown County Ambulance transported a flight crew from the Airport to pick up a patient at the Brown County Hospital.
- Received a report of a suspicious vehicle near 3rd and Harrington Street in Ainsworth. No criminal activity was found at this time.
- Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after they completed a court commitment sentence
- Received 911 call reporting a vehicle accident on 3rd Street in Ainsworth. No accident was found, the phone had been run over by a vehicle.
- Received a report of a loose horse on Highway 7. The owner was called and quickly removed from the roadway.
- Received a report of a pivot watering the roadway on 886th Road. Owner was called and agreed to correct the issue.
- Received a noise complaint from Long Pine State Park. A written warning was issued.
- Two warnings for speeding, and one warning for defective vehicle lighting were issued on this day.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a request for a lift assist. No transport was needed at this time.
- Received a parking complaint from an apartment complex of a vehicle in a marked handicapped parking stall. The driver of the vehicle was located and issued a written warning for illegal parking.
- Issued notice to correct city ordinance violation of unlicensed vehicles on Walnut Street.
- During a traffic stop for speeding within the Long Pine city limits, a citation was issued for misuse of a school permit.
- During a traffic stop in Ainsworth on 4th street, a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for speeding 53mph in a 35mph zone.
- During additional traffic stops on this day, a citation was issued for operating an unlicensed vehicle, and two warnings for speeding.
Weekly Summary Totals
Burn Permits: 4
Phone Calls: 133
911 Calls: 7
Incident Reports: 12
Vin Inspections: 6
Handgun Purchase Permits: 2
Housed Inmates: 3
* Motorists urged to obey road closed barricades
(Posted 3:45 p.m. Aug. 16)
Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reminds motorists not to drive around barricades that are placed on county roadways.
Meadville Avenue remains closed for the 1-mile stretch that includes the Sand Draw Creek bridge. Turpin said concrete poured recently is in the process of curing. Any damage sustained to the concrete from vehicle traffic before it is cured will only result in further delays to the road being reopened.
Anyone caught driving around barricades is subject to a citation, and could be held liable if a roadway is damaged or if there is an accident.
Turpin thanked motorists for their understanding. He reported during Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners the concrete could be cured with all of Meadville Avenue reopened to traffic by the end of August.
* Commissioners hear from fire board on budget request
(Posted 11:30 a.m. Aug. 16)
The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday heard from representatives of the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District regarding a request for 3 cents of property tax levy to support the rural fire district for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
Jeep Cozad told the commissioners, instead of bouncing back and forth with its levy request each year, the district kept its request the same as the previous year at 3 cents per $100 in property value.
In the prior year, 1 cent in property tax levy amounted to just shy of $100,000 in revenue.
“We try to keep about $400,000 on hand in case we have another year like 2012,” Cozad said.
He told the board one of the major projects the rural fire district planned to undertake in the 2023-24 fiscal year was the replacement of the South Pine Fire Hall. Cozad said the current building is 24×24 and houses two trucks. Replacing that building with a 48×36 building will cost about $130,000. He said the fire district budgeted $150,000 for the project in case there were any unforeseen contingencies.
Cozad said the financial information the district provided the commissioners showed a little higher cash on hand than the previous year because the district still had two trucks on order from the current budget year that have not yet been delivered.
“That’s why it is showing we have some extra money,” Cozad said.
He said the rural fire district also has about $110,000 in funding left over from the additional levy the district received following the 2012 wildfires. Cozad said those funds had been parked with NPAIT but had recently been moved to a local bank to take advantage of CD interest rates. He said that money was not part of the district’s general fund but was there to help with vehicle replacement.
Cozad said the Brown County Ambulance Association had requested the rural fire district provide the association with $10,000 annually for a 10-year period to help finance the construction of the new ambulance barn in exchange for being able to use part of the new building to store equipment for the rural fire district. He said the board had not yet agreed to provide any funding for the ambulance barn.
No action was required Tuesday, as the commissioners will set the Brown County Rural Fire District’s property tax levy during the county’s budget hearing in September.
In other business, Sandhills Care Center Board Chair Tom Jones presented the commissioners with the care center’s 2023-24 budget. The care center’s budget anticipates a net profit of approximately $250,000 for the fiscal year, without taking into account about $200,000 in property tax revenue that will be generated from voter-approved levies.
Jones said the first funds from the voter-approved levies will be collected during the 2023-24 fiscal year, but the board plans to place that money in its interlocal account to handle any potential shortfalls or needed upgrades instead of including those funds in its operating budget.
“Everything looks pretty good right now,” Jones said. “We are at 27 residents now. We received $320,000 in Medicaid reimbursement for government owned nursing homes. That allowed us to pay off the line of credit we had used.”
Jones said the board had also replaced a commercial stove, replaced some of the concrete in front of the building, and had approved a bid to upgrade the Internet cable wiring so the facility could continue to receive television service.
“We have not had any agency nursing since December,” Jones said.
Jones said the board based the budget off a starting point in July of 24 residents with the census slowly increasing to 29 by the end of the fiscal year. He said expenses were budgeted based off expenses from the recently completed fiscal year. No action was required by the commissioners.
Mindy Spencer from the North Central District Health Department, representing the Miles of Smiles program, asked the commissioners to contribute $2 per semester to the program for each child in Brown County eligible to receive services from Miles of Smiles.
Spencer said Miles of Smiles is a school-based program that provides fluoride varnish for children in an effort to reduce cavities. A dental hygienist provides the fluoride application and also sends a note home suggesting a dental visit if any issues are found.
The program is available for students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Spencer said there were 258 children eligible for the program in Brown County, so her request was $1,032 for a year.
Spencer said each child also receives a toothbrush and toothpaste, and some of the funds contributed by counties in the NCDHD’s nine-county region help cover those expenses. She said the program is 82 percent sustainable through grant funds.
Commissioner Denny Bauer, who serves as Brown County’s representative on the NCDHD Board, said Miles of Smiles was a good program.
“A lot of those kids wouldn’t receive any dental service otherwise,” Bauer said.
Commissioner Buddy Small said he believed it had been some time since the county had contributed to the program.
The commissioners approved the $1,032 contribution to the program for each of the next five years.
During his report, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the roads department has been cleaning edges of several roads to try and improve drainage with more rain falling in the county this year.
“We haven’t been able to work on as many projects on our list this year because we have been maintaining roads more with the rains,” Turpin said. “I am certainly not complaining about the rain.”
Turpin said the department had hired Austin Cook, who began work this week. The highway superintendent said Cook had been easy to train thus far and would be a help to the department.
He said there were several areas in the county where small trees were growing in road ditches.
“We are going to buy some chemical and start spraying those little trees,” Turpin said. “Then, after they are killed, we will mow them.”
Bauer suggested the roads department spray and disc areas this fall where shoulder work is planned for next year to keep green vegetation from forming in the spring.
Turpin said there were also several plum brush thickets along county roads that create snow drift issues he would also like to remove.
Turpin reported there had been some abutment erosion issues with the Willow Creek bridge on Ponderosa Road. He said it was an older bridge, built in the 1930s. The department had tried to make some temporary repairs to the abutment but now planned to close the bridge, do some excavation and pour a concrete wall to try and fix the issue correctly.
Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said it appeared the approaches to the Sand Draw Creek bridge on Meadville Avenue had now been poured. Turpin said the project would likely be done by the end of the month and the bridge opened to traffic.
He also told the commissioners the roads department has been having issues with signs being stolen or tampered with. The board discussed the potential of setting up trail cameras near problem areas.
In an action item relating to the roads department Tuesday, the commissioners approved a resolution and agreement with the Nebraska Department of Transportation for the use of Road 877 and the Cemetery Road as a detour route for Highway 7 traffic in 2024 during reconstruction of Main Street through Ainsworth.
The detour will route traffic from Highway 20 onto Pine Street, which becomes Cemetery Road south of the city, then west on Road 877 connecting to Highway 7.
Under the agreement, the NDOT will reimburse the county for the cost of maintaining the detour and for any damage done by the increased traffic.
Turpin said the roads department still has a little work to do on the route to add some dirt to the road shoulders.
The board acknowledged a jail standards report provided by the state. County Attorney Andy Taylor said the Brown County Jail passed inspection.
Following an executive session Tuesday, the commissioners approved a $1 per hour performance-based wage increase for roads department employee Nakoa Fletcher. The board also approved $2 per hour wage increases for roads employees Wyatt Cole, Bill Worden and Kade Gracey.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Sept. 5.
* Traffic Accidents
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 16)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated two motor vehicle accidents in the past two weeks.
At 1:45 p.m. July 31, a collision occurred on Raven Road approximately 2 miles east of Highway 7 between a southbound 2013 Caterpillar motor grader, owned by Brown County and driven by Chance Cole, 48, of Ainsworth, and a northbound 2007 Dodge Dakota, driven by Sandra Welke, 74, of Long Pine.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Dodge was estimated at $1,500. The Caterpillar did not sustain any damage.
At 12:52 a.m. Aug. 7, a 2011 Dodge Caravan, driven by Richard Frantz, 44, of Valentine, was traveling west on Highway 20 near milepost 235 when the driver swerved to try and miss a bull on the highway.
Frantz suffered minor injuries during the accident, but transportation for treatment was not required. The Dodge sustained approximately $2,500 damage. The bull was owned by Dave Sherman.
* Care Center Board approves cable, Internet upgrade
(Posted 10:45 a.m. Aug. 15)
The Sandhills Care Center Board continued to make upgrades to the facility after receiving $320,000 in Medicaid reimbursement. Previously, the board approved the replacement of a commercial stove and new concrete in front of the facility. Monday, the board approved a $15,707 bid from Applied Connective to rewire the facility with Cat 6 cable for improved Internet and cable service.
The board received notice Three River Telco’s cable television would no longer work in the facility beginning in early September the way the building was currently wired. Applied Connective submitted one of two bids to rewire the facility and bring the Cat 6 cable into each room.
MC Contracting submitted a bid of $14,865 for the work. The board cited Applied Connective’s service to other facilities in the area in approving the company’s bid for the work.
The board Monday rejected two bids it received to replace the roof of the care center damaged during the May hailstorm. Operating under the same guidelines as Brown County, the care center is required to advertise for sealed bids any work anticipated to cost in excess of $50,000. The board plans to wait to advertise for sealed bids to replace the roof until it can come up with all the specifications for the project.
The board also opted to table a bid received to replace five security doors to the building, as the cost of the project required the facility to obtain three quotes for the security door replacements.
Finally, the board tabled bids received to replace the underground sprinklers at the care center, citing the higher priority of other upgrades and the upcoming change in season.
By a 3-1 vote with Bruce Papstein against and Shawn Fernau absent, the board approved a $14,000 salary increase for Administrator Penny Jacobs.
Board Chair Tom Jones said the board had previously set a goal for Jacobs to increase the census in the facility to 27 residents before a wage increase kicked in.
Jacobs reported Monday there were currently 27 residents in the care center. She said the facility had not used any agency staffing since Dec. 1. She reported nurses in the building, after recent pay raises were implemented, were being paid more than she was as the facility’s administrator.
Jacobs’ salary will increase from $96,000 to $110,000. Jones said the board had been putting off providing the salary increase, but needed to honor its commitment now that the benchmark had been achieved.
Board member Dennis Bauer said, if the board set the census as the goal for increasing the administrator’s salary, then it needed to live up to its obligation.
Board member Dr. Mel Campbell said the administrator’s salary, even after the increase, was a little below average for facilities of similar size.
Papstein, who voted against the increase, said he would like to see an evaluation included. Jones said he would add an evaluation of the administrator to the board’s September agenda.
During July, the Sandhills Care Center generated $228,590 in revenue with expenses of $215,871 for a net profit during the month of $12,719. The care center currently has $370,195 in its operating accounts and another $45,218 in anticipated accounts receivable, with payroll and other expenses amounting to $235,667.
Jacobs said there had been three residents admitted to the facility since the board’s July meeting. Of the 27 current residents, 13 pay privately, 12 receive Medicaid assistance, one resident is Medicaid-pending, and one receives Medicare assistance. There are 18 residents from Brown County, six from Cherry County, two from Rock County and one from Keya Paha County.
Jacobs said the facility had hired a new PRN since the July meeting, but four current CNAs were returning to school soon, so the facility was still in need of CNAs as well as a night nurse and additional nursing staff.
Jones reported the care center’s director of nursing did not resign and plans to continue to serve in that role for the facility.
In an ongoing agenda item regarding a review of the care center’s policies and procedures, employee handbook and recent terminations, Campbell said a contract had been signed with the law firm consultant to review the handbook and the facility’s policies and procedures. Campbell said those documents have been forwarded for the consultant’s review.
“I went through the policy and procedure manual,” Campbell said. “I felt there were a few things that needed to be changed.”
Jacobs said she was also working through both the policy and procedure manual and the employee handbook to remove any inconsistencies between the two and clean up both documents. She said the policies and procedures manual and the employee handbook had not been updated in some time, as there were still several references to Rural Health Development, the company who previously was contracted to manage the care center.
Jacobs said she would bring any recommended updates to both the handbook and the policies and procedures manual to the board for its approval.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sept. 11.
* School Board discusses budget options for 2023-24
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 15)
Superintendent Dale Hafer told the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education Monday he would present the board with three or four options for the 2023-24 budget during an upcoming workshop Aug. 28 and, thanks to additional state assistance, the board could expect to see its property tax asking decline substantially.
Hafer told the board the district would receive about $1 million in additional state funding through foundation aid and additional special education reimbursement.
“We will see a significant reduction in tax asking,” Hafer said. “It won’t be one to one because our expenses will be up, but it will be a substantial reduction.”
Hafer said some of the budget proposals he would present the board during the budget workshop would be more conservative, and some would include a few projects. He said the board could choose to combine different versions if it was so inclined.
The board set its annual budget hearing for 8 p.m. Sept. 11, when the 2023-24 school budget will be finalized and the amount of property tax requested by the district will be calculated.
In another budget item Monday, the board approved moving $150,000 from the district’s general fund to its depreciation fund. Hafer said the transfer would bring the depreciation fund balance to around $400,000.
The depreciation fund is used to pay for building repair or replacement projects and is available for unexpected expenses that may not have been foreseen when setting a budget. Hafer said the depreciation fund was used, for example, to pay for the replacement of the boiler.
The new boiler is being installed this week, and Hafer said it is much smaller than the previous boiler and will be more efficient.
In a final budget item, the board approved increasing its base growth percentage from 3.8 percent to 7 percent. Hafer said it made sense to approve the increase even though the district had no plans to increase its tax asking.
Under new state statute, school boards can increase their tax asking by 3.8 percent from the prior year unless 70 percent of the board votes to approve increasing budget authority by 7 percent.
“We will be well under that, but this is similar to creating additional budget authority,” Hafer said. “It does nothing to your actual tax request. Budget decisions then rest with you instead of in Lincoln with the Legislature.”
Hafer used the example of the new ag and shop building project. Without creating the additional budget authority, a project like that would likely not be able to be completed in the future.
“You have been elected to make budget decisions,” Hafer said. “By approving this, you have the authority to go up by 7 percent even though you don’t plan to.”
With board member Scott Erthum absent, four of the five members needed to vote in favor of the increase in authority for it to pass. All five members present voted to increase the district’s base budget growth percentage from 3.8 percent to 7 percent.
After receiving a request from Keya Paha County Public Schools and Rock County Public Schools, the board agreed Monday to form a cooperative between the three schools for girls wrestling.
Hafer said the two schools have interest in girls wrestling from a few students, but the schools were not sure whether there was enough interest yet to start their own program under their North Central cooperative.
“We have to request a coop through NSAA,” the superintendent said. “The cooperative would be for a minimum of two years. It gives them time to decide if they want to start their own program.”
Hafer said, if approved, travel and other expenses would be shared appropriately, and the activities directors of the three schools would work together on the logistics of practice and meet travel.
Activities Director Luke Wroblewski said there would be potentially an additional three to five girls who would participate in girls wrestling at the junior high and high school levels if the cooperative were to be approved.
The program would still wrestle as the Ainsworth Bulldogs.
Board member Frank Beel said it was a great opportunity for the girls in those schools who would like to participate in wrestling.
The board approved initiating the cooperative.
Guidance Counselor Lisa Schlueter presented the board with the district’s Emergency Operations Plan. A committee that includes school administration and staff, as well as the Brown County Emergency Management Office and the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, meets quarterly to make updates to the emergency plan. The plan provides a coordinated response between the school and community responders during emergency situations.
Schlueter said the plan includes prevention, preparedness, response and recovery measures during a variety of emergencies. She said a focus recently has been on the reunification process of getting students back to their parents following an emergency.
The board approved the plan as presented.
The board also approved the bus routes for the 2023-24 school year. The route will remain the same as the 2022-23 school year, and Hafer estimated about the same number of students would be riding the bus as the previous year.
Hafer said the district had hired two additional paraprofessionals, Chloe Cozad and Corinne Luther, which brings the school into a good position to meet the needs of its special education students to begin the school year.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Sept. 11, and will include the 2023-24 budget hearing and property tax request.
* Gurnsey receives degree as paramedic from NECC
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 14)
Students in two programs at Northeast Community College who have completed their education were recognized recently. Students in the college’s Paramedic and Physical Therapy Assistant programs who completed their clinical and field experiences this summer, a requirement to be conferred their degrees, were presented their diplomas during a commencement ceremony in the Lifelong Learning Center.
Among the graduates was Katherine Gurnsey of Bassett, who received an Associate of Applied Science degree as a paramedic.
Jeff Hoffman, dean of health & public services, told graduates as they celebrate their graduation, the college honors the evidence of their commitment to learning.
“Every single one of you has pushed yourselves outside of your comfort zone and worked hard to be here today,” Hoffman said. “In addition to honoring your commitment to learning, we are honoring Northeast’s commitment to teaching excellence. Northeast’s dedicated faculty and staff have been proud to work with each of you and assist you in attaining your educational goals.”
Northeast’s Paramedic program provides students with the required knowledge and skills to care for patients who are injured due to trauma or suffer from medical problems. Instructors not only teach but work as paid professionals in the paramedic field.
* Council hears plan for East City Park upgrades
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 10)
The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday heard a presentation from a Park Board representative on prioritized improvement projects at East City Park.
Cody Goochey told the council the Park Board had been meeting frequently to provide the council with a plan for upgrades at the park, including replacing the current basketball court with a new court that included two pickleball courts. The plan also includes a walking path that connects Highway 20 to the Cowboy Trail through the park, the creation of a dog park east of the horseshoe pits, an improved batting cage and the replacement of the restroom near the softball field.
Goochey said the Park Board has also received a request to move the discus and shot put from west of the track to the southeast side of the track closer to other field events and close off a roundabout drive on the south side of the track.
“They would like to move the shot put ring to that location and move the discus back to where it was originally,” Goochey said. “We are trying to get back to making that a multi-purpose area again. We have volunteers willing to use scrapers to clean it up and make it a multi-purpose area for track, T-ball and soccer.”
He said removing the roundabout drive would potentially affect about eight parking places on the south side of the track.
Councilmen Vance Heyer and Dustin Barthel both questioned whether there was enough room in the T-ball field area to relocate the shot put and discus rings without having to remove the driveway south of the track.
Goochey said there would not be enough space to have both shot put and discus events going at the same time without using the space from the roundabout.
He said the current shot put and discus rings are located west of the track, and it was difficult for some competitors who were entered in multiple events to get back and forth between events with the current setup. He said the track and field coaching staff had made the request to the Park Board to relocate those events.
The council asked to see the dimensions needed for both the shot put and the discus before making a decision on removing the drive.
Goochey said the Park Board was presenting the council with the prioritized projects because the board would like to apply for a grant through the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission that would potentially cover half the cost of the improvements.
He said money had already been donated to replace the basketball court, which was more than 40 years old and was in disrepair. He said the city could also save some money on that portion of the project if city staff could handle removal of the current court and fence.
Goochey said the estimate they received was $68,000 to add a concrete walking path through the park that connects the newly constructed sidewalk on the south side of Highway 20 with the Cowboy Trail on the south side of the park.
He said the Park Board had received requests for a dog park, and east of the horseshoe pits already had water available and trees. Benches would be constructed as part of the dog park. Goochey said the Park Board had also received requests to improve the batting cage, as the current batting cage probably needed to be scrapped.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said one of the top items that comes up in community surveys is improvements at East City Park. She said, with the prioritized projects submitted by the Park Board, she could work to put together estimates to be able to apply for the grant and see the feasibility of what the city could do to provide the 50 percent required match.
Mayor Joel Klammer said he appreciated all the work the Park Board has been doing.
“I think we can get at least some of this done,” Klammer said.
Goochey said it had been a long time since any major upgrades had been done at the park.
In other business Wednesday, Sandhills Care Center Board Chair Tom Jones presented the council with the 2023-24 budget proposal for the care center. Jones said the budget was put together based on the projected number of residents, with the previous year’s operating expenses used to estimate the costs for the upcoming budget year.
“We have 27 residents as of today,” Jones said. “The budget started with 24 and eased up to 29 by the end of the fiscal year.”
The budget estimated revenue of $2.87 million and total expenses of $2.62 million for an operating margin for the year of approximately $250,000.
Jones said the budget did not include the voter-approved bond funds, which would amount to about $200,000. He said that money would begin to be collected during the upcoming budget cycle. He said the Care Center Board planned to place that money in its interlocal account in case there is a shortage or a need to make upgrades at the facility.
Jones said the care center received a $320,000 reimbursement from Medicaid, which allowed the board to completely pay off money it had taken from a line of credit established following the vote to provide additional tax dollars to the facility. He said the board was also able to replace a stove and make upgrades to the concrete in front of the facility using those funds.
He said the care center will have a major expense of replacing its roof following damage from the hail in May. He said the care center’s insurance deductible was $100,000 so it would be up to the care center to replace the roof with no help from insurance.
“We are cautiously optimistic,” Jones said. “Our financial consultant has our breakeven number at 25 residents. I would be more comfortable with around a 27 average. We have not had to use any agency staffing for the past several months.”
The council acknowledged the budget but was not required to take any official action as the care center operates as a stand-alone entity with the city and Brown County each owning 50 percent of the facility.
The council, with Brad Fiala absent Wednesday, approved an ordinance amending city code to allow a waiver of a court appearance on certain city ordinance violations.
Schroedl said the ordinance amendment was recommended by the sheriff’s department to streamline the process when the department issues citations for nuisance violations.
Currently, the sheriff’s department provides a property owner with a 10-day notice to abate the nuisance. After that time, a citation is issued and the property owner receives a court date.
Instead of forcing the property owner to appear in court, the waiver would give the resident the opportunity to pay the fine without having to appear, similar to the way people who receive speeding tickets can pay a fine without having to appear in court. She said the change would not take away a property owner’s right to appear in court if they choose to do so.
“We are spinning our wheels a lot,” Schroedl said. “Administratively, there is a lot of time being spent but we are not getting anywhere. This will make it more streamlined.”
She said, with the change, the sheriff’s department would issue the fine based on the city’s current fine schedule for violations instead of the judge. She said most larger cities have the waiver in place, but some smaller cities like Atkinson do as well, and the amendment being proposed was modeled after Atkinson’s ordinance.
“Our fee schedule is in the ballpark with what other cities are doing,” the administrator said.
The city’s ordinance includes the fines doubling for second and subsequent offenses.
The council approved the ordinance amendments and waived the three unique readings.
The council approved several items that allowed the city to convey property to the county at the site of the new ambulance barn that is being built east of the fire hall. Schroedl said the city owns the property but the county was bonding the new ambulance barn building.
To transfer the property, the council Wednesday first approved a subdivision for the east 45 feet of Lots 9 and 10 in Block 29 of Hall’s Addition. The council then approved an ordinance conveying the property to the county through a quitclaim deed. Finally, the council approved a party wall agreement with the county as one wall of the ambulance barn was planned as a common wall with the fire hall. She said the agreement was suggested by City Attorney Michael Sholes.
The council on Wednesday approved a financial agreement with the Nebraska Department of Transportation regarding improvements the city planned to make in downtown Ainsworth next year as part of the NDOT renovating Highway 7.
Schroedl said the agreement was similar to what the city signed with the NDOT for the Highway 20 project. She said the agreement indicates the city will pay for upgrades it approved above what the state had included in its renovation of the road. She said estimates for the city’s portion of the project are close to what was put together for grant applications.
The council also approved a $467 grant administration payment to the Central Nebraska Economic Development District as a final grant drawdown from the sewer improvement project completed more than a year ago. Schroedl said there was some grant administration work that had to be done following the completion of that project.
The council opted to change its auditor for the next three years, approving a contract with AMGL of Grand Island. AMGL provided a quote of $17,000 for the first year of the contract, with the price increasing by $500 for each subsequent year of the agreement.
Dana F Cole, who had been handling the city’s annual audit, submitted a three-year quote at $15,600 for the first year, $17,200 for the second year and $18,900 for the third year.
Schroedl said the city had not gone out for bids for its audit work since 2019. She said Dana F Cole was knowledgeable and had been helpful, but there had been issues with everything getting done on time due to staffing challenges.
She said AMGL handled audit work for numerous cities. She said she spoke with staff from some of those cities, who indicated they were very satisfied with the work done by the company.
The council agreed getting everything done in a timely manner was important, and Klammer encouraged the council to consider the AMGL proposal. The council approved the three-year contract with the Grand Island company.
In a final action item, the council approved a special designated liquor license requested by Yogi’s Place for a customer appreciation event from 1 until 10 p.m. Sept. 16.
During her report, Schroedl said there have been some issues with the air-conditioning on the city’s new garbage truck. She said she had been working with Macqueen Equipment to address the issue as the truck was still under warranty when the issue occurred. She said the company sent a service technician, but he was not able to fix the problem. She said she would keep the council informed as she tried to remedy the issue with the company.
She reported she had been working on vacant building issues with the city’s building inspector, the sheriff and with Kristin Olson from the North Central Development Center. She said they are developing plans to locate potential sites that could be utilized with the NCDC receiving workforce housing funds from the state that would also address some of the vacant building issues in the city.
Prior to adjourning, Councilman Vance Heyer said he was in the process of moving outside city limits so he would no longer be eligible to continue serving as a council member.
“It has been an honor to serve the city,” Heyer said. “There are a lot of positive things happening.”
With Heyer having to resign his council seat due to residency requirements, Klammer will recommend a replacement for the council to consider during its September meeting. Whoever is appointed by the council will serve the remainder of Heyer’s term, which runs through 2024.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sept. 13.
* Area students set to receive degrees from UNK
(Posted 9:30 a.m. Aug. 7)
Graduate and undergraduate degrees will be conferred for 210 summer graduates at University of Nebraska at Kearney commencement exercises 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 11, in the UNK Health and Sports Center.
Area students receiving degrees from UNK are:
Harley Wilbeck, a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration
Nicole Ebert, a Master of Arts in Education degree in school principalship pre-kindergarten through eighth grade
Debby Linse, a Master of Science in Education degree in clinical mental health counseling
* Traffic Accidents
(Posted 7:15 a.m. Aug. 7)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of recent motor vehicle accidents.
The first occurred at 5:02 p.m. Sunday, July 30, on Ponderosa Road near the 437th Avenue intersection. According to the sheriff’s department report, a 2014 Ford F-150, driven by Beau Herrington, 17, of Bassett, was traveling south when the vehicle left the roadway and struck a fence.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $6,000.
The sheriff’s department investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred at 8:53 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4.
According to the report, a 1999 Dodge Dakota, driven by Glenn Johnson, 63, of Ainsworth, was traveling west on Highway 20 near milepost 249 when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. The Dodge was considered a total loss.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Aug. 7)
- Responded to a request for a welfare check in rural Brown County. The subject was located and reported safe at this time.
- Received a report of loud music on Osborne Street in Ainsworth.
- Issued a citation for speeding to a Nebraska driver for 75mph in a 65mph zone. This same driver was later involved in a one-vehicle accident on Ponderosa Road. Property damage occurred to a fence and no injuries were reported. A citation was issued to the driver for willful reckless driving.
- Responded to a request for a welfare check on a male transient reported to be laying in the road ditch along Highway 20. The subject was found and reported safe at this time.
- Received a report of vandalism that occurred to a bridge on Meadville Ave that is currently under construction. A report will be sent to the Brown County Attorney’s office.
- The Brown County Ambulance transported a flight crew to the hospital.
- Responded to a report of a two-vehicle accident on East Raven Road. No injuries were reported and both vehicles were able to drive away from the scene.
- Received a report of theft involving a horse trailer from Johnstown. The trailer was located and determined to not be stolen.
- Received a report of loud music on Osborne Street.
- Responded to a 911 call reporting a disabled vehicle on the highway, near mile marker 247. Long Pine Rural and Ainsworth fire departments were paged to assist with traffic control until the vehicle could be removed from the lane.
- Provided traffic control for cattle crossing near mile marker 225 on Highway 20.
- Issued a notice to correct a city ordinance violation of overgrown weeds and an unlicensed vehicle on Elm Street.
- Responded to a report of a hit and run accident on Meadville Ave. No injuries were reported. A Nebraska subject was later located and issued a citation for leaving the scene of an accident.
- Citations for speeding 50mph and 48mph in a 35mph speed zone were issued to a Nebraska and Rhode Island driver, respectively.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call for lift assistance at a rural Brown County address. No transport was needed at this time.
- Received a report of loose dogs, on South Pine Ave, causing the loss of other pet animals. This is an ongoing investigation.
- The Brown County Ambulance was paged to an Ainsworth senior living facility and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
- Received a report of a male subject in East City Park for failure to pay for a camping area. Deputies were unable to locate the male.
- Responded to a report of a parking complaint on 5th Street involving a vehicle blocking access to a USPS mailbox. Contact was made with the vehicle owner, and it was moved.
- Responded to a report of a large group of cattle on Highway 20, near the Rock and Brown County line.
- Responded to a report of a welfare check on a female subject reported to be in Long Pine. The female was found to be safe at this time.
- Received a report of a suspicious deer carcass found on a Brown County property. The caller was encouraged to contact the Nebraska Game & Parks.
- Received a report of suspected mortgage fraud, this is an ongoing investigation.
- Responded to a report of two vehicles racing on Highway 20. The vehicles were located but found to be within the legal speed limits.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from Ainsworth. One patient was transported to the Brown County Hospital. Crew members also provided stand-by service in Rock County.
- Responded to a report of a group of cattle on Highway 20, near mile marker 248.
- Responded to a one vehicle deer collision accident on Highway 20, near mile marker 249. No injuries were reported, and the vehicle was able to drive away from the scene.
- Provided a civil standby in Long Pine for the removal of property.
- Issued a citation for speeding on Highway 7, near mile marker 40, to a Colorado driver for 80mph in a 65mph zone.
- Received a report of a suspicious vehicle near mile marker 248 along Highway 20. Deputies were unable to locate the vehicle at this time.
21- Incident Reports Were Taken
139- Phone Calls Were Received
6- 911 Emergency Calls Received
8- Titles Were Inspected
1- Handgun Permits Applied For
8- Paper Services Were Served
4-Inmates Currently Housed
96- Incident Reports
621- Phone Calls Were Received
41- 911 Emergency Calls Received
11- Titles Were Inspected
8- Handgun Permits Applied For
14- Paper Services Served
12-City Ordinance Violations
* Commissioners deem former Long Lake site landlocked
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 2)
Following a public hearing Tuesday, the Brown County Commissioners found a former state recreation area that was sold by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is isolated with no access, which triggers the county to proceed with creating an access route to the property.
Grant Kobes of Bennington purchased the former 80-acre Long Lake State Recreation Area tract from the Game and Parks Commission and told the county board he had no way to access the property.
Kobes said an easement with a neighboring property owner the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission had for access to the site went away when the property was sold.
“There is no existing agreement for me to get across the neighboring property,” Kobes said. “I cannot use the property without access. It has no value with no access.”
Kobes was asked by an audience member if he realized access would be a potential issue when he purchased the property. Kobes said he had done research before purchasing the property and knew a state statute was in place that required the county to provide access to a landlocked property if he could not secure access himself.
Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor said, to satisfy the state’s isolated land statute, the property owner must show that the land was not isolated when it was purchased. If the board deemed the property had no access, the statute requires the county to provide access, at the property owner’s expense, along section lines unless an agreement is reached to use an alternate route.
Nebraska Assistant Attorney General Carlton Wiggam, representing the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, said he attended Tuesday’s hearing because the Game and Parks Commission has the American Game Marsh Wildlife Management Area near the site that could potentially be included in an access route.
Wiggam said the Game and Parks Commission had no specific objections if the county used any existing trail on the wildlife management area as part of an access route. However, if the chosen route utilized the WMA and was not an existing development, it would create issues as the Game and Parks Commission used federal dollars to purchase the WMA.
Wiggam said the federal government would need to approve the development or have the Game and Parks Commission either pay back the government for the land used for the access or acquire equivalent land for the WMA.
Property owner Greg Villwok said the Game and Parks Commission was the reason everyone was here in the first place.
“The Game and Parks sold the property with no access and now the rest of us are having to clean up the mess,” Villwok said.
Villwok said the property was sold without any neighboring landowner even realizing it was for sale.
Wiggam said, while the Game and Parks Commission made the decision to sell the state recreation area, the Department of Administrative Services actually handles the sale of state property.
“Access was a concern, and the Game and Parks Commission has had trouble with landowners in this area in ensuring access,” Wiggam said. “Given that it was a state recreation area, the Game and Parks Board didn’t feel there was a way to improve it and provide additional services.”
Commissioner Dennis Bauer said, as a common courtesy, the Game and Parks should contact neighboring landowners before they sell any property.
“The Game and Parks Commission has a PR issue in this area, and this does not help,” Bauer said.
Attorney Todd Flynn, representing the Wales family, which owns property adjacent to the site, said state statute indicates the access route should be along section lines, but there may be a way to meet in the middle.
Commissioner Buddy Small said the county is charged with determining first if the property is isolated.
Taylor said the route itself was not the issue at hand during the hearing, only a determination on whether the land was isolated. He asked if any audience member had evidence that the land purchased by Kobes was not isolated.
With no one disputing that the land was currently inaccessible, Taylor said he believed Kobes met the statutory requirements to demonstrate the land was isolated.
“I think the board should determine the land is isolated,” Taylor said. “I don’t believe you have any other choice legally.”
The board unanimously approved a finding that the property is isolated land as defined by state statute.
Small said the county board’s authority only goes so far.
“We swore to uphold the Constitution of the state of Nebraska,” Small said. “To fight state statute would be dangerous to the county.”
Taylor said there are additional steps the county must take to establish an access route, including hiring surveyors and engineers to determine the route. The county must then purchase the property required for the access and construct the route. The property owner is responsible for all the costs incurred by the county to establish access.
“The highway superintendent will now determine how the project proceeds,” Taylor said.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners discussed the use of Ponderosa Road next year as a local detour route when the Highway 20 bridge in the Long Pine hills is closed for construction.
While the Nebraska Department of Transportation will use Highway 183 north to Highway 7 and then south to Bassett as its official detour route, most local traffic will likely use the shorter Ponderosa Road route around the construction.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said he had received a call from a homeowner in that area asking about having additional signage on Ponderosa Road while the detour was in effect.
“He was concerned about the additional traffic and the potential for accidents,” Turpin said. “I think we will also post weight limits on those bridges. Those bridges are old.”
The board agreed additional signage for the road was appropriate.
The commissioners approved allowing Turpin to move forward with the purchase of a new Caterpillar motor grader. Turpin said it would take 12 months for the county to receive the equipment, so his proposal was for the purchase to be included in the 2024-25 budget.
Turpin said, 10 years ago, a new motor grader cost $240,000. He said the 2024 Caterpillar was now $411,200. He said the new machine would replace either a 2008 John Deere or a 2009 Caterpillar grader.
“The more we stay on top of updating equipment, the more our older machines will be worth,” Turpin said.
Bauer said the county likely needed to budget to replace a motor grader every three years or so.
“We spend $50,000 to $60,000 when we have to send one to the shop,” Bauer said.
The board will determine later whether to budget for the purchase in one year or spread out paying for the machine over time.
In a final roads item, the commissioners approved two payment requests and authorized Small to sign a certificate of substantial completion on the Meadville Avenue asphalt replacement project. Bauer said he had received a lot of compliments about the condition of Meadville Avenue following the asphalt replacement.
The commissioners acknowledged budget requests submitted by the Brown County Agricultural Society and the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District. While a decision on the amounts won’t be made by the board until its budget hearing, the Agricultural Society requested $50,000 in property tax to support its general fund and $20,000 to its sinking fund to repay improvement work that was previously undertaken.
The Rural Fire Protection District requested 3 cents in property tax levy to support its operations for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
The board approved paying $6,500 for an interest payment on the new ambulance from the county’s ambulance fund, with the ambulance association reimbursing the county for the payment. Treasurer Bruce Mitchell asked the commissioners which fund they wanted to use to make the payment.
Taylor suggested the payment be made from the ambulance association’s line item since the cost was ultimately being covered by the association.
In a final action item, the board approved an application by county employee Zach Welch to participate in the county’s college tuition reimbursement program. The program allows county employees to receive $1,500 per semester to further their education.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Aug. 15.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 10:30 a.m. July 31)
- Issued two warnings and two citations for speeding.
- Responded to a false security alarm at a bank in Ainsworth.
- Issued a notice to correct for city ordinance violation of overgrown weeds.
- Was notified of a report of littering involving packaged meats. The owner was located and picked up the trash before the end of the day.
- Was notified of a pivot watering the roadway. Owner was contacted and resolved the issue.
- Was notified of a down stop sign on 879th The county roads department was contacted and installed a new sign.
- Issued a notice to correct for a property on Wilson Street for city ordinance violation of dangerous building.
- Issued a notice to correct for a business on Main Street for overgrown weeds.
- The Ainsworth Fire Department was paged to a struck gas meter in Ainsworth.
- Received a report of a neighbor verbal disturbance.
- The Ainsworth Fire Department was paged to assist with one bale on fire, on 432nd
- Responded to a report of a verbal domestic dispute.
- Issued a speeding citation to a Nebraska driver for 80mph in a 65mph zone.
- Issued a citation for city ordinance violation for failure to remove debris and overgrown weeds.
- Brown County Sheriff’s Office, Brown County Ambulance, and Ainsworth Fire Department all responded to a report of a vehicle accident at the intersection of Pine & 1st Two occupants were transported to the Brown County Hospital. The vehicle was considered totaled and towed. The driver struck a parked vehicle causing significant damage and it was towed as well.
- Notified of a failure to pay for services involving the transportation of cornstalk bales. This is an ongoing investigation.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth. One patient was transported to the Brown County Hospital. Later, they also picked up a flight crew at the airport to pick up a patient from the hospital.
- Notified of a possible runaway juvenile that was suspected of travelling through Brown County. Juvenile found in South Dakota.
- The Long Pine Rural Fire Department was paged to a report of a gas leak near Pine Street.
- The Brown County Ambulance provided a lift assist, and no transport was needed at this time.
- Received a complaint involving obstruction of view of an intersection in Ainsworth.
- Celebrated the retirement of K-9 Dutch.
- Responded to a 911 call reporting a disturbance at a Main Street business.
- Notified of a pivot watering 427th The owner was called and agreed to correct the issue.
- Responded to a request for a welfare check in Ainsworth. Individuals were located and found safe at this time.
- Issued two citations and two warnings for speeding on this day. One ticket was for 86mph in a 65mph zone.
- Notified of two subjects that had been in a physical disturbance. Both subjects did not want to file criminal charges.
- The Brown County Ambulance provided lift assistance, and no transport was needed at this time.
- Responded to a report of animal neglect on Maple Street in Ainsworth. The dog was found to have adequate food and water with fans running to prevent overheating.
- Two warnings for speeding and one citation for speeding were issued on this day.
- Responded to a report of a male subject breaking and entering a locked home on 877th The male subject was issued a citation for criminal trespassing.
- Notified county roads department of a down stop sign at 877th Road and 428th Ave intersection.
25 – Incident Reports Were Taken
164- Phone Calls Were Received
21- 911 Emergency Calls Received
2 – Titles Were Inspected
0- Handgun Permits Applied For
2 – Paper Services Were Served
4-Inmates Currently Housed
(Weekly summaries from the sheriff’s department for the three previous weeks will not be available)
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 11:15 a.m. July 27)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Michael E. Christoferson, age 21, of Broken Bow, charged with possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce and less than 1 pound, fined $1,000; also charged with attempting a Class 4 felony, $500.
Derrick N. Turrubiates, 26, of Fargo, N.D., possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce and less than 1 pound, $1,000; attempting a Class 4 felony, $500.
Moises Turrubiates, 21, of Fargo, N.D., possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce and less than 1 pound, $1,000; attempting a Class 4 felony, $500.
Raul Turrubiates, 22, of Fargo, N.D., possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce and less than 1 pound, $1,000; attempting a Class 4 felony, $500.
Joseph P. O’Neill, 31, of Denver, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Jacob J. Fernau, 24, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Courtney W. Sears, 75, of Valentine, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Ashley M. Johnson, 31, of Ainsworth, failure to license a dog or cat, $25.
Kolton Lurz, 26, of Ainsworth, dogs running at large, $25.
Annette M. Hubbell, 70, of Colorado Springs, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Jamie M. Barajas, 38, of Bellevue, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Emily E. North, 23, of Colorado Springs, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Randy M. Jackson, 61, of Papillion, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Jesson R. Delfs, 21, of Hardwick, Minn., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.
Donald A. Stickel, 70, of Chillicothe, Ill., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Jackson G. Irwin, 17, of Phillipsburg, Kan., speeding 1-5 mph over the limit, $10.
John F. Paul, 53, of Faith, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Crystal D. Martinez, 54, of Ainsworth, first offense willful reckless driving, sentenced to six months of probation.
Michael A. Douglas, 20, of Ainsworth, two counts of discharging a firearm from a highway, fined $100 on each count.
Colten Orton, 18, of Ainsworth, three counts of discharging a firearm from a highway, fined $100 on each count.
Kirby Johnson, 38, of Ainsworth assault – threatening another in a menacing manner, sentenced to two years of probation.
Sarah Lackey, 22, of Bristow, Okla., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Derek R. Kenner, 36, of Wood Lake, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Barela Y. Martinez, 40, of Lakewood, Colo., no valid registration, $25.
Charlie Korth, 27, of Humphrey, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Brandon P. Sears, 43, of Springview, no valid registration, $25.
* Tuesday accident injures two in Ainsworth
(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 27)
A two-vehicle accident Tuesday in Ainsworth injured two motorists and prompted the response of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department to utilize its extrication equipment.
According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, at 3:14 p.m. Tuesday on Pine Street north of the First Street intersection, a 2004 Ford Escape, driven by Judith Baxter, 82, of Ainsworth, was traveling south when the vehicle struck a parked 2015 Ford Escape, owned by Molly Salzman, 20, of Ainsworth.
The collision caused the Baxter vehicle to overturn, coming to rest on its top on Pine Street. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was called to extricate Baxter and a passenger from the vehicle. They were transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for treatment of injuries suffered during the accident.
Both vehicles were considered a total loss.
The sheriff’s department investigated two additional accidents recently. At 2:05 p.m. July 7 at the intersection of Second and Fullerton streets, a collision occurred between a 2015 Jeep Cherokee, driven by McKenna Wietzki, 18, of Bassett, and a 2004 Lincoln Town Car, driven by Dorothy Peters, 85, of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported in that accident. Damage to both vehicles was estimated at $1,500.
The sheriff’s department also investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred July 18 on Highway 183. At 6:12 p.m. July 18 near milepost 199, a collision occurred between a northbound 2016 Freightliner semi, driven by Sadaq Ahmed Mohamud, 31, of Bloomington, Minn., and a northbound 2005 Dodge Ram, driven by Zoe Poling, 25, of Bassett.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Freightliner was estimated at $3,000. The Dodge sustained approximately $5,000 damage.
* Lightning causes hay bale fire Tuesday
(Posted 1:15 p.m. July 26)
A lightning strike from a thunderstorm early Tuesday morning resulted in a hay bale fire southeast of Ainsworth.
The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was paged at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday to a report of a single hay bale on fire approximately 1 mile southeast of Ainsworth. The fire was contained to the single bale, owned by Pat Schumacher.
No other property was damaged.
* School playground renovation work underway
(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 26)
Ainsworth Community Schools reported Wednesday improvements are being made to the school playground equipment. The school is replacing borders around pieces of equipment. The playground remains open, but visitors are asked to use caution while the repair work is being completed. The work is expected to be completed by Aug. 2.
* Walz talks about her national breakaway title
(Posted 2:15 p.m. July 25)
KBR Rodeo Club member Kieley Walz visited with KBRB’s Cody Goochey to talk about the national breakaway roping title she won last week during the National High School Finals Rodeo at Gillette, Wyo.
To hear the conversation, click on the audio link below.
* Jobless rate increases for most area counties in June
(Posted 1 p.m. July 25)
Nebraska’s preliminary unemployment rate for June is 1.9 percent. The rate is unchanged from the May rate and is down 0.3 percentage points from the June 2022 rate of 2.2 percent. The rate is tied for the third lowest in the country.
New Hampshire and South Dakota share the lowest unemployment rate in the country at 1.8 percent, followed by Nebraska and Vermont at 1.9 percent. Maryland and North Dakota round out the top five for lowest June unemployment rates at 2 percent.
Nevada had the highest unemployment rate in the country in June at 5.4 percent. California at 4.6 percent, Delaware at 4.2 percent, Texas at 4.1 percent and Illinois at 4 percent round out the bottom five.
“This is the second consecutive month Nebraska reached a new high in nonfarm employment,” Commissioner of Labor John H. Albin said. “The new high in June of 1,056,575 was due to a large over the month increase in the Omaha metro area, which also reached a new high in June of 514,707.”
Nonfarm employment, a count of filled jobs, was up 10,429 from May and up 27,157 from June 2022. Private industries with the most growth month to month were leisure and hospitality (up 3,455 jobs), mining and construction (up 1,833 jobs), and trade, transportation and utilities (up 1,457 jobs). Private industries with the most over the year growth were private education and health services (up 6,899 jobs), leisure and hospitality service (up 6,021 jobs), and mining and construction (up 4,237 jobs).
June was the fourth straight month of record highs both in the total Nebraska labor force (1,062,783) and the number of employed workers in the labor force (1,042,325).
Brown County’s unemployment rate in June rose to 3 percent, well above the state average. Rock County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state in June at 1.6 percent. Holt County’s unemployment rate was equal to the statewide average at 2 percent. Cherry County’s rate increased to 2.1 percent in June, with Boyd County at 2.2. percent and Keya Paha County at 2.5 percent.
With the exception of Rock County, unemployment rates in the area increased from May to June. Blaine County had the highest unemployment rate in the state in June at 3.9 percent.
The national unemployment rate for June is 3.6 percent, down 0.1 percentage points from the May rate of 3.7 percent. This rate is unchanged from the June 2022 rate of 3.6 percent.
* Lions Club installs new officers and directors
(Posted 12:30 p.m. July 20)
The Ainsworth Lions Club annual Family Picnic was held Monday with 17 members and 10 guests in attendance.
Lion Past-President Dale Hafer conducted the installation ceremony for newly elected Officers and Directors: Lion Tamer-Rita Paddock; Lion Tail Twister-Vance Heyer; Membership Director-Bill Lentz; Lions Directors-Roland Paddock, Roger Lechtenberg, Connie Lentz, Mike Schrad; Treasurer-Phil Fuchs; President-Steve Dike; Past-President-Dale Hafer. The following positions remain open: President-Elect, Secretary, and Recording Secretary.
A discussion was held regarding excess water pitchers and the sale of the popcorn machine, hotdog roller, and nacho cheese machine. Connie Lentz and Rita Paddock were authorized to proceed to dispose of the excess water pitchers. Roland Paddock and Jim Arens were authorized to negotiate the sale of the popcorn machine, hotdog roller, and nacho cheese machine to interested organizations.
Scott Steinhauser’s application to become a member of the Ainsworth Lions Club was approved. President Dike presented the following membership awards for the 2022-23 year: Graig Kinzie-15 years; Doug Weiss-20 years; David Spann-45 years; Jerry Ehlers-50 years. Treasurer Phil Fuchs announced the club won $75 in the District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund raffle, which will be deposited into the club’s Special Projects Account.
* Board opts against change to tree height on right of way
(Posted 3:30 p.m. July 18)
After discussing during its past two meetings an increased height for trees to be trimmed from county road right of way, the Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday opted to leave the 8-foot height required by state statute in place and not pass a county ordinance that would increase that height.
Commissioner Buddy Small said, if there are trees over roadways that aren’t bothering anyone, he didn’t necessarily want to force them to be trimmed higher by passing an ordinance.
“If there are areas where they are causing problems, then we can remove them,” Small said.
County Attorney Andy Taylor said the ordinance could not be arbitrarily enforced.
“You either enforce it everywhere or you don’t enforce it,” Taylor said. “Enforcement has to be uniform.”
Small said the roads department has always responded to problem areas with the 8-foot height requirement.
“If people can’t get down the road with their equipment, we come take care of it,” Small said.
Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said, if the county passed an ordinance that made the height for trimming trees higher, the county would then be responsible for cutting any trees that hang over the road right of way.
Taylor said the county would be responsible for trimming the trees, and could then try to recoup the cost of doing so from the landowner if the trees are located on private property.
Taylor suggested the board not move forward with increasing the height from what is required by state statute.
“Most people are pretty reasonable and are willing to work with us if there are issues,” Taylor said.
He said adopting an ordinance increasing the height would require publishing notice of the intended ordinance, passing three readings and holding a public hearing.
With Commissioner Dennis Bauer absent, the board opted not to move forward with an ordinance.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners met with Sheriff Brent Deibler to discuss repairs he plans to make to the sheriff’s department building and jail. Discussion centered on which line item in the county’s 2023-24 budget the expenses would be included.
Deputy Clerk Becky Hardy said the county received a $6,900 bill from Nelson’s Furniture for flooring for the sheriff’s department and didn’t know which fund to use to pay the claim.
Dailey said he understood the repair costs would be included in the sheriff’s department budget.
“It would be clearer if it is in the jail budget,” Dailey said.
Hardy said, if the claims are paid from the jail budget, the commissioners and sheriff just needed to make sure there were enough funds in that line item included in the 2023-24 budget.
Deibler said it was his understanding American Rescue Plan Act funds would be used for at least some of the repair items. The sheriff said there were numerous items in the building that needed to be addressed, including a leaking foundation, flooring, windows, plumbing and HVAC.
“The building is falling apart,” Deibler said. “Nothing has been repaired in a long time. It all seems to be happening now. We don’t have a choice, it has to be fixed.”
Deibler said he has not yet even had estimates returned for some portions of the repairs as contractors are hesitant to provide a quote without knowing exactly how much work it will take to make the repairs.
Small encouraged Deibler to estimate the cost of repairs a little high so the money would be available in the budget. After discussion on each item that needed to be addressed, Deibler and the commissioners agreed that $125,000 would be included in the sheriff’s department budget for building repairs.
In another budget item, Hardy asked the commissioners if the county planned to make a $5,840 interest payment on the new ambulance for the Brown County Ambulance Association and request reimbursement from the association, or whether the bill should be paid directly by the ambulance association.
Taylor said the safest way to handle the claim would be to have the county make the payment from its ambulance line item and be reimbursed by the association.
“The ambulance association is paying for it, but there is nothing in writing on how the payments will work and whether the association will make the payments directly or if the money comes from the county and is reimbursed,” the county attorney said.
Small said he preferred that the ambulance association make the payments without the county being involved in the process.
Taylor said he would create a resolution to handle future payments for the board to approve during its next meeting.
The board also discussed a resolution regarding payments for the new ambulance barn building, as payments on the building are due prior to the board approving its 2023-24 fiscal year budget.
Taylor said the resolution the board needed to approve was standard and allows the restriction of expenditures in the ambulance building line item to be exceeded.
“The money will be budgeted for approval in September when the budget it adopted,” Taylor said.
The commissioners approved the resolution as presented.
The board will not proceed with replacing the Wagoner Bridge across Pine Creek in northeastern Brown County that was destroyed during the 2019 floods.
Taylor said Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin could not find any record that the bridge had ever been on the county’s inventory or that the county had ever maintained the bridge.
“It is not the county’s responsibility,” Taylor said.
Dailey said, after the research that had been done, he was confident the bridge that was destroyed was not a county bridge.
Taylor said he would contact the landowner who had discussed the bridge replacement with the board and let the landowner know the commissioners would not be taking any action to replace the bridge.
Small said he received a request from Greg Jochem for the county to consider purchasing fuel from his local business.
Small said Central Valley Ag was currently withholding the 18.4-cent per gallon federal tax on fuel that the county was not responsible for paying. Small said Jochem indicated it would not be an issue for his business to also refrain from adding the federal tax to the county’s bill.
The board approved creating an account with Yogi’s Place for fuel for the roads department pickups using the department’s credit card. Fuel would then be charged and a receipt would be forwarded.
Dailey said he wanted the person getting the fuel to sign the receipt and indicate which county vehicle was being fueled.
In final action items Tuesday, the board approved a service agreement with Appeara and declined to become a member of the North Central RC&D.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Aug. 1.
* Air quality alert issues for today, Tuesday
(Posted 1 p.m. July 17)
Smoke associated with wildfires in Canada may affect the air quality in Nebraska. Visibility impacts may occur in areas with heavier smoke impacts.
An advisory of possible Moderate to Unhealthy AQI impacts may occur in central and eastern Nebraska Monday and Tuesday.
Among the counties included in the smoke advisory are Blaine, Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha and Rock counites.
States monitor smoke levels and weather conditions to determine when impacts to air quality are anticipated. Advisories are based on data from the National Weather Service, smoke plume and air quality modeling.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 17)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred July 6 on Moon Lake Avenue.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 9:36 p.m. July 6, a 2016 Lincoln MKX, driven by Derek Martinsen, 27, of Ainsworth was traveling south on Moon Lake Avenue when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. The Lincoln was considered a total loss.
* Smoke advisory issues for north central Nebraska
(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 14)
Smoke associated with wildfires in Canada may affect the air quality in Nebraska. Visibility impacts may occur in areas with heavier smoke impacts.
An advisory of possible Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups impacts may occur in north central, northeast, and eastern Nebraska. Among the counties potentially affected are Boyd, Brown, Cherry, Holt, Keya Paha, and Rock from Saturday, July 15, through Sunday, July 16.
Advisories are issued for areas of anticipated impact by notifying the media and local health departments and posting information on the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy’s webpages and social media sites. These advisories provide information to the public on the anticipated impacts and air quality and health resources to help citizens protect their health and minimize exposure to smoke.
States monitor smoke levels and weather conditions to determine when impacts to air quality are anticipated. Advisories are based on data from the National Weather Service, smoke plume, and air quality modeling, and from ambient air quality monitors located in Omaha, Bellevue, Blair, Lincoln, Beatrice, Grand Island, and Scottsbluff.
* Atkinson named Leadership Certified Community
(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 14)
The City of Atkinson earned state recognition for leading partnerships to grow businesses, build housing and invest in downtown infrastructure.
This week, the Department of Economic Development announced the city’s requalification for membership in Nebraska’s Leadership Certified Community program. DED’s Field Operations Director Sheryl Hiatt recognized local leaders during Atkinson’s City Council meeting Monday.
Atkinson is one of 31 Nebraska communities to qualify for the statewide LCC program. DED created the program in 2011 to help local leaders adapt to ongoing changes and opportunities in economic development. Qualifying communities must demonstrate preparedness in strategic and community planning, display readiness in technological development and invest in new and existing businesses. Certified communities earn designation in the program for five years and are required to update and maintain their websites.
Local developers in Atkinson continue to capitalize on state and local programs and partnerships to encourage economic growth. Over the past five years, the city’s LB840 program has invested nearly $1 million in business loans and more than $340,000 in reimbursement grants. Atkinson voters enacted the LB840 program, also known as Nebraska’s Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act, to collect sales tax dollars specifically dedicated to economic development. Since its inception, the program has contributed to more than 150 projects in Atkinson.
In 2021, Atkinson Economic Development added a Property Improvement Program to assist businesses with signage and façade updates. The program also contributes to structural investments, such as sidewalk development or building demolitions.
“Nebraska’s LCC program encourages leaders to create incentives that are unique to each community’s needs,” said LCC Program Coordinator Kelly Gewecke. “Atkinson’s Property Improvement Program not only complements the work businesses are already doing to grow, but also helps build relationships between business owners and city officials that are so important in economic development.”
Atkinson leaders continue to focus on growing relationships with DED and Central Nebraska Economic Development District to improve housing opportunities. The city utilized funding from DED’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund to convert a dilapidated residential lot into two duplexes. The community received $295,000 in NAHTF assistance, as well as $111,000 in LB840 and municipal funding for a total project cost of $406,000.
City leaders partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on an $88,950 project to install 15 solar lights in critical areas throughout the community. The USDA invested $29,000 in the project from its Community Facility Grant program, which included solar light installation for Atkinson’s maintenance shop, wastewater treatment plant, city well house and fire & rescue hall. Lights were also installed at West Holt Memorial Hospital, the Elkhorn Meadows housing development, Atkinson Mill Race Park & Campground and the Atkinson Community Center.
The solar project was completed in 2022, which will improve public safety and accessibility during electrical power outages.
“In today’s world, especially in rural areas, it is imperative for communities to demonstrate proactive leadership,” said Mayor Josh Erickson. “The citizens of our community must feel secure in the fact that their hometown is doing everything possible to remain viable and sustainable.”
The City of Atkinson utilized federal Community Development Block Grant funding, which was awarded by DED and administered by CNEDD, to update downtown sidewalks. The $287,000 project installed sidewalks that are now compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act to allow for wheelchair accessibility. The new sidewalks are located in front of vital businesses in Atkinson, including the grocery store, hair salon, lumber yard, fitness center, community thrift store and city offices.
City leaders launched a new website and apps for Apple and Android smartphones in the spring of 2022, with assistance from the Entrepreneurial Community Activation Process. The process, led by Nebraska Extension, created an opportunity for Atkinson residents to share their own community priorities through an online survey and a series of community conversations. The survey results showed citizens wanted to be more connected with the City of Atkinson, which led to the updated website and new apps.
“The City of Atkinson prides itself on being a very progressive community and has always managed to complete whatever it endeavors to do,” Erickson said. “Atkinson certainly lives up to its motto ‘Atkinson, Getting Things Done’.”
* Rentschler selected for UN-L Business Honors Academy
(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 14)
Forty high-achieving first-year students have been selected to join the Nebraska Business Honors Academy at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln this fall. Comprising the academy’s 11th cohort, the students hail from two countries, nine U.S. states and 12 Nebraska communities.
Among the students selected for the Business Honors Academy is Madeline Rentschler of Atkinson, who is majoring in business and law.
“Nebraska Business Honors Academy alumni have taken their talents to careers and graduate schools spanning 32 states and five countries, with 25% of alumni heading straight into a graduate or professional degree program,” said Kathy Farrell, James Jr. and Susan Stuart Endowed Dean of the College of Business. “The talented students in the 11th cohort will learn to challenge themselves in new and different ways from day one. They will stretch their strengths both in and out of the classroom and hone their academic, interpersonal and leadership skills as they prepare to lead the future of business.”
The new students will participate in leadership activities and student competitions across the country to enhance their professional communication. They will also participate in internships and study abroad experiences.
“We’re incredibly excited to welcome the next cohort to the Nebraska Business Honors Academy,” said Erin Burnette, the academy’s director. “Throughout the selection process, it was clear they each were eager to challenge themselves and find ways to positively impact the community at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. We on the academy team are honored to be able to have a front-row seat as we help them learn, grow and realize their potential as they progress through their college career.”
Academy students are involved in more than 150 student organizations on campus, serving in a variety of leadership roles. This summer, more than 60% of the students participated in paid internships across 14 states and two countries. Since January, 23% of the students have studied abroad in eight countries.
* Golf course discusses new clubhouse with City Council
(Posted 7:30 p.m. July 12)
In June, representatives from the Ainsworth Golf Course visited with the City Council about potentially repairing the west portion of the clubhouse. On Wednesday, golf course representatives told the council they had received feedback and were instead looking at the option of building a new clubhouse instead of repairing the old building.
Todd Kicken told the council a Nebraska Game and Parks Commission grant could fund half the cost of the building if the course applied and was awarded by tying the project into the Cowboy Trail.
“The current clubhouse is 2,550 square feet,” Kicken said. “If we went back with the same size it would be $573,000 estimating at $225 per square foot. A 50 by 60 building would be $675,000. Those estimates should be on the high side.”
Kicken said he wanted to inform the council of the change and see if the city was supportive of the project, because the course would not begin working toward the new clubhouse plan if the council was not in favor of it.
North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said the city would need to be the entity applying for the Game and Parks Commission grant.
“There are other projects the city is also looking at for this grant,” Olson said. “You may need to get together, set priorities and go for one big application that includes all the projects. If you have a multitude of things that you would apply to fund, you would probably get more buy-in.”
The grant program available from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission would cover 50 percent of the project costs up to $750,000 if awarded.
Olson said the proximity to the Ainsworth Regional Airport would potentially be another selling point for the clubhouse project, as the airport has issues currently with people using the airport having a place to get food.
Mayor Joel Klammer said all of the parks projects and the clubhouse combined would probably not hit the grant threshold.
Councilman Brad Fiala said he believed it was a good idea to move forward and determine the needs for both the golf course and the park.
“I think we should look at the complete project and tie them together to the Cowboy Trail,” Fiala said.
Councilmen Shawn Fernau and Dustin Barthel both agreed that having the park board and the golf course work together on one application would be the best way to move forward.
Councilman Vance Heyer said a new clubhouse would likely be more utilized by the public than the current clubhouse.
Olson said it was likely not realistic to get a grant application put together by this year’s Sept. 4 deadline as there is a lot of work that must be completed prior to applying, including environmental reviews and raising the 50 percent cash match.
“You are probably not going to be able to pull it off for this year,” Olson said. “It is a big application.”
Olson encouraged the groups to keep moving on finalizing priorities and begin planning to have the application ready to submit next year.
Klammer said it appeared there was support from the council for the groups to move forward with a combined grant application for the park and golf course. The council took no official action on the item.
In other business Wednesday, the council held a public hearing for the LB 840 Citizen Advisory Review Committee’s six-month report on the LB 840 program. CARC Chair Marcus Fairhead told the council all LB 840 loans are current, and he encouraged the council to be aware that three members of the LB 840 Loan Committee have terms expiring in November. He said those three expiring terms would either need reappointments or new appointments made.
“Things are moving along, and we are putting some money to use,” Fairhead said.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said there have been several loans approved recently, which was nice to see.
“The funds keep revolving,” Schroedl said. “We have had a lot of requests.”
The council accepted the six-month report as presented.
Chuck Osborn requested the city waive water utility connection fees for a property located at 246 N. Wilson St. Osborn said he decided to add water to his shop at that location.
He said the city located the curb stop, but water service did not work when it was turned on. Osborn said a new water main was placed in the area several years ago, and the contractors did not hook up the line to that parcel when the new line was installed. The line was still connected to the old main, which was taken out of service after the new main was installed.
Fernau said, if the line had been in place at the time the new main was installed, it should have been hooked up.
Schroedl said there were numerous vacant residential lots, and those lots are not always automatically connected when a new water main is installed. She said stubbing in lines that may never be used could be a substantial expense to the city.
Osborn said he purchased the property after the new main had been installed, but the previous owner did have a water line connected to the old main.
Barthel said, if the original property owner had a line that was not connected to the new main, it would have been the city’s responsibility to pay for the connection.
Osborn said he had paid the cost to dig up the street and have a line connected. He said he had no hard feelings either way if the council decided not to waive the fee.
Schroedl said the city planned to stub in every water line when a new main is placed in conjunction with the Main Street renovation project next year. She said city ordinance requires the city to provide the main line and the customer is required to pay the cost to tap into the main line.
“I see both sides of this,” Schroedl said.
Heyer said the property changed ownership when the utilities were likely not being utilized.
“That was likely taken into account during that sale,” Heyer said. “I think it is a good idea for all the connections to be made when mains are replaced.”
By a 3-1 vote with Heyer against, the council approved waiving the $150 tap fee and the $381 saddle cost at the site.
The council approved a request from the Ainsworth Bulldog Booster Club to hang and store Bulldog light pole banners should the Booster Club move forward with the purchase of the banners.
Booster Club representative Jake Graff said the Booster Club picked out two designs from the same company the city used for banners and would purchase seven banners of each design if the city was willing to hang and store the banners.
The council also approved a special designated liquor license application from the Ainsworth Elks for a Booster Club fund-raiser Aug. 18 in the Conference Center. Graff said the event had outgrown the Elks Lodge, and the Booster Club would like to host the annual event in the Conference Center with the Elks catering the meal and the drinks.
The council approved a Community Development Block Grant drawdown to the Central Nebraska Economic Development District in the amount of $3,442 for administration of the North Main Street paving project, and approved documents for another Community Development Block Grant application for downtown revitalization funding related to the Highway 7 project on Main Street slated for 2024. Schroedl said the downtown revitalization grant, if awarded, would help the city fund the lighting and landscaping for the Main Street project as well as improvements to the mini park.
The council approved renewing its worker’s compensation, liability, auto and commercial property insurance through the League Association of Risk Management for the 2023-24 year.
Schroedl said the premium cost to renew through LARM increased from $109,509 last year to $120,706 this year. By signing a three-year agreement, Schroedl said the city received a 5 percent discount on its premium.
The council approved several appointments recommended by the mayor to city boards and committees. Jim Wagner was reappointed to the Committee on Housing for a three-year term. Jerry Ehlers was reappointed to a six-year term on the Municipal Golf Course Foundation Account Committee. The council appointed Brandon Evans to replace Brett Duester and reappointed Robbie France to three-year terms on the City Park Board. Nichole Flynn was reappointed to a three-year term on the Sellors-Barton Cabin Advisory Board, and Donita Painter was reappointed to a three-year term on the City Board of Adjustment.
During her report, Schroedl said the city received $62,605 from LARM for damage to city infrastructure that was sustained during the May hailstorm. Damage occurred to the Conference Center roof, the library roof, the pool filter house roof, the concessions stand roof, the Legion Field Crow’s nest, pool house signage and a window of the UV garage at the wastewater treatment plant.
Schroedl said she planned to advertise for bids to repair all of the infrastructure as one project. The council would open bids during its August meeting.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Aug. 9.
* Care Center Board approves new stove and concrete
(Posted 1 p.m. July 11)
After receiving a more than $320,000 reimbursement from Medicaid that allowed it to pay off all the money it borrowed from its line of credit, the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors on Monday moved forward with two upgrades to the facility the board indicated had been put off as long as possible.
The board approved the purchase of a new six-burner commercial range and oven at a cost of $11,558 from Direct Supply. Board member Shawn Fernau said the stove replacement was a no-brainer, as the current stove had been an issue for years. Fernau said two of the burners on the current range no longer worked.
The board also approved a $7,835 quote from Walton Concrete to replace the driveway and sidewalks in front of the care center building. Board member Denny Bauer said the condition of the current concrete created a safety issue that needed to be remedied, and new concrete would provide a better first impression to those visiting the facility.
Fernau said there was donated labor included in the Walton Concrete quote.
The board did not take action on two quotes received for replacing the shingles at the care center after the roof sustained damage during the May hailstorm. Board members learned the care center’s current insurance deductible is $100,000, so insurance would not provide any assistance to replace the shingles.
Bauer said, since it would likely be more than $50,000 to replace the shingles, the project would need to go out for bids instead of just receiving two quotes for the work.
Fernau said the odds of the roof leaking were slim, but he said he didn’t think the facility would be able to get by without replacing the shingles.
Board member Dr. Mel Campbell said he believed the board needed to look at a different insurance policy with a lower deductible after the roof is replaced.
The board tabled action on upgrading the Internet cable in the facility. The care center will not be able to receive cable television after Sept. 5 without making the upgrade, which will also include new wi-fi for the facility. The quote from Applied Connective to upgrade the equipment was $15,707.
Fernau said he had worked with a couple companies on commercial projects that may be able to provide a more competitive quote for the work.
The board also discussed a $23,587 quote from Applied Connective for a new security camera system. Deeming the camera system not as big a necessity as some of the other infrastructure projects, the board did not take action on that quote.
Fernau said he received a quote from Grant Stec to replace the underground sprinklers at the care center. The current system is not functioning, and Fernau said it was difficult to keep the entire yard watered and green. He said the project could be done in two stages, with the front yard equipped with sprinklers this year and the back yard next year.
The board did not take action on that item.
Greg’s Heating and Air was able to fix the facility’s air-conditioning system by installing a different compressor, so the board did not have to explore quotes for a new air-conditioning system for the facility.
In other business Monday, finalizing action that was approved during its June meeting, the board approved adjustments to its private pay rates to keep pace with changes in Medicaid reimbursement to the facility.
With Medicaid rates changing July 1 and the Department of Health and Human Services updating the way it classifies the care needed for residents, the board approved private pay rates for each category of care that are $50 per day higher than what Medicaid reimburses the facility.
Administrator Penny Jacobs said some residents paying privately would see a decrease in cost of between $9 and $40 per day due to the change in the way their level of care was classified, while other residents paying privately would see an increase.
Board Chair Tom Jones said, on average, the rates wouldn’t be much different than they are currently.
Campbell said the rates charged are all over the board but are based on the level of care required.
Jacobs said all facilities in the state are going through the update in the way care levels are classified. She said the facility does level-of-care assessments on residents quarterly, so the rates could change periodically if the level of care changes. She said Medicaid was also basing its reimbursement level on 2022 cost reports instead of the previous 2017 cost reports, which will result in an increase in reimbursement due to the cost to care for residents increasing substantially after COVID.
Fernau cast a vote against the rate change, with the other four board members voting in favor.
The board approved the 2023-24 care center budget as presented. The budget estimates 24 residents in the facility to begin the fiscal year, with the census slowly climbing before reaching 29 residents by May 2024.
Jones said the budget was prepared without taking into account funds that were approved by voters, which should begin to arrive in the first half of 2024. The budget also did not project any additional Medicaid reimbursement like the care center received this year since there was no guarantee the facility would receive any additional reimbursement during the next fiscal year.
The budget projects the care center being able to operate at break-even or better for most months other than September and March, which have three pay periods instead of two.
The budget approved Monday projects total revenue for the 2023-24 fiscal year of $2.87 million, with total expenses of $2.62 million for an operating margin of approximately $254,000.
Campbell said the projections in the budget were totally dependent on the number of residents in the facility.
Jones said the care center’s census has been fluctuating between 24 and 27.
Board member Dennis Bauer said the budget also did not account for any Medicare revenue for shorter-term rehabilitation stays. He said any Medicare money the facility receives would be a bonus from what was projected.
Jones will present the 2023-24 care center budget to both the Ainsworth City council and Brown County Commissioners for their review.
During June, the Sandhills Care Center generated revenue of $545,109, which includes the one-time $320,093 reimbursement from Medicaid. Expenses during June of $243,982 left the facility with a profit for the month of $301,126. Without the Medicaid reimbursement being factored, the facility would have lost approximately $19,000 during the month.
Jacobs said there were currently 25 residents in the care center, with 12 paying privately, 12 receiving Medicaid assistance and one receiving Medicare assistance. She said one resident was admitted during the past month, with three discharges.
She said the facility had hired help in the dietary department and had hired additional CNAs, but was still in need of nursing staff. An audience member asked about the status of the current director of nursing. Jacobs said the director of nursing had submitted a letter of resignation, but she had not accepted the resignation as of yet and planned to meet with the DON after she returns from vacation.
The board again discussed recent complaints from former employees regarding the way the facility’s policies and procedures are administered.
Campbell said the person he had talked to initially about reviewing the care center’s policies and procedures as well as recent terminations declined to undertake the work.
Campbell said the law firm Cline Williams was recommended to review the facility’s policies and procedures, as the firm has experience with long term care facilities.
Campbell said the proposed contract has a specialist from the firm reviewing the care center’s protocols and recent terminations. The cost for the work is $300 per hour.
An audience member expressed displeasure about the attorney only remotely reviewing the information. Campbell said driving time would be charged per hour if the specialist visited the facility in person and would add about $4,000 to the contract.
An audience member asked the board about creating a grievance board similar to what the county has in place to hear concerns from employees who are terminated.
Bauer said a grievance board is ok but has no legal standing.
Both Bauer and Fernau indicated they were in favor of contracting with the specialist to review the care center’s employee protocols.
“I think this will help us find solutions,” Fernau said.
The board unanimously approved hiring the specialist from Cline Williams.
In a final action item Monday, the board appointed Jones to serve as its chair, Bruce Papstein as the vice chair and Bauer as the secretary/treasurer. Travee Hobbs was reappointed as the board’s recording secretary. Jones, Bauer and Jacobs were approved as signatories on the care center’s accounts held in West Plains Bank, Homestead Bank, and Union Bank & Trust.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. Aug. 14.
* Ainsworth to receive $1 million in additional state aid
(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 11)
As he begins to prepare the 2023-24 budget, Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer told the Board of Education Monday the district will receive close to $1 million in state aid following the passage of new legislation that awards funding on a per-student basis and increases reimbursement for special education.
The Nebraska Legislature passed bills during the 2023 session that provided all school districts with foundation aid in the amount of $1,500 per student, and increased the reimbursement districts receive for special education. Hafer said Ainsworth Community Schools will receive $621,928 in foundation aid and nearly $400,000 in additional special education funding.
“We are definitely going to be able to see a decrease in our tax request,” the superintendent said.
Hafer did caution the board that the additional aid was only guaranteed for the next two years. While he said the governor believes the additional aid will continue, the bills passed only covered the next two-year state budget. The superintendent said the board should be a little careful in case these additional funds go away. He said caps were also approved limiting the amount the board can increase its budget each year.
“I feel good that we can realize a significant tax request reduction while still making sure we are in good shape down the road,” Hafer said.
The board set a budget retreat for 7 p.m. Aug. 28. The school board adopts the 2023-24 budget during its September meeting.
Hafer also reported Monday Guarantee Roofing has finished replacing section 10 on the school building’s roof. He said the company also made temporary repairs to the top of the high school building and gym roofs that were damaged by high winds.
The superintendent said that section of high school building roof will be replaced next summer, and a more permanent repair to the gym roof will be undertaken at that time. That work will be covered by insurance.
Hafer said the old boiler has been removed, and the new boiler should be installed soon. He said the goal is to have the new boiler installed by Aug. 1.
In action items, the board approved the second reading of policy updates recommended by the Nebraska Association of School Boards, and approved the first reading of a policy revision regarding how credits are accepted for students moving into the district.
Hafer said the board last reviewed its policy manual in July 2020. He encouraged the board to review district policies on either an annual or biennial basis and to schedule those reviews for the same time. That way, he said when someone requests that the board review a particular policy, that request can be included during the next scheduled policy review.
Board chairman Brad Wilkins agreed that a scheduled review of the district’s policies was a good idea.
“The best time to review your policies is before you have a problem,” Wilkins said.
In a final action item, the board approved an option enrollment request submitted by Angela Burton to allow her daughter Abigail to option out of the district to Rock County Public Schools.
New Activities Director Luke Wroblewski introduced himself to the board Monday. He said many of the teams are holding summer camps, and he is getting his feet wet as to how the district operates.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 14.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department summary
(Posted 12:30 p.m. July 10)
- Received a report of property damage that occurred to a shed on South Main Street in Long Pine.
- The Brown County Ambulance transported a patient to the hospital.
- Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail to hold for another agency.
- Responded to a report of reckless driving in Long Pine. Contact was made with the driver who received a verbal warning.
- Received a report of a juvenile driving an unauthorized motor vehicle in Long Pine.
- Provided traffic control for a motorcade traveling across Nebraska.
- During a traffic stop near Richardson Drive in Ainsworth a written warning was issued to the driver of an unauthorized motor vehicle for no valid registration or helmet.
- Responded to a disturbance in the Long Pine State Park.
- Provided a civil standby in Long Pine for property removal.
- Brown County Sheriff’s office, Ainsworth Fire Department, Brown County Ambulance all attended a meet and greet at the Ainsworth Public Library for kids’ day.
- Received a report of damage that occurred to the Ainsworth Fire Department building.
- Received report of a barking dog on Maple Street. No excessive barking was heard at this time.
- Provided traffic control for a funeral procession.
- During traffic stops in all of Brown County, citations were issued for 88, 84, and 78 mph in a 65-mph speed zone. Warnings were issued for driving left of center and speeding.
- Received a report of an uncontrollable juvenile.
WEEKLY SUMMARY TOTALS
INCIDENT REPORTS: 12
PHONE CALLS: 98
911 CALLS: 13
VIN INSPECTIONS: 10
HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS: 3
Monthly Summary for May
Incident Reports: 156
Phone Calls: 570
911 Calls: 55
Vin Inspections: 24
Handgun Permits: 4
Paper Services Served: 6
* Pillen declares disaster in Boyd County
(Posted 1:45 p.m. July 6)
Gov. Jim Pillen on Thursday issued a disaster declaration for Boyd County, in the aftermath of a damaging storm. Heavy rain resulted in severe flooding on June 23-24, taking a toll on local roads, bridges, culverts and sanitary sewer pipes.
The declaration allows for use of the Governor’s Emergency Fund, established under the authority of the Nebraska Emergency Management Act, to address repairs and debris removal. Damage to affected areas is estimated at $1.2 million.
* Main Street project highlights 2024 NDOT District 8 work
(Posted 11:15 a.m. July 6)
The Highway 7 resurfacing project in downtown Ainsworth highlights the 2024 work planned by the Nebraska Department of Transportation for District 8.
Released through its 2024 Surface Transportation Plan, the NDOT estimates the one-half mile of milling and resurfacing work on Main Street in Ainsworth will cost $4.57 million. That work is expected to commence in the spring.
Another substantial project on the one-year plan for District 8 is the replacement of a Highway 20 bridge near Long Pine. That bridge replacement project will cost an estimated $1.96 million and will result in a substantial detour for non-local traffic. The detour route would include Highway 7 from Bassett north to Highway 183, then south and connecting back to Highway 20 east of Ainsworth.
There are two additional bridge replacement projects planned for Highway 20 in District 8 in 2024, both in Holt County that are estimated to cost $558,000 each.
Another major project scheduled for 2024 in District 8 is the milling and resurfacing of a 12-3/4 mile stretch of Highway 12 from Burton east. That project, which also includes bridge work, carries an estimated $8.24 million price tag.
Two stretches of Highway 11, one in Holt County and one in Boyd County, are scheduled for milling and resurfacing in 2024. The Holt County stretch is 12.44 miles from the Garfield County line north at an estimated cost of $8.91 million. The Boyd County stretch runs from Butte north for 7.29 miles at a cost of $10.37 million. That project also includes bridge work.
A 5-mile stretch of Highway 97 in Cherry County from Merritt Reservoir north is also scheduled for milling and resurfacing in 2024 at an estimated cost of $4.32 million.
There are several micro-surfacing projects also included in the 2024 NDOT plan for District 8.
The Nebraska Surface Transportation Program Book contains the lists of state system projects, separated by each NDOT geographical district that are planned for construction within the next six years.
The 2024 Construction Program is published at $758 million, funded from state and federal highway user taxes and fees. The 2024-2029 Nebraska Surface Transportation Program and an interactive GIS map are now available at dot.nebraska.gov/projects/publications/program-book-2024
* New invasive plant species discovered in Brown County
(Posted 3:45 p.m. July 5)
Brown County Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum told the Board of Commissioners Wednesday he had found a new invasive plant species southwest of Ainsworth.
Erthum showed the commissioners photos of the yellow loosestrife plants he found approximately 2 miles south and 1-1/4 miles west of Ainsworth in a wet ditch. Erthum said yellow loosestrife is a cousin to purple loosestrife, another noxious weed that has been found in Brown County.
Erthum said, while yellow loosestrife was on the radar of weed superintendents, it had not been an issue in Nebraska to this point. The weed superintendent said he sprayed the patch that was found.
“This is the first of that one I’ve found here,” Erthum said. “It inhabits wet areas.”
He said seeds from yellow loosestrife can remain active for 20 years in the ground, so it can be difficult to control if it becomes established in an area.
Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said it would probably be a good idea for Erthum to let landowners in that area know that yellow loosestrife had been discovered and to educate them on what the plant looks like so it can be controlled quicker if found.
Erthum said he would make contact with landowners in the area where the patches of yellow loosestrife were found. He said, like most of the invasive species in the U.S., yellow loosestrife originated in China and Eurasia.
Erthum told the board most landowners he has worked with on noxious weed infestations have been very cooperative, which he appreciated. He said he did issue a 10-day notice to one landowner to control noxious weeds. If the 10-day notice is not observed, Erthum said he could oversee the spraying of the problem plants and bill the landowner for the cost of control.
The weed superintendent said Brown County is a part of both the Sandhills and Middle Niobrara weed management groups and the interlocal agreements for both needed to be updated. The county has been a part of the Middle Niobrara Weed Awareness Group for 20-plus years.
“The idea is to bring up these agreements every three years so new officials can be brought up to speed,” Erthum said.
He said County Attorney Andy Taylor had agreed to help with the language on the updated interlocal agreements that would be presented to each county included in the agreement.
Erthum said the Middle Niobrara Weed Awareness Group, which includes Brown, Rock, Keya Paha and Cherry counties, only received $20,000 in grant funds for spraying projects for this year after receiving $125,000 the previous year. Since $20,000 was not enough to tackle a major spraying project, he said the funds would be used to provide cost-share funding for landowners to purchase chemicals for controlling noxious weeds.
Erthum said, if the four counties do receive the $10 million for fire abatement in the Niobrara River corridor, the MNWAG planned to apply for funding to control Canada thistle, which he said frequently springs up in areas where cedar trees are removed.
In other business Wednesday, the commissioners again discussed the possibility of passing a county ordinance to increase the height trees must be trimmed above county road right of way.
State statute dictates that trees must be trimmed to 8 feet above road right of way. While the commissioners could not pass a county ordinance under the state-mandated 8-foot threshold, the board could opt for an ordinance higher than 8 feet.
Commissioner Buddy Small said he believed 8 feet was not high enough for today’s machinery and cattle pots.
“We have the authority to establish an ordinance that exceeds state statute,” Small said. “If trees on private property are overhanging and causing a hazard, the county can remove them and charge the landowner.”
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said there have been issues with overhanging trees on the Meadville Avenue Niobrara River hill.
Commissioner Dennis Bauer said there were numerous areas in the county where overhanging trees cause a hazard, including a large cottonwood grove east of his residence.
Turpin said the ordinance needed to include a way for the roads department to enforce the standards. Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said that was his concern with passing a county ordinance increasing the height.
Bauer said, “If the trees are in the right of way, then the county would trim them.”
The board agreed to have Taylor craft an ordinance for the commissioners to consider at a future meeting, where the board could then decide on the height that would be enforced.
In a matter that was tabled from the board’s June 20 meeting, Turpin said he researched the Wagoner Bridge across Pine Creek in northeastern Brown County. A property owner had approached the commissioners about replacing the bridge that was destroyed during flooding in 2019. Turpin said one county map did show the road, but there is no number assigned for the road and the bridge was not included among the county’s inventory of maintained bridges.
“There is a mention of the road in an original interlocal agreement with Rock County for maintenance,” Turpin said. “It was originally called the Lewis Road.”
Though the county had treated one side of the road as a county road, Turpin said there was no mention in county records of the bridge being owned by the county and the county did not maintain the road on the opposite side.
Small said Taylor had informed the board that, unless the county was responsible for the road on both sides of the bridge, the county was not responsible for the bridge if it was not included in the county’s inventory.
Turpin said the map does not show the road even making it all the way to the bridge.
“It is just difficult to say without records,” the highway superintendent said. “If someone actually lived there, it might be a different story.”
Turpin said, it was such an old bridge that the state probably would not have allowed it to stay open even before it washed out if had been on the county’s inventory.
“I wish there was something we could do to help,” Turpin said. “They are nice guys.”
Dailey said, if there was a permanent resident and the road serviced more than one property owner, it might be a different story.
All three commissioners indicated replacing the bridge would not be a priority for the county.
During his report, Turpin said he had approved a permit for an electrical crossing under county road right of way near the GJW south facility. He said the company was putting in some trailer houses near its south barns and was running an electrical line under the road to service the units.
Turpin said the roads department cleaned out drainage structures on the Bar 25 Road, which he said he hoped would keep hills from washing as bad as they had been. He said the department was also working to stabilize the Elsmere Road that had previously been built up following high water levels in 2019.
“We hauled some dirt to those areas to try and keep it from blowing as bad,” Turpin said.
In a final agenda item Wednesday, the commissioners approved a resolution transferring $5,000 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the reappraisal fund.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. July 15.
* June finishes shy of normal rainfall
(Posted 8 a.m. July 3)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Jim Baker reported June finished below normal in precipitation.
The full report can be heard below.
* State Patrol to focus traffic efforts on Highway 20
(Posted 7 a.m. July 3)
Troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol are teaming up with troopers from many other states for a campaign focused on patrolling U.S. Highway 20.
“Highway 20 is a major route of travel across the country and for vacationers coming to experience northern Nebraska,” said Captain Dain Hicks, Commander of Troop B, based at Norfolk. “This multi-state partnership is positively impacting the safety for Highway 20 travelers from Nebraska to Iowa and across the entire country.”
During the month of May, Nebraska State Troopers issued 114 citations on speeding charges to motorists on Highway 20, as well as citations on charges of no seat belt (4), improper child restraint (7), minor in possession of alcohol (1), and driving under suspension (1). Troopers also arrested one person for on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.
The campaign continues in July. This effort is made possible thanks in part to grant funding from the Nebraska Department of Transportation – Highway Safety Office.
“With the goal of improving safety and reducing crashes on all roadways, the Iowa State Patrol is thankful for the partnerships that have been made to make this project successful,” said Lieutenant Brian Beenen, District 9 Commander, Cedar Falls. “This coast-to-coast initiative involves over 40 law enforcement agencies across the country. We look forward to continued collaboration to make our roadways safe.”
Highway 20 crosses the entire continental United States, running from Massachusetts to Oregon. In Nebraska, Highway 20 runs through northern parts of the state from South Sioux City to Harrison.
* Keya Paha County Public Library receives grant
(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 3)
The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation announced the recipients of the 2023 Statewide Grants Program. Recipients from 41 communities across the state will receive grants totaling almost $50,000.
Among the recipients is the Keya Paha County Public Library.
“We are thrilled to help these local organizations preserve the history of their communities,” said Leslie Fattig, NSHSF Executive Director. “Reading through all the applications and seeing the broad need for these grants just reinforces our determination to grow the program in order to fund more of these efforts.”
NSHSF received 74 grant applications requesting $131,873 to fulfill needs such as conservation of collections, public programming, outreach, exhibits, promotion of the facility and services, promotion of tourism and visitation, school programs and resources for the classroom and management of collections.
Many of these organizations are also included in the NSHSF WanderNebraska travel adventure program which kicked off its second year on May 26th. This year’s program features 150 sites across the state of Nebraska and will run through May of 2024.
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 11 a.m. June 29)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Jessica J. Reitz, age 39, of Chadron, charged with attempting a Class 4 felony, fined $1,000; also charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Isaiah L. McCabe, 21, of Chadron, attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Chesney M. Reeves, 22, of Central City, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Yenny Roque Baxcajay, 27, of Ireton, Iowa, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Joshua A. Richardson, 42, of Bryant, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Randal E. Kingry, 66, of Omaha, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
John P. Peetz, 73, of Lincoln, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Christian J. Burke, 23, of Little Falls, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; driving left of center, $25; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; failure to comply with a citation, $100.
Zachary W. Frazier, 29, of Ainsworth, second degree trespassing or defying an order to leave, $500.
Brent A. Goeken, 42, of Wood Lake, third offense driving under the influence, $1,000, also sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for four days served, one year of probation, driver’s license revoked for two years and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Sharon M. Goff, 72, of Ainsworth, driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 or greater, $500, also sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for one day served, driver’s license revoked for one year and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Jasmine A. Thompson, 23, of Pine Ridge, S.D., 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.
Michael R. Spotted Bear, 23, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for two days served, driver’s license revoked for six months and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Joshua D. Dieter, 45, of Sioux Falls, S.D., possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, $500; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100; attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000.
Alexander D. King, 19, of Grand Island, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Tristin L. Fobroy, 37, of Milford, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125; no registration, $25.
Jeffrey D. Larson, 42, of Valentine, 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.
Nakoa L. Fletcher, 43, of Ainsworth, taking or possessing fish without a permit, $100.
Cipriano Longoria Herrera, 42, of Ainsworth, taking or possessing fish without a permit, $100.
Samuel Beya Matamba, 53, of Lexington, Ky., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
William M. Evans, 34, of Batesville, Miss., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Chelsey M. Hargett, 34, of Broken Bow, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Carlos A. Lopez Montoya, 29, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; no operator’s license, $75.
Gregory M. Neuhaus, 70, of Grand Island, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Benjamin T. Wright, 30, of Omaha, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Deborah L. Galloway, 71, of Kilgore, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; passing in the same direction, $25.
* Nebraska sees lowest May jobless rate in nation
(Posted 9:15 a.m. June 29)
Nebraska’s unemployment rate for May is 1.9 percent, according to the Nebraska Department of Labor. The rate is down 0.1 percentage points from the April rate of 2.0 percent and is down 0.2 percentage points from the May 2022 rate of 2.1 percent.
Nebraska’s May unemployment rate is tied for lowest in the country with New Hampshire and South Dakota. At 2.1 percent, North Dakota and Vermont round out the top five states with the lowest unemployment.
Nevada had the highest unemployment rate in the country at 5.4 percent in May, with California at 4.5 percent and Delaware at 4.2 percent also among the highest rates in the country.
Brown County’s May unemployment rate came in just above the state average at 2.0 percent. Cherry County matched Brown County’s rate at 2.0 percent in May. Holt County had the lowest unemployment rate in the area at 1.5 percent, followed closely by Rock County at 1.6 percent.
Boone County and Chase County shared the lowest unemployment rate among Nebraska counties in May at 1.4 percent.
Keya Paha County had a 2.2 percent jobless rate in May. Boyd County matched the statewide average at 1.9 percent. Blaine County had the highest unemployment rate in the state in May at 3.8 percent.
“The preliminary May unemployment rate is a historical low for Nebraska,” said Commissioner of Labor John Albin. “The total nonfarm count of filled jobs is at a historical high at 1,044,702, surpassing the prior high count of filled jobs in November 2022 by 1,009.”
Nonfarm employment was up 1,985 over the month and up 18,549 over the year. Private industries with the most growth from April to May were leisure and hospitality (up 1,783 jobs), private education and health services (up 1,141 jobs), and mining and construction (up 667 jobs). Private industries with the most over the year growth were private education and health services (up 6,376 jobs), leisure and hospitality service (up 4,950 jobs), and mining and construction (up 3,950 jobs).
The national unemployment rate for May is 3.7 percent, up 0.3 percentage points from the April rate of 3.4 percent. This rate is up 0.1 percentage points from the May 2022 rate of 3.6 percent.
FUTURE HUSKER – Ainsworth senior Carter Nelson (center) watches a video with his parents Sandi (left) and Jake (right), and his teammates following his announcement of committing to the Nebraska Husker football team Wednesday.
* Nelson commits to the Huskers
(Posted 12:15 p.m. June 28)
“Let’s get to the point. We are staying home. Go Big Red.”
And with that, Ainsworth High School senior Carter Nelson, the state’s top-ranked recruit for the 2024 class, committed to Coach Matt Ruhle and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln football team.
With media outlets from across the state as well as teammates, family members and fans in McAndrew Gymnasium waiting to hear Nelson make his long-anticipated decision, Nelson made the announcement at noon Wednesday.
Nelson thanked the schools who had offered him scholarships, his family, and his coaches and teammates. Of more than 30 Division I offers, Nelson had narrowed his finalists to the Huskers, defending National Champion Georgia, Penn State and Notre Dame.
With Nelson committing to the Huskers, Ruhle has landed the five highest-rated in-state recruits for the 2024 class. Nelson led the Ainsworth Bulldogs to an 8-0 regular season and the school’s first playoff win in 2022, and will lead the Bulldogs into the 2023 season as a senior. He was first team All-State as a junior.
KBRB’s Cody Goochey was on site Wednesday, visiting with Bulldog coach Jesse Owen and providing the audio for Nelson’s announcement. The audio is located below.
Carter took time Wednesday to visit with Cody regarding his decision to choose the Huskers from among all the schools that had offered scholarships.
* Valentine soldier returned for interment from Korea
(Posted 10 a.m. June 27)
A Valentine soldier missing in action since 1950 was recently identified and has been brought home for interment.
On Dec. 2, 1950, Private First Class Dale Dewayne Thompson, age 18, was reported missing in action near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea during a battle with enemy forces. Thompson was with the Heavy Mortar Company, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, when he was reported missing.
His remains could not be recovered following the battle, and there was no evidence uncovered that he had been taken as a prisoner of war.
On July 27, 2018, North Korea turned over 55 boxes containing the remains of American service members killed during the Korean War. The remains were taken to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency laboratory in Hawaii for identification.
Using circumstantial and material evidence, scientists on Nov. 28, 2022, were able to identify PFC Thompson from among the remains turned over by North Korea.
In 2019, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency began disinterring 652 sets of unknown remains associated with the Korean War that had been buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, better known as the Punchbowl. The unknown remains were recovered from the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea) in the 1950s and 1960s, and were buried unknowns after they could not be identified by the traditional forensic processes available at the time.
Given the large number of remains, the DPAA began to disinter the remains in seven phases over a five to seven year period. The phases are based on the geographic region where the remains were recovered and other criteria that provides sequential logic to this complex identification process.
Each of the seven phases include unknowns recovered from North and South Korea. The phases are also balanced between sets of remains that are more complete, those that are made up of fewer remains, remains that are not well preserved, or those that have been commingled with other unknowns.
Using this process, PFC Thompson’s remains were identified Nov. 28, 2022. Thompson’s remains have been transported to Nebraska and were taken by procession Tuesday to the Sandoz Chapel of the Pines at Valentine. A graveside service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, June 30, at the Mount Hope Cemetery.
Representing the U.S. Military, Col. Bryan Schott and Sgt. Michael Ybarra will attend the graveside service. On behalf of the 7th Infantry Division, Col. Schott will induct PFC Thompson into the Order of the Bayonet, which was originally established in the 1950s in Korea to recognize the 7th Infantry Division’s non-infantry soldiers serving in direct combat. PFC Thompson is also receiving a Purple Heart, which Col. Schott will present Friday.
Thompson is survived by cousins Betty Schroeder of North Platte, Pat Mundorf of Lincoln, Sharon Strombaugh of Lexington, and Sally Nelson of Salt Lake City, Utah; and nieces Connie Otterness of Vero Beach, Fla., Gayle Henderson of Goddard, Kan., Janice Enright of Cape Coral, Fla., and Cathy Duncan of Valentine.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 8:45 a.m. June 26)
- Responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle parked in the eastbound lane of Highway 20, near the intersection of 4th and Wilson Street. Contact was made with the driver, and no criminal activity was found at this time.
- Responded to a report of a physical disturbance on 4th Street in Long Pine. No citations were issued at this time and parties were separated for the night. Deputies provided a civil standby later in the day for subjects to obtain their property.
- Provided a death notification.
- Notified owner of loose livestock near intersection of 430th Ave and 885th
- Notified owner of loose livestock on Highway 7, near mile marker 40.
- Received a report of barking dogs on Pine Street in Ainsworth. The owner was given verbal warning to correct the issue.
- Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after they received a personal recognizance bond.
- Responded to an in-home death.
- Responded to a report of an abandoned vehicle on 424th Contact was made with the owner who was issued a citation for fictitious plates and no registration.
- Notified an owner of loose livestock near intersection of 430th Ave and 885th Rd again.
- Responded to a report of a motorhome blocking an alleyway near Oak Street in Ainsworth. Contacted was made with the owners and it was moved.
- Responded to a request for motorist assist on Highway 20, near mile marker 240, of a motorhome towing a vehicle that had fallen off the tow dolly, which resulted in ruined tires on the towed vehicle. A tow truck and a tire repair company were called to the roadside for assistance.
- Issued a citation for failure to register for sex offender registry.
- Contacted the Nebraska Department of Transportation to remove a deer carcass from Highway 20, near mile marker 226.
- Received a report of a pivot watering the roadway near the intersection of 882nd and Norden Ave. Contact was made with the owner to resolve the issue.
- The Brown County Ambulance was paged to Long Pine and transported one patient to the Rock County Hospital.
- Responded to a report of a physical disturbance in Johnstown. Parties were separated, and no citations were issued at this time.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from Johnstown and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
- Responded to a report of vandalism that occurred to a mailbox in Long Pine.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 246, a citation was issued to a Nebraska driver for speeding 80mph in a 65mph zone.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 248, a citation was issued for speeding 79mph in a 65mph zone.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 7, near mile marker 42, a citation was issued for speeding 89mph in a 65mph zone.
- Provided traffic control for an alumni parade.
INCIDENT REPORTS: 13
PHONE CALLS: 94
911 CALLS: 4
VIN INSPECTIONS: 2
HANDGUN PURCHASE PERMITS: 0
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 8:15 a.m. June 26)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred June 10 on Highway 20.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 4:31 p.m. June 10 on Highway 20 near Wood Lake, a 1964 Cadillac, driven by Dennis Janssen, 48, of Rushville, was traveling east when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
When the vehicle was contacted by the responding officer it was being driven east with a passenger on the hood. The driver stated he was trying to get the vehicle to Ainsworth following the collision and the hood would not stay latched. The deputy assisted the driver with getting a ratchet strap to keep the hood down.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Cadillac was estimated at $2,000.
* Area students named to UN-L spring Deans’ List
(Posted 7:30 a.m. June 26)
More than 6,400 University of Nebraska–Lincoln students have been named to the Deans’ List for the spring semester of the 2022-23 academic year.
Area students named to the Deans’ List include:
- Megan Jo Appelt, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, nutrition and health sciences.
- Grant Taylor, freshman, College of Business, business administration.
- Libby Wilkins, sophomore, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural leadership, education and communication.
- Samuel Duane Wilkins, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural economics; College of Engineering, agricultural engineering.
- Logan Kenneth Hafer, junior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, biochemistry.
- Jillian Mckenna Buell, junior, College of Journalism and Mass Communications, advertising and public relations.
- Ty Schlueter, sophomore, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agribusiness.
- Shyanne Dawn Urbin, junior, College of Engineering, biological systems engineering.
- Cameron Sattler, sophomore, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, animal science and pre-veterinary medicine.
- Morgan Wallinger, senior, College of Business, accounting and agribusiness.
- Emma Alder, sophomore, Explore Center, pre-health.
- Grace Alder, sophomore, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, biochemistry.
- Lindsey Kate Jelinek, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, elementary education.
- Luke Olson, sophomore, College of Business, accounting.
- Will Thiele, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, secondary education.
- Logan Michael Cate, senior, College of Business, supply chain management.
- Nathan Miller, senior, College of Arts and Sciences, psychology.
- Dillion Muirhead, senior, Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, emerging media arts.
- Ryan OKief, junior, College of Business, finance.
- Kaylee Wenig, sophomore, College of Architecture, architectural studies.
* Ainsworth Lions Club meeting notes
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 23)
The Ainsworth Lions Club held its regular monthly meeting at 5 p.m. Monday in the Ainsworth Senior Center. Club President Dale Hafer called the meeting to order with 15 members and 1 guest present.
A “thank you” was extended to Lions Rita and Roland Paddock for providing a meal prior to the start of the meeting. Jessica Pozehl, Assistant Director of the Brown/Rock County Emergency Management Office, addressed the club regarding the creation of a volunteer Emergency Management Team to assist with major emergencies in the two-county area. Twelve to 15 volunteers are being sought who would be available to respond to assist in case of such an emergency. Orientation and training would be provided by the Emergency Management Office.
Thank you notes were received from the Brown County Hospital Employee Council for providing a meal during “Hospital Week” and from the Post Prom Committee for the donation to the Post Prom Party. The Lions Club Family Picnic is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. July17 at East City Park. In case of hot weather or rain, the alternate site will be the Ainsworth Community Schools cafeteria. The program will consist of the installation of officers and directors for 2023-24.
The District 38-I Cabinet meeting was held at Grand Island June 3. The Nebraska Lions Foundation sponsored the NSAA All-Class High School Golf Tournament held on June 19-20, with 16 girls and 52 boys invited to participate. To assist the District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund, the Lions Club purchased lottery tickets, resulting in having a winning ticket in the amount $75, which will be donated to the Ainsworth Food Pantry.
Roland Paddock reported all supplies have been purchased and the club is prepared to serve the meal for the Ainsworth Alumni Banquet. Connie Lentz announced the ESU 17 School Health Checks will commence September 11, starting with at Cody-Kilgore. The Lions Club provides a camera used for visionary screening. Connie Lentz and Bill Lentz, as part of the ESU 17 Health Screening Team, will conduct the visionary screening.
* Commissioners hear request to replace bridge
(Posted 7 a.m. June 21)
A cabin owner in northeastern Brown County asked the Board of Commissioners Tuesday whether the county planned to replace a bridge over Pine Creek that washed out during the 2019 flooding.
Mike Wagoner said he was unable to access his cabin by vehicle since the bridge washed out during the flooding.
“We had repaired it a couple times ourselves prior to that,” Wagoner said. “We don’t have vehicular access to our cabin.”
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the bridge was one of the oldest in the county.
“It was an old, unique bridge,” Turpin said. “It was some type of truss bridge. That bridge was never on the county’s bridge inventory. It is similar to the Camp Witness bridge. That wasn’t on our inventory either.”
Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor asked if there was a county road on both sides of the bridge or if a county road stopped at the bridge.
Turpin said he was not sure if there were any records that would show whether the road was a county road. After departing to research county maps, Turpin said there was nothing on the county’s old map indicating there was a dedicated county road at the site. He said the county’s newer map does show a road but it did not go past the creek.
Wagoner asked if the county would be able to receive reimbursement from FEMA to replace the bridge. Turpin said, since the bridge was not on the county’s inventory and had not been regularly inspected, he wasn’t sure if the county could be reimbursed for some of the cost to replace the bridge.
“One thing they look at for funding is how much traffic the bridge serves,” Turpin said.
The commissioners took no official action on the matter.
In other business Tuesday, Sheriff Brent Deibler met with the board regarding the need to make repairs to the foundation of the sheriff’s department building.
Deibler said the northwest corner of the basement was leaking water any time it rained.
“The last couple times it has rained it has flooded the floor of one room and into another room where we store evidence and files,” Deibler said. “I don’t want mold in there or to have our files ruined.”
Deibler said the leak was on the higher end of the foundation, and there was too much water that runs in to just be able to try and seal it from the inside.
The board discussed whether the entire foundation wall on the north side of the building needed to be repaired.
Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said, “You just as well dig the whole wall up while they are here. I am afraid if we fix one spot water will just come in somewhere else.”
Commissioner Denny Bauer provided Deibler with contact information for Epps Foundation Repair of Lincoln. That company recently performed foundation seal work on the courthouse building, and Bauer said they did a nice job on the project.
Deibler said he would make contact with the company.
The county received just one bid after advertising for a new pickup for the sheriff’s department, and approved the bid of $64,935 from Ainsworth Motors for a 2023 Ford F-250 super duty pickup.
Deibler said the bid included a topper as there was equipment he planned to store in the vehicle, including a drone to assist in search and rescue situations.
The board approved a subdivision in Sections 2 and 3 of Township 28, Range 22. Attorney Todd Flynn said the subdivision involved two amenable parties and involved two corners on a pivot.
Taylor said, since both parties were in agreement on the subdivision, he saw no issue with the application.
Elaine Menzel, representing the Nebraska Association of County Officials, provided the board with an update of NACO services the county receives as a member.
Menzel said NACO has done a lot of lobbying with the Nebraska Legislature for rural counties, and opened up American Rescue Plan Act dollars for more generalized use by counties instead of that money having to be used for more narrow purposes. She reminded the board the ARPA dollars need to be allocated by counties by December 2024 and spent by 2026.
Menzel said the inheritance tax is a frequent topic NACO finds itself defending with the Legislature.
“There is concern the Legislature will try to decrease it or eliminate it,” Menzel said.
She said a constitutional amendment was introduced in the Legislature that would eliminate the inheritance tax if approved by voters, but the Legislature did not consider the measure.
Menzel said NACO purchased land in Ogallala for a west office and event center for the organization.
Commissioner Buddy Small thanked Menzel for NACO’s work advocating on behalf of counties.
“Every time I have ever called NACO for assistance, you have always been there to provide it,” Small said.
The commissioners approved a county burial application submitted by the family of the late Scott Trofholz. For county residents who do not have funds available to pay for their funeral, the county provides basic services.
Taylor said he believed the application was appropriate in this case, as there did not appear to be funds in the estate to cover the cost of burial.
The board discussed a request from a county taxpayer about brush and trees overhanging county roads that can damage high-profile vehicles. Small said the taxpayer wanted the commissioners to write a letter to the Legislature asking that the 8-foot requirement be increased for tree limbs and brush to be cleared above county roads.
Taylor said state statute requires trees to be trimmed up 8 feet, but the county could pass its own ordinance if it wanted trees to be trimmed higher than 8 feet.
Small said the concern was cattle pots hitting branches and getting torn up. Bauer said most farm implements were now much taller than 8 feet.
“It probably needs to be higher,” Bauer said. “If we do it, we should just pass it ourselves. It might take 10 years for the Legislature.”
Dailey said, if the trees are in the county’s right of way, then it was the county’s problem. If the trees were not in the right of way, then it was the responsibility of the landowner to take care of it.
The board placed the item on its July 5 agenda to potentially take action on increasing the 8-foot requirement.
The commissioners discussed repairs needed to the courthouse building to keep condensation from forming on the heating and air-conditioning system and sealing the roof to keep bats from getting into the building’s attic.
Small said, since the issues were not with the roof itself, he believed the county needed to hire a general contractor and provide copies of the report from KPE so the contractor knows what they will need to do.
The board determined the scope of the work would likely exceed $50,000 so the project would need to be advertised for bids. With local contractors booked up, the commissioners discussed whether they could find anyone to do the work, as it would not be a pleasant job.
In final action items Tuesday, the commissioners approved four transfers from the county’s miscellaneous general fund ahead of the closing of the 2022-23 fiscal year June 30. The transfers included $2,985 to the reappraisal fund, $29,500 to the sheriff’s fund, $620 to the district judge fund and $94 to the institution fund.
The board reviewed correspondence sent to the county, including an invitation to the Nebraska Department of Transportation District 8 highway program hearing scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday in the Ainsworth Conference Center.
The board also received quarterly water well sample tests from the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District for an area near Jones Finishing. While the nitrate test showed an increase in nitrates from 3.0 parts per million in the previous quarter to 6.4 parts per million during the most recent test, the nitrate levels remain below the EPA standard of 10 parts per million.
Bauer said the nitrate levels can vary from sample period to sample period. He said the increase for this sample was nothing to be concerned about as long as the levels don’t continue to trend up.
During his report, Turpin said the roads department was doing its best to maintain some of the rougher roads with the lack of moisture. He reported the Meadville Avenue shoulder project is complete.
“That project turned out well,” Turpin said. “Seeding has been scheduled.”
He said the department planned to run some dirt down to the Elsmere Road to stabilize areas where sand is blowing. Within the next month, he said the department planned to work on the Calamus River bank stabilization project that had been approved by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The highway superintendent said he received a request to relocate a portion of Raven Road near Roger Brede’s old place. Turpin said the request was to move the road away from the current resident’s yard.
“I would like to move it as well,” Turpin said.
He said he had permission from property owner Tate Schipporeit to use whatever ground was needed to relocate the road. Turpin said moving the road might also eliminate some auto gates.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. July 5.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 9:15 a.m. June 19)
- Responded to a report of a disturbance at a hotel in Ainsworth. Parties were separated for the night.
- Received report of suspicious activity occurring to a mailbox. A statement was received, and this is an ongoing investigation.
- Responded to a report of a herd of cattle on Highway 20 near mile marker 231. Deputies provided traffic control until owners could remove the cattle from the roadway.
- Received report of cattle out on Highway 7, near mile marker 17. Owners were contacted to remove them from the roadway.
- The Brown County Ambulance was paged to the Sheriff’s Office to transport an inmate to the Brown County Hospital. The inmate was later placed into emergency protective custody and transported to a medical health facility for further treatment.
- Received a report of juveniles riding unauthorized motor vehicles within city limits. Deputies were able to issue verbal warnings later in the week.
- Received a report of dogs at large on Walnut St in Ainsworth. The owner was issued a citation for dogs at large, and a city ordinance violation for failure to license dogs.
- Received a report of a loose horse in Long Pine. Dispatch was able to contact the owner to get it back in.
- Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail for a five-day court commitment sentence.
- Traveled to Keith County to pick up a subject to be extradited back to Brown County for an arrest warrant. This subject was then booked into the Brown County Jail.
- Received a complaint from the City of Ainsworth for a city ordinance violation of overgrown weeds at a business on 4th St. A notice to correct was issued to the owner.
- Received a report of a suspicious vehicle on 434th Ave. No criminal activity was found at this time.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a page at an assisted living facility in Ainsworth and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
- Received a city ordinance violation complaint regarding expired vehicle licenses on Hunt St in Ainsworth. Notices to correct were issued to owners.
- Provided motorist assist on Highway 183 with removing a flat tire.
- Received a report of a pivot spraying the roadway near 888th Rd and 430th Ave intersection. Dispatch contacted the owners to resolve the issue.
- Received a complaint regarding a property dispute in rural Brown County. Both parties were contacted and advised to contact the Brown County Attorney.
- Responded to a report of male subjects driving unauthorized motor vehicles within Ainsworth City limits. Subjects were issued verbal warnings for driving of the non-street legal dirt bikes.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call from the Brown County Fairgrounds and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital. The ambulance crew later transported a flight crew from the airport to the hospital to pick up this patient.
- Received complaints from the City of Ainsworth for ordinance violations involving overgrown weeds, incorrect parking, blocking the roadway, and removal of debris on 3rd, Harrington, and Fullerton Streets. Notices to correct were issued to homeowners.
- Received a request from the Department of Health and Human Services for a welfare check on 3 juveniles in Ainsworth. All were located and reported safe at this time.
- Responded to a burglary alarm on 4th Street in Ainsworth. It was found to be a false alarm.
- Booked an inmate into the Brown County Jail for a 6-day court commitment sentence.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a page in Johnstown and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a page for a request to transfer a flight crew from airport to hospital to pick up a patient.
- Responded to a report of a loose dog on Walnut Street. The owner was issued a citation for dog at large and failure to license with the City of Ainsworth.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 183, near mile marker 197, a citation was issued to a Nebraska driver for driving under the influence of alcohol. The driver was booked into the Brown County Jail and released after posting bond.
- Received two reports of harassment that occurred to female subjects in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.
- Issued a verbal warning to a juvenile operating an unauthorized motor vehicle within city limits. The parents of the juvenile were contacted to pick up the juvenile and remove the vehicle.
- The Brown County Ambulance responded to a 911 call in Ainsworth and transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
- Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after serving a 5-day court commitment sentence.
- Responded to a report of a suspected intoxicated male driving a golf cart in Long Pine. The driver was issued a verbal warning.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 242, a citation was issued for speeding 67mph in a 45mph zone.
2– Burn Permit
30– Incident Reports Were Taken
171– Phone Calls Were Received
10– 911 Emergency Calls Received
7– Titles Were Inspected
1– Handgun Permits Applied For
4– Paper Services Were Served
- Responded to a report of vandalism in Long Pine that occurred to a rental property.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 248, a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for driving under revocation and booked into the Brown County Jail. Bond was posted and the subject was released.
- Responded to a request for a welfare check in Ainsworth. The subject was found and reported safe at this time.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 238, a citation was issued to a Texas driver for speeding 80mph in a 65mph zone.
- The Brown County Ambulance transported one patient to the Brown County Hospital.
- Responded to a report of cattle out East of Ainsworth on Highway 20. No cattle were found.
- The Brown County Hospital transported a patient from rural Brown County to the hospital.
- Responded to a report of animal neglect on Walnut St.
- Responded to a report of an in-home death.
- Responded to a report of a disturbance on Wilson St. No criminal activity was found at this time.
- Received a report of a civil matter regarding no payment received for pasture rent.
- Responded to a request for a welfare check in Ainsworth. Both individuals were found and reported safe at this time.
- Received a traffic complaint of vehicles driving around barricades set up on Main St in Ainsworth.
- Responded to a report of a disturbance in Hidden Paradise. One male subject was issued a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol and booked into the Brown County Jail.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, near mile marker 237, a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for speeding 82mph in a 65mph zone.
- Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after bond was posted.
- Received a report of a business in violation of city ordinances with overgrown weeds. A warning was issued to correct.
- Booked an inmate into Brown County Jail for holding for another agency.
- Responded to a request for motorist assist on Highway 20 after a vehicle struck a raccoon and it became lodged into the grill of the car.
- Responded to a report of a domestic dispute on 3rd St in Ainsworth. One male subject had self-inflicted stab wounds and fled the scene. The male subject was later located walking westbound on Highway 20. The Brown County Ambulance was paged to transport the subject to the hospital. After medical clearance the male subject was booked into the Brown County Jail for false imprisonment, domestic assault, and terroristic threats.
- Received a report involving a minor two vehicle accident that occurred in an alley behind a Main St business. One vehicle had minor damage that occurred to a taillight.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 7, near mile marker 37, a Nebraska driver was issued a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol and refusal to submit to a pretest. The subject was booked into the Brown County Jail and released after posting bond.
- Responded to a report of a westbound vehicle on Highway 20 with a male subject riding on the hood of the car. It was found the vehicle had struck a deer and the hood wouldn’t stay down while they were driving to town to obtain a ratchet strap.
- Received a report of suspected child abuse/neglect in Ainsworth. This is an ongoing investigation.
3– Burn Permit
21– Incident Reports Were Taken
135– Phone Calls Were Received
14– 911 Emergency Calls Received
3– Titles Were Inspected
0– Handgun Permits Applied For
0– Paper Services Were Served
* Recent cases from Brown County District Court
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 16)
During Brown County District Court Tuesday, Daniel Badillo-Acosta, age 33, of Ainsworth, entered guilty pleas to charges of attempted sexual assault of a child, a Class II felony; and child abuse, a Class IIIA felony. Badillo-Acosta will be sentenced in District Court Sept. 12.
Also in District Court, Zachary Frazier, 29, of Ainsworth, entered a plea of guilty to violating a condition of community supervision, a Class IV felony. Frazier will be sentenced July 11.
Dylan Henson, 31, of Kearney, appeared in District Court on a motion to revoke post-release supervision. Henson was ordered to appear back in District Court July 11.
Julia Perdomo, 45, of Aberdeen, S.D., appeared in District Court for a pre-trial conference. A jury trial was scheduled for Sept. 26 for Perdomo on charges of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, a Class IIA felony; and possession of marijuana more than 1 pound, a Class IV felony.
Jeremy White, 38, of Fargo, N.D., appeared in District Court Tuesday for sentencing after previously pleading guilty to three charges. White was fined $500 for possession of a controlled substance (THC), was fined $250 for carrying a concealed weapon, and was fined $100 for possession of drug paraphernalia.
* Goochey named KBRB Athlete of the Year
(Posted 11:15 a.m. June 15)
Ainsworth High School graduate Cameryn Goochey has been selected as the 2022-23 KBRB Athlete of the Year.
Goochey was a 12-sport athlete during her Bulldog career, receiving 11 varsity letters. She is the school’s record holder in volleyball in blocks in a game with eight, blocks in a season with 67, and blocks in a career with 142.
She was named Second Team All-Southwest Conference in volleyball and recently participated in the Southwest Conference All-Star game.
Volleyball coach Jeri Graff said, “Cam is the best hype person I have ever had the honor of being around. No matter the score, she was always everyone’s biggest cheerleader, on or off the court, often being a key part of swinging momentum back in our favor.
“Cam leads by example, working hard during practice. You could see her constantly analyzing her skills during drills and games to make sure she was doing things correctly and improving every time.”
A four-year letter winner in basketball, Goochey finished her career with 379 points, 212 rebounds and 136 steals. She was selected to participate in the Southwest Conference All-Star Game, the NCN All-Star Game and the Mid-Plains All-Star Game.
Basketball coach Julie Micheel said, “No one worked harder than Camy. She is a versatile player I could sub in anywhere and I knew she could do what we needed her to do. Her effort goes above and beyond any girl I have ever coached. She is also a huge cheerleader and encourager on the bench and on the court.”
Goochey qualified for the Nebraska State Track and Field Championships three times in the long jump, placing seventh in the 2022 Class C state long jump.
During her career, she scored 203 points for the Bulldog track and field team, earning points in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the 400 relay, the long jump and the triple jump.
Track and field coach Jake Nelson said, “Cameryn was always the one getting around to as many events as she could to cheer on her teammates each meet. She was always willing to try any event the coaches suggested for her.”
Goochey was named Academic All-State numerous times during her high school career, and received the John Nelson Sportsmanship Award among many other accolades during the All-Sports Tailgate Party.
Goochey plans to attend Wayne State College in the fall majoring in physical education. For being named the Athlete of the Year, Goochey receives a $500 scholarship from KBRB Radio.
The KBRB Athlete of the Year is chosen by the head coaches, A-Club and high school faculty at Ainsworth Community Schools. Criteria include participation in multiple sports, lettering in two varsity sports for at least two years, coach-ability, leadership, character, service, classroom work, personal conduct and remaining drug and alcohol free.
Each head coach receives one vote, with the A-Club having one vote and the entirety of the high school faculty combining for one vote.
Cameryn discussed her career with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie. The conversation is located below:
* Council declares 436-acre area as blighted, substandard
(Posted 7 a.m. June 15)
Following public hearings Wednesday, the Ainsworth City Council approved declaring a 436-acre section of the city as blighted and substandard and adopted a general redevelopment plan for the area.
Bobbi Pettit with Five Rule Rural Planning told the council declaring the area blighted and substandard will make the city more competitive for funds at the state level.
“You can declare up to 50 percent of land in the city as blighted,” Pettit said. “I am a big believer in incorporating all rural Nebraska into this. You have to have this declaration to use Tax Increment Financing.”
Pettit said, to declare an area blighted and substandard, several criteria must be met, including the average age of structures in the area being at least 40 years old.
“The average here was 70 years,” Pettit said. “This is not about hammering people’s individual homes or businesses. It is just about having tools available to make improvements.”
Pettit said, through the study, she was able to prove four factors were present to meet the substandard criteria. For the blight portion, she said the area met criteria including having deteriorating structures, inadequate street and utilities, faulty lot layouts and the existence of conditions that would endanger life or property during a fire.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said declaring an area blighted and substandard would not impact the assessed value of any property or impact property taxes.
“You are not harming any of the residents by doing so,” Schroedl said. “We tried to include a lot of properties on the vacant property registry.”
The area designated for the classification includes both sides of North and South Main Street as well as substantial portions of the city south of Highway 20 east of Main Street.
Pettit said, in addition to the city being able to use Tax Increment Financing to assist redevelopment projects in the blighted and substandard area, individual property owners could also apply for micro-TIF projects if the city were to pass a resolution.
Tax Increment Financing can allocate the property tax generated from the added value of an improvement project and use the additional tax dollars over a 10 to 15-year period of time to assist in the project. Pettit said the micro-TIF program is popular in other communities she has worked with. She said there is no expiration date once an area is declared blighted and substandard.
Following the public hearing, the council approved the 436-acre area as blighted and substandard, and also approved a general redevelopment plan for the area. Pettit said, by approving the general plan, the council was not approving any specific project.
“This makes it smoother when you do have a project that you already have a general plan,” Pettit said.
In other business Wednesday, the council approved a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to provide $36,020 to the Ainsworth Golf Course to remove old playground equipment and place a new playground set near the clubhouse.
The equipment includes several slides, swings and climbing areas. Schroedl said, since ABC funds would be used for the entire project, there may be an issue with the project since the company supplying the equipment required half of the funds to be provided ahead of the project and ABC funds can only be used as reimbursement after a project is completed.
Councilman Brad Fiala said he was in support of the project, but he did not want to create a precedent by providing ABC funds ahead of a project’s completion.
Audience member Rod Worrell offered to pay the 50 percent up-front costs if the city would then provide him with reimbursement upon the project’s completion to avoid the issue of having to disburse funds before the project is completed.
The council approved the Ainsworth Betterment Committee’s recommendation and agreed to reimburse Worrell after the project is completed.
The council approved a contract with Myers Construction for the North Main Street water, sewer and paving project. Schroedl said the contract is the same as the bid on the project submitted by the company that was previously approved. The council tabled action on a contract with Olsson Associates for the engineering costs on the project.
The council also approved closing one block of North Main Street from Highway 20 to Fifth Street from 1:30 until 3:30 p.m. June 29 for an Ainsworth Public Library summer reading event.
Schroedl said large equipment would be parked in front of the library for the kids to interact with as part of the summer reading program. She said, if Myers Construction is ready to begin work on the water, sewer and paving project prior to that date, the library would use the Ainsworth Conference Center’s north parking lot for the event.
The council approved a request from the Brown County Historical Society to continue waiving city utilities for the Coleman House Museum should the museum be moved to the site of the current Dixon House Museum.
Schroedl said the historical society was still tossing around ideas after receiving interest from someone to purchase the site where the Coleman House Museum is located.
“They are looking at demolishing the Dixon House and moving the Coleman House to that site,” Schroedl said. “The Coleman House has had city utility costs waived for water, sewer and garbage.”
Fiala said the historical society does not have a lot of funding to work with so any help from the city would likely be appreciated.
The council approved the request should the Coleman House Museum be moved to the new site.
At the outset of Wednesday’s meeting, the council approved Mayor Joel Klammer’s appointment of Bruce Papstein and the reappointment of Dr. Mel Campbell and Councilman Shawn Fernau to represent the city on the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors.
Papstein’s appointment to the board is a joint appointment between the city and the county, and the Brown County Commissioners had previously approved appointing Papstein to replace Phil Fuchs, who has served as the Care Center Board’s chair the past few years. Fuchs indicated his time on the board would end at the conclusion of his term June 30.
Following an executive session, the council authorized Klammer to sign documents as part of mediation for a negotiated settlement between the city and Brahmer Contracting for work done on an addition to the city streets shop.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 12.
* Care Center pays off line of credit with state funds
(Posted 10 a.m. June 13)
After receiving more than $320,000 in additional Medicaid reimbursement based off its most recent cost report, the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors on Monday voted to completely pay off the principal it had borrowed from its line of credit to operate the nursing home.
Administrator Penny Jacobs said the $320,093 payment from the state of Nebraska was part of federal matching funds the state received to assist city or county government operated nursing care facilities that had more than 40 percent of residents receiving Medicaid assistance.
Outgoing Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said, while this was a one-time payment and the care center could not expect to receive this level of funding every year, the influx would allow the care center to both pay off the money it has used from its $450,000 line of credit and make some needed upgrades to the facility.
“This was an unexpected payment we received from the state of Nebraska,” Fuchs said. “I suggest we pay off the line of credit and put the other $117,000 in our interlocal account.”
Fuchs said the facility would need to upgrade its air-conditioning system, as it has experienced problems recently. He said the care center also needed to replace a commercial stove in the kitchen.
Jacobs said maintenance personnel from the care center and the Brown County Hospital were looking for a contractor to try and obtain quotes for repairing or replacing the air-conditioning system.
The care center had borrowed $202,170 from its $450,000 line of credit that had been established to allow the facility to operate until voter-approved bonds were collected. Board member Tom Jones agreed paying off the line of credit was the most responsible use for the additional state funding.
“There is no need to pay more interest than we have to,” Jones said.
After unanimously voting to pay off the line of credit, the board opted to keep the remaining balance in the facility’s operating account instead of the interlocal account. After paying off the line of credit, the facility has about $122,000 in its checking account and current accounts receivable.
During May, the Sandhills Care Center generated $235,056 in revenue with expenses of $255,414 for an operating loss for the month of $20,358.
Jacobs reported there are currently 27 residents in the care center, with 12 paying privately, 14 receiving Medicaid assistance and one receiving Medicare assistance. Of the 27 residents, 14 are residents of Ainsworth, three are from rural Brown County, one is from Long Pine, six are from Cherry County, two are from Rock County and one is from Keya Paha County.
Jacobs said the care center admitted three new residents since the previous board meeting. One resident had died, and another resident will be discharged soon.
She said the facility had hired two CNAs with another in the works, as well as a full-time RN who would start at the end of the month and another part-time RN.
She said one employee had been terminated since the previous meeting for policy violations.
Fuchs said he saw a number of residents at the carnival on Friday who seemed to be really enjoying themselves.
Jacobs said the residents have been on several outings recently.
“We take every opportunity we can to get the residents out and about,” Jacobs said.
She said the staff planned to take the residents back to the carnival Saturday, but with some thunderstorms in the area they instead took residents on a road trip to Valentine for ice cream.
The board Monday reviewed Medicaid reimbursement rates and the facility’s private pay rates.
Jacobs said the levels of care determined by the state for nursing home residents are changing in October. Instead of having 34 levels of care, the number of levels will be reduced to 25. She said while the facility may see slight increases or decreases in reimbursement rates based on the new levels of care, the reimbursement from Medicaid on average will be about $5 more per day per resident.
She said the reimbursement rates the care center receives from Medicaid will also be updated based off the facility’s 2022 cost report instead of the 2017 cost report.
She said the new reimbursement rates will take effect in July. She said the board needed to review its private pay rates to make sure they are in line with Medicaid rates.
“There will need to be changes in the private pay rates so they coincide with the state,” Jacobs said. “We will need to send notice out to families.”
Fuchs said, if the care center doesn’t keep its private pay rates at or above the Medicaid reimbursement rates, the care center was in danger of Medicaid cutting its reimbursement.
“We did just increase rates the first of the year,” Fuchs said. “I would like to see the rates stay about the same as Medicaid. I don’t want to see us go too much higher if we don’t have to.”
Board member Dr. Mel Campbell said the board has tried to keep private pay rates as reasonably close to the Medicaid reimbursement rate as it can.
The board voted to maintain private pay rates at $50 per day above what Medicaid reimburses the facility, keeping in line with what has been charged previously. Jacobs said she would calculate any changes to individual private pay rates based on the new levels of care the state has implemented.
Campbell said he would like to revisit the rates during the board’s August meeting and asked Jacobs to provide projections if the board decided to have private pay rates be $30 per day higher than the Medicaid reimbursement rate instead of $50 per day higher.
With several current and former employees in attendance, the board discussed hiring a consultant to review the facility’s employee protocols amid recent complaints.
Campbell said he contacted the Nebraska Healthcare Association to try and find a consultant to assist the board with reviewing the facility’s employee protocols and review whether those protocols were being followed.
He said Mark Iverson with The Warriors Mindset of Omaha was recommended as someone who could assist the care center with reviewing its employee policies and procedures.
Campbell said Iverson has 20 years experience as a nursing home administrator with a facility in Omaha, and agreed to assist the facility with a review at a cost of $1,600 plus mileage.
“He would review the records and policies and spend a day here consulting with the administration and employees,” Campbell said. “The purpose would be to determine if our policies are appropriate and if they are being followed. He would provide recommendations to the board.”
Former employee Stacie Goochey asked the board what would happen to employees who had already been fired and are suffering now.
“The employee policy manual says we are supposed to come to the board if we have issues,” Goochey said. “We came to the board, and nothing happens. The public needs to know what is happening if nothing is being done after hearing about issues in executive session.”
Another audience member asked if former employees would be interviewed by the consultant for their input on how policies and procedures were followed by the administration.
Campbell said he didn’t know exactly what Iverson’s methods would be in reviewing the facility’s protocols.
Board member Dennis Bauer, who replaced Buddy Small on the Board of Directors Monday, said the price to hire Iverson was reasonable and it sounded to him like a review was a good idea.
The board unanimously voted to hire Iverson to perform the review.
After stopping a back and forth between former employees and the administration that broke out, Fuchs said, “We are not going to argue about these issues in a public session. Any issues regarding personnel can be addressed in executive session.”
Fuchs asked how many people in the audience wanted to address the board in executive session regarding personnel issues. Seven audience members raised their hands and asked to have their concerns heard by the board.
The board entered into executive session, first with the administration team, then allowing each audience member who requested a discussion with the board to be heard in executive session.
No action was taken by the board following the lengthy executive session.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 10.
* School Board hears request to change alcohol policy
(Posted 7 a.m. June 13)
The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education reviewed numerous school policies Monday and heard a request to consider changes to its drug and alcohol violation policy.
The board held public hearings on the district’s student fee policy and parent and family involvement policy to open the meeting. Superintendent Dale Hafer said no changes were being proposed to either policy. He said 134 students qualified for student fee waivers during the previous school year. The qualifications to have fees waived are the same as qualifying for the free or reduced school lunch program.
During the community input portion of Monday’s meeting, Clint Painter asked the board to consider making changes to the district’s drug and alcohol policy. He provided the board with the policies for several area schools, and said Ainsworth’s policy was the harshest for first offenses.
“We had a couple boys get in trouble, and I am not trying to get them out of trouble,” Painter said. “I am just asking you to look at the handbook on the alcohol policy. I would like you to look at using the NSAA calendar instead of the full calendar. A couple schools have a policy with punishment in the summer months, but not many.”
Painter said he was not trying to take away personal accountability.
“I am not trying to change what has already happened,” Painter said. “I am just asking you to look at the policy and maybe make some changes down the road. Some of these kids need us. These two seniors are going to lose out on five or six games. I am afraid they could just decide to quit, and they need that mentorship. Maybe we could put in a drug and alcohol class, and if the kids complete that it would lower the penalty.”
Hafer said, with the board reviewing the district’s handbook, it was an appropriate time to have the discussion.
“With the handbook and policy reviews, we take a look at how we do things,” Hafer said. “The last time there was an update to the drug and alcohol policy was 2019. We always want to hear from parents, patrons, coaches and business owners.”
Board President Brad Wilkins said, the last time the district revisited the drug and alcohol policy, there was input from coaches.
“It is good to take a look at it,” Wilkins said.
Since it was not an agenda item, the board could not fully discuss or take action.
Several people provided updates to the board Monday. Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association representative Jack Moles visited with the board about action taken by the Legislature that affects rural schools. He discussed several bills that passed that will result in additional state funding to rural schools and relief for property taxpayers, including $1,500 per student in foundation aid from the state and increased assistance for special education costs.
Jennifer Hitchcock thanked the board for sponsoring her enrollment in the KBR Leadership Academy.
“I learned a lot about myself and the area,” Hitchcock said. “Thank you for letting me be a part of the academy.”
Hitchcock said she was able to incorporate some of the things she learned during the academy into her classroom, as well as bring in leaders from the area to visit with students on opportunities in the KBR area.
Board member Jessica Pozehl said, “I hope we can sponsor a faculty member or someone from the office each year. It is great for professional development. It helps us develop our own leaders.”
Amanda Ganser provided the board with a tour of the school’s new web site. Located at the same web address, Ganser said the new site will be more user-friendly for staff to post updates. She walked the board through updated features and other changes from the district’s previous web site.
Hafer said, “We want this site to be the one-stop shop for people to get all the information they need.”
The superintendent said the cost to update the web site was about $9,000, which the district paid for using federal ESSER funds.
Ganser said the new site also included a new mobile app that patrons can download for easy access to information and updates from the school.
During his report, Hafer said he was getting ready to begin work on the 2023-24 school budget. “We should see a significant reduction in property tax asking because we are finally getting some state aid again,” Hafer said.
Hafer said the new legislation passed capping the amount a district can increase its budget should not be an issue, as the district already puts together a conservative budget.
Hafer reported Guarantee Roofing is working on a section of the district’s roof. While on site, the superintendent said the company noticed two additional sections of the building complex’s roof sustained wind damage. Repairing those sections of roofing would be covered by the district’s insurance policy.
“There was about $100,000 to $120,000 worth of roof repairs due to wind damage,” Hafer said.
The superintendent said Dan Morrell and crew have started replacing the boiler in the school. Hafer said, when the old boiler was torn out, they saw it had been close to failing so the board made a good decision to replace it.
In action items Monday, the board approved increasing the price for student breakfast and lunch due to rising food costs. Breakfast prices will increase from $1.75 to $1.90 for the 2023-24 school year. Elementary lunches will increase from $3.15 to $3.35, while middle school and high school lunch prices will increase from $3.30 to $3.55. Hafer said between 46 percent and 47 percent of the district’s students income-qualify to receive either free or reduced-price meals.
The board approved paying invoices for the new football and track storage building at East City Park using depreciation funds. Hafer said the steel building would cost the district between $37,000 and $40,000 to construct. He said the Booster Club would take over from there, assisting in the cost to finish the inside of the building.
The board approved a contract for Joyce Eurit for an open special education position for the 2023-24 school year, and approved an option enrollment request from Melissa Stewart to allow her daughter Alaina to option out to the Rock County Public School District.
The board approved minor updates to the student-parent handbook and teacher and faculty handbook for the 2023-24 school year.
The board approved first readings of a policy revision regarding assignment of new students and updates from the Nebraska Association of School Boards.
Prior to the regular meeting Monday, the board held the second of its required Americanism Committee meetings.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. July 10.
* Ribfest recognizes top ‘smokers’ in the region
(Posted 7 a.m. June 12)
Ed Schukei and Jenny Denaeyer took home the top awards from Saturday’s Ribfest hosted by the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department. Denaeyer’s “Roll 4 Smoke” entry won the pellet grill division, and Schukei’s “Halsey Hillbilly” entry won the top prize for traditional smokers.
Ashley Babcock of Bassett took second place in the pellet grill division, with Casey Kettleborough of St. Paul third.
Trent Kinney of Ainsworth finished second in the traditional smoker division, with Makenna Koch of Ainsworth in third.
The ribs for the annual Ribfest event were donated by GJW LLC. Proceeds from the event benefitted the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.
* Area students named to Northeast CC academic lists
(Posted 4 p.m. June 9)
Northeast Community College has released the President’s Honor List and Deans’ Honor List for both full and part-time students for the Spring 2023 semester.
To be named to the President’s Honor List, students must earn a grade point average of 4.0 and be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours. Some 187 students made the President’s Full-time Honor List this past spring semester. Students named to the Deans’ Honor List must have earned a grade point average of 3.75 or above and be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours. Two-hundred-twenty-four students were named to the Deans’ Honor List.
Another 343 students named to the President’s Part-Time list attained a 4.0 grade point average while taking at least six credit hours, and 104 students named to the Deans’ Part-Time list earned a grade point average of 3.75 or above while taking at least six credit hours.
Area students named to the Deans’ List at Northeast include:
PRESIDENT’S HONOR LIST – Full-Time, Spring 2023
Ainsworth – Madelyn Goochey.
Atkinson – Ellie Burkinshaw, Reghan Kerkman.
Bassett – Jade Johnson.
Johnstown – Kerstyn Held.
Newport – Edward Reynolds.
Springview – Ryan Painter.
Wood Lake – Holden Mundorf.
DEANS’ HONOR LIST – Full-time, Spring 2023
Atkinson – Nacesha Zahnd.
Bassett – Whisper Welton.
Newport – Heidi Gonzalez.
Stuart – Wade Paxton, Lexi Schroder.
Valentine – Wyatt Barnes, Becca McGinley.
PRESIDENT’S HONOR LIST – Part-time, Spring 2023
Ainsworth – Cameryn Goochey, Makenna Pierce, Emma Sears, Dakota Stutzman.
Atkinson – Leah Jockens, Abigail Mathis, Maci Nemetz, Madeline Rentschler.
Bassett – Brooklyn Buell, Kayla Emerson, Olivia Micheel, Mariah Ost, Gracie Swanson.
Long Pine – Emily Coble.
Naper – Paige Drueke, Kaylee Hinton.
Spencer – Amelia Hoffman, Elizabeth Kersch.
Springview – Heather Hespe.
Stuart – Savannah Kramer, Lacey Paxton, William Paxton.
DEAN’S HONOR LIST – Part-Time, Spring 2023
Ainsworth – Lauren Ortner.
Bassett – Adisyn Anderson, Tatelyn Smith.
Naper – Jacob Corrado.
Springview – Tate Miller.
Stuart – Andrew Yemma.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 8 a.m. June 8)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred May 28 in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 6:50 p.m. May 28 at the Subway parking lot, a 2014 Ford F-150, driven by April Wickett, 47, of Laurel, was backing from the parking lot and struck a parked 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee, owned by Elaine Haszard of O’Neill.
No injuries were reported. Damage to each vehicle was estimated at $1,500.
* Council approves Main Street closure for carnival
(Posted 1:45 p.m. June 7)
The Ainsworth City Council met for a brief special session Wednesday, approving a resolution to close Main Street beginning on Thursday evening and continuing through Monday morning for the annual D.C. Lynch Carnival.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the D.C. Lynch rides typically show up late Thursday night, then pack up and leave early Monday morning following the closing of the carnival Sunday night.
The resolution includes a detour route for Highway 7 traffic through Ainsworth. The detour route will take traffic from Highway 20 south on Pine Street to Road 877 and then west to Highway 7 south of Ainsworth. Schroedl said the detour route was the same one the city plans to use when Main Street is renovated in 2024 by the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
Councilman Brad Fiala said, “This should give us a good indication on how this detour route will work for next year.”
In addition, all vehicles are asked to be moved off Main Street Thursday night. Vehicles also need to be moved off Third Street from Main Street to the alleys east and west, as that portion of Third Street is utilized by the D.C. Lynch Carnival. Third Street will also be closed Saturday evening one block east of Main Street in front of the Ainsworth Fire Hall for the annual Ribfest event hosted by the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.
Anyone with questions on the detour route or parking restrictions may contact the city office.
The council will meet for its regular June meeting at 5 p.m. June 14.
* Commissioners hold hearing on land access request
(Posted 3:30 p.m. June 6)
Several neighboring property owners were in attendance Tuesday as the Brown County Commissioners held a public hearing on a landlocked parcel in southwestern Brown County previously owned by the state.
Grant Kobes purchased the former Long Lake State Recreation Area from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and has attended several commissioner meetings to discuss accessing the property.
County Attorney Andy Taylor opened Tuesday’s hearing stating Kobes had formally filed a petition with the county for an Isolated Lands Easement. Per state statute, the county is responsible for providing access to property. Taylor said Kobes is formally asking the county to build an access road to his property. The cost to do so would be the responsibility of Kobes.
Greg Villwok, who owns property south of the site, said his family ranches to make a living.
“When folks from Omaha come in, they pay more for land than what we can pay for it as working land,” Villwok said.
He said he did not want an access road to the site going through his property, and he asked Kobes if he knew when he purchased the property that access would be an issue.
Kobes said the Game and Parks Commission initially indicated there was an easement in place for the public to access the site. However, Kobes said when the property sold and the site was no longer a state recreation area, the easement in place since the 1930s went away and he has been unable to obtain a new easement privately.
“The previous access point is underwater,” Kobes said. “I am happy to try and make it work well for everyone.”
Neighboring property owner Tom Milligan asked Kobes if he simply planned to turn around and sell the property after forcing the county to provide access.
Kobes said he planned to use the property himself recreationally, and had no plans to sell.
“I would like to build a cabin there at some point,” Kobes said. “I would like to clean up the property and maintain it better than the state did. But to have any taxable value, I need access to it.”
The site includes 35 land acres, with the remainder of the 80-acre parcel covered by Long Lake. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission did not pay property taxes on the parcel. Kobes is responsible for paying property tax on the value of the property.
Paula Peters asked if the county would have to maintain the road once it is built.
Taylor said Kobes would bear all costs for the engineering and construction of the road, and the county would be responsible for some ongoing maintenance.
“One requirement of the state statute is that section lines be followed unless a landowner provides permission,” Taylor said. “After we take public comment, the commissioners will make a decision on where they think a road would work best. Then an engineer will come in to determine if that route is feasible.”
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said it may not be feasible for the roads department to use section lines to provide access to the property.
Taylor recommended the commissioners table the hearing until a future meeting, as he is required to notify all landowners who may be affected by the access issue. While most neighboring property owners received notice, Taylor said one potential site for access to the property is adjacent to land owned by the state of Nebraska. He encouraged the board to hold another hearing so he could provide notice to the state to offer the chance to comment.
The commissioners, with Board Chairman Buddy Small absent Tuesday, approved continuing the hearing during the board’s Aug. 1 meeting.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved making a $175,396 payment on the county’s share of the Meadville Avenue bridge across Sand Draw Creek using American Rescue Plan Act funds. The board debated using the federal ARPA funding to make the payment or making the payment from the county’s inheritance tax fund.
Turpin said a payment of more than $60,000 had previously been made. The county is responsible for 20 percent of the total cost of the bridge project, which will amount to approximately $400,000 of the $2 million project.
Turpin reported the roads department has finished shoulder work on the new Meadville Avenue asphalt from the irrigation district canal north to Road 880, and had also completed shoulder work from Road 883 to the south side of the Sand Draw Creek bridge site. Shoulder work continues from Road 880 to Road 883, then the department will work on shoulders from the Sand Draw Creek bridge site north to the end of the asphalt.
Turpin said his budget request for the 2023-24 fiscal year would increase from the current year.
“There are a lot of things we need to get done, and the cost of materials is high,” Turpin said. “I just want you to be prepared.”
Commissioner Jeremiah Dailey said the roads department budget was cut by $90,000 for the current fiscal year.
The board approved making a $2,228,641 payment to Western Engineering for the Meadville Avenue asphalt project. The total cost of the project is $2.55 million, so Tuesday’s payment represented the lion’s share of the project. The county took out bonds at less than 1 percent interest to pay for the project over time.
The commissioners approved making an $8,966 interest only payment on the Meadville Avenue asphalt bond, and approved a $212,893 payment on the Brown County Hospital addition bond. When the hospital addition bond payments are complete, the commissioners plan to pay off the Meadville Avenue bonds over time through a property tax levy similar to what is being collected to pay for the hospital addition.
BKR Extension Educator Hannah Smith presented the board with the 2023-24 budget proposal for the Extension office. She said the budget request increased by $100 from the current year to $82,500. Brown County pays for 42 percent of the Extension office budget, with Rock County responsible for 33 percent and Keya Paha County paying 25 percent.
Smith told the board the Extension office may finish the current fiscal year with a $12,000 budget surplus due to being short-staffed. She said any surplus from the current fiscal year would be sent back proportionally to each county.
“We have never been at full staff in my four years here,” Smith said.
She said she was hopeful the University of Nebraska would be able to hire an additional Extension educator for the BKR office after relaxing some of the education requirements for the current open position.
The board also received an annual budget request from the Ainsworth Public Library in the amount of $11,000, which was equal to the current year’s allocation.
The commissioners acknowledged both requests. Action will not be taken until the board approves the overall 2023-24 fiscal year budget for the county in September.
The board approved continuing its membership with the Central Nebraska Economic Development District at a cost of $1,496, which is a slight decrease from the previous year and is based on the county’s census.
The board also approved a $500 transfer from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the district judge fund.
The board received a letter from the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledging that Jake Graff meets the requirements and is eligible to serve as the veterans services officer for Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties.
Prior to adjourning, the commissioners held an executive session to discuss job performance.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. June 20.
* Brown County Sheriff’s Department weekly summary
(Posted 3:30 p.m. June 6)
- The Brown County Ambulance transported one patient from Woodlake, NE to the Brown County Hospital.
- Responded to a report of animal neglect on Walnut St in Ainsworth. No animals were found in distress at this time.
- Responded to a report of reckless driving of an unauthorized motor vehicle within city limits of Long Pine. The driver was issued a verbal warning.
- Responded to a report of a one vehicle accident in a business parking lot in Ainsworth. No injuries were reported, and the vehicle had minor damage.
- Responded to a report of a verbal disturbance on Walnut Street in Ainsworth. No citations were issued at this time.
- Two warnings for speeding were issued on this day.
- Received a report of a stranded motorist approximately 22 miles South on Highway 7. Fuel was taken to the motorist.
- Received a report of a barking dog on Walnut St. A written warning was issued to the owners.
- The Brown County Ambulance provided lift assistance to an individual in Ainsworth, and no transport was needed at this time.
- Three citations and two warnings were issued for speeding on this day.
- The Brown County Ambulance transferred a flight crew to the Brown County Hospital to pick up a patient. Other ambulance crew members provided standby for the Rodeo Bible Camp in Johnstown multiple days this week.
- Received a tip from the Nebraska Crime Stoppers report line.
- Received a report of harassment in Ainsworth. A written statement was received.
- Released an inmate from the Brown County Jail after they posted bond.
- Issued two city ordinance violation warnings to property owners for overgrown weeds and removal of debris.
- Provided traffic control near the intersection of Moonlake Road and Highway 20 for a cattle crossing.
- The Ainsworth Fire Department responded to a small structure fire in Ainsworth. It was quickly extinguished.
- Provided a welfare check on a male subject in Ainsworth. He was reported safe at this time.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 7, a citation was issued for speeding 80-mph in a 65-mph zone.
- Received reports of cattle out on Wilson Street and South Pine Ave. Owners were called and removed them from the roadway.
- The Brown County Ambulance transported a patient in Ainsworth to the Brown County Hospital.
- During a traffic stop on Highway 20, a citation was issued for misuse of a school permit.
18 – Incident Reports Were Taken
120 – Phone Calls Were Received
16 – 911 Emergency Calls Received
0- Titles Were Inspected
1- Handgun Permits Applied For
4- Paper Services Were Served
Monthly Summary for May
20-Paper Services Served
* Lions Club Board receives new officer slate
(Posted 3 p.m. June 5)
During its recent meeting, the Ainsworth Lions Club Board of Directors will welcome Steve Dike as its incoming club president for the 2023-24 year. Jerry Ehlers reported the slate of elected officers for the year, with Dale Hafer moving to the past president role for 2023-24.
Other officers elected were Treasurer-Phil Fuchs; Tail Twister-Vance Heyer; Lion Tamer-Rita Paddock; Membership-Bill Lentz; and Directors-Roland Paddock, Roger Lechtenberg, Connie Lentz, Mike Schrad.
The President-Elect, Secretary, and Recording Secretary positions remain unfilled. The results were reported to Lions Club International on May 1. Ehlers advised that Lions Club International will increase the dues for 2023-24. Therefore, the dues for 2023-24 will be $68, with $42 for a spouse.
Karen O’Hare, representing the Ainsworth Child Development Center, presented an update of the status of the project to establish a daycare center in Ainsworth. Vance Heyer reported that the presentation of seedlings in recognition of Arbor Day was held on April 28 at McAndrew Elementary School. Heyer was assisted by Mirya Hallock in the distribution of seedling trees to 33 fourth-grade students. Since the seedlings were provided by the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District, two representatives were present to demonstrate the proper procedures for planting the seedlings.
Marcus Fairhead reported that 12 Lions Club members assisted with an afternoon set up for the tailgate party. Twenty Lions members helped with the serving that evening. Connie Lentz reported that the Highway 20 Roadside Cleanup had 10 Lions members participating under extremely windy conditions.
Mirya Hallock presented information regarding the “Screening America Program” being hosted by the Brown County Hospital. The Lions Club will provide 25% of the cost of the screening.
The District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund lottery tickets were purchased by the Lions Club. Should the club be successful in having a winning ticket, a club drawing would be held, with any cash prize donated to the Ainsworth Food Pantry.
The Lions Club prepared and served a meal to approximately 75 hospital staff on May 10 in recognition of Hospital Employee Week, with nine Lions Club members participating, along with three Lions Club spouses. Evan Evans advised that additional playground borders will be picked up in Kansas City this summer. No additional rubber will be needed.
* Area students named to UNK Dean’s List
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 2)
The University of Nebraska at Kearney announced students who earned a place on the dean’s list for the spring 2023 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 students named to the dean’s list for the spring are:
Ainsworth – Haley Schroedl, Raven Stewart and Tate Fernau.
Newport – Cora Hemmer.
Purdum – Elizabeth Smith.
Wood Lake – Lauren Ferguson.
Stuart – Jordyn Laible.
Atkinson – Alexis Monasterio and Kelsi Williams.
Butte – Heather Atkinson.
Valentine – Rhiannon Painter and Elli Springer.
* Portions of Meadville Avenue to close Monday
(Posted 8 a.m. June 1)
Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported portions of Meadville Avenue will be closed beginning Monday to allow the roads department to perform shoulder work in areas of Meadville Avenue where the asphalt was replaced.
Turpin said the roads department will begin hauling material to the west shoulder of Meadville Avenue, and will close 1 mile of the road at a time while performing shoulder work at the site.
The first closure will occur from the intersection of Road 879 to Road 880. Work will continue to progress northward to Road 883.
Turpin advised motorists to use alternate routes including 430th Avenue and 432nd Avenue until the shoulder work is completed.
* Kozisek receives law degree
(Posted 7 a.m. June 1)
Conner Kozisek received his Juris Doctorate degree from the New York University School of Law May 18. Degrees were awarded in Madison Square Garden.
Kozisek, a 2013 graduate of Ainsworth High School and the son of Mark and Joni Kozisek of Ainsworth, will begin a two-year fellowship with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, focusing on voting rights issues.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 1)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Wednesday, May 24, on Highway 183.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 11:20 p.m. May 24, a 2000 Kenworth semi, driven by Jerald Olson, 33, of Colome, S.D., was traveling north near milepost 207 when the semi struck debris from a guard rail that was in the roadway.
The sheriff’s department determined the debris was in the roadway due to a vehicle striking the guardrail moments earlier.
No injuries were reported. Damaged to the Kenworth was estimated at $1,500.