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* Funeral Service notes: (see more on the obituaries page)

* Stanley Jacobsen, 63, of Ainsworth 10:30 a.m. May 30

* Roman P. Coash Jr., 85, of Bassett 10:30 a.m. May 30

* Bob Kohle, 90, of Stuart 10:30 a.m. May 29

* Meeting reports located below for:

May 27 Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board and Brown County Commissioners emergency meetings

May 26 Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees

May 20 Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors

May 19 Brown County Commissioners

May 13 Ainsworth City Council

May 12 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

May 5 Brown County Commissioners and Ainsworth City Council special meeting

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 3:30 p.m. May 28)

In addition to fines, each case carries $48 in court costs

Tyler J. Butterfield, age 21, of Atkinson, charged with three counts of being overweight on an axle or group of axles, fined a total of $300 for the three violations.

Robert O. Baxter, 69, of Burwell, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $25; also charged with being overweight on capacity plates, $75.

David B. Christensen, 46, of Brandon, S.D., overweight on an axle or group of axles, $150.

Patrick J. Chohon, 51, of O’Neill, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Levi L. Abbott, 37, of Columbus, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Drew M. Fuecker, 28, of Windsor, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Christine L. Hallock, 59, of Springview, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Stetson L. Allen, 25, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Nathan P. McCormick, 21, of Norfolk, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Jarred Z. Tucker, 26, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Shannon Jeffers, 38, of Ainsworth, dogs running at large, $25.

Vinson K. Smith, 31, of Ainsworth, domestic assault/intentionally cause bodily injury, sentenced to 13 days in jail with credit for 13 days served.

Kenneth E. Eggers, 63, of Ainsworth, selling tobacco to a minor, $25.

Roger D. Prewett, 38, of O’Neill, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $75.

Cody M. Doyle, 23, of Ainsworth, no operator’s license, $75.

Keaton J. Walnofer, 16, of Ainsworth, violation of a stop or yield sign, $50.

Leslie Bomar, 63, of Ainsworth, driving under suspension, $100.

Cory R. Coutts, 25, of Ainsworth, commit child abuse negligently, $100.

Kenneth E. Jefferis, 60, of Long Pine, attempt of a Class 3A or Class 4 felony, sentenced to one year of probation.

Patrick M. McKinnis, 39, of Blair, hunting/fishing/trapping without permission, $200 and ordered to pay $1,000 in liquidated damages.

Daniel T. Hughes, 50, of Broomfield, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Garrett W. Wickett, 18, of Norfolk, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Amanda K. Stephen, 33, of Springview, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $225.

Matthew P. Hagny, 45, of Belaire, Kan., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Robert J. McLeod, 41, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation, ordered not to drive for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

* Owners counter latest offer on care center, board votes to counter that offer

(Posted 5:45 a.m. May 28)

The Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors learned Wednesday afternoon the latest offer made to the broker for the purchase of the Ainsworth Care Center building and licenses was rejected by the owners.

After meeting Wednesday morning, the board reconvened Wednesday afternoon to discuss a counter offer proposed by the broker.

Board member Buddy Small said, “The counter offer is confidential at this point. As I see it, the interlocal board has three options. We can walk away, let the current facility close and start over. We can accept this counter offer. Or, we can make a counter offer. The North Central Development Center is not going to make any further offers.”

Board member Jim Walz said he worried about the board making an offer when the only thing it knew for certain was that the county had committed $340,000 for the purchase of the facility.

“I worry that if we make an offer and can’t back it up, they may try and find a way to sue us,” Walz said.

The board discussed the process the city of Ainsworth would need to undertake to make a financial commitment to the purchase of the facility.

“I am not comfortable yet with just walking away,” Walz said.

The board entered into executive session to discuss the counter offer made by the broker on behalf of the owners of the facility and the 46 licensed beds.

Following the two-hour executive session, the board approved making a counter offer to the broker for the equipment, real property and licenses. Small said the amount of the counter offer agreed to by the board could not be publicized at this stage.

Included in the counter offer was an acceptance or rejection date of 3 p.m. Monday, June 1. The interlocal board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday.

“We strongly believe we are in a good position, because if the company had any other real offers at this point they would have taken it by now,” Small said.

The board recessed until Thursday, when members planned to meet with North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson to obtain the contact information for the broker and submit the board’s counter offer.

* Commissioners allocate $340,000 toward purchase of care center property, licenses

(Posted 1:30 p.m. May 27)

Following discussion on how the funds should be utilized, the Brown County Commissioners on Wednesday allocated $340,000 in inheritance tax funds for the purchase of the real and personal property, and up to 46 licensed beds located at 143 N. Fullerton Street known as the Ainsworth Care Center.

The commissioners deliberated on whether to allocate the inheritance tax funding strictly for the purchase of the property and the licensed beds, or whether to include language that would allow the inheritance tax funding to be used for initial operating expenses.

After a motion was made and seconded and then withdrawn to include language for operating a facility, the board settled on the $340,000 funding commitment to be used only for the purchase of the real and personal property, and the licensed beds.

The board discussed how the money would be allocated, as the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board is still in the process of establishing a tax identification number, and has not yet been able to prepare a budget.

County Attorney David Streich said, if an offer is accepted by the group that owns the facility, there are several steps that would need to be taken to close the deal.

“The money could be put in escrow until all the terms are met that would allow the funds to be released to the owner of the real estate,” Streich said. “We don’t have the option of giving the money to the interlocal board until it has a tax ID number and a budget.”

Streich said taking action to approve the funding would give the newly formed board comfort in knowing the money was there and available from the county.

Commissioner Buddy Small asked, if the latest offers made to the broker for the facility were to be rejected, what the next step for the local group would be.

North Central Development Center Director Kristin Olson said the city and county would be approached to determine the next option.

Olson said the NCDC Board of Directors approved submitting two offers to the broker who has the property and the licensed beds listed for sale. She said there were two options presented, the first that would include only the purchase of the building itself. The second would include the potential purchase of the 46 beds licensed for the community in addition to the real property.

She said if a letter of intent had been received for the entire 213 beds listed for sale through the company’s four Nebraska facilities, the offer would only be for the building and the community could then apply for licenses through the state.

“If the letter of intent for all the beds is not there, then we need to see about buying the beds and that was included as a second option,” she said.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said any subsequent offers that might be made should the current offers be rejected should be brought in front of the city and the county first.

Olson said the broker had scheduled a conference call to discuss one of the offers made.

“If the facility closes, they lose the licenses, so the offer they want to discuss is the offer that includes the licensed beds,” Olson said.

NCDC Board member Doug Weiss said the offers made to the broker were contingent upon the facility being passed through to the interlocal group.

Ainsworth Mayor Larry Rice said, if the group receives an answer from the broker, the City Council could meet in special session to vote on allocating funding. Short of receiving an answer from the broker, Rice said the council would address the funding aspect during its next regularly scheduled meeting.

“I think we are just spinning our wheels with this company,” Rice said.

Audience member Sheryl Graff thanked the commissioners for allocating the $340,000 in funding toward the project. Her uncle, the late Ralph Snover of North Bend, spent five years in the Ainsworth Care Center.
“My uncle considered the Ainsworth Care Center his home,” Graff said. “I think he would be pleased.”

While a majority of the inheritance taxes from the Snover estate were paid to Dodge County after his passing, the family allocated $340,000 in inheritance tax funding to Brown County since he resided in the Ainsworth Care Center for five years late in his life.

Prior to the emergency meeting of the Brown County Commissioners Wednesday, the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board met in emergency session in the commissioners room of the courthouse.

The board addressed setting up a tax identification number through the Internal Revenue Service and composing a budget.

“Now that we know who the interlocal board members are, we can get the paperwork in to the IRS for a tax ID number,” Streich said.

Streich said any initial claims for legal services or licensing may have to be split between the city and the county until the interlocal board has the chance to set up a budget.

He recommended the board utilize the services of Pete Peterson of Ogallala, who serves as Brown County’s budget consultant.

Small said Peterson is extremely competent, and everyone in the courthouse has full respect and confidence in him when it comes to preparing the county’s annual budget.

He said the interlocal board, who was minus board member Kent Taylor Wednesday, would like to take the appropriate action to keep the existing facility open and retain the 46 licensed beds assigned to the facility while the county and city work together to replace the facility.

Olson said, even though the 60-day notice required the facility to remain open until June 26, the likelihood of the Ainsworth Care Center remaining open until that date was slim.

“There are eight residents there currently,” Olson said. “Two were scheduled to leave but the facility where they were moving did not have enough staff.”

Interlocal board member Jim Walz said there is a five-year window, based on the architect’s report, to operate the current facility before major money would be needed to repair or replace it.

“I think the initial money should be used for the purchase of the facility,” Walz said. “The feasibility study shows it can cash flow if the building is paid for. We would need to work with the banks for an operating note so we don’t have to use tax money to operate the facility.”

Walz said the board would like to retain the staff and keep the residents in the facility if possible.

“Without keeping the staff and the residents, we have to start from ground zero,” Walz said. “Then there becomes more of a cash flow concern.”

Olson said the cash flow scenario in the feasibility study was also based on the group being able to accept Medicare and Medicaid residents.

“If we start from the beginning, we have to apply for Medicare and Medicaid certification and could only have private-pay residents initially,” Olson said.

Board member Leanne Maxwell said, at this late stage, retaining the residents and staff may be a moot point.

“I am afraid it just may not be possible if we are going to be down to five residents,” Maxwell said. “Many of the residents have already moved. Some have voiced a desire to come back. We are getting to the point where we are going to have to start from ground zero. It will take some time to replenish the number of residents we had previously.”

The Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board recessed and kept the option open to reconvene Wednesday if new information became available following the scheduled meeting with the broker to discuss the offer made on the facility.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the interlocal group is set for 5 p.m. June 1 in the courthouse.

* Names submitted to Ricketts for Niobrara Council appointments

(Posted 12:45 p.m. May 27)

Several individuals were nominated for open positions on the Niobrara Council. The names of the nominees are being sent to Gov. Pete Ricketts for appointment.

Nominated for landowner positions on the Niobrara Council are Jason Appelt in Brown County, Brad Arrowsmith in Keya Paha County, Lance Kuck in Rock County, and Kerry Krueger in Cherry County.

Rich Mercure with Little Outlaw and Supertubes was nominated to fill the recreational business representative seat on the council.

Three names were submitted for the governor’s consideration as the timber industry representative on the Niobrara Council. They include Dustin Hoefs, Jim Buer and Lee Simmons.

Dallas Dodson of the Sandhills Strikers Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and Marian Langan of the Nebraska Audubon were submitted for consideration as the non-profit environmental, conservation or wildlife organization position on the Niobrara Council.

Anyone interested in submitting a letter in support/neutral/opposition regarding any of the nominated individuals may do so. Letters must be received by Friday, June 12. Mail letters of support or opposition to Kathleen Dolezal, Office of Gov. Pete Ricketts, State Capitol, Room 2304, P. O. Box 94848, Lincoln, NE 68509-4848.

* Hospital Board agrees to make $50,000 contribution toward bond repayment

(Posted 2 p.m. May 26)

During its recent meeting, the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees voted to contribute $50,000 toward paying down the bond on the hospital addition.

Lisa Wood presented the board with financial information and recommended the contribution be made in June.

The board discussed previous bond contributions made by the Board of Trustees, and determined the hospital could contribute $50,000 toward repaying the addition bond approved by voters without impacting the day-to-day operations of the facility.

Wood also spoke to the trustees about making a contribution to the hospital’s endowment fund. The board voted to contribute $17,650 from the sale of hospital property west of the clinic and money generated by the Hospital Boosters to the endowment fund for future scholarships.

In another action item during its recent meeting, the board approved appointing Dr. Richard Stemm and Dr. David Burdette to the hospital’s consulting staff. The hospital’s medical staff reviewed the credentials of the two doctors and recommended the trustees approve both appointments.

In one final action item, the trustees accepted changes to the hospital’s custodial care contract as recommended by Administrator Shannon Sorensen. Sorensen reviewed the custodial care contract with the board and made the suggestions for the changes to the contract.

Sorensen briefed the board on the status of the Ainsworth Care Center, including a potential June 26 closing date of the facility, recent developments regarding the facility being placed in receivership, and the potential for the sale of the building.

She also discussed the kickoff of the Service Excellence Initiative from Custom Learning Systems. She said company representatives will be on site June 3-4.

Sorensen also discussed recent developments relating to the recruitment of a physician for the hospital, and the status of the open director of nursing position.

She thanked Tammy Brown for her nine years of service as the hospital’s director of nursing, and told the board Matt Lentz will serve as the interim director of nursing.

Sorensen also provided the board with a recent study completed by a University of Nebraska at Kearney student relating to physician recruitment. The study included interviews conducted with Brown County Hospital staff.

Prior to adjourning, the trustees held an executive session to discuss physician recruitment and strategic planning. No action was taken following the executive session.

The next meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees is scheduled for 4 p.m. June 15.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 5:30 a.m. May 25)


May 17

* Responded to a report of a vehicle causing a traffic hazard on Hwy 183. The vehicle was towed.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail on bond.

 

May 18

* Investigated a report of possible vandalism to a vehicle, by letting the air out of the tires, in Long Pine.

* Assisted an individual with a report of a dog at large on North Elm St Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of a possible domestic disturbance on West 2nd St Ainsworth.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail as their sentence was completed.

 

May 19

* Responded to a report of suspicious activity at the Ainsworth School parking lot. A juvenile was issued a citation for Minor in Possession of Tobacco.

* The Brown Co Ambulance responded to an emergency call at a residence on East 3rd St Ainsworth. No one was transported at the time.

* Received a report of an elderly resident of Ainsworth, who might need assistance from Adult Protective Services.

* Investigated a report of possible animal neglect & abuse in Long Pine.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a Long Pine residence to the Brown Co Hospital.

* Investigated a report of a possible break in at a residence in Long Pine, and assisted with a request for the removal of an unwanted subject from the property.

 

May 20

* Provided a welfare check on a family in Ainsworth.

* Responded to a barking dog complaint in Long Pine.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located East & North of Ainsworth.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail on bond.

* Received a request for a welfare check on a family in Ainsworth.

 

May 21

* Responded to a report of a juvenile driving recklessly on a county road East of Ainsworth.

* Investigated a traffic complaint, when a rock hit a windshield of a vehicle while being passed by another, South of Ainsworth on Hwy 7.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a location South of Ainsworth, to the Brown Co Hospital.

* Assisted the NE State Patrol investigate a report of a two vehicle accident without injury on Main St Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of a subject selling items without a city peddler’s permit, in Long Pine.

* Investigated a report of a possible abandoned child, located in a vehicle South of Ainsworth.

* Assisted an individual with a report of barking dogs in rural Ainsworth area.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported a rural Brown Co resident to the Brown Co Hospital.

* Received a report of possible child neglect in Ainsworth.

 

May 22 

* Responded to a report of a vehicle driving recklessly & striking a mail box, on South Osborne St, Ainsworth.

 

May 23 

* Responded to a report of a dog on the hwy East of Ainsworth.

* The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located on the Brown Co/ Cherry Co line.

* Investigated a report of possible reckless driving on South Osborne St Ainsworth.

* Provided traffic control for individuals moving a building down Pine St & Hwy 20 Ainsworth.

* The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located in rural Johnstown area.

* Provided a civil standby for a custody exchange in Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of juveniles driving recklessly on ATV units in Long Pine.

 

Weekly Summary

2 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

1 - Handgun permits applied for

24 - Incidents Reports were taken.

4 - Paper Service was served.

137 - Phone calls were received.

6 - 911 emergency calls received.

4 - Titles were inspected.

4 - Traffic Citations were issued.

11 – Verbal & Written Warnings were issued.

* February taxable sales lag behind 2014 for area counties

(Posted 4 p.m. May 22)

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of February 2015 and February 2014 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities


County
or City

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

2014
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

2014
Sales Tax
5.5%

Boyd

674,947

689,167

(2.1)

37,122.18

37,904.31

Brown

2,364,972

2,438,578

(3.0)

130,073.66

134,121.99

Ainsworth

2,311,243

2,390,346

(3.3)

127,118.55

131,469.21

Cherry

4,641,580

4,182,642

11

255,287.33

230,045.70

Valentine

4,470,861

3,996,521

11.9

245,897.69

219,808.92

Custer

6,803,987

7,324,067

(7.1)

374,219.72

402,824.22

Broken Bow

5,587,841

5,800,018

(3.7)

307,331.49

319,001.35

Holt

7,464,886

8,794,427

(15.1)

410,569.34

483,694.14

Atkinson

1,221,501

1,653,511

(26.1)

67,182.72

90,943.28

O'Neill

5,392,484

6,102,297

(11.6)

296,586.95

335,626.67

Keya Paha

144,205

183,769

(21.5)

7,931.30

10,107.33

Loup

37,211

40,822

(8.8)

2,046.62

2,245.23

Rock

453,859

522,010

(13.1)

24,962.30

28,710.64

Valley

2,765,796

3,209,605

(13.8)

152,118.99

176,528.52

Ord

2,476,959

2,751,023

(10.0)

136,232.91

151,306.43

State Total

$2,023,436,588

$2,035,550,432

(0.6)

$111,802,346.88

$112,211,090.76

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of February 2015 and February 2014
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County


County
or City

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

2014
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

2014
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

111,195

63,068

76.3

6,062.12

3,425.96

Boyd

572,390

314,905

81.8

31,520.98

17,325.69

Brown

1,028,222

711,261

44.6

56,825.32

39,286.05

Cherry

1,573,335

1,391,872

13

86,945.15

76,884.00

Custer

2,265,219

1,788,747

26.6

125,290.21

99,037.95

Holt

$2,466,928

$2,152,955

14.6

$136,415.03

$119,076.64

Keya Paha

317,144

300,395

5.6

17,453.70

16,559.26

Loup

234,942

228,307

2.9

12,889.01

12,510.52

Rock

452,273

269,381

67.9

24,933.92

14,791.43

Valley

1,162,908

669,987

73.6

64,196.65

37,038.45

State Total

$298,824,145

$273,793,413

9.1

$16,577,402.89

$15,208,877.92

* Davis provides an update as 2015 Nebraska Unicameral session nears end

(Posted 3:30 p.m. May 22)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis provided an update on the weekly happenings in the Nebraska Legislature.
To hear the report with Davis, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Davis 5-22-15.mp3

* Lions Club donates proceeds from tailgate party to Teammates Program

(Posted 5:45 a.m. May 22)

During its monthly meeting, the Ainsworth Lions Club conducted a review of the annual Ainsworth High School All-Sports Tailgate Party, which the club hosts.

Event chairman Larry Rice reported a total of 255 meals were served, including 25 Lions who helped with the serving. The Lions Club Board of Directors approved discontinuing selling tickets in advance, since the advanced sale of tickets was no longer used for any pre-count of those planning to attend and most of the tickets were sold at the door. Tickets will continue to be sold at the door, with one additional Lion added to assist in that area The issuance of tickets to the student-athletes was discontinued several years ago. Other committee chairs were invited to submit any suggestions for next year’s event to Rice.

The club earned a net profit of $470 from the tailgate party, which was donated to the Ainsworth Teammates Chapter to assist with the cost of the speaker. The profit occurred because of the donation of the burger for the event by club member Brian Williams.

Jerry Ehlers reported on the election of officers and directors for the 2015-16 year. Elected were: Past-President Pat Jones, President Evan Evans, First Vice President Brian Williams, Second Vice President Nike Hite, Secretary Jerry Ehlers, Treasurer Phil Fuchs, Tail Twister Dwain Grunke, Lion Tamer David Spann, Membership Chair Todd Mundhenke, and directors Shannon Sorensen, Darrell Peterson, Vergil Heyer and Jim Walton.

The 2015-16 Lions Club dues statements will be e-mailed to members during the month of May, with the due date being June 15

The club received a thank-you note from Gary, Bonnie and Garrett Wolfe for the Adopt-a-Highway Cleanup Project along Highway 20 right-a-way east of Ainsworth.

The presentation of trees for the Fourth Grade Foresters of Nebraska Project was held at McAndrew Elementary School on Arbor Day, April 24.

It was reported the Ainsworth High School 25-year alumni class plans to prepare prime rib for the alumni banquet this year. The Lions Club will be responsible for the rest of the menu items, and will again serve the alumni meal.

The Lions Club District 38-I Cabinet meeting was held at the Nebraska State 4-H Camp at Halsey April 26. Jerry Ehlers reported the Adopt-a-Highway program has existed in Nebraska for 25 years, with 34 Lions Clubs participating since its inception. A recognition reception was held at the State Capitol for all organizations that participated all 25 years. Regarding the District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund, the club does not have to provide the maximum of $400 before requesting a match from the fund. Any amount approved by the club, up to $400, may be requested from the Individual Assistance Fund. Eye care, hearing aids, and certain expenses for diabetes and other health related issues may be eligible for assistance, based on financial need. Ehlers said he would check with the North Central Development Center regarding any specific health care needs for employees of the nursing home.

A total of 604 eye glasses and two hearing aids were taken to the District 38-I Cabinet meeting for ultimate delivery to the Nebraska Lions Club Eye Bank at Omaha. 

The collection boxes to be placed in various locations in the community have been ordered.

Nine Lions Club members assisted with the Middle School Track Meet at East City Park May 12.

The Ainsworth High School Alumni Parade is scheduled for Saturday, June 27. Phil Fuchs will make arrangements for having the Lions Club represented. 

Gordon Smith, a 1962 graduate of Ainsworth High School, has gifted three Lions Club highway signs to the Ainsworth Lions Club and the city of Ainsworth to replace each of the signs currently located along each state highway entering the community. Ehlers will consult with the Nebraska Department of Roads regarding the replacement of the current signs.

The next meeting of the Lion Club Board of Directors is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. June 15 in the Golden Steer.

* Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board meets, elects Taylor chairman

(Posted 9 p.m. May 20)

During the initial meeting of the newly formed Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors Wednesday, the four board members appointed Kent Taylor as the chairman, with Buddy Small named the vice chairman and Leanne Maxwell the secretary and treasurer of the group.

The Brown County clerk’s office will supply staff to take the minutes during the meetings, and the Ainsworth City Office will process claims for the board.

“This is a topic that has raised a lot of opinions and a lot of emotions,” Taylor said in opening the meeting. “We may disagree on what is the best way to go forward, but no matter what happens, we are going to leave here as members of the same community.”

The board voted to set regular meetings at 5 p.m. on the first Monday of each month in the Brown County Courthouse meeting room, and approved establishing a checking account through West Plains Bank.

Members of the task force who have been working on the Ainsworth Care Center project for months provided the board members with an update on recent developments.

Task force member Kristin Olson said it has been a complicated process.

“The receiver was put into place May 7, and their plan now appears to be to have the facility closed by June 26,” Olson said. “There have been some cash flow issues that have come up. The receiver’s job is to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents.”

With facilities managed by Deseret Health Group already closed at Edgar and Exeter, Olson said just one resident remained in the company’s facility at Lyons. More residents of the Ainsworth Care Center have been transferring with the uncertain future of the facility.

Joe McBride, whose father resides in the care center, said, “I have spoken with multiple people who would gladly bring their loved ones back here if the current facility can be purchased or if a new facility can be built.”

Task force member Shannon Sorensen told the board the task force worked hard since January to try and avoid the situation of the facility giving a closure notice.

“The goal has always been to save the building, save the jobs and allow the residents to stay,” Sorensen said.

Taylor said the scenario of a nursing home facility issuing a closure notice and then having the state come in to operate the facility through a receivership is rare.

“This is uncharted waters, not only for us but for the Department of Health and Human Services,” Taylor said. “It has been 20 years since the last time this happened in Nebraska.”

Audience members asked what would happen to residents of the facility who had not found a place to relocate by June 26. Olson said the Department of Health and Human Services would work to find placement for any residents who were not able to move by June 26.

Olson said employees of the Ainsworth Care Center were being paid by Klaasmeyer and Associates, the company operating the facility through the receivership issued by the Brown County District Court. She said employees were not paid by Deseret Health Group for the hours they worked from April 1 through May 6.

“It is a tough situation,” Olson said. “The Department of Labor is not sitting on a stack of cash to bail out a private business. It can only fine the company $500 per employee for not paying wages."

Olson said, during an emergency meeting Wednesday, the North Central Development Center Board of Directors authorized her to make another offer to the broker in an effort to see if the building could be purchased prior to its closure.

The broker is handling all offers on the building, which is owned by RP Midwest Nebraska LLC. Any negotiations between the broker and the NCDC director would not subject the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board to any financial obligation.

Taylor said he had been recently contacted by someone from the private sector with a potential interest in the facility.

“I passed that information along to the task force,” Taylor said.

Board members Leanne Maxwell and Jim Walz both said they would like to get caught up with the process that has been undertaken to this point. Both indicated they would need to read through the feasibility study and architectural report before feeling comfortable with making any decisions on how to proceed.

Olson provided the board with the architectural study, which indicated the facility could be operated in the short term with an estimated $136,000 in improvements. Long-term operation of the current facility was estimated at just under $7 million, which included almost $6 million to upgrade the facility to private restrooms for each room and add nine residential rooms. Almost $400,000 would be needed in the long term to replace the heating and cooling system, and more than $200,000 would be needed to replace the shingles on the facility and replace the windows.

Following additional questions from members of the audience, the board entered into executive session with members of the task force to discuss legal proceedings and financial information relating to the Ainsworth Care Center.

No action was taken by the board following the more than 1 hour executive session.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 1 in the courthouse meeting room.

* Commissioners appoint Small to replace Hobbs on newly formed board

(Posted 3 p.m. May 19)

The Brown County Commissioners made a change Tuesday to its two spots on the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors, appointing Board Chairman Buddy Small to one of the two posts.

The commissioners initially appointed Jim Walz and County Clerk Travee Hobbs to serve as the county’s two representatives on the four-member board. After learning one of the two spots needed to be filled by a member of the board of commissioners, Small was voted in to replace Hobbs.

The board approved having either Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus or Commissioner Les Waits serve as an alternate on the board on occasions when Small is unable to attend a Care Center Board meeting.

The first meeting of the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday in the courthouse meeting room. The Ainsworth City Council appointed Leanne Maxwell and Councilman Kent Taylor as its two representatives on the board.

In roads items Tuesday, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said he was working with a landowner adjacent to Paradise Valley Road to try and gain an easement to allow the county to straighten the stretch of the roadway.

Turpin asked the board if the county would take care of replacing the fence for the property owner if the fence needed to be relocated to straighten the road.

“We always try to work well with the landowners on projects like this,” Turpin said.

County Attorney David Streich indicated by phone that the county, in the past, has tried to work with the landowners to have them donate the land for the easement while the county has paid to have the fence moved.

The board indicated it would be fine with paying to move the fence, as straightening the stretch of Paradise Valley Road would improve safety for those utilizing that stretch of the road and would be easier for the roads department to maintain.

Turpin reported the Norden Bridge project may be ready to go out for bids by July, with construction of the new bridge possibly beginning in September.

He said the roads department has been busy hauling gravel, rock and clay to county roads in need of work after all the recent moisture.

In a final roads item, the commissioners approved signing a 2015 Fracture Critical Bridge Inspection Agreement between the county and the Nebraska Department of Roads.

Turpin said Department of Roads personnel handle inspections of fracture critical bridges. The county has two such bridges, the Norden Bridge and the McCullough Bridge.

The estimated cost of having the state department inspect the two bridges is $1,266.

The commissioners approved a $3,000 contract with Pete Peterson to assist the county in preparing the 2015-16 fiscal year budget.

Assistant Clerk Becky Hardy informed the board the county would see an approximately 3 percent reduction in its Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance premiums for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The county provides single health insurance policies to its full-time employees at a $2,500 deductible, with the county buying down that deductible to $600 annually.

Should the employee choose to add a second party to the insurance, the employee contributes $302 monthly, and the employee pays $422 monthly if adding a family policy to cover children.

Employees choosing to receive cash in lieu of health insurance receive 75 percent of the cost of the premium. Employees pay $12 monthly to receive dental insurance for a single policy and $30 monthly for family dental coverage.

Employees also have the option of receiving vision insurance through the county, with the entire premium paid by the employee. Hardy said the dental premiums have decreased for the upcoming year, while vision insurance premiums are remaining equal to the 2014-15 year.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. June 2.

* Ainsworth, Bassett Legions ask for help placing Memorial Day flags and crosses

(Posted 2:45 p.m. May 19)

The Ainsworth and Bassett American Legion and Legion Auxiliary units are seeking the public’s help in setting up the flag and cross displays for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.
The Bassett American Legion and Legion Auxiliary will hang flags and place crosses at the Bassett Memorial Park Cemetery at 4 p.m. Thursday.
The Ainsworth American Legion and Legion Auxiliary will place flags and crosses beginning at the Ainsworth South Cemetery at 4 p.m. Friday. The groups will then move to the Ainsworth East Cemetery, and then to the Johnstown Cemetery. The flags and crosses will be taken down at 4 p.m. Monday.
Ainsworth’s Memorial Day service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at the cemetery. The Bassett Memorial Day service will also be held at 10 a.m. at the Memorial Park Cemetery.
Newport has scheduled its Memorial Day service for 9 a.m. Monday.

* Mitchell, Heerten receive $500 Mitchell Equipment scholarships

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

Mitchell Equipment of Atkinson awarded $500 scholarships to area graduates Paige Mitchell of West Holt and Moriah Heerten of Keya Paha County.
The first $500 scholarship is awarded to a West Holt High School student with an interest in returning to the north central region of the state, as well as good citizenship in school and community. Mitchell plans to attend South Dakota State University this fall to pursue a degree in agribusiness with a minor in Horticulture at the University’s College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. She is the daughter of Kurt and Pam Mitchell of Atkinson.
The second $500 scholarship is available to area students who reside in Antelope, Boyd, Brown, Garfield, Holt, Keya Paha, Knox, Loup, Rock or Wheeler counties. Scholarship selection was based on the student’s interest in agriculture or an ag-related field of study, an interest in returning to the north central region of the state, as well as good citizenship in school and community. Heerten plans to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this fall to pursue a degree in agronomy and ag economics at the University’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. She is the daughter of Ron and Sandra Heerten of Springview.

* Tire amnesty event June 27 for Blaine, Rock, Holt and Loup County residents

(Posted 11:15 a.m. May 18)

The Lower Loup Natural Resources District has been awarded a 2015 Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Grant – Scrap Tire Cleanup from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.
A Scrap Tire Collection will be held Saturday, June 27, from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Loup Rivers Scenic Byway, 330 South Highway 11 Burwell, Nebraska – south of Longhorn Lanes, across the highway east of the Burwell Junior-Senior High School.
Residents of 11 counties, including Blaine, Rock, Holt and Loup counties, may take scrap tires to Burwell free of charge June 27 for disposal.
Tires on rims and tires for which a disposal fee has been received will not be accepted during the collection. Tires of all sizes: tractor, combine, pivot, truck and auto tires will be accepted. Local veterans will take the name, address, phone number, number of tires and from where the tires came from those who bring tires to the collection event. The Burwell FFA Chapter and Advisor Philip Simpson will help with the unloading of the tires and a freewill donation will be given to the chapter.
The recycling end use market will determine how the tires from the Tire Collection cleanup event will be used. Potential uses include feed bunks, sidewall rings for silage cover weights, traffic cones, and alternative cover for landfills.
For more information contact Janet Sanders, executive director of the Loup Basin RC&D Council, at (308) 346-3393, email at info@loupbasinrcd.org or stop by the office at 330 South Highway 11, Burwell.

* Council vacates alley and approves storage unit construction; appoints Care Center Board members

(Posted 9 p.m. May 13)

The Ainsworth City Council voted to vacate an alley on the west side of the city Wednesday, then followed with a conditional use permit for property owner Jim Campbell to construct a storage unit in the same area.

Campbell requested the vacation of the alley, telling the council the alley did not serve any function.

“It won’t create a hardship for anyone,” Campbell said. “City ordinance requires a building to be back from the property line, and an alley is considered a property line.”

City Administrator Kristi Thornburg said Campbell owned the property on both sides of the alley.

“The alley is not essential to city operations,” she said.

Following the hearing on the alley vacation, the council held a hearing to allow Campbell a conditional-use permit to construct an additional storage unit at the site.

Thornburg said a storage unit could be constructed through a conditional-use permit in an R-2 residential area. She said the Ainsworth Planning Commission met and recommended the City Council approve the conditional-use permit application.

Campbell said the new storage unit would be constructed west of one of the current units at the site.

In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, the council appointed Leanne Maxwell and Councilman Kent Taylor to serve as the city’s representatives on the newly formed Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors.

Mayor Larry Rice said Maxwell had been employed in the Ainsworth Care Center at one time and was familiar with the history and operations of the facility.

“Several people expressed an interest in the position,” Rice said. “Leanne brings a lot to the table, and she has agreed to serve.”

After Taylor and Maxwell were appointed by a 3-0 vote with Taylor abstaining, Rice said he strongly encouraged the new Care Center Board, which also currently consists of Brown County representatives Travee Hobbs and Jim Walz, to have North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson and Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen serve as volunteer consultants to the board.

“They can bring the interlocal board up to speed with what has happened and what is currently happening,” Rice said. “They both have a wealth of knowledge on the proceedings and have spent countless hours on this project.”

Rice stressed that Sorensen and Olson would not serve in a voting capacity, but said the new board members would be wise to utilize their expertise on the project.

Councilman Chuck Osborn said the city and county would not be where they are now without the work done by the task force and particularly the work done by Olson and Sorensen.

Audience member Kim Buckley, who serves as the president of the North Central Development Center Board of Directors, said Olson has focused her time almost exclusively on the care center for the past several months.

In other items Wednesday, Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala told the council the department was able to purchase a 2010 model rescue truck to replace an outdated truck.

“The truck has less than 2,500 miles on it, and we were able to purchase it for $95,000,” Fiala said. “A new truck like this would have cost $325,000.”

Fiala said the truck came from a broker located one hour’s drive west of Houston, Texas, and the fire department had driven the truck back to the community.

Fiala asked, since the council had allocated $60,000 for the truck purchase, as had the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District, if the remainder of the allocated funds could be used to purchase an in-house air station for the Fire Hall.

“Our old rescue truck had our air station,” the fire chief said. “An in-house air station costs about $38,000, and we would like to use the remaining funds to purchase the air station.”

Fiala said an in-house air station would better serve the department, and four large air tanks on a truck could fill 64 smaller bottles that are carried by firefighters.

The council agreed to allow the fire department to use the $12,500 in remaining funds allocated for the rescue truck to purchase the air station.

Prior to adjourning, Thornburg asked the council to consider raising the garbage rates the city charges.

“The last time rates were raised was in 1999 for residential service,” the city administrator said. “Most communities our size are charging $15 per month or more, and we are at $11.”

She said KBR Solid Waste is having to raise each entity’s rates in the interlocal agreement to help cover the declining value of recycled commodities and the increase in tipping fees being charged by Lexington Area Solid Waste.

“A lot of communities contract with a private company instead of providing garbage service themselves,” Thornburg said. “We are not trying to make money on a garbage service, we are just trying to maintain what we have.”

She said she would survey other communities and bring back a proposal during the council’s June meeting.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 10.

* NCDC Housing Committee moving forward with senior housing project

(Posted 1:15 p.m. May 13)

The North Central Development Center Housing Committee has announced that the senior housing project in Ainsworth is moving forward.
The Housing Committee reported it is nearing its initial goal for constructing the 15-unit senior housing complex that will be located west of the Ainsworth Family Clinic on Zero Street.
Anyone who would like to be involved with the project is asked to contact the North Central Development Center office at 402-387-2740. Informational packets on the project will be available for a limited time by contacting the NCDC office.

* School Board hires social studies teacher, will interview principal candidates

(Posted 1:15 p.m. May 12)

A new social studies teacher has been hired for the 2015-16 year, and Superintendent Darrell Peterson told the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education 21 candidates had applied for the school’s open secondary principal position.

The board approved the hiring of Shane Harland to teach social studies, replacing Jeff Konkoleski, who resigned to become a principal with West Point-Beemer Public Schools.

“He is anxious to help out with coaching, so we will get him into a couple coaching positions as well,” Peterson said.

The superintendent said, with 21 applications for the secondary principal position, the district was in the process of narrowing the field of potential candidates and scheduling interviews.

Peterson said, at this later stage, many of the applicants are teachers who have completed their administrative education requirements and would be first-time principals.

In other items during Monday’s meeting, a group working on making improvements to the school’s weight room provided the board with an update of the plans and the costs for the work.

Jared Hansmeyer and Tonny Beck highlighted the planned improvements, including an $11,055 for new flooring in the weight room.

A total of $20,675 has been raised toward the estimated $32,000 project, including $11,300 that was raised during the winter half-court shootout organized by First Class Auto that will be used to pay for the cost of the flooring.

Beck’s Well and Irrigation donated $2,000 for the construction of custom-made racks, Three River Communications is donating $1,000 for the installation and mounting of a television, and First Class Auto kicked in another $1,000 to install a sound system. Roudy Clapper agreed to donate labor to build and install storage cabinets in the weight room. Hansmeyer said William Krotter Lumber agreed to sell the group the paint at cost that will be needed to repaint the weight room.

The Ainsworth Booster Club contributed $4,700 toward the improvements, and the group asked the board to fund the remaining $11,325.

Beck said, “We want to make these improvements happen sooner rather than later. We need an answer on where the School Board stands so we can determine where we can go with this.”

Board member Jim Arens said, “This group has done a ton of work on this project. They are well-organized and there is a consensus among the group. I would like to see us move forward in assisting in the cost of completing this project.”

Board member Erin Rathe agreed with having the district support the project financially.

Since the item was not on Monday’s agenda, no action was taken. Hansmeyer said the flooring was scheduled to be delivered to Ainsworth in the first week of June. The group plans to undertake most of the improvements in one stretch to minimize the amount of time the weight room would need to be closed.

The board approved a $54,741 bid from Fisher Tracks to apply a polyurethane structural spray on the track at East City Park to extend the track’s life another seven to 10 years.

Peterson said Fisher Tracks installed the current track, and indicated when the track was installed that this step would be needed. He said Fisher Tracks indicated when the track was installed that the top coating could cost $75,000, so the bid came in well under the projections from when the track was installed numerous years ago.

Sixth-grade student Katrina Beel and sophomore Vanessa Taylor presented their state-winning entries in the National History Day Contest. Beel presented information on Eleanor Roosevelt, and Taylor played her documentary on George Norris’ role in rural electrification. This marks Taylor’s fifth straight year of winning the state contest and qualifying for nationals.

The board agreed to make a contribution of $100 to each participant to travel to Washington, D.C., for the National History Day Contest.

The board, with Arens abstaining, also agreed to provide $100 to student Jack Arens, who qualified to participate in the National FBLA Contest after winning the State FBLA Business Math Contest.

District policy allows students to receive $100 to offset expenses in attending national contests.

The board approved continuing to have Lunchtime Solutions provide the breakfast and lunch meals for Ainsworth Community Schools for 2015-16. Peterson said the district qualified for a waiver last year so as not to have to raise its breakfast and lunch prices.

“We intend to apply for a waiver again this year,” the superintendent said. “Otherwise, we would have to increase lunch prices 10 cents from $2.40 to $2.50, and breakfast prices 5 cents from $1.35 to $1.40.”

The board also approved a contract with the Educational Service Unit 17 for special education and school nursing services. The $659,504 contract is a 3 percent increase from the 2014-15 school year.

Peterson said the district is reimbursed by the federal government for about 50 percent of the cost of the contract.

A third foreign exchange student was approved by the board Monday. After previously approving two exchange students, the board approved an application from Paula Welke of EF Exchange to place a German student in Ainsworth Community Schools in the fall.

Peterson said the district’s policy allows for up to three foreign exchange students each year.

The board also approved an option enrollment request, allowing Paige Korth to attend Rock County Public Schools for her senior year in 2015-16.

During his report, Peterson said Lexington had requested to join the Southwest Conference. He said, during a recent quarterly meeting, the member schools agreed to further research short-term and long-term conference membership, and tabled the request made by Lexington Public Schools.

“The members did not make a decision, yes or no, on admitting Lexington,” Peterson said. “The conference is planning to pursue at least one more member at some point.”

Secondary Principal Richard Gilson discussed graduation week activities with the board. He said Kolton Lurz graduated early to begin his enlistment with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Elementary Principal Sarah Williams indicated 32 students had already enrolled for kindergarten for the 2015-16 school year.

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

* Klaasmeyer says company working to keep Ainsworth Care Center open

(Posted 4:15 p.m. May 11)

Ken Klaasmeyer of Klaasmeyer and Associates, the company tapped to manage the Ainsworth Care Center through a receivership order issued by the state of Nebraska in District Court last week, said efforts have already been made to ensure the residents of the facility are having their care needs met and that staff are being paid and supported.
Klaasmeyer said the June 26 closure date issued by Deseret Health Group before the company lost the ability to manage the facility through the court order remains a hurdle that will have to be cleared in order to keep the Ainsworth Care Center open.
Klaasmeyer discussed with KBRB's Graig Kinzie Monday his first impressions of the facility after meeting with the staff, the residents and their families, and the decisions that must be made to determine whether the facility will continue to remain in operation past the closure date of June 26.
To hear the complete report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Ainsworth Care Center - Ken Klaasmeyer 5-11.mp3

* Several area students set to graduate from Northeast Community College

(Posted 3:15 p.m. May 11)

Numerous area students are scheduled to graduate from Northeast Community College at 10 a.m. Saturday, May, 16, in the Cox Activities Center on the Norfolk campus.

Area graduates include:

Ainsworth

Allison Davis, Associate of Science Degree.

Schylar Philben, Associate of Science Degree.

Lane Johnson, Associate of Applied Science Degree in Diversified Agriculture.

Kyle Lane, Associate of Applied Science Degree in Automotive Technology.

William Kackmeister, Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business.

Jamie Davis, Associate of Applied Science Degree in Drafting.

Johnstown

Jenny Bell, Associate of Arts Degree.

Bassett

Gladys Einspahr, Associate of Arts Degree.

Stuart

Emily Kaup, Associate of Arts Degree.

Atkinson

Aubrey McDermott, Associate of Arts Degree.

Cheleigh Sholes, Associate of Arts Degree.

Shelby Weber, Associate of Arts Degree.

Angela Schaaf, Associate Degree in Nursing.

Marcus Osborne, Associate of Applied Science Degree in Information Technology.

Bryce Rossman, Associate of Applied Science Degree in Wind Energy.

Lucas Seger, Diploma in Business.

Valentine

Hadley Brickner, Associate of Arts Degree.

Alexandra Taylor, Associate of Arts Degree.

* Area students earn degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

(Posted 3 p.m. May 11)

Nearly 3,000 degrees were awarded during commencement exercises at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Area graduates include:

Ainsworth

Haley Sue Harthoorn, bachelor of science in agricultural economics.

Skyler Theodore Jacobsen, bachelor of science in business administration with distinction.

Kayla Marie Klammer, bachelor of arts with high distinction.

Atkinson

Kent Anthony Frickel, bachelor of science in agronomy with high distinction.

Mackenzie Ann Gibbens, bachelor of science in design with distinction.

Kent Raymond Olson, bachelor of science in business administration.

Bassett

Bethany Jo Blackburn, bachelor of science in agricultural education.

Stuart

Trevor James Butterfield, bachelor of science in agribusiness.

Valentine

Jillian Rae Borer, bachelor of science.

Matthew Wayne Harris, bachelor of arts with high distinction.

Scott Julian Rupe, bachelor of science in fisheries and wildlife.

Alex Joseph Schubauer, bachelor of journalism.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 5:30 a.m. May 11)

May 3

* Assisted the NE State Patrol by securing a residence in Brown Co, until a search was completed.

* Received a report of cattle out on Hwy 20 East of the Hwy 183 junction.

* Assisted an individual with information on a protection order.

* Received a report of a bull out on Hwy 7 South of Ainsworth.

 

May 4

* Received a report of cattle out South of Ainsworth.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit to the Ainsworth Irrigation Dist., for areas between Johnstown & Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of vehicles racing up & down Pine St in Long Pine.

* Booked two subjects into the Brown Co Jail on Court ordered commitments from Keya Paha Co.

 

May 5

* Responded to a report of a vehicle almost striking pedestrians in a crosswalk on Main St Ainsworth.

* Investigated a report of possible drug activity in Ainsworth.

* Assisted the NE State Patrol with a traffic stop on Hwy 7 South of Ainsworth. A subject was arrested and booked into the Brown Co Jail for possession of a controlled substance.

* Placed a subject into Emergency Protective Custody. The Subject was transported to Faith Regional Center in Norfolk.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a restaurant in Ainsworth to the Brown Co Hospital.

* Assisted individuals with a report of juveniles bullying other juveniles.

* The Ainsworth & Johnstown Fire Depts. issued a burn permit for several areas along the irrigation canals between Johnstown & Ainsworth.

* The Johnstown Fire Dept. issued 2 separate burn permits for property located South of the Golf Course & North & West of the Airport.

 

May 6

* Investigated a report of the possible abuse of a school permit by a juvenile in Ainsworth.

* Assisted an individual with a report of possible harassment in Long Pine.

* Received a report of a Brown Co resident, possibly needing adult protective services.

* Responded to a traffic complaint on West Dawes St Ainsworth.

* Attempted to locate a possible suicidal subject, who was possibly in the Brown Co area.

 

May 7

* Assisted an individual with a vehicle-deer accident on Hwy 20 West of Ainsworth.

* Assisted an individual with possible drug paraphernalia located on a property in Ainsworth.

* Investigated a two-vehicle accident without injury on Main St Ainsworth.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail on bond.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail as their sentence was complete.

 

 May 8

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail as their sentence was complete.

* Arrested a subject on a warrant for issuing a fraudulent check. The subject was released on bond.

* Received a report of a lost dog in the Ainsworth area.

 

May 9

* Assisted an individual with a report of possible harassment in Brown Co.

* Received a report of lost dogs in the Ainsworth area.

* Assisted an individual with information on a civil matter involving rental property.

 

 

Weekly Summary

1 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

2 - Handgun permits applied for

19 - Incidents Reports were taken.

4 - Paper Service was served.

146 - Phone calls were received.

11 - 911 emergency calls received.

5 - Titles were inspected.

1 - Traffic Citations were issued.

6 – Verbal & Written Warnings were issued. 

* New care center manager indicates residents will not be forced to transfer

(Posted 2:30 p.m. May 8)

In continuing developments relating to the Ainsworth Care Center, the firm that has been named as the new manager of the facility indicated the current residents will be allowed to remain in the facility and not be forced to transfer.
Through a receivership filing by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services approved in District Court Thursday, Omaha-based Klaasmeyer and Associates will step in to manage the Ainsworth Care Center, replacing Deseret Health Group.
Ken Klaasmeyer indicated to members of the task force working to keep the care center operational that agency staff will be returning to the facility to provide the current staff a break from what has been a grueling past few weeks. His company also has the full authority to pay staff for all hours worked from this point forward.
Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen and North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said Klaasmeyer planned to visit with the Ainsworth Care Center staff, residents and the families of residents Saturday afternoon.
Klaasmeyer also indicated a willingness to have his company remain in the community past the 60-day time period that had been given for the closure of the Care Center.
After staff, residents and their families have been briefed by the incoming company, KBRB will work to provide the public with information from Klaasmeyer about the next steps in providing a stable, long-term solution for keeping a nursing home facility in the community.

* Company takes over Ainsworth Care Center management through receivership

(Posted 5:30 a.m. May 8)

A receivership has been granted to a Nebraska company, Klaasmeyer and Associates, that will temporarily take over the management and operation of nursing homes in Ainsworth and Lyons, according to the director of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.  

“We’re closely monitoring and continually assessing the situation on-site at both facilities,” Courtney Phillips, Chief Executive Officer for DHHS, said. “Our goal is to ensure the care and safety of the residents as well as a smooth transition. We’re working with our partners, state senators and the community to help any way we can within our scope of authority.”

DHHS was notified April 27 that both facilities were closing. There are currently 24 residents in the Ainsworth Care Center and 12 in the Logan Valley Manor at Lyons. Both nursing homes are owned by Deseret Health Group out of Utah. A 60-day notice to residents was required under federal law prior to closure. DHHS officials became aware there wasn’t an adequate plan in place to transition residents out of the facilities or the financial ability to maintain operations and care of the current residents. 

A receivership is a tool that can be used in situations where temporary management of a facility is needed. A receivership allows an entity to take over the operation of a business and all its assets, but that entity doesn’t own the business. DHHS worked closely with the Attorney General’s Office to move the request for a receivership forward quickly.

DHHS has been on-site in both facilities to make sure appropriate staffing, care and services continue to be provided in a safe environment. DHHS will continue its oversight of the facilities and work with Klaasmeyer and Associates as they begin operation of the two facilities.

State Sen. Al Davis said, “I am very grateful that the state is moving so quickly to protect the residents of the affected nursing homes. By placing the facility in receivership, the state will assure that winding down the operation will be done with the protection of the residents in mind and recognition that employees need to be paid if they are expected to fulfill their duties.”

State Sen. Lydia Brasch said, "While I have a number of concerns with Deseret Health Group's sudden and abrupt decision to close Logan Valley Manor at Lyons, I remain hopeful for the residents and employees. Logan Valley Manor has been a shining star for nursing home care in District 16. I also highly admire the hard work, effort, and sacrifice of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor in their diligence to ensure resident care remains adequate and employees are cared for in their concerns of back wages and future employment opportunities.”

The Nebraska Department of Labor is working with employees at both facilities and attempting to get payroll records from Deseret. The agency’s Rapid Response Program held an on-site meeting for employees at each location. Information about employment services, workers’ rights and unemployment benefits was shared with employees. 

Deseret Health Group owns four facilities in Nebraska. In addition to the Ainsworth Care Center and Logan Valley Manor, the company also owns Exeter Care Center and Rosebrook at Edgar. Both of those facilities no longer have residents living there.

Klaasmeyer & Associates has served as a court-appointed receiver for Iowa health care facilities, having been appointed as receiver by Iowa courts for at least four Iowa health care facilities. Deseret Health Group has been cooperative with the Attorney General’s Office and with DHHS in the receivership proceedings.

Mark D. Kozisek, District Judge for Brown County (Ainsworth), and John E. Sampson, District Judge for Burt County (Lyons), were the respective judges receiving the orders.

If people have questions or concerns they can call DHHS at 402-471-3324 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. or 402-499-4417 after hours, and on weekends and holidays.
A complete copy of the receivership order issued in Brown County Court may be read by clicking on the link below.

 

images/ReceivershipOrder.Ainsworth.pdf

 * Davis says state working on receivership for Ainsworth Care Center

(Posted 4:30 p.m. May 7)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Thursday the state of Nebraska is working to place the Ainsworth Care Center into receivership after learning Deseret Health Group is delinquent on paying its employees.
Davis discussed, at length, the efforts underway at the state level to assist the community in keeping its licensed beds and the work being done to ensure the residents of the Ainsworth Care Center are being cared for properly.
To hear the full report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis - care center 5-7.mp3

Davis also discussed the proposed biennial budget as it relates to property taxes and school aid, and talked about the bills he introduced that are still scheduled for floor debate this session. Click on the audio link below for the full report.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis - budget 5-7.mp3

* Goodloe named the 2015 Ainsworth High School Fine Arts Student of the Year

(Posted 1:45 p.m. May 7)

Nathaniel Goodloe was named the 2015 Ainsworth High School Outstanding Fine Arts Award winner Tuesday during an awards presentation in the Learning Center.

Goodloe was selected as the Fine Arts Student of the Year among finalists Kirsten Gilliland, Andrew Klatt and Maikayla Weiss. Gilliland was selected as the runner-up. Goodloe receives a scholarship and his name on the Fine Arts Student of the Year plaque.

Fine arts instructors presented their year-end awards Tuesday.

Goodloe also received the Senior Oratory Award from speech coach Mary Rau. Gilliland was named the Jess Duden Memorial Award winner.

Hayes Chohon was presented the outstanding varsity speaker of the year award, and Jacob Sinsel was named the outstanding novice speaker.

Band instructor Kim Bejot presented the John Philip Sousa Award to Kirsten Gilliland, and Matt Barrow was named the Patrick S. Gilmore Award winner.

Hayes Chohon was named the outstanding junior band member, Jace Kremer received the top sophomore band member award, and Claire Steinhauser was recognized as the top freshman band student.

Bejot presented Sunshine Awards, given to students for constant positive attitude and leadership, to Sydney Fling, Kirsten Gilliland, Chaeley Ruegge, Laura Peters, Hailey McBride, Miranda Raymond, Marley Murphy, Maikayla Weiss, Hayes Chohon, Ellie Carr, Lydia Allen, Nathaniel Goodloe, Jacob Jeffers, Matt Barrow, Jace Kremer, Payton Allen, Luke Peters and Savana Christensen.

Leadership by Diversity Awards were presented to band members Kirsten Gilliland, Laura Peters, Jack Arens, Lisa Ludemann, Drew Klatt, Claire Steinhauser, Lauren Allen and Emma Good.

Most improved band members this year were Sydney Fling, Chaeley Ruegge, Marley Murphy, Emily Fay, Jaycee Dillon, Hazey Happold, Brittani Beegle, Cassidy Gilliland, Shane Cole, Abby Masters, Maria Harthoorn, Lauren Allen, Claire Steinhauser, Luke Peters, Payton Allen and Jace Kremer.

Band letter winners were Kirsten Gilliland, Jack Arens, Sydney Fling, Drew Klatt, Lisa Ludemann, Hayes Chohon, Justin Keller, Sara Salzman, Abby Masters, Lauren Allen, Emma Good, Nathaniel Goodloe, Vanessa Taylor, Jacob Jeffers, Matt Barrow, Jace Kremer and Claire Steinhauser.

Choir director Kayla Seefus presented the National High School Choral Award to Nathaniel Goodloe.

Hayes Chohon was named the outstanding junior choir member, with Britley Schlueter earning the top sophomore award and Bo Painter the outstanding freshman.

Nathaniel Goodloe and Hayes Chohon were presented awards for qualifying for the All-State Chorus.

Payton Allen, Kayla Witt, Grace Porter and Brittani Beegle were named the most improved choir members.

Sunshine Awards were presented to Hailey McBride, McKenna Erthum, Marley Murphy, Britley Schlueter and Jacob Jeffers.

Jokester Awards were bestowed on Matthew Barrow, Seth Taylor, Nathaniel Goodloe, Jace Kremer, Jacob Jeffers, Holden Smith, Hayes Chohon and Bo Painter.

Seefus presented Hailey McBride, Holden Smith, Miranda Raymond and Seth Taylor with Quiet Leader Awards.

Rachel Williams presented the Thespian of the Year Award to Kirsten Gilliland.

Drew Klatt was named an International Honor Thespian, while Kirsten Gilliland, Laura Peters and Maikayla Weiss received National Honor Thespian awards and Hayes Chohon earned an Honor Thespian award.

Cassidy Gilliland, Marley Murphy, Miranda Raymond and Sara Salzman were initiated as Thespian members.

* Ainsworth High School academic award winners named Tuesday

(Posted 12:45 p.m. May 7)

During the Ainsworth High School Academic Awards event Tuesday, Secondary Principal Richard Gilson presented the Principal’s Leadership Award to Matthew Barrow.

Several students were recognized for their performances both in the classroom and through academic extra-curricular activities.

The Ainsworth Quiz Bowl team members were recognized. The team this year consisted of Damen Cleal, Jacob Fernau, Nathaniel Goodloe, Austin Harthoorn, Jacob Jeffers, Lindse Painter and Sabree Porter.

Vanessa Taylor was recognized for finishing second in the Chadron Scholastics Contest in accounting.

Lydia Allen, Ellie Carr, Nathaniel Goodloe, Seth Taylor and Vanessa Taylor earned top 25 percent awards from the Chadron Scholastics Contest.

Southwest Conference Academic All-Conference Awards were given to Lydia Allen, Cera Arens, Ellie Carr, Arianna Fletcher, Nathaniel Goodloe, Kirsten Gilliland, Alec Masters, Hailey McBride, Laura Peters, Maikayla Weiss and Zach Welch.

Nebraska School Activities Association Academic All-State Awards were presented to Lydia Allen, Ellie Carr, Kirsten Gilliland, Emma Good, Nathaniel Goodloe, Austin Harthoorn, Dominic Henry, Heather Martin, Alec Masters, Laura Peters, Jayden Philben, Vanessa Taylor and Zach Welch.

Ainsworth’s NSAA Believers and Achievers Award nominees were Ellie Carr and Laura Peters.

Classroom teachers presented top student awards Tuesday.

Jared Hansmeyer gave excellence in world history awards to Jack Arens, Emma Good, Britley Schlueter, Sean Finney and Miranda Raymond.

Excellence in American history awards were presented to Lauren Allen, Austin Harthoorn, Jayden Philben, Hayes Chohon, Heather Martin, Seth Taylor and Lane Clapper.

Jeff Konkoleski awarded the top psychology class awards to Lane Clapper, Emma Lucht, Hunter Martin, Alec Masters, Natasha Mauch, Shea Sinsel and Zach Welch.

Top government students were Lydia Allen, Ellie Carr and Maikayla Weiss.

Claire Steinhauser was named the top geography class student.

Business teacher Juli Murphy named Vanessa Taylor the outstanding information technology student and the outstanding Accounting I student, Riggen Temple the outstanding advanced information technology student, Marcus Osborn the outstanding web design class member, Jack Arens the top personal finance student, and Lindse Painter the top Accounting II student.

Consumer science teacher Pam Barrow named Ellie Carr, Damen Cleal and Sabree Porter the food and nutrition class deep thinker award winners.

Emma Lucht received the life and career readiness class wisdom award. Jody Allen earned the textile and design class diligence award.

Hunter Martin picked up the advanced foods and nutrition class dependability award, and Whittney Killion and Courtney Lauer earned the child development class responsibility award.

Jeff Carr named Maria Harthoorn and Claire Steinhauser the top English I students, and Lauren Allen and Seth Taylor as the outstanding English III students.

Mary Rau presented Vanessa Taylor the English II outstanding student award, and Lydia Allen and Ellie Carr shared the English IV outstanding student award.

Claire Steinhauser earned the top Spanish I student award from teacher Gladys Einspahr. Lauren Allen was named the outstanding Spanish II student, and Emily Fay received the top German I class member award.

Industrial technology teacher Todd Pollock presented Keaton Walnofer with the industrial tech student of the year award.

Wendy Allen named Hailey Ekross and Rebekah Arens the top Algebra I students, and gave Jaycee Dillon, Michaela Hobbs, Jody Allen and Bradi Scott outstanding effort awards in Algebra I.

Loreece Thornton awarded the top Algebra II student awards to Jack Arens, Miranda Raymond, Breanna Schwindt and Vanessa Taylor. Outstanding geometry awards were given to Bo Painter, Britley Schlueter and Claire Steinhauser.

Physical education teacher Roudy Clapper named Hannah Bryant the freshman physical education lifter of the year, and Dammian Denny received the strength and conditioning class lifter of the year award.

Physical education teacher Monica Wiehn named Rebekah Arens and Bo Painter the outstanding freshmen physical education students, and Cera Arens received the lifetime recreation class award.

Betty Bower selected Jacob Sinsel as the top physical science student. Lane Clapper earned the outstanding earth science student award.

Austin Harthoorn was awarded the outstanding chemistry student award, and Nathaniel Goodloe and Alec Masters shared the top physics student award.

Gerry Carr named Jack Arens and Vanessa Taylor as the top biology students, and Ellie Carr and Maikayla Weiss as the best marine science students. Ellie Carr received the top college biology class member award, and Nathaniel Goodloe and Shea Sinsel shared the anatomy and physiology top student award.

Denise Adcock named Andrew Klatt the art student of the year.

* Amber Alert issued for 5-year-old Omaha boy

(Posted 11 a.m. May 7)

An Amber Alert has been issued for a child abducted from Omaha.
The Omaha Police Department is looking for a child who was last seen at 2324 S. 10th St. in Omaha and is believed to be in danger. The child's name is Jose Ramirez-Marinero.
He is a 5-year-old boy, with short, black hair and was last seen wearing a gray shirt and gray sweatpants.
The child may be in the company of an unknown suspect. They may be traveling in a 2000 Silver Jeep Cherokee with Nebraska Plate SRH941 that was last seen heading in an unknown direction.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Jose Ramirez-Marinero, call 911 or contact the Omaha Police Department at 402-444-5656 immediately.

* Area athletes receive Academic All-State recognition from NSAA

(Posted 10:45 a.m. May 7)

The Nebraska School Activities Association announced the student recipients of the Spring 2015 Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association Academic All-State Awards. Since 2006, the NSAA has recognized students who meet the criteria for nomination by their school in the season of their activity.

Each year the NSAA and the NCPA recognize students during fall, winter and spring seasons who are nominated by their schools for their individual academic excellence, leadership and significant contributions in their NSAA activity.

Recipients for the spring seasons include:

Ainsworth: Dominic Henry in boys golf, Kirsten Gilliland and Nathaniel Goodloe in music, Alec Masters and Zach Welch in boys track and field, and Emma Good and Laura Peters in girls track and field.

Rock County: Chris Coulter in boys golf, Kara Bruns and Addie Shaw in music, Colin Erickson and Jack Gale in boys track and field, and Kara Bruns and Rachel Stewart in girls track and field.

Stuart: Monique Schafer and Alison Stracke in music, Conner Paxton in boys track and field, and Rachel Kaup and Hailey Paxton in girls track and field.

Valentine: Kyle Johnson in boys golf, Sydney Dunn and Justus Utecht in music, Newt Bussinger and Braxton Coleman in boys track and field, and Savannah Dean and Kierra Gracey in girls track and field.

West Holt: Alex Fritz and Evan Laible in boys golf, Josiah McAllister and McKenna Young in music, Viktor Jonseth and Josiah McAllister in boys track and field, and Emma Laible and Jessie Mohnsen in girls track and field.

Sandhills: Sheven Rodocker in boys golf, Courtney Fox in music, Thomas Peterson in boys track and field, and Frankie Sierks in girls track and field.

* Commissioners set June 2 hearing on vacating portion of Road 71

(Posted 4:15 p.m. May 6)

During items on Tuesday’s Brown County Commissioner agenda not related to an interlocal agreement with the city of Ainsworth for the purchase or construction of a nursing home facility, the board scheduled a public hearing for its June 2 meeting to determine whether the county should vacate a stretch of Road 71 north of Ainsworth.

Property owner Wil Williams requested the stretch of Road 71 be vacated. Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin conducted a study of Road 71, and recommended to the commissioners Tuesday that the stretch of roadway be vacated by the county.

In another roads item during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the commissioners, Turpin said he had locked in the price for the roads department’s diesel fuel for the next six months at $2.43 per gallon.

The commissioners discussed a proposal from Thrasher Basement Systems to repair the foundation of the Brown County Courthouse after water started leaking into the basement of the facility.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said $25,000 to make repairs to the foundation was not cheap, but water getting into rooms in the courthouse basement was creating a mold problem

“Can you imagine what it would cost to replace the foundation of this building?” Wiebelhaus asked.

Wiebelhaus said, since the county did not budget for the repairs for the 2014-15 budget year, the repairs would need to be included as part of the county’s 2015-16 budget cycle.

Commissioner Buddy Small said he will ask the Thrasher Basement Systems representative to attend the next board meeting and provide the county with options for the repairs needed.

In other action items, the board approved the payment of $1,343 to replace damaged or missing markers for veterans buried in the two Ainsworth Cemetery locations. Jack Anderson took an inventory of the broken or missing markers at the two cemeteries. The Ainsworth American Legion Post also requested $600 for new markers for veterans laid to rest in the two city cemeteries. The commissioners approved that request as well.

The board also approved a budgeted transfer of $150,000 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the county highway fund.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. May 19.

* One-mile stretch of 432nd Avenue southeast of Ainsworth closed

(Posted 3:45 p.m. May 6)

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin announced that a 1-mile stretch of 432nd Avenue between Road 876 and Road 877 east of Ainsworth, running south of Plains Equipment, will be closed until further notice.
Turpin said the roads department has been working on a grading project on that stretch of 432nd Avenue, and the rains during the past two days made the road muddy and impassible.
The stretch will be reopened when it dries out and the grading project can be completed.

* Commissioners, City Council approve interlocal agreement for care center

(Posted 2:45 p.m. May 5)
 

The Ainsworth City Council and Brown County Commissioners approved an interlocal agreement Tuesday to jointly own and operate what would be called the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center.

During another lengthy meeting on the subject, the commissioners and council members agreed to the parameters of the interlocal agreement, but will wait to determine the overall financial investment both entities would make to own and operate a nursing home facility.

Each entity did agree to make an initial contribution of $10,000 to defray the costs of applying for licensure for a facility and handle any legal costs associated with the licensing process.

The two entities agreed in the document to establish and operate a nursing home in Ainsworth, either by leasing or purchasing existing assets of the Ainsworth Care Center or by building a new facility.

A four-member board of directors will be created, with two directors appointed by the commissioners and two by the City Council.

The commissioners voted to appoint Clerk Travee Hobbs and county resident Jim Walz to the newly established board of directors.

Anyone interested in serving as the city of Ainsworth’s representatives on the new board may contact the city office at 402-387-2494. The City Council will appoint two members to the new board of directors during its May 13 meeting.

While City Council members and commissioners both voiced support for constructing a new facility as opposed to acquiring the current Ainsworth Care Center, no option was discarded.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, “Everyone we have talked to says we need the nursing home, but no one wants to pay anything. Realistically, I think we need to look at a new facility and find the smartest and fairest way to make that happen.”

Shannon Sorensen, a member of the task force that has been working on options for owning and operating a facility for the past several months, said the high end cost for a new facility would be about $150,000 per bed, for the construction of an approximately 40-bed facility, while the lower end estimate would be $70,000 to $80,000 in construction costs per licensed bed.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson told the group bringing the current Ainsworth Care Center facility up to code during a five-year period could cost about as much as it would to build a new facility.

Commissioner Buddy Small asked what the possibility might be for the local entities to keep the current facility open for six months so the current residents would not have to relocate.

Small said, “It doesn’t appear to me that it is very likely.”

Olson said the state of Nebraska is doing everything in its power to make sure the current residents are being cared for.

“It does take time to apply for a license, and we cannot apply unless we have the interlocal agreement,” she said.

Olson said people at the state level of government are aware of Ainsworth’s situation, and a meeting was held Monday between the governor’s office, the Department of Health and Human Services, 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis and consultant Ron Ross on options for the facility.

Sorensen said state surveyors were on site to ensure that residents were being properly cared for, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is also involved.

Audience member Jim Walz questioned where the funding would come from to operate a facility through the interlocal agreement.

“If land values go down, additional levies will hurt even more,” Walz said.

Olson said Community Development Block Grant funds could be used to pay for architect fees for new construction. She said there were other grant dollars potentially available for a new project as well as long-term financing provided through the USDA.

Walz asked why no financial data had been provided to the public on the estimated cost to own and operate a facility, and whether the facility would cash flow.

Olson said a feasibility study had been conducted, and the professional who conducted the study felt comfortable the facility could sustain itself.

Sorensen said the task force and the group conducting the feasibility study signed a non-disclosure agreement with the facility’s current ownership so that current financial data could be utilized in the study.

“We cannot disclose their financial data,” Sorensen said. “The study showed the facility would cash flow with 30 residents.”

Olson said the emergency among the task force was finding a way to retain the community’s licensed beds.

“We have to have an entity ready to operate a facility for us to even be eligible,” Olson said. “If the licenses are not sold by the current holder, they potentially just go away if the facility closes.”

Wiebelhaus asked what the loan payment would be to fund a $6 million nursing home construction on a 40-year federal note.

“I am not interested in purchasing the current facility, but I would consider a lease agreement on the current facility to keep the residents and staff in place,” Wiebelhaus said.

City Councilman Kent Taylor said, at 4 percent interest, a $6 million loan would cost approximately $25,000 monthly over a 40-year period to finance.

County Attorney David Streich said there could be several issues the group would encounter trying to lease the current facility while a new center is constructed.

“I will express my concerns with any kind of lease agreement,” Streich said. “Structural improvements would likely be needed, and who would be responsible for those improvements? We know the facility has problems, so unless the owner would agree to correct all deficiencies, I think there would be issues.”

Sorensen said both consulting firms that had assisted the local group recommended against leasing the facility.

Audience member Dean Jochem said the groups were trying to take an emergency situation, which was keeping the current facility open and the residents in place, and decide at the same time to build a new facility.

“These are two different issues,” Jochem said. “I understand they worry about losing the people who are currently there, but the concern to me is the unknown with what is going to happen in the future.”

Olson said the dynamic on the project continued to change, and she hoped the council and commissioners would not completely exclude any option at this point.

City Attorney Rod Palmer asked if there was a possibility of the current building going into receivership.

Olson said that had been discussed at the state level.

“If something changes, we need to have the ability to react,” Olson said.

Audience member Joe McBride, whose father currently resides in the Ainsworth Care Center, said the state of Kansas had just recently taken over through receivership the same company’s facility at Wichita, Kan.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Ainsworth Care Center employees had not yet been paid wages that were due to be paid April 30.

Taylor said the groups could schedule another emergency meeting if the opportunity arose to keep the current residents in place.

“As far as hammering things out for a future facility, we have some time, though we need to get started,” Taylor said. “If something happens immediately, though, we need to be able to act.”

After families of current residents received a 30-day notice from Deseret Health Group that the Ainsworth Care Center would close, Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Leah Bucco-White said this week the facility must provide 60-day notice to the residents to comply with federal requirements. Bucco-White said the company recently sent letters with the 60-day closure notice.

Wiebelhaus asked if the group working on the project could now proceed to the next step. Olson said the interlocal agreement forming the new entity allowed the community to apply for a license through the state of Nebraska.

The entire interlocal agreement document may be accessed by clicking on the link below.

 

audio clips/Ainsworth-Brown County Interlocal Agreement May 5 Draft.pdf

* April is fourth month of 2015 with below-normal precipitation in Ainsworth

(Posted 1:45 p.m. May 5)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported the first four months of 2015 have all received below-normal precipitation.
To hear the complete April summary from Ainsworth's weather observer, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Weather Observer Gerry Osborn April 2015.mp3

* Employees confirm Deseret Health Group misses pay period for Ainsworth staff

(Posted 4 p.m. May 4)

Add the Ainsworth Care Center local staff members to a growing list of facilities managed by Deseret Health Group who have now gone without receiving their latest paycheck.

After it was reported Logan Valley Manor employees had not been paid on time, and neither had employees with Deseret Health Care near Wichita, Kan., two employees of the Ainsworth Care Center independently confirmed the staff at the local facility did not receive their scheduled pay on Thursday, April 30.

Both current employees, who KBRB will not name, independently confirmed they were informed paychecks would instead be issued Monday, four days from the regularly scheduled pay period. The employees were then told Monday that paychecks would again be delayed, until Tuesday.

Deseret Health Group, which operates the Ainsworth Care Center, recently issued a closure notice to the center’s residents and their families, informing them they would need to find alternate living accommodations within 30 days.

Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Leah Bucco-White told KBRB last week the company was required by federal law to provide 60-day notice prior to closing the facility.

Bucco-White said this week Deseret Health Group has reissued letters to the families of Ainsworth Care Center residents with the required 60-day notice prior to being allowed to close the facility.

* Sheriff's department participating in 'Click It or Ticket' campaign

(Posted 5:30 a.m. May 4)

The Brown County Sheriff's Department, through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, will participate in the annual "Click It or Ticket" campaign from May 18-31.
The campaign is a national program to increase public awareness and make roadways safer.
The sheriff's department will join with state and local law enforcement officers across the state to help save lives by strongly enforcing seat belt laws around the clock.
While the mobilization runs from May 18-31, the Brown County Sheriff's Department enforces seat belt laws year-round.
The "Click It or Ticket" mobilization has increased seat belt usage across the country and has saved numerous lives during the years, but there is still more to be done. High visibility enforcement and encouraging loved ones to buckle up every time they get in a vehicle can turn thousands of lives lost into lives saved.
"Motorists should buckle up every time they go out, both day and night, whether it is a short drive or across the country," Sheriff Bruce Papstein said.
The sheriff's department thanks the public for doing its part to make roadways safer by always wearing a seat belt and making sure everyone in the vehicle is buckled up at all times, especially those under the age of 18.

* Weekly, monthly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 5:30 a.m. May 4)

April 26

* Responded to a report of a domestic disturbance in rural Ainsworth area.

* Assisted with a report of an unwanted subject at an apartment complex in Ainsworth.

* Investigated a report of suspicious activity at a residence on South Wilson St Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of possible suspicious activity at a residence in Johnstown.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail as their sentence was complete.

 

April 27

* Assisted a business with a report of a possible counterfeit bill.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail on bond.

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located North of Long Pine.

 

April 28

* The Ainsworth Firemen, Bro Co Ambulance, & the Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a porch fire East & North of Ainsworth.

* Received a report of an elderly Ainsworth resident, possibly needing Adult Protective Services.

* Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail for violating conditions from Drug Court.

 

April 29

* Arrested a subject for Driving Under the Influence & Driving Under Suspension. The subject was booked into the Brown Co Jail.

* Assisted Health & Human Services with a report of possible child neglect in Long Pine.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported a Long Pine resident to the Brown Co Hospital.

* Responded to a report of juveniles driving recklessly on Hwy 20 in Ainsworth.

* Assisted an Ainsworth resident with property located in a ditch near Brownlee.

* Responded to a report of juveniles driving motorcycles without proper safety equipment in Johnstown.

 

April 30

* Investigated a vehicle / deer accident that occurred on Hwy 183.

* Assisted an individual with a report of harassing phone calls, possibly involving a Brown Co resident.

* Responded to a residential security alarm in rural Ainsworth area.

* Arrested a subject on a Brown Co Arrest Warrant for issuing a fraudulent check. The subject was booked into the Brown Co Jail and released on bond.

 

May 1

* Responded to a report of dogs at large in Long Pine.

* Investigated a two-vehicle accident without injury on Park St Ainsworth.

* Received a report of an Ainsworth resident possibly needing Adult Protective Services.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit to the Irrigation Dist. For several areas between Ainsworth & Johnstown.

* Assisted a Rock Co Sheriff’s deputy with a traffic stop near the Rock/Brown Co line.

* Responded to a report of reckless driving on North Main St Ainsworth.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located East & North of Ainsworth.

 

May 2

* Received a report of a dog at large on West 2nd St Ainsworth.

* Assisted Ainsworth residents with a report of a lost dog in Ainsworth.

* Received a report of cattle out West & South of Ainsworth.

* Received a report of a vehicle driving on the Cowboy trail near Ainsworth.

 

Weekly Summary

1 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

0 - Handgun permits applied for

20 - Incidents Reports were taken.

3 - Paper Service was served.

191 - Phone calls were received.

2 - 911 emergency calls received.

2 - Titles were inspected.

1 - Traffic Citations were issued.

9 – Verbal & Written Warnings were issued. 

 

Monthly Summary

6 - Arrests

85 - Calls for Service 

8 - Citations were issued

5 - Crime Stopper call received

5 - Defect Cards issued

13 - Handgun permits issued

34 - Paper Service served

723 - Phone calls were received

21 - 911 emergency calls received

19 - Titles inspected

32 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued

* Ainsworth band to premiere new song 'Steampunk' during Tuesday concert

(Posted 12:45 p.m. May 1)

The Ainsworth High School band will premiere a song written just for them on Tuesday during the Fine Arts Awards Night and spring concert.

Nebraska composter Nolan Schmit was asked to compose the piece, which he named “Steampunk.” Schmit is a celebrated composer of band and choir music that has been performed throughout the world.

Commissioned by the family of Duane Osborn in his memory, the song will feature the band, along with guest percussionist playing on B.E.A.T. instruments.

B.E.A.T. (Bejot’s Ensemble of Acoustic Troubadours) began in 2001. Since its beginning, founder and band director Kim Bejot said her father was an integral part – making and finding many different instruments and sounds.

The dedication of the song reads, “Commissioned for the Ainsworth High School Band, Ainsworth Nebraska, and dedicated to the life of Duane S. Osborn, inventor, supporter, creator, father, friend and great helper and champion of B.E.A.T., Bejot’s Ensemble of Acoustic Troubadours.”

 “Steampunk” will premiere Tuesday during the band and choir concert, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Learning Center.  

Fine Arts Awards follow the band and choir concert, along with naming of the Fine Arts Student of the Year.

* Keya Paha County Skills USA qualifies six events for national competition

(Posted 12:30 p.m. May 1)

SkillsUSA Nebraska, a Nebraska Department of Education student organization, recently recognized award winners and elected new state officers during its 2015 State Leadership & Skills Conference at Omaha. 

More than 1,700 people attended the conference, including 1,400 high school, college and technical students and advisors.

Students participated in 90 hands-on skill and leadership contests. First place winners of the state competitions qualify for the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Championships Conference, June 22 - 26, at Louisville, Ky.

Keya Paha County students earned several awards during the competitions, including six state championships.

Moriah Heerten finished first in the customer service competition to qualify for nationals. Buck Cronk won the technical computer application event.

Troy Gibson was the champion of the state metric 500 senior division, with Justin Palmer and Michael Ripley finishing second and third respectively.

Ethan Munger won the state mousetrap senior vehicles division, with Lane Larsen second.

Kaycee Vigoren was the champion of the state pin design contest.

The Keya Paha County High School team also won the state technical team problem solving contest to qualify for nationals.

Kevin Udd finished third in the related technical math contest. Ty Palmer was second in the state metric 500 junior division, and the Keya Paha County team placed third in the chapter business procedure competition.

* DHHS rep says 30-day care center closing notice does not meet federal regulation

(Posted 5:45 a.m. May 1)

A spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human services said the 30-day closure notice given to families of Ainsworth Care Center residents, while complying with state licensure requirements, does not comply with federal mandates for nursing homes receiving Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

Leah Bucco-White with DHHS said if families are not able to find a suitable residence for the current residents of the Ainsworth Care Center within the 30 days given by Deseret Health Group, the facility will not be allowed to close.

“The Department of Health and Human Services is well aware of what is happening in Ainsworth, and we are monitoring the situation,” Bucco-White said. “If the facility does not adhere to the federal requirements, there are consequences. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are responsible for making them adhere to the 60-day closure requirement.”

Bucco-White said Health and Human Services staff members are monitoring the facility to make sure the residents are receiving proper care.

Joe McBride of Ainsworth received a discharge notice dated April 27. His father, Mort McBride, is a resident in the Ainsworth Care Center.

The notice states the discharge is effective 30 days from the issue date, which would require the family to have an alternative residence identified by May 26.

“We have already searched a bunch of places,” Joe McBride said. “We contacted Stuart and Bassett, but they are both pretty full. Atkinson may have a few places, but otherwise the closest place might be Broken Bow.”

McBride said having to find another home for his father not only puts stress on his and other families trying to find different accommodations, but it is a terrible situation for his father and the other residents of the Ainsworth Care Center.

“This puts a lot of stress on dad to potentially not be with the people he knows,” McBride said. “There have been a lot of tears shed between the patients and the staff.”

He said, in addition to his father having to move into a new facility where he does not know anyone, his family and friends would now be more than an hour away.

“I am usually not the biggest fan of government regulation, but if the state could come up with some way to step in and say it is in the best interests of those residents of the facility to remain here, I think that would be the best option,” McBride said.

* Rock County High School presents academic, fine arts awards Thursday

(Posted 3 p.m. April 30)

Rock County High School held its academic and fine arts awards presentations Thursday, with Riley Bussinger, Braydon Caldwell, Bailey DeVall, Jack Gale, Kate Osbon and Rachel Stewart inducted into the National Honor Society.

Kara Bruns received a Niobrara Valley Conference Scholastic Award for earning a score of 28 or better on the ACT.

Principal Steve Camp presented Niobrara Valley Conference Principal’s List awards to seniors Kara Bruns, Chris Coulter, Tyler Knox, Hollie Morton, Nolan Sybrant, Andrew Hollenbeck, Katie Nolles, Ashly Nelson, Charton Clark and Justin Dearmont, and juniors Kenady Stanton, Victoria Davis, Paige Bruns, Adrianna Shaw, Colin Erickson, Jentrie Maurer, Jayde Shankland, Cash Cosgrove, Bridget Jackson and Quinton Shaw.

The Principal’s List awards are given to students achieving a 3.5 or better cumulative grade-point average.
Nebraska Schools Activities Association Academic All-State awards were presented to Kara Bruns in volleyball and girls basketball, Chris Coulter in football and boys basketball, Hollie Morton in volleyball and play production, Katie Nolles in speech, Paige Bruns in girls basketball, Tori Davis in cross country, Colin Erickson in cross country and speech, Jayde Shankland in play production, and Megan Erickson in cross country.

Seven seniors earned their fourth scholastic letters for being in the upper 15 percent of the class and having a cumulative grade of 94 percent or better. Seniors earning their fourth scholastic letters were Kara Bruns, Chris Coulter, Katie Nolles, Tyler Knox, Hollie Morton, Andrew Hollenbeck and Nolan Sybrant. Seniors Charton Clark and Ashley Nelson earned their first scholastic letters.

Five juniors each earned a third scholastic letter, including Paige Bruns, Tori Davis, Kennady Stanton, Addie Shaw and Jentrie Maurer.

Sophomores earning their second scholastic letters were Jack Gale, Riley Bussinger, Kate Osbon, Braydon Caldwell, Rachel Stewart, Aubrey Kroll and Bailey DeVall.

Freshmen Megan Erickson, Skylar Cosgrove and Caitlin Orton received their first scholastic letters.

Members of the Student Council were recognized, including seniors Hollie Morton and Katie Nolles, juniors Tori Davis and Kenady Stanton, sophomores Jack Gale and Rachel Stewart, freshmen Skylar Cosgrove and Rhegan Shankland, eighth-graders Jared Shaw and Brodee Fleming, and seventh-grade students Morgan Heyden and Charlie Gale.

Omaha World Herald All Academic Program Certificates were presented to Kara Bruns and Chris Coulter.
Northeast Community College Scholastic Contest Medalists included Kenady Stanton, first in Anatomy and Physiology; Joan Covas, first in Spanish II; Kara Bruns, second in Business Law; Jack Gale, second in Literature; and Katie Nolles, second in American Government.
Chadron Scholastic Contest Certificates of Merit were present to Hollie Morton, sixth place in Animal Science; and Megan Erickson, seventh Place in Personal Finance.

James Harmon received an art award from art teacher Mrs. Swim.

On the fine arts side, band teacher Christa Holmberg named Kara Bruns as the outstanding senior band member. Colin Erickson received the outstanding junior award, with Kate Osbon named the outstanding sophomore and Skylar Cosgrove the outstanding freshman.

Jayden Stewart was presented the outstanding eighth-grade band member award, and Brendan Bussinger earned the outstanding seventh-grade band member award.

Band letters were presented to Kara Bruns, Tori Davis, Colin Erickson, Addie Shaw, Riley Bussinger, Braydon Caldwell, Bailey DeVall, Jaycee Fleming, Jack Gale, Kate Osbon, Aaron Sybrant, Jadyn Bussinger and Skylar Cosgrove.

Choir director Krstie Sybrant presented letters to seniors Kara Bruns, James Harmon and Ashly Nelson; juniors Paige Bruns, Addie Shaw and Quinton Shaw; sophomores Bailey DeVall, Jaycee Fleming, Kate Osbon and Jezrae Peacock; and freshmen Skylar Cosgrove and Caitlin Orton.

Speech coach Sheila Sybrant presented speech letters to Megan Erickson, Caitlin Orton, Rhegan Shankland, Jaycee Fleming, Addie Shaw, Tori Davis, Hollie Morton, Katie Nolles, Quinton Shaw and Colin Erickson.

Sybrant also awarded each speaker with an individualized award based on their strengths on the speech team.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted noon April 30)

In addition to fines, each case carries $48 in court costs

Eduardo U. Bandera, age 26, of Fremont, charged with speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, fined $25.

David J. Jepsen, 19, of Valentine, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Jacob A. Jarosz, 24, of Ord, overweight on capacity plates, $250; also charged with driving a commercial vehicle without a commercial license, $100; commercial vehicle brake violation, $50; commercial vehicle tire violation, $50; commercial vehicle lighting violation, $25.

Jon C. Duhachek, 29, of Ewing, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $25.

Russel A. Cavaness, 48, of Columbus, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Courtney M. Riter, 22, of Valentine, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Rusty Nilson, 44, of Ainsworth, failure to license a dog or cat, $25.

Iree L. McNally, 62, of Ainsworth, failure to use a seat belt, $25.

Terry D. Warnke, 54, of Mitchell, S.D., failure to carry a fuel permit, $100.

Steven R. Wornkey Jr., 38, of Great Bend, Kan., no operator’s license, $75.

Bradley B. White, 56, of Sargent, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $150; overweight on capacity plates, $50.

* City Council, commissioners work on details of interlocal agreement for care center

(Posted 5:45 a.m. April 30)

The Ainsworth City Council and Brown County Commissioners delved into the details of an interlocal agreement to own and operate a nursing home facility during an emergency session of both boards Wednesday.

After about a half an hour of updates and public comment, the two entities entered into executive session to work out the parameters for an interlocal agreement with Brown County Attorney David Streich and City Attorney Rod Palmer.

Following the meeting, Ainsworth Mayor Larry Rice said the plan had been formed, and a final agreement would be acted upon during the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Brown County Commissioners May 5.

During the open portion of Wednesday’s meeting, North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said the company that operates the Ainsworth Care Center gave notice Monday it would close, and residents were given 30 days to relocate.

“Accepting Medicare and Medicaid required them to provide a 60-day closure notice,” Olson said. “We are looking at ways to enforce the 60-day notice to give the families more time.”

Olson said the task force that has been working on the project and the Lincoln attorney working with group have been trying to get information to the governor’s office and the Department of Health and Human Services to try and find a way for the residents and staff at the care center to remain in place.

She said the community of Lyons was also given 30-day notice that its facility would close. The company that operates the Ainsworth Care Center previously gave notice to the communities, Edgar and Exeter, in which its other two Nebraska facilities were located.

“We have spoken with the group in Lyons,” Olson said. “They are also working on their options, but they are not as far along in the process as we are.”

Olson thanked the City Council and the commissioners for working together and moving forward with a plan.

“We would be the first community in the state to try and take advantage of Sen. (Kate) Sullivan’s bill to retain our licensed beds,” Olson said.

Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen, a member of the task force, said it was disheartening to see Deseret make a comment in its notice of closure that an offer had never been received and the community was not interested in keeping the facility.

Ainsworth Care Center Director of Nursing Amanda Tucker said the center’s residents were aware of how hard the community was fighting for them.

“We are all holding out hope to the last moment,” Tucker said. “Thank you for all of your hard work on this. You have the support of our staff.”

Tucker said, while local staff members were being paid, an agency that was providing staff to the facility removed its employees Monday for lack of payment.

“They bent over backward to stay and care for the residents, but they were owed a lot of money,” Tucker said.

Sorensen said the Brown County Hospital, too, was owed thousands for the services it provided to the care center.

“The state is aware of what is happening here, but it only considers quality of care issues, not the company’s finances,” Sorensen said. “We feel like there is some hope that we can get receivership through the state. We can’t do anything without a building.”

Olson said there were currently Internal Revenue Service tax liens against the building.

“So, even if we could make an offer just for the building, there would be concerns,” she said.

Care Center Manager Mirya Hallock said some of the powers of attorney for the care center residents had been notified of the closure, while others had not yet received notice.

Olson encouraged the family members in attendance Wednesday who had relatives in the care center currently to contact Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Long Term Care Ombudsman Penny Clark at 800-942-7830 to voice their concerns about what is happening with the Ainsworth Care Center.

Audience member Judy Densberger said she was the local ombudsman, and would assist anyone who wanted to send a letter to the state ombudsman. Densberger may be reached through the North Central Insurance Agency at 402-387-2480.

Following the discussion, the boards entered into an executive session and worked for more than an hour with the attorneys for each entity on the details of the interlocal agreement both boards had previously voted to pursue.

The matter was placed as an agenda item for the May 5 meeting of the Brown County Commissioners.

* Welch, Peters earn sportsmanship awards during annual athletic banquet

(Posted 5:30 a.m. April 29)

Former Husker defensive end Demoine Adams told the athletes in attendance during Tuesday’s Ainsworth All-Sports Tailgate Party they needed to support their teammates, handle adversity with class and constantly strive to do better to become leaders among their peers.

Ainsworth coaches and sponsors then presented year-end awards. Seniors Zach Welch and Laura Peters received the annual John Nelson Sportsmanship Award from Activities Directors Scott Steinhauser and Jeff Konkoleski.

Cross country coach Jared Hansmeyer presented his most valuable player awards to Zach Welch and Julia Beater. Hansmeyer said Welch finished his senior season unbeaten, winning every meet he ran. That included a Class D State Championship at the Kearney Country Club. Beater finished with a ninth-place medal at the state meet and was the district champion.

Girls golf coach Heather Lutter named sophomore Vanessa Taylor the team’s most valuable player, saying Taylor improved her score by more than 30 shots in 18 holes between the beginning and end of the season.

Football coach Wade Alberts said he continues to be encouraged by the progress being made by his team. He credited the seniors with setting a good example not only in practice, but in the weight room. He said weight room attendance had gone from about 10 percent of the team on a good day to closer to 70 percent.

Senior Josh Finley was presented with the Bryant Moody Football MVP Award, and Sophomore Jacce Beck and junior Brady Delimont were named the Lifters of the Year.

In winter sports, wrestling coach Todd Pollock named junior Kyle Erthum and freshman Bronc Temple as the team’s most valuable players.

Both Temple and Erthum received fifth-place medals from the State Wrestling Tournament.

Girls basketball coach Jeff Carr presented most valuable player awards to all seven of this year’s seniors on the team. The senior class of Arianna Fletcher, Maikayla Weiss, Hailey McBride, Cera Arens, Laura Peters, Lydia Allen and Ellie Carr were on the team for 68 victories in four years and three district title appearances, by far the winningest stretch in school history.

Carr (1,355 points), Allen (909 points) and Peters (889 points) finished as the top three scorers in school history, and Peters set a school record for 3-point shots made in a season with 48. Carr eclipsed school career records in several categories, and McBride is the school’s career leader in blocked shots.

Co-head boys basketball coach Brian Delimont named senior Hunter Martin and junior Brady Delimont as the team’s most valuable players.

Both players averaged right at 20 points per game. Martin eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau during his senior season, and set the school’s single-game record for 3-point shots made at 10 about one week after Delimont tied the school record with nine 3-point shots made in a game.

The Bulldog team tied its own all-class state record with 289 made 3-point shots on the season, and set the all-class record for 3-point shots made in one game with 22 triples against Anselmo-Merna.

With spring sports still underway, track and field coach Jared Hansmeyer and boys golf coach Scott Steinhauser updated the more than 300 people in attendance on the current seasons, and presented 2014 most valuable player awards.

Steinhauser named Rob Maxwell and Jake Wilkins as the 2014 most valuable golfers, and Hansmeyer named graduates Shandan Platt and Landon Welke as the most valuable track and field athletes from the 2014 season.

He said Platt broke school records a year ago in both the shot put and the discus, and Welke set the school record in the pole vault. Ben Allen also set a school record in 2014 in the shot put.

Cheer sponsor Juli Murphy and pom sponsor Caren Fernau also recognized the members of their respective squads and named the 2015-16 cheer and pom squads after recently completing tryouts.

Eight seniors were named 12-sport athletes, participating in three sports during each of their four years of high school. Twelve-sport athletes included Josh Finley, Arianna Fletcher, Justin Keller, Hunter Martin, Hailey McBride, Laura Peters, Zach Welch and Jake Wilkins.

Elections were held for the Bulldog Booster Club Board of Directors, with Dustin and Tiffany Barthel, Trent and Jayme Kinney, and Wil and Rachel Williams elected to terms on the Booster Club board.

* Ainsworth Care Center ownership plans to close the facility

(Posted 5:45 a.m. April 28)

City of Ainsworth officials learned Monday the operators of the Ainsworth Care Center provided notice that the facility would close in 60 days.

A concern of the task force that has been working for several months toward the creation of an entity to purchase and operate the care center, Ainsworth’s facility will now suffer the same fate as those at Edgar and Exeter owned by the same company.

Ainsworth Mayor Larry Rice said the Ainsworth Care Center’s pending closure is the most disappointing news the city has received in some time.

“I feel for the many residents of the care center, their families, as well as the management and staff,” Rice said.

Rice said the local task force has spent countless hours working with the facility’s sales broker and owners to try and find a solution for local ownership of the care center.

“It is my sincere hope that our community and surrounding area will join together to work on finding options and a way to offer a successful nursing home for those in need of this service,” Rice said.

The owners of the facility are required by the state of Nebraska to provide 60 days of notice to the residents of the center so that families can find other living arrangements for their loved ones.

During recent meetings regarding the future of the center, it was reported the facility employs the equivalent of 28 full-time positions in the community.
The city of Ainsworth and the Brown County Commissioners voted during a joint meeting of the groups less than two weeks ago to enter into an interlocal agreement in the hopes of purchasing and operating the care center. The planning for the interlocal agreement is still in its initial stages.

* Hospital establishes employee wellness program

(Posted 3:30 p.m. April 27)

During a recent meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees, Lisa Fischer presented information regarding the establishment of a wellness program for hospital staff.

With the hospital’s new insurance plan, a wellness program was recommended, along with establishing a tobacco cessation program. Fischer said there are options the board can choose from to implement the program. She shared with the board how the program would work.

Fischer said she consulted with other hospitals in Nebraska, and recommended the board approve the use of SimplyWell for the Brown County Hospital’s wellness program. She explained the costs for the program to be implemented.

The board discussed which employees would be eligible for the program, and the incentives that would be offered.

Following discussion, the board approved engaging SimplyWell and establishing a wellness program for hospital staff.

Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen briefed the board regarding the sale of the local nursing home building, and recent developments with the task force working on the potential purchase of the care center through an interlocal agreement.

Sorensen also told the board the hospital recently received notice that Platte Valley Medical Center planned to end its cardiology and nuclear medicine specialty services to the hospital. The hospital has two other cardiology specialty providers in the Nebraska Heart Institute and Central Nebraska Cardiology.

Sorensen reviewed recent quality improvement data with the board, focusing on infection control. She told the board the hospital would stay with its current vendor, Healthstream, for HCAHPS survey data.

The hospital administrator also reviewed the heating and cooling piping project. She said Trane would submit a revised proposal in May, taking into account the reuse of some of the hospital’s current equipment.

In action items, the board approved continuing an agreement with Seim Johnson to provide auditing services to the hospital.

Following an executive session, the board approved an agreement for assisting in continuing education for hospital employees.

The next meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees is scheduled for 4 p.m. May 18.

* Six area seniors awarded $500 scholarships from local Pheasants Forever chapter

(Posted 10:15 a.m. April 27)

The Sandhills Chapter Pheasants Forever organization awarded six scholarships to area seniors.
Receiving $500 from the local Pheasants Forever chapter are Ainsworth seniors Holden Smith and Justin Keller, Rock County seniors Nolan Sybrant and Andrew Hollenbeck, and Keya Paha County seniors Moriah Heerten and Phillip Lewis.

* Ainsworth takes home numerous Superior ratings from District Music Contest

(Posted 3:15 p.m. April 26)

Ainsworth band and choir students participated in the District Music Contest Friday at West Holt.
The Ainsworth mixed choir, band, men’s group and show choir all received top ratings in the contest and received state medals.
Ainsworth small groups receiving Superior ratings were the women’s group; Emma Good with a piano solo; Jace Kremer with a xylophone solo; Claire Steinhauser, Jace Kremer, Luke Peters and Payton Allen with a percussion ensemble; Drew Klatt, Brittani Beegle, Cassidy Gilliland, Shane Cole, Lisa Ludemann and Hayes Chohon with a  saxophone ensemble; Laura Peters, Kirsten Gilliland, Jack Arens, Sydney Fling and Chaeley Ruegge with a flute quintet; Hailey McBride, Maikayla Weiss, Miranda Raymond and Marley Murphy with a clarinet quartet; Nathaniel Goodloe, Matt Barrow, Jacob Jeffers and Vanessa Taylor with a low brass quartet; Brittani Beegle with a  saxophone solo; Drew Klatt, Lisa Ludemann and Hayes Chohon with a saxophone trio; Kirsten Gilliland and Laura Peters with a flute duet; Nathaniel Goodloe with a Trombone solo; Matthew Barrow with a tuba solo; Lydia Allen, Ellie Carr and Sara Salzman with a trumpet trio; Lydia Allen, Ellie Carr, Justin Keller, Sara Salzman, Abby Masters, Maria Harthoorn, Lauren Allen, Emma Good, Nathaniel Goodloe, Vanessa Taylor, Jacob Jeffers and Matt Barrow with a brass ensemble; Britley Schlueter with a vocal solo; Brittani Beegle with a vocal solo; Nathaniel Goodloe with a vocal solo; Hayes Chohon with a vocal solo; Abbey Doyle and Tara Taylor with a vocal duet; Hayes Chohon and Holden Smith with a vocal duet; Laura Peters and Luke Peters with a vocal duet; and Hayes Chohon, Britley Schlueter, Kirsten Gilliland, Jace Kremer and Emma Good with a mixed vocal quintet.
Groups receiving Excellent ratings were Justin Keller with a trumpet solo; Hailey McBride, Maikayla Weiss, Miranda Raymond, Marley Murphy, Jaycee Dillon and Emily Fay with a clarinet ensemble; Brittani Beegle, Kayla Witt and Hailey Eckross with a vocal Trio; and Laura Peters with a vocal solo.

* Lions Club invites public to the Ainsworth All-Sports Tailgate Party Tuesday

(Posted 3 p.m. April 26)

The Ainsworth Lions Club will host the annual Ainsworth High School All Sports Tailgate Party at 6 p.m. Tuesday in McAndrew Gymnasium.

A Lions Club work night is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday.  Lions are to be at the gym for the Tailgate Party by 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. During its monthly meeting, the board approved purchasing two new roasters and two fuel tanks for grilling burgers. The grill will be set up next to the school kitchen.

Former Husker Demoine Adams will be the guest speaker during the tailgate party. All high school athletes, cheerleaders, coaches, sponsors and their spouses are provided complimentary tickets to the event by the Lions Club.

Tickets for the general public are $10 and are available in the KBRB Studios or from Lions Club members.

In other items, the Lions Club completed its Adopt-a-Highway cleanup on Sunday, April 19, on a two-mile stretch of Highway 20 from the Ainsworth city limits east. Eleven club members and four volunteers participated in the cleanup. Shannon Sorensen served as the chair for the project, with the assistance of the Nebraska Department of Roads. The State Department of Roads will erect roadway signs recognizing the Ainsworth Lions Club as the “Adopt-a-Highway” sponsor for the two-mile stretch of Highway 20. 

The club approved membership for Chuck Osborn.

The Lions Club provided trees to the Ainsworth Elementary fourth-grade class as part of the Fourth Grade Foresters of Nebraska Project.

Todd Mundhenke told the board plans for the Ainsworth Alumni Banquet in June are progressing in a satisfactory manner.

The board approved the slate of officer and director candidates for the 2015-16 year, and will submit the roster of candidates to the membership for an email vote.

The board approved a donation of $100 to the Brown County Arts Council for Middle School Fine Arts Summer Camp scholarships. Scholarship winners will be invited to share their experiences from the camps during a fall Lions Club meeting. 

Jerry Ehlers provided information regarding eye glass collection boxes that are now available from Lions Club International. The board approved purchasing 10 boxes for placement in various businesses in the community.

The Nebraska Lions High School Senior All-Star Golf Tournament will be held on June 22-23. To be eligible, seniors must have been a medal winner in the NSAA High School Golf State Championship to be held in May.  The board tabled supplying the entry fee for a player pending the results of the qualifying tournament.

Trees planted by the Lions Club around Legion Field at East City Park are doing well. The club extended thanks to the city park maintenance personnel for periodic watering of the trees. A suggestion was given to have an update at the next meeting regarding the status of the crumb rubber project for maintaining a surface under playground equipment in the city parks.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club is scheduled for noon May 18 in the Golden Steer.

* Ainsworth firefighters respond to smoke report in Ainsworth Care Center Friday

(Posted 2:30 p.m. April 26)

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department responded to a report of smoke in a hallway Friday afternoon at the Ainsworth Care Center.
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said Ainsworth Care Center employees reported smoke in a hallway at 1:55 p.m. Friday. Fiala said the employees opened doors to vent the smoke from the building, and when firefighters arrived the smoke had been cleared from the building.
“We went through the building, looked in the attic, checked the heating and air motors, and we didn’t find anything that would have caused the smoke,” the Ainsworth fire chief said. “It could have been a ballast got hot, but everything checked out OK.”
Fiala said he advised the Care Center employees to keep a close eye on things for the time being.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 2 p.m. April 26)

April 19

* Responded to a report of a possible domestic disturbance at a rural Ainsworth residence.

* Responded to a report of barking dogs in Long Pine.

* Arrested a subject for Failure to Comply and booked them into the Brown Co Jail.

 

April 20

* Provided a security check on a residence on North Elm St Ainsworth.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail on bond.

* Performed traffic control for 500 head of cattle crossing Hwy 7 South of Ainsworth.

 

April 21

* Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a court ordered commitment.

 

April 22

* Responded to provide a welfare check, after receiving several calls from the same number, and no one on the other end.

* Received a report of possible drug activity in Ainsworth.

* Responded to a traffic and noise complaint in Long Pine.

* Assisted individuals with a report of barking dogs in Long Pine.

 

April 23

* Assisted parties with information on a civil dispute in Brown Co.

* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a fire alarm sounding at the Ainsworth Schools.

 

April 24

* Assisted individuals with information on a civil matter, involving private property.

* Responded to a report of a dog rummaging through trash in the area of East 3rd St Ainsworth.

* Investigated a report of suspicious activity in Long Pine.

* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a possible fire at the Ainsworth Care Center.

 

April 25

* Investigated information on possible drug activity at an Ainsworth business.

* Responded to 911 calls coming from an Ainsworth residence.

* Responded to a traffic complaint at an Ainsworth business.

 

Weekly Summary

0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

0 - Handgun permits applied for

15 - Incidents Reports were taken.

4 - Paper Service was served.

154 - Phone calls were received.

6 - 911 emergency calls received.

1 - Titles were inspected.

0 - Traffic Citations were issued.

4 – Verbal & Written Warnings were issued.

* State senators discuss weekly activity in the Nebraska Legislature

(Posted 11:45 a.m. April 24)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis and 40th District State Sen. Tyson Larson provided an update of bills debated in the Nebraska Legislature during the past week.
To hear the reports, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 4-24.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Tyson Larson 4-24.mp3

* Applications being accepted for Niobrara Council positions

(Posted 5:45 a.m. April 23)

Anyone with an interest in Niobrara River issues is asked to consider one of the seven positions coming up for appointment on the Niobrara Council.
The seven, three-year term positions include four landowner representatives, one recreational business representative, one timber industry representative and one representative of a recognized, nonprofit environmental, conservation or wildlife organization.
Each position is chosen by the governor from a list of qualified individuals submitted by the county board representatives on the Niobrara Council.
Anyone interested is asked to contact the Niobrara Council office at 402-376-2793 or email info@niobraracouncil.org. Names will be accepted for consideration until Friday, May 15.

* Commissioners state opposition to using property taxes for care center purchase

(Posted 2:30 p.m. April 21)

With the Brown County Commissioners agreeing April 16 to pursue an interlocal agreement with the city of Ainsworth relating to the ownership and operation of a nursing home facility in Ainsworth, Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus opened Tuesday’s commissioner meeting discussion on the subject by saying, while there was a need for a nursing home in the community, he was not in favor of property tax funds going toward the purchase or operation of a care center.

“I just want to squelsh any rumors that might be out there,” said Wiebelhaus, who was unable to attend the meeting last week between the Ainsworth City Council and Brown County Commissioners in which it was decided to proceed with the creation of an interlocal agreement. “I agree there is a need to keep the care center, but I think there are other ways to pursue funding without a bond. I don’t want to see any more bond issues for the county. I don’t think the burden should be put predominantly on the backs of agricultural land owners.”

Commissioner Buddy Small agreed.

“The day to day operation of the county is expensive enough,” Small said. “The board has no authority to use property tax funds toward the care center without going out for a vote. People have been telling us they want the facility to remain open, but they don’t want their taxes to go up.”

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson, a member of a local task force working toward the purchase of the facility and toward the formation of an entity to own and operate the nursing home, said the task force has never discussed a bond issue for the facility.

“I don’t anticipate a bond issue would ever be a viable option,” Olson said. “The role of the task force has been to try and determine how to finance a facility without using property tax dollars.”

Small again addressed the use of the county contributing inheritance tax funds toward the project.

“The inheritance tax fund is to be used at the discretion of the board,” Small said of the approximately $1.3 million fund. “This board has been cautious about using money from that fund. We have used money from it in the past and then budgeted over time to pay the money back into the fund.”

Small said some counties have exhausted their inheritance tax funds on equipment purchases and other operations.

Wiebelhaus said he would be open to using inheritance tax funds as a zero percent interest loan mechanism for the purchase of a facility.

County Attorney David Streich, tasked during the joint council and commissioner meeting April 16 with presenting the commissioners with options for an interlocal agreement, provided the board with a rough draft of what an interlocal agreement could look like.

“One question we have to answer is do we want to do this through an interlocal agreement or through a joint public agency?” Streich said. “I am in the process of getting examples of both.”

Streich said most agreements between two or more entities are interlocal agreements. He said he found six examples statewide of joint public agencies.

“The county and city are looking for the best way to work with each other to purchase and operate a facility,” Streich said. “A joint public agency is a new entity that protects the city and county from debt and would be the best protection against liability, but it establishes another level of government.”

He said a joint public agency also has the ability to issue bonds. The joint public agency would have a board appointed by the council and commissioners that includes a member of each of those entities.

Small said he did not like the idea of a joint public agency, and would rather see an interlocal agreement.

The county currently has an interlocal agreement with the city of Ainsworth and other entities for the KBR Solid Waste and Recycling Center.

Olson said she believed the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services might also have issues with a care center being operated through a joint public agency.

Streich said, with an interlocal agreement, there was more local control but not quite the same protection against liability.

“KBR Solid Waste and the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency are examples of interlocal agreements,” the county attorney said.

Olson again reviewed the possible funding needed to purchase the current facility and the licensed beds that are for sale, and the resources it would take to upgrade the current Ainsworth Care Center building and operate the facility in the short term.

“We have received about $20,000 in private donations so far, but we have not really gone out and sought donations because we have been waiting to see what kind of entity was going to potentially own and operate the facility,” Olson said.

Councilman Kent Taylor said the nursing home facility was interconnected with several other entities in the community.

“If we lose the nursing home, it will have an effect on our hospital and throughout the community,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the community could let the current facility close, hope that some private business would purchase and operate the facility, or the community could come together and own the facility.

Audience member Dean Jochem said no one wanted to address the elephant in the room that, if money was borrowed to purchase and operate the facility, it would be the taxpayers on the hook if the facility did not cash flow or if the loans could not be repaid.

Olson said the feasibility study conducted recently showed the facility would cash flow with community ownership. She said an architectural study showed long-term costs to bring the current building to code would be similar to the cost of building a new facility.

She said, as far as exposing the city and the county to debt, the USDA has a loan program available that guarantees 90 percent of the money borrowed from a participating lender. That federal loan program has a 40-year payback period.

“That program would protect the community and the lending institution from exposure,” Olson said.

Audience member Jane Lanz asked about building a care center wing onto the Brown County Hospital, similar to what had occurred when the Rock County Hospital added its Long Term Care Center.

Hospital Board of Trustees President Mike Kreycik said the reimbursement rates the state provides for Medicare and Medicaid patients would be much lower if the hospital were to purchase and operate the facility, and it would be nearly impossible for the facility to cash flow with hospital ownership.

Olson said, looking at the reimbursement rates, hospital ownership of the facility would get very scary, very quickly.

Kreycik said the loss of a nursing home locally would also have a significant negative financial impact on the Brown County Hospital.

Lanz complimented the task force for its diligence in working toward the best solution, and, with a parent currently residing in the Ainsworth Care Center, she encouraged the groups to proceed with gaining local ownership and operation of the facility.

No board action was taken following the public discussion. Streich will continue to work on potential options to include in an interlocal agreement between the commissioners and the Ainsworth City Council.

In other items during Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners, the board approved a resolution to have Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin perform a study on the use of Road 71 between Section 15 and 16, Township 31 North, Range 22 West after a request was made by property owner Wil Williams to vacate a one-mile stretch of the road.

“The road is not being used,” Williams said. “The mile to the north has already been closed. It is not a through road, and I would like to be able to put a fence in.”

Neighboring property owner Chet Wilkins said he was in favor of the road being closed by the county.

Turpin said the county does not receive highway allocation funding for that one-mile stretch of road.

“I think it will be OK for us to vacate,” Turpin said. “I don’t see that it would cause any problems. We would leave about 500 feet so a school section there could be accessed.”

Turpin said he could have the study completed within a few weeks. With the required notice needed for a public hearing on vacating the stretch of Road 71, the board approved placing the item on its June 2 agenda for a public hearing on the vacation request.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. May 5.

* Ainsworth High School prom scheduled for Saturday

(Posted 1 p.m. April 21)

Prom is scheduled for Saturday for Ainsworth High School juniors and seniors, and their dates. The prom banquet begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Ainsworth Conference Center, with the Grand March at 7:30 p.m. in McAndrew Gymnasium. The dance will be held from 9:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. in the Ainsworth Conference Center, with post prom from 12:30 until 4 a.m. in McAndrew Gymnasium.
This year’s prom queen candidates are seniors Laura Peters, Lydia Allen, Arianna Fletcher, Ellie Carr and Cera Arens. King candidates are seniors Hunter Martin, Jake Wilkins, Matt Barrow, Zach Welch and Drew Klatt.

* All area counties experience double-digit valuation percentage increases for 2015

(Posted 12:45 p.m. April 20)

The Nebraska Department of Revenue, Property Assessment Division, has processed the 2015 Real Property Abstracts of Assessment filed by the Nebraska’s 93 county assessors. Preliminary analysis indicates that real property valuations have increased 11.02 percent from 2014 to 2015, resulting in an increase in valuation of approximately $20.84 billion.

Of that total increase, $2.18 billion (10.46 percent) is attributable to newly-constructed real property, and $18.66 billion (89.54 percent) is attributable to existing property valuation increases.

Loup County saw the largest overall increase in valuation among the state’s 93 counties, at 43 percent. Hitchcock County, at 0.58 percent, saw the smallest increase, but all 93 counties had total valuations that were above 2014. Most saw double-digit increases, fueled again by agricultural land value gains.

Brown County’s overall valuation increased by 19.8 percent, with just 1.21 percent of that increase due to new construction. Brown County’s agricultural land jumped by 25.4 percent in value.

Commercial property in Brown County increased in value by 14 percent, but that was entirely due to new construction. Without factoring in new construction, existing commercial property in Brown County dipped in value by 1.5 percent. Residential valuation in Brown County was up by 3.8 percent, with 1.3 percent of that total due to new construction.

Rock County’s overall valuation increase was among the highest in the state at 32 percent. Only Loup County (43 percent) and Garfield County (34.3 percent) had larger valuation increases than Rock County.

Agricultural land was primarily responsible for the rise in valuation, with ag land values soaring by almost 35 percent from 2014. Residential valuations also took a large jump in Rock County, at 17.3 percent higher 2014. Just 1 percent of that increase was due to new construction. Only two counties, Sheridan and Boone, had larger residential valuation increases than Rock County.

Commercial property in Rock County was up by 6.27 percent, with 2.8 percent of that increase attributed to new construction.

Keya Paha County’s valuation increased by 16 percent for 2015. Agricultural land value was ahead by 16.7 percent, with commercial property also increasing by double figures, up 12.3 percent. A little less than 2 percent of that total was due to new commercial construction.

Residential property in Keya Paha County moved upward by 4.48 percent, with almost all of that total (4.34 percent) due to an increase in existing residential property value.

Cherry County experienced a 17 percent overall valuation increase in 2015, with ag land rising by 20 percent. Commercial value in Cherry County jumped by 21.9 percent, the seventh-highest increase in the state by percentage.

Residential property in Cherry County inched upward by 1.64 percent, but that was entirely due to new construction. Existing residential property in Cherry County was virtually unchanged from 2014.

Holt County also saw a large increase in total property value in 2015, up 27.5 percent from the previous year.

Agricultural land in Holt County grew in value by 31.85 percent, the eighth largest increase among Nebraska’s 93 counties.

Holt County commercial property increased in value by 6.78 percent, with 2.32 percent attributed to new construction.

Holt County residential property showed strong sales, with valuation on that classification of property increasing by 12.3 percent. Of that total, 11.5 percent was due to a rise in existing residential property value.

Statewide, agricultural land in 2015 was 19.1 percent more valuable than the previous year. The 19 percent increase in agricultural land valuation was less than the 29 percent increase experienced in 2014 and the 22.8 percent increase in 2013. Agricultural land value has risen by double digits in each of the past seven years.

Commercial property statewide increased by 7 percent, with 2.3 percent of that total due to new construction. The 7 percent commercial property valuation increase was the largest since 2009.

Statewide residential value rose 4.82 percent, with 1.73 percent of that total due to new construction.

In a sign of a stronger housing market, the 4.82 percent increase in residential value was the largest increase in the past seven years, and the 3 percent increase in existing residential valuation was double the rise from 2014. Existing residential property rose in value by less than 1 percent from 2011-13, and actually decreased in value in both 2009 and 2010 statewide.

The real property value percentage change by property type is based on the total property reported in each county. The real property value of individual property in each county may not be affected by the same percentage change.

Real property valuations are set by the county assessors and are subject to review during the statewide equalization proceedings before the Tax Equalization and Review Commission. Real property valuation change notices will be mailed on or before June 1, 2015 to real property owners who had real property values that increased or decreased from 2014 to 2015.

Increases to real property valuations may result in an increase of tax revenue for local governmental subdivisions. If the tax rates from the previous year remain unchanged, additional property taxes would be generated.

Local property taxes are the product of spending and budgeting decisions made by local governments, based on their fiscal needs. The final budgets must be approved by Sept. 20 of each year. Tax rates must be determined by Oct. 15 of each year.

For any property that changes in value from the previous year, whether an increase or a decrease, notice will be sent by the county assessor’s office to the owner of the property.

A property owner may protest a valuation change by filing for a hearing in the courthouse where the property is located. County commissioners, sitting as the Board of Equalization, hear valuation protests beginning in June.

* Sheriff's and fire departments respond to Saturday rollover accident

(Posted 5:30 a.m. April 20)

A one-vehicle rollover accident Saturday, April 18, west of Johnstown prompted the response of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, but no one was injured during the crash.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 7:17 a.m. Saturday on Highway 20 near the Brown County and Cherry County line, a 2013 Ford F-250, driven by Benjamin Wolmarans, 26, of Winner, S.D., was traveling west when the vehicle began to hydroplane. The Ford crossed the center line and entered the south ditch, where it rolled.
No injuries were reported. The Ford, owned by Huehn Motor Leasing Inc. of Rochester, Minn., was considered a total loss.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 5 a.m. April 20)

April 12

* Investigated a report of a possible violation of probation in Brown Co.

* Received reports of cattle out on 884th Rd Ainsworth.

 

April 13

* Responded to a barking dog complaint on North Elm St Ainsworth.

* Assisted individuals with the removal of a juvenile from a residence in Brown Co.

* Responded to a report of a vehicle tearing around Dawes St in Ainsworth.

* Received a report of a possible health code violation at an Ainsworth business.

* Investigated a report of an Ainsworth resident being threatened by phone.

 

April 14

* Responded to a report of  vehicles racing on the Cemetery Rd.

* Investigated a report of suspicious activity in Ainsworth.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail, and turned custody over to the NE Dept of Corrections in Lincoln.

* Investigated a semi/ deer accident that occurred on Hwy 183.

 

April 15

* Responded to a report of a semi blocking a roadway in Ainsworth.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail as their sentence was complete.

* Responded to a report of a dog running at large on North Elm St Ainsworth.

 

April 16

* Assisted an individual with a report of an injured dog found on Hwy 183 near Keller Park.

* Investigated a report of a motorcycle on fire on Meadville Ave. The Ainsworth Fire Dept also responded to assist.

 

April 17

* Investigated a report of possible fraud, involving the theft of checks from another county, and possible forgery, in Ainsworth.

* Investigated several reports of a loud boom in the East part of Ainsworth.

 

April 18

* Investigated a one-vehicle rollover accident West of Ainsworth. The Johnstown, Ainsworth Fire Depts., & the Brown Co Ambulance also responded. No one was transferred from the scene.

* Investigated a report of an abandoned vehicle parked at a Long Pine business.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located East & North of Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of a possible intoxicated subject West of Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of vehicles tearing around Long Pine.

* Performed a traffic stop on Hwy 20, where a subject was cited for careless driving & booked into the Brown Co Jail for Failure to Comply & Obstruction of a Peace Officer.

 

Weekly Summary

2 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

6 - Handgun permits applied for

21 - Incidents Reports were taken.

11 - Paper Service was served.

178 - Phone calls were received.

5 - 911 emergency calls received.

5 - Titles were inspected.

4 - Traffic Citations were issued.

14 – Verbal & Written Warnings were issued.

* Davis reports on activities in the Nebraska Legislature

(Posted 6 p.m. April 17)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis provided an update on the week's activities in the Legislature.
To hear the report from Davis, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 4-17.mp3

* Ainsworth grads participate in Rural Futures Institute internship program

(Posted 5:30 p.m. April 17)

By Kelli Rollin, Nebraska News Service

LINCOLN--While painting a historic house in Red Cloud, Jeff Story couldn't help but worry about what people in the small town would think.

Story, a senior political science and English major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was an intern in Red Cloud during summer 2013 funded by the Rural Futures Institute. The grant program matches rural towns with UN-L student interns to work on community projects. The Rural Futures Institute aims to help revitalize rural towns and enhance what makes them special.

Story helped organize a community cleanup that included repairing an old house near the entrance of Red Cloud. The house is one of the first things people see when coming into town and it sets the tone.

Though he was worried about meeting people and what they'd think about him and the project, Story's apprehensions were soon eased. Forty volunteers showed up that day to help.

"The people were really supportive of what we were trying to do," Story said. "People were really receptive."

During his eight weeks in Red Cloud, Story witnessed a domino effect while doing community cleanup. He said once people saw others cleaning up, they did the same in the town.

Once selected by applications, interns go through a three-week training before traveling to their assigned towns. Rural towns also are chosen through applications and town projects are specified. Interns are housed and paid by the chosen communities.

"It's not a normal internship," Tom Field, director of the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at UN-L, said. "We're simply hooking the talents of those at the university to the needs of the communities."
Field said the program coordinators have strong communication ties with chosen communities during and after the internship.

"I have a deep commitment, you might even say a little bit of a love affair, with rural America," Field said about his passion for the program and helping the communities.

He said he loves seeing students "bloom" in these internships and knowing that they're doing something that really matters.
Jessica Bartak, a junior agribusiness major from Ainsworth, interned in Kimball during summer 2014. She and another intern worked on grant research for the town and marketed the town with promotional videos.
"I realized that a person's attitude toward the community can make a big impact," Bartak said.
She said small towns like Kimball, which has about 2,000 people, can lack excitement from community members. She said Kimball is sort of a boom and bust town with an influx of business and people passing through.

Bartak said some people seem to forget what makes their hometown special. While making promotional videos, she set out to show that Kimball is a desirable place by visiting landmarks in the town.

"It made me appreciate my own community and appreciate the community support," Bartak said.

Wilson Bowling, director of economic development in Kimball, worked closely with the interns on researching grants during their stay.

Bowling said he didn't know what to expect at first because no one in Kimball had really worked with interns.

"They (interns) took everything we asked and ran with it," Bowling said.

He said the work the interns did benefited the community. "If I had projects that required additional help, I would do that in a heartbeat," Bowling said about participating in the program again.

Jordyn Lechtenberg, a UNL graduate student in agricultural economics from Ainsworth, interned in Holdrege in summer 2013, the first year of the internship program.

Lechtenberg worked on a community logo and slogan as part of her work there.

"It provided a lot of hope, I think," Lechtenberg said about the internship. "I hoped to help Holdrege think more positively about what they have to offer.”

Story, unlike most of the interns, isn't from rural Nebraska. The Omaha native said he was apprehensive about going to a town of 1,000 people.

"The bulk of my life was in the city," Story said.

However, Story said his eyes were opened to the opportunity in rural places, especially to practice law, which he hopes to do. He said some people view rural towns as dead, but to Story, they're very much alive.

He still keeps in touch with people from Red Cloud and visits often.

"It opens up the doors for city people to consider moving to rural areas and that it's not a step backward," Story said.

* Motorcycle catches fire Thursday north of Ainsworth

(Posted 10:30 a.m. April 17)

A motorcycle caught fire Thursday afternoon while in operation north of Ainsworth, prompting the response of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department and the Brown County Sheriff’s Department.

According to the sheriff’s department report, at 3 p.m. Thursday on Meadville Avenue approximately 5 miles north of Ainsworth, a 1982 Kawasaki motorcycle, driven by Damian Stamp, 25, of Ainsworth, caught fire while it was in operation.

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said a leak in the motorcycle’s fuel tank likely led to fuel igniting. Upon the fire department’s arrival, the motorcycle was completely engulfed in flames.

Fiala said a small grass fire ignited in the Meadville Avenue ditch.

No injuries were reported. The Kawasaki motorcycle was considered a total loss.

Fiala said firefighters had the fire knocked down and returned to the fire hall by 3:45 p.m.

* Council, commissioners vote to pursue agreement to operate nursing home

(Posted 2:45 p.m. April 16)

The Ainsworth City Council and Brown County Commissioners intend to move forward with an interlocal agreement to jointly own and operate a nursing home in Ainsworth.

During a special meeting of both entities Thursday in the Ainsworth Conference Center, the City Council unanimously approved having Brown County Attorney Dave Streich and City Attorney Rod Palmer work on the details involved in forming an interlocal agreement between the two entities.

The Brown County Commissioners, with Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus absent, approved the same action.

Both entities then approved having Streich work on a scope of services contract with attorney Richard Nelson of the Lincoln law firm Erickson/Sederstrom to assist the entities in forming an interlocal agreement to operate a care center. Streich will present a cost estimate during the April 21 meeting of the Brown County Commissioners.

Streich said there were aspects of the interlocal agreement that he and Palmer could handle.

“There are several areas involved that are outside my areas of expertise,” Streich said. “We can try and do as much locally as we can.”

Councilman Kent Taylor said he believed the city was willing to work with the county to keep a nursing home in the community.

“We have had good luck with the sheriff’s department and KBR Solid Waste interlocal agreements,” Taylor said. “I would rather see us secure this facility so the residents can remain. I don’t like the trend we are seeing in small towns that things are not privately owned, but I don’t see anyone from the private sector stepping up to buy this facility.”

Dr. Mel Campbell, a member of a local task force that formed after it was learned the Ainsworth Care Center had been listed for sale, said there has been a 30-year history of private ownership of the Ainsworth Care Center.

“Private ownership has not been good for the facility in the long term,” the longtime local physician said. “We are too small of a community and the care center has a high percentage of residents receiving Medicare and Medicaid.”

Ron Ross told a group recently after performing a feasibility study on the care center that Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates nursing homes receive from the state have not kept up with the costs to care for residents.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson, a member of the task force working on the project, said the purpose for the special meeting with both entities Thursday was to determine what the ownership structure might look like if the current care center can indeed be purchased or if a new facility is constructed.

“NCDC did make an offer to the broker to see if there was interest in selling the Ainsworth Care Center,” Olson said. “They have now said we need to consider a revised offer. They did not make a counter offer.”

Audience member Jerry Ehlers said the task force would like an indication from both the City Council and the commissioners of intent to proceed with an interlocal agreement to own the facility.

“That lets the task force have some guidance that it can begin working toward that goal,” Ehlers said.

Taylor said there seemed to be no inkling from the current ownership of the facility on what it planned to do with the Ainsworth Care Center.

Olson said, “It is listed for sale at $1.2 million through the broker. The only thing we know for sure is they are closing the Edgar and Exeter facilities.”

The company that currently operates the Ainsworth Care Center owns centers at Exeter, Edgar and Lyons in Nebraska and had ownership in facilities in other states.

Edgar and Exeter recently received notice that the facilities in those communities would close.

Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen, a member of the task force, said there was value in the 46 licensed beds at the current care center, but the only real value in the current building was the ability to keep a facility operational in the short term.

Olson said the initial offer made by the North Central Development Center on behalf of the task force was on the lower end of the going rate for licensed beds in Nebraska.

Taylor said, “I can’t believe they wouldn’t even make a counter offer.”

Councilwoman Deb Hurless said she would be more willing to move forward with an interlocal agreement for a new facility.

“I understand the current residents would have to be relocated, but in a year or so, if we have a nice, new building, I think we would have people who would want to live and work in the facility.”

Hurless said she felt the group was losing valuable time trying to wait on an answer from the current owners of the facility.

“We don’t want to overpay for something we are going to have to replace soon,” Hurless said.

Sorensen said, should the current facility close, or if the licensed beds are purchased and moved elsewhere, the community could get a license for the same number of beds that are currently licensed.

“I think the state would be willing to work with us to keep from having to transfer the current residents elsewhere,” she said.

Olson said she believed the community was in a good position to apply to the state for a license should an agreement with the current ownership fail to materialize.

Commissioner Buddy Small said he believed, after speaking with numerous residents, that the consensus of the community was to keep the facility open.

“But, no one has the best idea for how to do that,” Small said. “People don’t want to see their taxes raised. It may not be possible to both keep it open and not have some kind of contribution that would need to be made.”

Audience member Sheryl Graff asked if some of the funding for the project could come from the county’s inheritance tax fund. She said more than $300,000 in inheritance taxes were paid to the county recently during the transition of her uncle's estate.

“I have had family members in the care center, and we have paid about $560,000 for their care that then left our county,” Graff said. “That money could stay here if it is owned locally.”

Streich said inheritance tax funds could be used by the county toward the project without changing the county’s budget.

“The county budgets for those funds to be spent each year,” Streich said.

County Treasurer Deb Vonheeder said there was currently a little more than $1 million in the county’s inheritance tax fund.

Small said, during his six years as a commissioner, the board has borrowed money from the inheritance tax fund for projects, and has had the policy of budgeting to return the funds to the inheritance tax fund over a period of a few years.

“The inheritance tax fund can be used at the discretion of the commissioners,” Small said. “It does not have to be lent, it can be given.”

Small said he would not feel comfortable committing to the use of inheritance tax funds without the full board present.

Audience member Dean Jochem cautioned the commissioners about using inheritance tax funds or allocating property tax dollars toward the project.

Jochem said agricultural property owners have seen sharp increases in their tax bills due to rising valuations and would not be able to bear more funding commitments. He said the inheritance tax money should not be spent, but rather saved to handle large, unforeseen expenses the county may incur in the future.

The city also has potential funding sources available, including a CDBG development reuse fund, the LB 840 fund and the ABC fund, but the task force has indicated private charitable donations would also likely be needed for the project to proceed.

Ehlers said he visited with officials from Stuart involved in the operation of Parkside Manor. He said that facility was initiated by the village of Stuart in 1971.

“Stuart passed a bond and started a facility,” Ehlers said. “A board was appointed to prepare a budget and operate the facility.”

He said the operation became self-supporting and was no longer subsidized by the village with the exception of two expansion projects.

“They were very encouraging that this community would be able to support keeping a facility open,” Ehlers said.

To try and keep the current facility open and operational if an agreement could be reached with the current ownership, Olson said it would cost an estimated $200,000 to make upgrades to the Ainsworth Care Center building, and approximately $500,000 in operating capital would be needed. That would be in addition to whatever the purchase price of the facility would be.

Sorensen said the operating capital was needed because Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement takes about eight months to receive.

“Money would be needed to operate until that time,” she said.

Sorensen said June 1 was mentioned during the recent town hall meeting as a timeline for the transition of ownership in order to qualify for a potential increase in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

She said there are so many aspects that still had to be addressed, a June 1 timeline was likely no longer realistic.
“The task force still has a sense of urgency, but we also still don’t know what the current ownership is planning to do,” she said.

Streich said it would likely be a 60-day process just to get a legal entity established for the interlocal agreement.

Sorensen said the city and county agreeing to pursue an interlocal agreement allows the task force to continue moving forward on the project.

“Without knowing that intent was there, we were just spinning our wheels at this point,” she said. “We just don’t want to be in a situation similar to Exeter and Edgar. We want to have a plan started if we do receive notice that the care center is going to close.”

Streich said he would meet with Palmer and identify the various aspects of an interlocal agreement that would need to be addressed by both entities.

“The option I would recommend is to create a joint public agency for the care center,” the county attorney said. “It would be a separate political subdivision, and would stand and fall on its own liability-wise. The city and county could then opt to generate funding for the joint public agency, but the city and county would not be responsible for any debt incurred.”

Small said he would include the item for further discussion and action during Tuesday’s meeting of the commissioners, and Thornburg indicated the council would likely hold another special meeting and work session next week to address the decisions that still need to be made.

* School Board accepts resignations of principal, social studies teacher Monday

(Posted 5:30 a.m. April 14)

Ainsworth Community Schools is losing one of its administrators and a longtime high school teacher at the end of the 2014-15 year.

The Board of Education on Monday approved the resignation of Secondary Principal Richard Gilson and social studies teacher and co-activities director Jeff Konkoleski.

Konkoleski told the board he had accepted a position as an assistant principal and activities director with West Point-Beemer Public Schools.

“We have enjoyed our time here,” Konkoleski said. “This will be a new challenge in our lives.”

The board thanked Konkoleski for his service to the district. Superintendent Darrell Peterson said several candidates for the social studies position have been interviewed, and he hoped to have a recommendation for the board to consider in the near future.

Gilson also submitted his resignation effective at the end of the 2014-15 contract year. He thanked the board for giving him the opportunity to serve as an administrator for the first time.

Peterson said the district will begin advertising for the secondary principal position right away.

In other business during Monday’s meeting, Tonny Beck presented the board with information on upgrades to the school’s weight room a group of volunteers would like to make.

Beck said the group’s intention was to have the details and costs finalized by the time the School Board meets in May.

“We hope you will be willing to act during the next meeting so we can get materials ordered and try to have the improvements made by June for summer weight lifting,” Beck said.

Beck said a fund-raiser this year raised approximately $12,000, and the Ainsworth Bulldog Booster Club was willing to contribute another $3,000 to $5,000 for the upgrades, but the total cost of the improvements would likely be around $30,000.

“We can do more fund-raisers, but we are asking the school to contribute funds as well,” Beck said.

In addition to the replacement of some of the weight room equipment, Beck said the group would like to replace the flooring in the weight room. He said improvements also included new paint, graphics, audio/visual equipment, storage and other upgrades.

“We would like to make this a large, one-time improvement,” Beck said. “We want to try and get everything completed during a 10-day window and get things opened back up again as quickly as we can.”

The board held a lengthy executive session regarding what it termed a personal matter. No action was taken following the executive session.

In action items Monday, the board approved the second reading of a policy regarding the school’s option enrollment capacity.

The board approved advertising for bids to recoat the track at East City Park with two coats of polyurethane spray.

Peterson said the coating was a planned maintenance undertaking to help extend the life of the track’s rubber surface.

“When the new track was installed seven years ago, the plan was to recoat the track after seven years of use,” the superintendent said. “This top coating should extend the track’s life for another seven years.”

Peterson said he discussed an estimate for the coating with the company that installed the track.

“The ballpark cost was actually lower than what they told us it would be back when they installed the track,” Peterson said. “The estimate was still over $40,000 though, so we need to bid it.”

He told the board the Nebraska Legislature had passed a bill that would increase the project dollar limit for school districts that triggers districts to have to advertise for bids.

The previous $40,000 threshold for bidding work adopted in 1979 would increase to $100,000 if Gov. Pete Ricketts signs the bill into law.

Bids for the recoating work must be received by May 7. With the specialized nature of the work, Peterson told the board it may receive only one bid for the project.

The board authorized the law firm KSB School Law to provide the school district with any legal counsel that might be needed.

Peterson said the firm Harding and Schultz, which had provided the district with most of its personnel legal work, was disbanding. He said three of the attorneys from that firm formed KSB School Law, and the district needed an agreement for services.

He said the agreement did not mean the district had to use that firm exclusively, it only signified that it may utilize the firm’s services.

The district is only billed for legal services rendered.

Elementary Principal Sarah Williams’ report indicated 33 kindergarten students had registered for the 2015-16 school year. That would make the incoming kindergarten class already the largest in the elementary, as there are 32 third-grade students, 31 current kindergarten students, 29 first-graders, 29 fourth-grade students and 27 second-graders.

During his report, Gilson said the school will have a guest speaker for the April 28 All Sports Tailgate Party.

While originally scheduled speaker Tom Osborne had to cancel speaking during the athletic banquet due to his title as “Coach Emeritus” for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Gilson said former Husker player and longtime TeamMates mentor DeMoines Adams had agreed to speak during the gathering.

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

* Town hall indicates overwhelming support to keep care center in Ainsworth open

(Posted 10:30 p.m. April 9)

Support Thursday was overwhelmingly in favor of having community leaders continue to work toward ensuring that Ainsworth retains a care facility.

Asked by Mayor Larry Rice at the end of a more than 90-minute presentation how many were in favor of allowing the Ainsworth Care Center to potentially close, not one hand was raised from among the more than 100 residents in attendance.

Rice said a task force had been organized to research the feasibility of purchasing the Ainsworth Care Center after learning several months ago that the facility had been listed for sale.

Special meetings of the Ainsworth City Council, Brown County Commissioners and Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees were called to order at the outset, with Ron Ross of Rural Health Development then presenting information from a study his company conducted on the feasibility of a government entity or non-profit organization purchasing the facility.

Ross, whose company manages 20 nursing home facilities in Nebraska, including the Parkside Manor at Stuart, said nursing homes are vitally important in small communities.

“Private companies are not making money with nursing homes in small towns, so there is a paradigm shift in the nursing home industry,” Ross said. “It is a tough business, but it is still very doable. The for-profit businesses are leaving the small towns because there is no money in it, but communities are coming together to keep these facilities open. To see this many people here shows me there is support for the nursing home here.”

Ross said all rural communities are going to be in the same position in the near future that Ainsworth now finds itself. He said Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to care centers have not kept pace with costs, and private payers are trying to find ways to stay out of nursing homes for as long as possible.

“At $6,000 per month or so, it doesn’t take long for people to go through their savings,” Ross said. “The state does pay for people’s care who run out of money, but they don’t pay the entire share of the costs to care for those people.”

Ross said the company that owns the Ainsworth Care Center owns three other facilities in Nebraska, at Lyons, Edgar and Exeter. He said it had previously given notice that the Exeter facility would close.

“Just a few days ago, they gave notice that they were closing the Edgar facility,” Ross said, stressing the need for the community to move forward quickly.

If the community can obtain the nursing home prior to the end of June, it can submit a cost report to the state of Nebraska and likely receive a $20 to $25 per day reimbursement increase for each resident.

Ross said that amounted to an extra $30,000 per month that could be used to support the facility, hire staff and make improvements to the building.

“There is room to receive higher reimbursement, as the current costs are well below the state’s caps,” Ross said. “We anticipate it will cost a new operator more to run the facility, but the facility really needs to be purchased by June so the community can submit a cost report to the state.”

Ross said, should the current owner sell the licensed beds for the facility to a company that moves them from the community, state laws have changed that allow communities to keep the number of beds that have been licensed to it.

“Communities now can’t be left high and dry,” Ross said.

As far as an ownership structure, Ross said some facilities are owned by a government entity, which could be the city or the county. The other option is to form a non-profit company with a volunteer board of directors.

Regardless whether the facility is owned by a non-profit corporation or a government entity, a management company would be hired to operate the care center.

He encouraged people to make tax-deductible donations to support the initial purchase of the facility.

“This facility is going to need community support financially to get started,” Ross said.

He said a similar meeting at Callaway led to $300,000 in funds being raised to save the care center in that community.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson, who is also a member of the task force working on the project, said the NCDC Board voted during a meeting Monday to set up an account to accept donations for the care center.

“The NCDC is a non-profit, 501c3 corporation,” Olson said. “A fund has been set up that can accept tax-deductible donations. A donation receipt would be issued toward the end of the year.”

Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorenson, another member of the task force, said there was a sense of urgency for the task force to continue moving forward due to the scenarios currently faced by Exeter and Edgar as well as to give a local entity the ability to submit a cost report prior to the June 30 deadline.

“We are looking at needing $500,000 to be able to operate the facility for the eight to 10 months it will take to receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements,” Sorensen said. “We are also looking at $200,000 for facility improvements, and we will also have to pay the company for the beds.”

Olson said the task force would need to come up with at least 10 percent to 20 percent of the expected costs in donations to be able to apply for loans to operate and maintain the facility.

“That is where the donation aspect comes into this,” Olson said.

Rice said the task force has been looking at the impact to the community if the facility closes.

Olson said the care center employs 28 full-time equivalents with a payroll of almost $1 million annually. Indirect benefits to the community approach $3 million.

Ross said, if the community is earnest about continuing to have a care center in Ainsworth, it needed to go into the purchase knowing a new facility would eventually need to be built.

“The building was constructed in 1962,” Ross said. “The future of the current building is a significant piece of this. I told the task force not to get involved in the facility unless it was willing to build a new one in the future.”

He said the current facility, with some upgrades, would serve the needs of its residents for a few years, but a new facility would be needed at some point.

“You would be looking at about $6 million to $7 million to construct a facility for 40 beds,” Ross said.

Sorensen said an architect was retained to examine the current facility.

“The architect’s numbers show it will take about $200,000 to repair the current facility to operate for two to three years,” Sorensen said. “Down the road, we are going to need a new facility.”

Ross said he was confident, with the support that has been displayed in the community, that a solution would be found.

“The bottom line is the community wants to have a facility so that it can take care of its people,” Ross said. “Family members don’t want to drive 40 or 50 miles to be able to visit a relative who needs the care that these facilities provide.”

Anyone interested in supporting the community effort to retain the Ainsworth Care Center may contact the North Central Development Center at 402-387-2740 for more information on how to make a tax-deductible donation.

Ross encouraged the audience members not to underestimate the value smaller donations can have on the overall goal of keeping the facility open in Ainsworth.

“This town is large enough to support a nursing home, I have no doubt about that,” Ross said. “Don’t underestimate what a donation of $5,000 or $10,000 can do.”
Ross then became the first to donate toward purchasing the center, pledging $2,000.

* South Street residents assessed $7.06 per foot for milling improvement work

(Posted 5:45 a.m. April 9)

Property owners on South Street between Main and Ulrich streets were assessed $7.06 for every foot of street frontage they possess following a public hearing during Wednesday’s Ainsworth City Council meeting.

City Administrator Kristi Thornburg said there were 16 property owners who would be assessed for the millings that were placed on the formerly gravel street.

Those assessed will have the option of paying the assessment in full within 50 days of receiving the assessment notice. If not paid in full in 50 days, the assessment will be placed on the property tax statement and can be paid over a 10-year period at an annual interest rate of 4.5 percent.

In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, the council approved moving forward on abating nuisance properties declared by the Central Nebraska Housing Developers, the city’s contracted nuisance abatement officer.

CNHD staff presented the council with updated information on the nuisance inspections performed on the southeast quadrant of Ainsworth, from Elm Street east and Highway 20 south.

Of the 265 properties inspected in that quadrant, 104 were sent initial courtesy letters to clean up items flagged as potential nuisances according to city code.

CNHD cleared an additional 52 properties Aug. 11 and cleared 11 more Nov. 7. Seven more properties were cleared after inspections April 1.

Of the 16 remaining properties that have not fully abated nuisances as instructed, CNHD Executive Director Judy Peterson said three had performed substantial cleanup work on their properties.

“Those who have made an effort to clean up can ask for an extension,” Peterson said.

Peterson said CNHD would send the owners of the 16 parcels that have not been cleared a final letter letting them know when the citywide cleanups are planned this spring, and making them aware that if the abatement is not completed the city will have the nuisance cleared and charge the property owner for the cost.

“Some cities have been taking care of the abatement on their own,” Peterson said. “We have not gone in and hired any work done. If the city or a contractor goes onto a property to abate a nuisance, the personnel will be accompanied by the sheriff’s department.”

The cost of abating any nuisances not handled by the property owner will be billed to that property owner. If not paid, the cost will be placed onto the parcel’s property tax statement.

“The next phase is to begin the abatement process,” Peterson said.

She recommended the city put a committee together to study the properties that have not been cleared and develop a plan for abating the remaining nuisances.

Councilman Kent Taylor said he agreed the city needed to develop a plan.

“Some of these have obviously had nothing done to them,” Taylor said. “I think a committee needs to be appointed to review the code and the properties and make recommendations to the council.”

Taylor and Councilman Chuck Osborn, who also sits on the city’s Board of Health, agreed to serve as the council’s representatives on the review committee. Thornburg was also included on the review committee, and Thornburg said she would ask Sheriff Bruce Papstein, also a member of the Board of Health, to participate.

The council unanimously voted to rescind the seven nuisance resolutions on the properties cleared by CNHD April 1, and to have CNHD send a final letter to the property owners yet to fully comply giving them a final notice of 30 days to abate the identified nuisances or risk having the city contract the work at the property owner’s expense.

In a related item, the council rescinded resolutions on two initial nuisance abatement properties due to a clerical error by CNHD that misidentified the city’s code ordinance number during the initial mailing. The council then agreed to declare the same two properties as nuisances and have the CNHD resend letters to the property owners. Those two property owners were originally late in receiving a notice because the notices were sent to the incorrect address.

The city also voted to reappoint the Central Nebraska Housing Developers as the city’s nuisance officer, and authorized Mayor Larry Rice to sign an agreement between CNHD and the city to perform nuisance code inspections on the northeast quadrant of the city this year, which includes properties from North Main Street east to the city limits, north of Highway 20.

That quadrant of the city was drawn randomly during the previous council meeting as the next area to have the inspections performed. A grant will pay for the inspection of 150 parcels, with CNHD charging the city $45 per property inspected above the first 150.

Thornburg estimated there were close to 220 parcels in the quadrant that has been identified for inspection.

In other action items Wednesday, the council approved an agreement with engineering firm Miller and Associates to provide professional services to the city to create a capital improvement plan.

The $5,200 contract would allow Miller and Associates to facilitate a planning workshop with the City Council to prioritize capital improvement goals and prepare a plan of action.

Thornburg said the plan would likely include the revitalization of Highway 20 and Main Street to coincide with Nebraska Department of Roads asphalt overly projects of the two streets.

“We also have a potential pool project, and potentially another paving project,” the city administrator said. “Having a plan in place would help us on potential grant applications down the road.”

The council opened three bids for armor coating city streets. By a 3-1 vote, with Osborn against, the council accepted the low bid of $1.02 per square yard submitted by TopKote of Yankton, S.D.

The city received bids of $1.30 per square yard from Stabilt Construction of Harlan, Iowa, and a bid of $1.65 per square yard from Figgins Construction of Red Cloud. The Figgins bid included a different variety of oil for the armor coating work than the other two bids.

Streets Foreman Monte Goshorn said he felt TopKote had done a good job armor coating streets for the city in the past.

During her report, Thornburg said the city recently upgraded its skid steer to a new model, as it does annually. The city’s previous skid steer had 130 hours of use, so it cost the city $1,300 to upgrade to a new skid steer.

She said the East Cemetery fence that was damaged during a recent motor vehicle accident had been replaced.

Thornburg also reported strong participation already for the city’s upcoming tire amnesty day on April 15, as numerous residents had called the city office to pre-register tires.

She reported approximately $627,000 in building permits had been issued in the city for the first quarter of 2015. A total of $3.3 million in building improvements was permitted in 2014, a total that includes construction within the city’s one-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Rice reported he had been approached about the increased traffic on the east side of Highway 20 in Ainsworth with the relocation of the Bomgaars store. He said a request had been made to lower the speed limit in that area from 45 mph down to 35 mph.

Thornburg said the Nebraska Department of Roads conducted a traffic study at the same site when Alco and Pamida were constructed, and said at that time the traffic counts did not warrant a further reduction in speed.

The council will meet in special session at 7 p.m. Thursday as part of a town hall meeting on the potential purchase of the care center in Ainsworth.

The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 13.

* One-vehicle accident east of Bassett Friday claims the life of a 24-year-old woman

(Posted 4:15 p.m. April 7)

A one-vehicle accident Friday, April 3, east of Bassett claimed the life of a 24-year-old Atkinson woman and seriously injured a 22-year-old Ainsworth man.
According to the Rock County Sheriff’s Department report, at 2:22 p.m. Friday, a 2002 Chevy Trailblazer was traveling west on Highway 20 approximately 3-1/2 miles east of Bassett when the vehicle left the roadway and entered the south ditch, where it rolled multiple times.
Both occupants in the Chevy, Tyler Walton, 22, of Lincoln and Ainsworth, and Samantha Jo Everett, 24, of Lincoln and Atkinson, were ejected from the vehicle. Both were transported by Rock County Ambulance to the Rock County Hospital with severe injuries.
Everett was pronounced dead Friday afternoon in the Rock County Hospital.
Walton remains hospitalized due to injuries suffered during the crash.
Rock County Deputy Sheriff Garrett Weidner, who is investigating the accident, said it is not yet known who was driving the Chevy at the time of the accident. The Trailblazer, owned by Carol Walton of Ainsworth, was considered a total loss.
The Nebraska State Patrol and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission responded Friday to assist the sheriff’s department at the site of the accident.
A funeral service for Everett is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 8, in the Atkinson Community Center. Memorials for Everett have been suggested to the Make a Wish Foundation or to the family for future designation.

* Agricultural land values rise sharply in Rock, Keya Paha counties for 2015

(Posted 4 p.m. March 23)

Just like in Brown County, owners of agricultural property in Keya Paha and Rock counties will also see substantial increases in the valuations of their ground.

Rock County Assessor Monica Turpin reported recently to the Rock County Commissioners that agricultural land values had to be boosted substantially for the county to comply with a state mandate that requires agricultural property values to be between 69 percent and 75 percent of actual value.

Turpin told the commissioners, without an increase, agricultural land in Rock County would come in at 59 percent of actual value.

Using an example of the top soil ratings in each classification, Turpin indicated irrigated cropland in Rock County would double in valuation for 2015 from $1,500 per acre to $3,000 per acre.

Using the three most recent years, Turpin told the commissioners there were 70 total agricultural sales that were analyzed to determine the valuation of agricultural land.

The other classifications of agricultural property in Rock County did not escape increases, though the jumps were not as high as the doubling in value experienced by irrigated cropland.

Dryland cropland jumped from $570 per acre to $950 per acre, a two-thirds increase in value per acre. Grassland with the top soil rating jumped from $580 per acre to $900 per acre, a rise of 55 percent.

Conservation Reserve Program grassland increased in value from $565 per acre to $705 per acre, an increase of just under 25 percent.

Keya Paha County Assessor Suzy Wentworth also reported substantial increases in agricultural property values for 2015, continuing a trend that includes eight substantial jumps in agricultural property values in nine years for irrigated cropland.

For 2015, irrigated cropland with the highest soil rating will carry a value of $2,800 per acre, up $500 (almost 23 percent) from $2,300 per acre in 2014. From a historical perspective, irrigated cropland values were $580 per acre just nine years ago in 2007.

They have steadily risen since, to $860 per acre in 2008 and $990 per acre in 2009. The only year those values remained static was 2010, when values remained at $990 per acre for irrigated cropland.

The values increased to $1,040 per acre in 2011, $1,300 per acre in 2012, $1,800 per acre in 2013, $2,300 per acre in 2014 and now $2,800 per acre for 2015.

From 2007 to 2015, irrigated cropland values have risen 382 percent for Keya Paha County property owners.

Though smaller compared to irrigated cropland, dryland cropland acres in Keya Paha County have also experienced sharp valuation increases.

For 2015, the top soil rating for dryland cropland acres will increase from $740 to $900, a rise of almost 22 percent. Since 2007, dryland cropland acres in Keya Paha County have increased 109 percent, from $430 per acre to $900 per acre.

Grassland acres with the top soil rating increased by $75 per acre in Keya Paha County for 2015, but at $700 per acre are valued lower than those acres in neighboring Brown and Rock counties.

Wentworth said it was important for property owners to remember that valuations are only one piece of the puzzle in determining the amount of property tax paid.

She said the Keya Paha County Commissioners have held to a zero percent budget increase during each of the past three years, which drops the tax levy requested by the county and therefore does not increase the amount of overall tax paid to that entity. But, even with the county levy dropping, some tax does shift from the residential and commercial side to the agricultural side with the rising valuations in that sector and the static valuations in the residential and commercial classifications.

Wentworth said there are several taxing entities in the county, including the school district and others such as the community college.

She said Northeast Community College always asks for close to its maximum of 10 cents per $100 in property value, regardless of how much valuations increase. However, Wentworth said overall tax increases in Keya Paha County have been small during the past few years.

Driven by sales, agricultural land values in all three KBR counties have shown no signs of peaking, while residential and commercial property has remained nearly static in value.

Turpin reported residential valuations in Rock County would experience a small increase for 2015 based on the 47 sales analyzed over a two-year period.

Commercial values for both Rock and Keya Paha counties remained within the 92 percent to 100 percent window of actual value as mandated by the state, so valuations on that classification of property will not change.

Any property owner in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties who will experience a change in property valuation for 2015, whether an increase or a decrease, will receive notice from the county assessor’s office postmarked by June 1. For those whose property was unchanged, notices are not mailed.

Anyone wanting to protest the value of a parcel of property may request a valuation protest hearing from the County Board of Equalization in each county. The window to file a protest opens after the valuation notices have been sent, and are typically heard by the Board of Equalization in June. The Board of Commissioners in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties also serve as the Board of Equalization for each of their respective counties.

* Brown County 2015 agricultural land values increase sharply, once again

(Posted 4 p.m. March 17)

Agricultural property owners in Brown County hoping a drop in commodity prices would lead to decreased demand for cropland, and therefore a respite from the rising tide of valuations, will be sorely disappointed when 2015 valuation notices are received in the mail.

Assessor Charleen Fox told the Brown County Commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting the prices paid for all classifications of agricultural land continue to increase substantially.

To comply with state statutes that require counties to value agricultural land within 69 percent to 75 percent of its actual value based on three years of sales, Fox said she was forced to adjust all classes of agricultural land upward by 25 percent, with dryland cropland jumping by an average of 30 percent due to a 41 percent increase in the sales prices for ground with the poorest soil rating. The top three soil classifications in dryland cropland increased by 25 percent. Fox said there was not a lot of dryland cropland acreage in Brown County.

“If we did not increase valuations, agricultural land would have been sitting at 58 percent of actual value,” Fox said. “We just didn’t have a choice, we had to get agricultural land into compliance. People are not going to be very happy, but some counties had agricultural land values go up by as much as 50 percent.”

With the state requiring county assessors to use the three most recent years of sales to establish valuations, Fox said the sales from three years ago drop off and the most recent year’s sales are added.

Thus far, there has been no ceiling on the rise in prices paid for agricultural land of all classes, from irrigated to dryland cropland, from grassland to Conservation Reserve Program ground.

Fox said the sales from three years ago were lower in price than the most recent year's sales prices, so the sales that drop off the three-year window are replaced by sales prices that are much higher. Agricultural property owners could see another valuation increase next year, if land sale prices stay at the current level.

“We have a lot of out-of-area buyers,” Fox said. “That seems to be keeping the prices up.”

A total of 56 sales of agricultural property were analyzed. With the prices being paid, the 25 percent jump in valuation across all land classes brings agricultural land to 73 percent of its actual value.

Using the example of the top soil ratings for each classification of agricultural land, pivot-irrigated cropland increased in value from $2,715 per acre to $3,395 per acre. Gravity-irrigated cropland jumped from $1,945 per acre to $2,430.

The top soil rating for grassland took a 25 percent valuation increase, from $545 per acre to $680. Irrigated grassland rose in value from $940 per acre to $1,200 per acre. Conservation Reserve Program grassland values increased from $565 per acre to $705.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, until the Nebraska Legislature comes up with a way to fix the way land is valued, there isn’t anything the commissioners or the assessor can do.

“As much as I hate to see a 25 percent increase for ag land, your hands are tied by the state,” Wiebelhaus said.

Fox said, based on three-year sales figures, current commercial and residential property values fell within the state-mandated level of being between 92 percent and 100 percent of actual value, so those valuations would not need adjustment for 2015.

She said new construction accounted for $6 million in additional valuation for the county in 2015.

Valuations are one factor in determining the amount of tax paid by property owners. After the valuations are set, taxing entities approve budgets with an accompanying levy rate.

The levy rates, coupled with the valuation, determine the amount of tax paid by the property owner.

For example, for a $100,000 home or business, if the county were to approve a 40-cent levy per $100 in property value and the school district were to approve a 90-cent levy per $100 in property value, the property owners would pay $400 in property tax to the county and $900 to the school district for a total of $1,300 in property tax. That would be unchanged from 2014 assuming the same levies from the previous year.
However, on the agricultural side, for a 160-acre, quarter section of pivot-irrigated cropland, the valuation of that land increased from $434,400 in 2014 to $543,200 for 2015. Assuming the same 40-cent general county levy and a 90-cent school levy per $100 in value, the owner of that quarter-section of pivot-irrigated crop land will go from paying $5,647 in property tax to $7,016.

Considering agricultural owners have seen substantial valuation increases during each of the past six years, while residential and commercial property values have remained fairly static, the tax burden being assumed by owners of ag land is becoming more onerous by the year.

There are other taxing entities in addition to the county and school, including Northeast Community College, which can levy up to 10 cents in property tax per $100 in value. The rural fire protection district typically receives 4 cents per $100 in property value. Bonds approved by voters for special projects, such as school or hospital additions, also receive property tax levy commensurate with the amount of money needed to service the bond payments.

Property owners who will see the value of their property change for 2015, whether through an increase or a decrease, will receive notice from the assessor’s office. Fox said those notices will be mailed by June 1.

* Ricketts elected as Nebraska's 40th governor

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 5)

Pete Ricketts will be the 40th governor of the state of Nebraska, winning by a comfortable margin during Tuesday’s General Election.

Ricketts, a Republican, succeeds Dave Heineman, the longest-tenured governor in state history, after 10 years in office. Former State Auditor Mike Foley will be sworn in as the lieutenant governor.

Ricketts received 58.5 percent of the Nebraska vote to just 39 percent for Democrat Chuck Hassebrook. There were 301,646 votes cast for Ricketts, and 203,968 votes for Hassebrook.

Republican Ben Sasse is headed to the U.S. Senate after winning a four-man race for that office over Democrat Dave Domina and Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson.

Sasse received almost 65 percent of the vote in the state, compared to 31 percent for Domina, 3 percent for Jenkins and a little over 1 percent for Watson.

Republican Adrian Smith was comfortably re-elected to another term in the U.S. House of Representatives, winning the Third District race by more than a three to one margin over Democratic challenger Mark Sullivan. Smith received 75.5 percent of the vote in the Third District, with Sullivan receiving 24.5 percent.

Republican incumbent Jeff Fortenberry had no trouble winning another two-year term in the House, defeating Democratic challenger Dennis Crawford by a margin of 69 percent to 31 percent.

It appears Democrat Brad Ashford in District 2 is the only candidate keeping the Republican Party from a clean sweep Tuesday.

Though not yet certified, Ashford has a slim lead over Republican incumbent Lee Terry. Ashford received 76,354 votes, 48.6 percent of the ballots cast. Terry picked up 72,222 votes, 46 percent of the ballots. Libertarian Steven Laird received just over 5 percent of the vote in District 2.

The state’s minimum wage will increase, after voters overwhelmingly favored Ballot Initiative 425. More than 59 percent of Nebraskans favored the state’s minimum wage increasing to $8 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015, and to $9 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016.

Republican Doug Peterson will replace Jon Bruning as the state’s attorney general after Bruning held the office for the past 12 years. Peterson received 66.5 percent of the vote, compared to the 33.5 percent for Democrat Janet Stewart.

In the race to replace Foley as the state auditor, former State Sen. Charlie Janssen, a Republican, bested Democratic candidate State Sen. Amanda McGill by a margin of 59.5 percent to 40.5 percent.

Republicans John Gale and Don Stenberg were easily reelected as secretary of state and state treasurer respectively.

By a 2-1 margin, Tyson Larson won reelection to the Nebraska Legislature in District 40 over challenger Keith Kube. Larson secured 67 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Kube.

In the Subdistrict 2 race for Nebraska Public Power District Board of Directors, Barry DeKay picked up just over 54 percent of the vote to slip past Dan Scheer.

James Lee in Cherry County, Stanley Tuton in Keya Paha County, and Charles Shaw in Rock County were elected to seats on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors.

Larry Poessnecker of Atkinson was reelected to the Northeast Community College Board of Directors in District 2 without a challenge.

Molly O’Holleran won reelection to the Nebraska State Board of Eduction, defeating Robin Stevens by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent.

Sue Weston, Jean Pinney and Duane Gudgel were reelected without opposition to the Educational Service Unit 17 Board of Directors.

Voter turnout in Nebraska was 46.5 percent, with 539,123 of the 1,159,085 registered voters casting a ballot in the General Election.

* Brown County Election results

(Posted 11 p.m. Nov. 4)

The 2014 General Election is in the history books, and the few contested races at the local level in Brown County have been decided.

Two of the three incumbent candidates were elected to four-year terms on the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education.

Incumbent Jim Arens received the most votes in the race with 701, while incumbent Dan Dailey secured 633 votes to win reelection. The third spot on the School Board was decided by 15 votes, with newcomer Erin Bejot Rathe edging incumbent Scott Erthum by a 570 to 555 margin. Jason Atkisson received 400 votes, and Cody Stutzman picked up 250 votes for School Board.

In the only other contested race at the local level, Larry Rice was elected as the Mayor of Ainsworth by a 430 to 145 margin over Myrna Jakob.

Running unopposed and winning offices at the county government level were Commissioners Les Waits (949 votes) and Reagan Wiebelhaus (922 votes), Sheriff Bruce Papstein (1,044 votes) , Treasurer Deb Vonheeder (1,059 votes), Attorney David Streich (920 votes), Assessor Charleen Fox (1,001 votes) and Clerk Travee Hobbs (1,009 votes).

At the city level, Brian Williams and Chuck Osborn were elected to four-year terms on the Ainsworth City Council with 487 and 466 votes respectively.

Spencer Schenk was elected unopposed to a six-year term on the Ainsworth Airport Authority with 475 votes.

Beverly Newport is the next Long Pine mayor, receiving 40 votes in an uncontested race.

David Cheatum and Fred Meyer were elected to the Long Pine City Council, receiving 54 and 52 votes respectively.

Brenda Goeken was the only candidate elected to the Johnstown Village Board. She received 10 votes. Two additional members will be appointed to the board by the four sitting members.

In state and federal races, Brown County voters sided with Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor by a 758 to 293 margin over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.

Voters in the county favored Republican Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate over Democrat Dave Domina, 880 to 176. Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson garnered 49 and 18 votes respectively.

Third District Rep. Adrian Smith, another Republican, won the Brown County vote for another term in the House of Representatives, besting Democrat Mark Sullivan in the county by a 976 to 133 margin.

Republican Doug Peterson earned 903 votes in Brown County in the Nebraska attorney general race to 154 for Democrat Janet Stewart.

State Treasurer Don Stenberg was reelected to his seat, and coasted to a 939 to 107 margin over Democrat Michael O’Hara.

In the race to replace Foley as state auditor, Charlie Janssen secured 803 votes in Brown County compared to 210 for Democrat Amanda McGill.

Molly O’Holleran bested challenger Robin Stevens in the District 7 State Board of Education race in Brown County by a 567 to 240 margin.

All four candidates ran unopposed for four seats on the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Board of Directors, with Dean Jochem At Large, Marty Graff in District 6, Cherryl Lovejoy in District 4 and Justin Hammond in District 2 elected.

Larry Poessnecker of Atkinson ran unopposed for the Northeast Community College Board of Directors District 2 seat.

Jean Pinney in District 5 and Sue Weston in District 1 ran unopposed for seats on the Educational Service Unit 17 Board of Directors.

Initiative 425 to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour was favored by Brown County voters by a 609 to 495 margin.

Brown County voters chose to retain all four judges on the ballot. District 8 Judge Mark Kozisek received 874 votes for retention compared to 176 against. Nebraska Workers Compensation Court judges Laureen Van Norman, Michael High and Thomas Stine were also voted for retention in Brown County, with Van Norman’s margin 646 to 216 in favor of retention, High’s 632 to 226, and Stine’s 641 to 227 to retain.

Voter turnout Tuesday in Brown County was 53 percent, with 1,150 of the 2,150 registered voters casting a ballot in the General Election.

* Rock County Election results

(Posted 10:45 p.m. Nov. 4)

Bassett voters approved the two issue items on the General Election ballot by a comfortable margin Tuesday.

The vote finished at 203 to 58 in favor of establishing an economic development program, and 197 to 63 in favor of imposing a 0.5 percent city sales and use tax with the proceeds to be allocated to the Bassett Economic Development Program.

The new 0.5 percent sales tax will be implemented beginning April 1, 2015, for all products sold inside the Bassett city limits that carry the state sales tax. The 0.5 percent sales tax sunsets on March 31, 2030.

In other Rock County races, Larry Ebert II, Becky LeZotte and Kayti Gordon were elected to the Rock County Public Schools Board of Education. Ebert II received 452 votes, followed by 416 votes for LeZotte.

The margin for the third seat on the School Board was razor thin, with Gordon picking up 346 votes to 342 for Tonya Larson.

Charles Shaw received 247 votes to 92 for Steve Coble to win election to the Rock County seat on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors.

Rick Foxworthy and Cheryl Arrowsmith were elected to the Bassett City Council, with Foxworthy garnering 205 votes and Arrowsmith 194 in the unopposed race. Foxworthy received 493 votes after running unopposed for a six-year term on the Rock County Airport Authority.

Winning election at the county government level and running unopposed were Clerk Joyce Stahl (561 votes), Treasurer Mona Davis (574 votes), Sheriff James Anderson (516 votes), Attorney Avery Gurnsey (505 votes), Assessor Monica Turpin (513 votes) and Commissioners Jim Stout (518 votes) and Stan Larson (418 votes).

Rock County voters supported Tyson Larson for another term in the Nebraska Legislature. Larson won the 40th District vote in Rock County by a 425 to 135 margin over challenger Keith Kube.

In state and federal races, Rock County voters sided with Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor by a 416 to 175 margin over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.

Voters in the county favored Republican Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate over Democrat Dave Domina to the tune of a 496 to 101 spread, with Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson picking up 23 and nine votes respectively.

Third District Rep. Adrian Smith, another Republican, won the Rock County vote for another term in the House of Representatives, besting Mark Sullivan in the county by a 562 to 56 vote.

Rock County voters sided with Republican Doug Peterson over Democrat Janet Stewart, 499 to 81, to be Nebraska’s next attorney general.

Republican Charlie Janssen earned 434 votes to 110 for Democrat Amanda McGill in the state auditor’s race.

Molly O’Holleran secured 233 Rock County votes for the State Board of Education compared to 164 for her challenger, Robin Stevens.

There were three contested races in the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District Board of Directors races, with Chip Whitaker receiving 191 votes in Subdistrict 4 in Rock County to 118 for Jerry Childers.

In Subdistrict 7, Michael Moser earned 165 Rock County votes compared to 114 for Keith Heithoff, and Paul Bartak secured 186 At Large votes to 124 for Christopher Dierks.

The other Natural Resources District Board seats from the Middle Niobrara, Lower Niobrara and Upper Elkhorn were uncontested races.

Initiative 425 to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour passed in Rock County by a 275 to 210 margin.

Rock County voters voted to retain all four judges on the ballot for retention. District 8 Judge Mark Kozisek received 362 votes for retention compared to 142 against. Nebraska Workers Compensation Court judges Laureen Van Norman, Michael High and Thomas Stine were also voted for retention in Rock County, with Van Norman’s margin 305-150 in favor of retention, High’s 286-150 and Stine’s 288-154 to retain.

Voter turnout in Rock County was almost 63 percent, with 644 of the 1,027 registered voters casting a ballot in the General Election.

* Keya Paha County Election results

(Posted 10:30 p.m. Nov. 4)

The only contested local races Tuesday in Keya Paha County were for the Springview Village Board and the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors seat.

Five candidates ran for three open positions on the Springview Village Board. Joe Caulfield was the leading vote-getter with 85 ballots cast in his favor. Larry Hespe finished with 77 votes to win a four-year term on the Village Board, and Rob Painter edged Larry Worth by two votes, 77-75, for the third seat. Michael Swan finished fifth in the race with 57 votes.

In the race for the Keya Paha County seat on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors, Stanley Tuton defeated Kirk Sharp by a margin of 315 to 89.

Bruce Ferguson and Donald Connell were elected to the Keya Paha County Public Schools Board of Education, with 338 and 288 votes respectively. Mark Frick ran as a write-in candidate for the third opening on the School Board, and received 108 votes to earn a seat on the School Board.

Winning reelection at the county level were the slate of uncontested Republican candidates, including Keya Paha County Sheriff Jeff Kirsch (343 votes), Clerk/Assessor Suzy Wentworth (351 votes), Treasurer Sandra McCoy (354 votes), Center District Commissioner Corey Nilson (130 votes) and East District Commissioner Bruce Ritterbush (95) votes.

In state and federal races, Keya Paha County voters sided with Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor by a 275 to 92 margin over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.

Voters in the county favored Republican Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate over Democrat Dave Domina and Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson. Sasse received 313 votes to 53 for Domina, seven for Watson and five for Jenkins.

Third District Rep. Adrian Smith, another Republican, won the Keya Paha County vote for another term in the House of Representatives, besting Mark Sullivan in the county by a 333 to 45 vote.

Keya Paha County voters favored Republican Doug Peterson over Democrat Janet Stewart, 294 to 60, in the race for attorney general.

Republican Charlie Janssen received 261 votes for state auditor to just 63 for Democrat Amanda McGill.

Molly O’Holleran picked up 149 Keya Paha County votes to 83 for Robin Stevens in the State Board of Education race.

All of the Lower Niobrara Natural Resources District and Middle Niobrara NRD candidates ran unopposed in the General Election. Thomas Higgins in Subdistrict 1, Marvin Liewer in Subdistrict 2, Bradley Mahon in Subdistrict 4, Kent Pavlik in Subdistrict 5, Dwain Marcellus in Subdistrict 7, Larry Baumeister in Subdistrict 8 and Sterling Schultz At Large were elected to the Lower Niobrara NRD Board.

Justin Hammond in Subdistrict 2, Cheryl Lovejoy in Subdistrict 4, Marty Graff in Subdistrict 6 and Dean Jochem At Large were elected to the Middle Niobrara NRD Board.

Barry DeKay picked up 136 Keya Paha County votes for the Nebraska Public Power District Board of Director position, compared to 113 for Dan Scheer.

Initiative 425 to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour failed in Keya Paha County by a 196-167 margin.

Keya Paha County voters overwhelmingly voted to retain all four judges on the ballot for retention. District 8 Judge Mark Kozisek received 239 votes for retention compared to 56 against. Nebraska Workers Compensation Court judges Laureen Van Norman, Michael High and Thomas Stine were also voted for retention in Keya Paha County, with Van Norman’s margin 164-60 in favor of retention, High’s 160-63, and Stine’s 161-69 to retain.

Sixty-five percent of Keya Paha County’s 651 registered voters cast a ballot in the General Election.

* Thank-you area firefighters for Second Street response

(Posted 10 a.m. Oct. 17)

I would like to thank the Ainsworth, Bassett and Brown County Rural Volunteer Fire departments for their amazing response Wednesday morning to the Royal Theater Fire on Second Street.
To save our business with a fire burning that hot was an unbelievable accomplishment, and is a testament to the countless hours of training exercises our firefighters have undergone to be able to respond to situations exactly like Wednesday morning’s fire. There is not a paid fire department anywhere that could have done a better job than our area volunteers.
To whoever noticed the flames coming out of the theater at that early hour, thank you. Your call likely saved an entire half block of businesses from burning to the ground.
Thanks to everyone for their well-wishes as we clean up from the smoke. Thanks to the KBRB staff for helping to keep us on the air and operating in these less-than-optimal working conditions, and to Larry Rice and Randy Brudigan for coming down in the middle of the night to rescue what they could while the fire was still burning next door.

Graig Kinzie
KBRB Radio

* Fire causes major damage to Royal Theater

(Posted 9 a.m. Oct. 15)

Ainsworth firemen, assisted by firemen and units from Long Pine, Raven and Bassett, were called out about 3 a.m. Wednesday after someone passing by on Second Street in Ainsworth noticed smoke coming from the Royal Theater.
The fire caused extensive damage to the front lobby area and projector room. The fire also burned through the upstairs portion into the roof. Flames were also coming out of the front of the building. The entire structure suffered smoke and water damage. The recently installed new theater seats were not destroyed but may or may not be able to be used again. In addition to the theater, heavy smoke damage was sustained in adjoining businesses including the offices and studios of KBRB Radio Station, Mundhenke Agency and Ainsworth Motors. The exact cause of the fire is being investigated by the State Fire Marshall and the theater's insurance company. The theater is operated by volunteers.

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Information from the 2012 Wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley

* Additional fire funding in Keya Paha County approved by wide margin

(Posted 7 a.m. Oct. 5)

Just like in Brown County, Keya Paha County voters Thursday overwhelmingly approved additional property tax dollars for the Keya Paha County Rural Fire District.
With just under 70 voters needed to make the town hall meeting official, more than double that amount cast a ballot Thursday in the Springview Grade School multipurpose room.
Ninety-one percent of the 155 voters supported the 8 cents in additional property tax levy for the rural fire district in response to the costs incurred in fighting the Region 24 Complex fires in July.
A total of 141 votes were counted in favor of the additional funding. Just 14 cast ballots against the measure.
By approving the additional 8-cent levy, voters allowed the Keya Paha County Rural Fire District to collect an additional $223,984 to help pay for the extensive costs incurred fighting wildfires during the summer and begin to repair or replace damaged equipment.
Had the additional levy not been approved, the fire district would have had a budget of $41,667 from the 1.5 cents in levy given by the Keya Paha County Commissioners as part of their 2012-13 fiscal year budget. County boards can award up to 4 cents in general levy to fire districts. Anything above that amount must be approved by county voters using either the town hall or special election format.
By using the town hall format Thursday, the additional 8 cents in property tax levy will be collected for one year only.
With the levy passing, residential and commercial property owners in Keya Paha County will pay an additional $80 in property taxes for every $100,000 worth of property value. Agricultural property owners will pay an additional $60 per $100,000 in value.
The 91 percent approval rating in Keya Paha County's town hall vote was even higher than the 85 percent approval rating for Brown County's town hall meeting Sept. 24.

* Nelson praises firefighters and volunteers in weekly column

(Posted 10:15 a.m. July 30)

By Sen. Ben Nelson

In large rural states like Nebraska, we depend heavily on volunteer firefighters to protect our homes and property. These are very special people who deserve our gratitude and respect because of their selfless devotion to a part time job that requires extensive training and doesn’t pay anything.

Their courage and bravery have never been more apparent than during the raging wildfires that have swept across parts of Nebraska this summer. In the face of unknown dangers, hundreds of volunteer firefighters answered the call. They left their paying jobs, their homes and their families to try to quell the dangerous fires.

Heroic Effort

Several hundred volunteers joined forces with federal firefighters and National Guard troops on the front lines of the wildfires. They came from more than 30 communities from all over Nebraska; some traveling hundreds of miles to help out.

They are our heroes. They do what they do out of a sense of duty to their communities and now their state. It is a calling that reaps them no financial rewards. They ask nothing in return for risking their lives, giving of their time and talents to fight the fires and the hours and hours of intense schooling required before they can do what they do. They cannot just get on a truck and put out a fire, especially fires as sprawling and fast moving as these.

It’s difficult to find just the right words to describe Nebraska’s volunteer firefighters, especially those who rose to this occasion. There are times when the actions of some are so heroic and extraordinary that a simple thank you doesn’t seem to be enough even though it’s about all we have to offer other than the food and water that so many generous Nebraskans donated.

Natural Disasters Require Help

When natural disasters like wildfires and drought strike we pull together as Americans and put political differences aside but we also need a little help from Washington.

That’s where the Farm Bill comes in. On a strong bipartisan vote, the Senate passed the Farm Bill that includes a number of provisions for financial relief for those suffering from drought and wildfires. Relief provisions include an authorization of direct and guaranteed loans for recovery from wildfires and drought.  Funding for the construction and rehabilitation of fire breaks, and other pre-suppression efforts. Compensation for ag producers that have incurred livestock and livestock feed losses resulting from wildfires and much more.

But, while Nebraska burns the House plays politics and refuses to bring the bill modernizing farm programs for the next five years to a vote. There’s talk of just extending the last farm bill for a year, which would be another half-hearted move by this Kick the Can Down the Road Congress and wouldn’t provide the certainty our producers need or all drought and fire assistance needed after this summer’s disaster.

I have called on the Speaker of the House to put politics aside. Think of the agriculture producers who are in need of help. Show the same courage as all the volunteers who pitched in to fight the fires. There was no political gamesmanship there. Just a common goal to do the right thing. Now, it’s Washington’s turn to do the same.

* Incident Management Team transitioning out of the area Monday

(Posted 9 a.m. July 30)

According to the daily update from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency on Sunday, fire crews made good progress on the Wentworth and Hall Fires. Both are now at 90 percent containment. The Fairfield Creek Fire is at 100 percent containment and remains in patrol status.
Hot and dry is the forecast for tomorrow and for the immediate future. Fuels will continue to be very receptive to fire and the potential for new starts remains elevated. Residents can expect to see smoke within the interior especially in the afternoon when temperatures are at their highest and relative humidity is at its lowest.
Operations have shifted to demobilizing resources.  On Monday, the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team will transition the incident back to local authorities. The members of the incident management team thank the area communities and the amazing volunteers for their hospitality and cooperation.
No road closures are in place. However, expect heavy emergency vehicle traffic as engines and other resources are released from the fire in route to their home units. 

* Fire containment proceeding, crews heading out of the area

(Posted 8 a.m. July 30)

Many of the state and federal resources in the area to combat the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires began leaving the area during the weekend. While some of the federal officials remain to finish mop-up duties, many of the crews were headed out.
Thank you to everyone who has assisted in any way with the recent fires, from the firefighters on the front lines to the volunteers in the fire halls to the hundreds of people who have donated supplies or funds to assist the effort. North central Nebraska has represented its people well, as have the people who no longer reside here but who have ties to the area.
Those who donated coolers to the fire halls can pick those coolers up, and those who donated air mattresses or cots to the Red Cross for use at the community shelter can pick those items up from Ainsworth Community Schools.
Unfortunately, some people still don't realize the extreme danger of fire in the area. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was called out at 7:35 a.m. Monday to a report of a grass fire in the ditch south of Ainsworth on the Cemetery Road.
According to Fire Chief Brad Fiala, someone threw a lit cigarette from the window of a vehicle, igniting the ditch just north of the Ainsworth South Cemetery.
"If the wind would have been up, that fire would have probably gotten into a grove of trees before we could have got there to put it out," Fiala said.
Though he has not yet taken that step, Fiala said he has received permission from the Nebraska Fire Marshal's Office to ban smoking in Brown County. If a smoking ban is implemented, smoking will be restricted to inside the home and in a vehicle with the windows up.
Fiala encouraged people to be aware of the extreme dry conditions in the area. If fires continue to be sparked from smoking materials, he won't hesitate to issue the ban. If a ban on smoking materials is issued, anyone smoking outside of their homes or their enclosed vehicles can be issued a fine.
Fiala said he does not want to implement a ban, so he warned people not to throw lit cigarettes from their vehicle.
An open fire ban is already in place, yet the Brown County Sheriff's Department and volunteer firefighters have had to respond to several calls of campfires being started in the Long Pine State Park area. Fines can be issued for anyone who is caught with an open fire.

* Fischer commends responders and volunteers Saturday during stops in area

(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 28)

Seeing first-hand the effects of the fires in Keya Paha, Brown and Cherry counties on Saturday, 43rd District State Sen. Deb Fischer said it was a relief to see the progress that has been made on controlling the fires, and she is amazed at the response from the people in the area.
"You see the outpouring of support from all across Nebraska, but especially from the communities here who have been affected by this horrible event," Fischer told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Saturday afternoon.
Fischer said the 43rd District has experienced some major fires during her time in the Legislature, from the Valentine area in 2006 to the Thedford fire a couple years ago and now the fires in this area and in Dawes County, which is now also in the 43rd District.
"I am trying to see how we can get some additional state and private resources to the area to help meet the huge expenses you've incurred," Fischer, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, said.
She said the stories she has heard regarding the volunteer effort and the sacrifices made by so many make her proud to be a Nebraskan.
"It's the fire departments, the ranchers, the volunteers, the wives of the firefighters," Fischer said. "Everyone comes together in a time like this."
To hear the complete report with State Sen. Deb Fischer from Saturday, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Deb Fischer Saturday report.mp3

* Region 24 manager reporting containment efforts progressing

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 28)

Region 24 Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Saturday afternoon substantial progress has been made on the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires in Keya Paha County despite south winds gusting to 25 mph.
Things are starting to look really good," Fox said.
Though there will still be some areas inside the fire lines burning and causing some smoke, work on the edges of the three fires has progressed substantially.
Fox said he took an aerial tour of the site with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, and he anticipated many of the state and federal resources would be departing the area by Monday.
To hear the complete report with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Saturday Afternoon Update.mp3

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency update on containment progress

(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 28)

On Friday, the Wentworth Fire remained in southeastern Keya Paha County remained active with medium to high rates of spread, group tree torching, crown runs and medium range spotting. Crews completed line around the largest of the three fires, the Fairfield Creek Fire, bringing it into 100 percent containment. Progress was made on both the Wentworth and Hall fire containment lines.

Friday night’s thunderstorm provided little moisture and several positive lightning strikes. There continues to be the potential for new starts, active burning and re-burning throughout the areas.

Fairfield Creek - Crews will continue to patrol and mop-up. 

Hall - Crews will hold and improve lines.

Wentworth – Crews will continue securing open line with line construction and firing out operations.  They will also continue to hold and improve line, mop-up and patrol. 

Structure protection will continue on all three fires.

No road closures are in place, however local authorities recommend using Highway 183 as an alternative to Highway 7 as it will have heavy emergency vehicle traffic.

No evacuations are in place at this time.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 73 percent , estimated full containment by Monday

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 74,884 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 5,757; Hall, 2,382)

Personnel: 423, plus approximately 40 Rural Fire Department personnel

Crews: 8 crews on the fire line

Aviation: Five heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light

Engines: 27, plus 20 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 14 residences, 17 associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 152

* Firefighters continue work on Wentworth Fire; river valley picks up some rain

(Posted 7:45 a.m. July 28)

Area firefighters, with support from the National Guard and federal hot-shot crews, continued work into the night with the Wentworth Fire burning in southeastern Keya Paha County.
With the Fairfield Creek and Hall fires both under control, the Wentworth Fire has been the focus of the responders' attention since it broke through a fire line Thursday afternoon.
Reports indicate southeastern Keya Paha County picked up one-quarter of an inch of rain or so from a small line of thunderstorms that moved through the area early Saturday morning. Roger Wentworth in southeastern Keya Paha County reported .20 of an inch of rain from the overnight storm. Wentworth's property absorbed the lightning strike that officials believe started the middle of the three fires - thus the namesake.
There was some lightning with the line of storms, so responders will keep their fingers crossed that no new fires crop up from those strikes.
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala asked area farmers and ranchers to keep all their stock tanks filled. Firefighters can fill their smaller tanks those water sources if necessary.
Preliminary reports indicate 98 different volunteer fire departments have assisted with the Niobrara River valley fires during some portion of the now nine-day response.
Officials are cautiously optimistic that they are in the home stretch of the major firefighting effort.
Preliminary reports show 14 residences have been lost, some of which were occupied full time while others were cabins, and a total of 47 other structures reportedly burned.
Monetary donations continue to be needed to help the fire departments deal with the monumental costs associated with nine days of fighting fire. Information on how to help is located at the top of this page.
Thank you to those who have already donated, as thousands of dollars are coming in to the relief fund to assist the fire departments and those who have lost homes. Additional support in the way of hay, fence posts and trucking have also been donated, not to mention the hundreds of hours of volunteered labor and equipment use from private contractors on the fire lines. There are so many stories of personal sacrifice and heroism, it is impossible to try and mention them individually. Just know all of the communities in this area are so appreciative of everything being done to assist them in this trying time.

* Kerrey proposes expanding drought program, streamlining disaster process

(Posted 7:45 a.m. July 28)

After completing a tour of the fire-affected Niobrara River Valley Thursday, former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey said expanding the crop insurance program and streamlining the disaster declaration process would help the people dealing with the drought and the fires.
Kerrey’s comments came as he returned from a tour of drought and fire-affected areas of north central Nebraska. While there, Kerrey met with fire victims, National Guard personnel, first responders, Forest Service officials and volunteers to learn more about the fire and its impact.
“The response of the volunteer community and the pressure this puts on county and city budgets reminded me of the aftermath of the tornado of 1975 that destroyed hundreds of businesses (including mine), thousands of homes and much more besides,” Kerrey said. “The storm put tremendous pressure on Omaha and Douglas County’s budget. The good news for us was that the area was declared a federal disaster two days later.
“This fire is part of a larger disaster occurring as a consequence of drought conditions. The impact on local governments is substantial. For example, the city of Ainsworth’s Fire Department budget was exhausted in just two hours of fighting this fire. I can’t tell you how impressed I am at the courage, tenacity and effectiveness of everyone involved in this effort. These folks are heroes and I want to do whatever I can to support them. Unfortunately, we may be facing a very long fire season.”  
Based on the information he gathered from the tour, Kerrey offered the following proposals for aiding farmers and ranchers affected by the drought:
“First the House must pass the five-year Farm Bill and renew the disaster programs to deliver relief to our struggling farmers and ranchers,” Kerrey said. “The bill’s enactment would also allow the Department of Agriculture to deliver assistance for livestock feed lost due to the drought and to provide compensation for livestock losses. Finally, the bill provides critical assistance to communities by funding fire prevention and firefighting resources.
“Second, the USDA should press forward with, and Congress should support, its efforts to streamline disaster declarations and speed up the turnaround time for low-interest loans to farmers and ranchers impacted by the drought.
“Third, Congress should consider expanding the crop insurance program for grazing land. The bill generates $23 billion in savings and expands the crop insurance program. I think we should look at rolling some of that savings into expanding the program allowing ranchers to purchase insurance for their pastures and grassland.”
Kerrey's opponent in the U.S. Senate race, State Sen. Deb Fischer, is visiting north central Nebraska today (Saturday).

* Springview fire chief said work continues on Wentworth Fire Friday

(Posted 2:35 p.m. July 27)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock told KBRB just after noon on Friday work continues to solidify the fire line after a breakout of the Wentworth Fire on Thursday afternoon.
Hallock said substantial progress was made overnight and this morning after firefighters were able to stop the breakout before it jumped the Niobrara River into Rock County approximately 2-1/2 miles west of the Carnes Bridge.
According to Deputy Commander Mark Hatcher with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Bravo Team, Thursday's breakout of the Wentworth Fire burned an additional 2,500 acres in southeastern Keya Paha County.
To hear the complete report with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Friday Noon Report.mp3

UPDATE: The Springview Volunteer Fire Department requested mutual aid assistance from the Ainsworth, Long Pine and Bassett departments to fight another small break-out of the Wentworth Fire Friday afternoon and to help with back-burns.
Brown County Sheriff's Department Dispatcher Judy Cole said the civil defense siren did sound in Long Pine for the mutual aid call, but not in Ainsworth as a truck was dispatched by Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala immediately. Cole said five trucks responded to the mutual aid call, including two from Bassett, two from Long Pine and one from Ainsworth.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

These photos were taken Monday from the vantage point of Nancy Reinhardt's ranch southwest of Springview, south of Highway 12 in Keya Paha County. Though the date on the photo says Sunday, the photos were taken Monday as the Fairfield Creek fire broke out to the north, fueled by a gusting south wind and temperatures that topped 105 degrees. Fire lines worked tirelessly to keep the fire contained to the Niobrara River canyons, but it did break the Highway 12 containment line Monday before being pushed back by firefighters. As of Friday, the Fairfield Creek Fire had burned close to 100,000 acres but was close to being declared closed by fire officials.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

A C-130 tanker drops flame retardant on the north end of the Niobrara River valley Monday in an effort to keep the fire from proceeding north. The C-130 planes were based out of South Dakota.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

Fire rages out of a Niobrara River canyon southwest of Springview as firefighters attempt to stop the flames at the canyon. The charred ground and the sod mound in the foreground show firefighters' attempts to create back burns and fire breaks to keep the fire from moving north and racing on flat ground.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

Flames shoot more than 100 feet in the air on Monday as the Fairfield Creek Fire consumed pine and cedar trees on the north edge of the Niobrara River Valley southwest of Springview.

* Fire officials provide updates on firefighting effort on KBRB's Open Line

(Posted noon July 27)

Appearing on KBRB's Open Line program Friday morning, Rocky Mountain Incident Management Response Team Bravo Deputy Commander Mark Hatcher, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency representative Mike White, Region 24 Emergency Management Agency Director Doug Fox and Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala discussed the continued fire response effort, the toll fighting the fires has taken on firefighters and volunteers, the major assistance provided by landowners and volunteer contractors helping to save property in the river valley, and the work that still needs to be done to help the departments pay for the monumental expenses associated with eight straight days of fighting the wildfires in the Niobrara River valley.
Media outlets, there is a bundle of information from these responders on the following audio links from the 40-minute live program. Feel free to use any of the information to help your newscasts. Please credit KBRB Radio as the source of the information.
Thank you to everyone who has played a role in assisting the firefighting effort and helping to spread the word about the serious needs of the area fire departments and those who have lost homes and property in these fires. Information on how to make donations to support the area fire departments and those who have lost homes and property can be found at the top of this page.
Click on the following four links for the complete audio of KBRB's Friday morning Open Line report with the fire officials.

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 1.mp3

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 2.mp3

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 3.mp3

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 4.mp3

* Gov. Heineman shares stories of the volunteers in weekly column

(Posted Noon July 27)

Fighting Fires

By Gov. Dave Heineman

July 27, 2012

 

Dear Fellow Nebraskans:

 

This week, we are monitoring the status of the drought-related fires throughout the state. While the magnitude of the fires and the drought impacts weigh heavy on Nebraskans and the economy of our state, I have been reminded the past few days of the strong resolve and resiliency of our state’s citizens.

Since the fires broke in north-central Nebraska, I have been to the affected communities twice and monitored the damage firsthand. While seeing 72,000 acres of scorched Earth is striking, what I saw in our people is inspiring. In every community, brave volunteer firefighters were on the frontlines, facing temperatures of 120 degrees. At the command posts, responders worked tirelessly to update and coordinate efforts to contain the massive fires, and anticipate the fire’s next moves through behavior modeling. In the communities, family-members and friends of the community provided aid and comfort, gathering donations of food, ice, water, ibuprofen, eye wash, and other necessities.

When meeting with volunteers, firefighters and responders, I heard story after story of the truly remarkable generosity and thoughtfulness of Nebraskans and caring strangers throughout our nation. At the Ainsworth Fire Hall, I spoke with local firefighter Ann Fiala who told me they have received much needed donations from throughout the state and as far away as Maine. Ann said they have had people walk into the Fire Hall and hand them checks for as much as $500 and $1000.

In Norden, volunteer Cathy Fauren, told me she had been volunteering for days on end. Her husband and son were in the fires, and that a simple phone call from them was all she needed to know they were ok. A volunteer in Springview, Linda Sheehan, told me about the Springview Nebraska Community Facebook page, which is covered with photos and encouraging messages.

While driving the recent fire paths in the Niobrara River Valley, the ground was still smoking and smoldering in many spots. As we drove down a dirt road, surrounded by burnt trees on both sides, we stopped to talk with a father and son from Grand Island who were driving the roads, putting out the residual fires in order to prevent a second round of immense burns.

These stories are examples of what makes Nebraska a wonderful place to live. Nebraskans are generous. We care about one another. We are always willing to help others.

At the incident command center in Ainsworth, I was briefed on current efforts. More than 32 volunteer fire departments have helped.  Low humidity, high temperatures, extreme drought, and dry lightning in the weather forecast continue to be major concerns.

This week, we activated the State Emergency Operations Plan in response to the fire emergency in Cherry, Brown and Keya Paha Counties. I declared a State of Emergency in early July, which activated parts of the State Emergency Operations Plan and allowed us additional options for use of state resources. Resources from the State Patrol, the Department of Roads, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are also responding to the emergency.

The Nebraska National Guard continues to mobilize available resources as the response grows. This included the mobilization of three Nebraska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with “Bambi buckets” and approximately 28 personnel to provide support to local firefighters. I also want to acknowledge and thank the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team for their continued efforts on site.

As I write this column, we are close to having the fires contained – thanks to everyone’s hard work and support. We are very proud of you.

* July could join June as one of driest in history

(Posted 7:15 a.m. July 27)

Through the first 26 days of July, the KBRB rain gauge has picked up a total of .32 of an inch of moisture. That .32 total in July follows the third driest June in Ainsworth's history. Just .73 of an inch fell in June, more than 2.5 inches below the average for the month.
July's average rainfall in Ainsworth is 3.95 inches, according to Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborne.
Through 26 days of July, the temperature has climbed above the century mark 12 times, including a high of 109 degrees on Saturday, July 21, one of the worst days firefighters had trying to fight the Fairfield Creek Fire.
An additional 10 days in July have been above 90 degrees, including three readings of 99 degrees. That is 15 of the 26 days in July with temperatures of 99 degrees or above, with what could be the least amount of precipitation for July in Ainsworth's history.
Anyone with step by step directions on a tried and true rain dance, feel free to pass them along to KBRB and we will hold a community training session.

* Niobrara River opening to Rock Barn today for float trips

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

The Niobrara River is for float trips beginning today from the launch are at Fort Niobrara to Rock Barn. Before today, the river had been closed east of Smith Falls State Park.
Firefighters continue to use River Road to access the fire line and continue mop-up operations on the Fairfield Creek Fire. Visitors and those traveling in the fire area are urged to use extreme caution as emergency vehicles and firefighters will continue to be working in the River Road area.
The public is also reminded that there are still hazards to be cautious of in the fire area. Smoke may continue to be visible during the next few days as unburned fuels and smoldering logs located inside the perimeter continue to burn. Also, trees that may have been weakened by the fire could fall without warning. Please use caution near the fire area, and while traveling on roads adjacent to the fire area.

* New concerns as the Wentworth fire flares up and heads toward Carnes

(Posted 5:30 p.m. July 26)

Just when it looked like progress was being made, winds picked up out of the northwest this afternoon in Keya Paha County and the Wentworth Fire jumped a fire line sending flames toward the Carnes Bridge area between Keya Paha and Rock counties. Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB fire officials are trying to get as many units into that area as possible. He said they have fire crews from Bassett, Naper, Tripp County, S.D., in addition to the federal firemen. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was also sending trucks to the area. Fox said the south moving fire line was near Walker Creek, which is just a half-mile west of Carnes. 

8:30 p.m. July 26 UPDATE: Doug Fox reports that the fire crews working on the Wentworth Fire flare-up in southeast Keya Paha County Thursday afternoon and evening were able to stop the fire before it reached the Niobrara River and the Carnes Bridge area. Listen for more complete information when fire officials appear on the KBRB Open Line program Friday morning.

* Updated NEMA map shows progress made on all 3 Niobrara Valley fires

(Posted 3:30 p.m. July 26)
 images/20120726_Region24Complex_NE_NES_120791_PIOThreeFire_MapCompressed_11x17.JPG
(Image courtesy of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency)

Instead of producing a smaller version of the map on the site, please click on the above link for the full-scale version. Areas in black indicate fire lines that are secure. Areas in red show boundaries of the fires that have not yet been completely contained. Thank you to the hundreds of folks who responded to our offer to email the full-scale version of the map we placed on our Web site on Tuesday. We tried to get the full-scale version emailed as quickly as time allowed, but we hope this method of delivery works a little better! This is the largest version of the map we have to view. The map may be available in an even larger form on the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency's site, but not confirming that.

* Bob Kerrey tours area, visits with fire officials and volunteers

(Posted 3 p.m. July 26)

Former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey visited Ainsworth and Springview Thursday afternoon, touring the command center in the Ainsworth Conference Center and visiting with firefighters and volunteers in the fire halls on the front lines of the response.
"You start with the volunteer effort," Kerrey said. "The federal communications officer said she has been working on fires for 25 years and she has never seen a better community response."
He said he heard story after story of individual heroism while talking with firefighters.
"There are some great, heroic stories coming out of these fires," Kerrey said. "You have stories of firefighters turning at once, holding the line together and stopping the flames. They did it. They stopped the fire. It didn't have to be that way."
Kerrey said the main assistance that can be provided at the federal level is passing a Farm Bill and allowing the president to have the authority to declare these areas a federal disaster and unlock funding assistance.
Kerrey is the Democratic Party candidate for U.S. Senate. His Republican opponent in the General Election race, 43rd District State Sen. Deb Fischer, has said she plans to be in Ainsworth on Saturday.
To hear the complete report from former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Bob Kerrey Thursday visit.mp3

* Springview fire chief reports substantial progress, mounting expenses

(Posted 1:30 p.m. July 26)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said the Hall fire in southeastern Keya Paha County has been contained, and crews are finishing fire lines on the south end of the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County today.
The Wentworth Fire started Saturday from a lightning strike, a day after the Fairfield Creek Fire, the largest of the three fires, ignited from a lightning strike in northwestern Brown County. The Hall Fire sparked up on Monday.
Hallock said weary area firefighters are finally starting to get a break, as federal hot-shot crews are working on the fire lines and removing hotspots.
The Springview fire chief said the current fuel bill for the department is more than $60,000, which is equal to or above the department's entire annual budget.
In addition to the North Central Development Center fund that has been established to assist the fire departments and those who lost homes and livelihoods, an additional fund has been created for the Springview department.
Donations can be made to the Springview Fire Hall at PO Box 204, Springview, NE 68778, or to West Plains Bank at PO Box 189, Springview, NE 68778. Write "fire relief" in the check's memo line.
To hear the complete report from early Thursday afternoon with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Thursday Noon Report.mp3

* NEMA reports Meadville evacuation lifted, Highway 12 reopened to traffic

(Posted noon July 26)

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency reports the evacuation notice for Meadville has been lifted, and Highway 12 west of Springview has reopened to traffic.  Crews on Thursday are focusing on improving fire lines, mopping up hot spots, patrolling the fires' perimeters and protecting any structures still at risk.
State and federal officials estimated full containment of all three fires by Sunday.

The weather is forecasted to be warmer and drier through the weekend with possibility of afternoon thunderstorms along with accompanying lightning.  Fuels are still very receptive to fire and the possibility for new starts remains elevated.

“We currently have sufficient fire resources on the incident," Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said. "If additional resources are needed, local fire chiefs will put out a call for assistance."

While Highway 12 is open to traffic, the Nebraska State Patrol recommends motorists use caution when traveling in the area.

Volunteer evacuations have been lifted for Meadville and Norden.

The Niobrara River between County Line and Brewer bridge remains closed but is scheduled to reopen on Friday.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 50 percent, estimate containment by July 29

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 72,405 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 3,278; Hall, 2,382)

Personnel: 480, plus approximately 80 Rural Fire Department personnel

Crews: 7 crews on the fire line

Aviation : Four heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light.

Engines: 38, plus 40 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 152

* Fox says paying for cost of fighting fire will be a massive effort

(Posted 10 a.m. July 26)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said fuel costs for the Springview Fire Department have surpassed $60,000, and fuel costs alone for the Ainsworth Fire Department are estimated at $150,000. Both of those totals surpass the entire annual budget for both departments.
Fox told KBRB's Grag Kinzie Thursday funds will be needed to pay for the costs associated with fighting the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires, as those bills will be due long before any state or federal grant funds are received.
The Region 24 emergency manager said the Fairfield Creek Fire is contained, while work continues on the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County.
"There will be more air drops there today," Fox said. "Hot shot crews are being sent into the fire's perimeter to down trees and create fire lines within the hot areas of the fire.
"The members of those crews are from all over the country," Fox said. "They have done a lot of work taking down trees inside the fire areas. Those guys have been a great asset."
Fox said, within the next couple days, he hopes to report that all three fires are completely contained.
To hear the complete report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox from Thursday morning, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Thursday AM Update.mp3

* Heineman says entire state focused on north central Nebraska efforts

(Posted 9 a.m. July 26)

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman joined KBRB's Graig Kinzie Thursday morning to discuss the effort statewide to support the firefighters and volunteers in the area.
To hear the complete report with Gov. Heineman, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Gov Dave Heineman Thursday Report.mp3

* UN-L Extension taking donations to help cattle producers affected by fires

(Posted 6:50 a.m. July 26)

North central Nebraska livestock producers have been hit with a one-two punch -- drought and now fire. The extremely dry conditions, coupled with a fire that is burning tens of thousands of acres of pasture land, have caused a disaster of major proportions.
The fire has consumed hundreds of miles of permanent fence, along with what little summer grass was left for several thousand cows and calves to feed on. The fences that have been destroyed will have to be rebuilt before grazing can resume next year, if weather conditions permit a good growing season.
The North Central Development Center in Ainsworth has set up a fund to take monetary donations to help with the cost of the fire. Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210.
Donations of wire and post may be delivered to the Farmers and Ranchers Co-op in Ainsworth, 224 S. Main St. The contact person is Plant Manager Rocky Sheehan at 402-387-2810.
Individuals who want to specify their donations to help with fencing materials and hay may send checks to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension office in Ainsworth. The mailing address is BKR Extension Office, 148 W. Fourth St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Donations will be deposited into the NCDC Fire Relief Fund.
All funds collected will go to help those who have been affected by the fire. All needs will be taken from the fund, whether it is fencing, hay, feed for animals, personal needs of those impacted by the fire and help for fire departments that have responded to the distress.
For more information, contact the UN-L Extension Office in Ainsworth 1-800-634-8951 or e-mail dbauer1@unl.edu. The NCDC can be contacted at 402-387-2740 for more information.

* Red Cross has delivered more than 4,000 meals to firefighters, volunteers

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 26)

Additional volunteers are supporting the relief efforts in north central Nebraska. A total of 21 Red Cross volunteers and staff have been supporting residents and the fire departments who are responding, including four additional volunteers who deployed late Tuesday from northeast Nebraska. Three emergency response vehicles have been on scene providing mobile feeding.
As responders continue to battle the blaze, the Red Cross is reaching out to those whose homes were affected. Case work volunteers are meeting with affected residents to provide food, shelter, comfort and care as needed. Residents affected by the wildfires are urged to call (888) 382-3790 to talk with one of the trained Red Cross volunteers.
Red Cross volunteers will continue to deliver prepared meals to seven fixed sites where responders can escape the intensity of the sun and flames to rehydrate and refuel. There are cots and volunteers there to assist those who are working to contain the fires. So far the Red Cross has served more than 4,000 meals and snacks both in the shelter and to the emergency responders on the front lines.
The Red Cross shelter remains open in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. in Ainsworth. More than 70 residents, responders and volunteers have stayed at the shelter where they find comfort and care from trained Red Cross Volunteers. Disaster workers in emergency response vehicles are circulating in and near affected areas, delivering water and food, supplies and comfort items.  The Red Cross is working with community partners to provide support.
You can help people affected by disasters such as floods, tornadoes, fires and hurricanes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. To make a donation, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767); people can also text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

* Ainsworth fire chief close to declaring Fairfield Creek Fire contained

(Posted 7:15 p.m. July 25)

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, after six straight days of battling wildfires, told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Wednesday evening he was close to declaring the nearly 100,000-acre Fairfield Creek Fire contained.
"Everything on the south side of the Fairfield Creek Fire has been cold for more than 24 hours, so that is good," Fiala said. "We still have some hot spots west of Norden, but the Valentine crews are doing an excellent job getting that area mopped up."
Fiala said, even if fire officials declare the Fairfield Creek Fire closed soon, there will still be some hot spots along the entire corridor for days to come.
"Don't be too alarmed if you see some smoke for a few days," the Ainsworth fire chief said. "Even if something starts back up, it shouldn't go far. We are still going to be monitoring the area, so if you do see flames let us know."
Fiala said there was an all-out aerial assault today on the Wentworth and Hall fires in southeastern Keya Paha County.
"When I went out and visited the Wentworth Fire today, I didn't see any smoke to the east with the Hall Fire," Fiala said. "They really knocked that one down today."
Fiala said, after six straight days of fighting fire on little rest in demanding weather conditions and terrain, the volunteers are looking forward to getting back to their regular jobs.
"This is our sixth day, and it is still kind of a blur to me," the Plains Equipment employee said. "We need to get back to work and get back to our jobs. It will be nice to get back to our jobs just to get our mind on something different."
He said the costs incurred battling the fires by the area departments are going to be staggering.
"When you get 70, 80, 90 trucks going full bore all day and all night long, that fuel bill is going to be tremendous," Fiala said.
Fuel costs alone could reach the neighborhood of $150,000, and the fire chief said that might be a low estimate. He said the support from the communities, the entire state of Nebraska, and nationwide, is unbelievable, and the volunteers have a hard time putting it into words.
"We have said for years, this is why we live in the place we do," the Ainsworth fire chief said of the area's response. "The overwhelming support we have received has been remarkable."
The North Central Development Center has set up a fund to assist all the area fire departments fighting the Niobrara River valley fires and to assist those who have lost their homes. Checks can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Mention the fire relief effort in the check's memo line. Donations will go to all of the area fire departments. All donations are tax deductible, as the North Central Development Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization.
To hear the complete Wednesday evening report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Fire Chief Brad Fiala Wednesday Evening.mp3

* Communications infrastructure one of the key elements of firefighting efforts

(Posted 7 p.m. July 25)

With the massive effort of more than 40 local fire departments, state of Nebraska resources, the Nebraska Army National Guard and federal officials in the area combating the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires, communications infrastructure was just one of the vital pieces needed to coordinate the response.
Brian Delimont with Three River Communications discusses with KBRB's Graig Kinzie the communications needs of the various agencies. Click on the audio link below to hear the complete report:

audio clips/Communications Report w Brian Delimont.mp3


(Photo courtesy of Cody Croghan)

Fire burns above the Niobrara River canyon on Monday as the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County jumped out of the river valley. Firefighters pushed the fire back into the canyon Monday night, then spent Tuesday combating a change in wind direction that sent the Wentworth Fire south toward the Niobrara River.


(Photo courtesy of Cody Croghan)

A Blackhawk helicopter hovers near a raging portion of the Wentworth Fire Monday afternoon in Keya Paha County. As of Wednesday evening, the Wentworth Fire had been contained to the canyons on the north side of the Niobrara River valley in southeastern Keya Paha County.

* KBRB's Larry Rice begins putting voices to the volunteer effort

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 25)

With the KBRB one-man news team chasing down the latest information on the progress being made to combat the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires burning in Keya Paha, Brown and Cherry counties, former one-man news team Larry Rice is beginning a series highlighting just a few of the stories from the thousands of volunteers who have had an impact on the fire-fighting effort. The following audio report with a 7-year-old Pender boy is the first of that series.

audio clips/Larry Rice Report on Volunteer Effort.mp3

* Fire halls appreciative of donations, cash for fuel bills needed at this point

(Posted noon July 25)

The Ainsworth, Springview and Bassett Fire halls are reporting they have a substantial supply of water, food and sports drinks. With the area departments racking up extremely expensive fuel bills, cash donations are needed to help the area departments pay for those massive fuel costs. Fuel bills for each department are in the tens of thousands of dollars. At last report, the Springview Fire Department's fuel bill alone was more than $60,000.
Cash donations can be made to the fire halls in Brown, Rock, Keya Paha and Cherry counties. The North Central Development Center has set up a fund to assist all the area fire departments fighting the Niobrara River valley fires and to assist those who have lost their homes.
Checks can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Mention the fire relief effort in the check's memo line. Donations will go to all of the area fire departments. All donations are cash deductible, as the North Central Development Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization.
The volunteers working in all of the area fire halls thank all those who have made a donation and volunteered to help. The support has been phenomenal. From the firefighters on the front lines to the volunteers in the fire halls and those helping the Red Cross purchase and prepare meals, thank you to everyone who has helped provide support.
Your help will continue to be needed when the fires are extinguished, as the costs to these small departments will otherwise be monumental.

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Update

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 25)

Effective at 6 a.m. Wednesday the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires were combined and renamed the Region 24 Complex. The incident will continue to be managed by local units with the Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team B providing assistance and coordination.

On Tuesday, Gov. Dave Heineman visited the fire and affected communities.  “I’m very impressed with the interagency coordination,” he said. “I’d like to express my personal gratitude to the firefighters and especially all the volunteers working the incident.”

In spite of the extreme fire weather yesterday, good progress was made on all three fires. Crews were successful in constructing and securing line along several sections of the fires. 

With the projected cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity expected today Todd Pechota, the commander for the Rocky Mountain team, said he is optimistic that they might have turned the corner on this incident.  “However, it’s not over yet - one shift of the wind and we could be off to the races again,” Pechota said. 

According to Doug Fox, Region 24 Emergency Management Director, “We currently have sufficient resources on the incident. If additional resources are needed local fire chiefs will put out a call for assistance.”

A cold front moved through the area last night bringing cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity. Combined with winds out of the north-northwest, this will help moderate fire behavior. 

Additional air resources are expected on the fire today.  They include six heavy-lift helicopters (three Black Hawks, a K-max, a Sky Crane, and a Boeing Vertol) for a total of eight helicopters.  Another K-Max is en route to the complex today.  Break-out by division:

  • Division A (Fairfield Fire): Continue to improve and hold fire line.

  • Division C (Fairfield Fire): Continue to hold and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division E (Fairfield Fire): Continue to hold and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division H (Fairfield Fire): Continue to hold and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division O (Wentworth Fire): Secure line and provide structure protection.

  • Division M (Wentworth Fire): Construct and improve line along Hwy 7.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division X (Hall Fire): Hold and and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division Z (Hall Fire): Hold and improve line.

Volunteer evacuations are still in place for Meadville.

Niobrara River is closed for recreational use between County Line and Brewer bridges.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 25 percent

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 72,405 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 3,278; Hall, 2,382)

Personnel: 321, plus approximately 80 Rural Fire Department personnel

Aviation : Six Heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light.

Engines: 30, plus 40 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 128

* Firefighters making progress in difficult terrain

(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 25)

Anyone who claims Nebraska is nothing but flat land needs to spend a day in the shoes of the firefighters who have been fighting raging wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley since Friday.
The steep, wooded terrain in the canyons on both sides of the Niobrara River have proved to be a difficult opponent for the fire crews. Heavy equipment from the Nebraska Department of Roads and private contractors who have volunteered to assist the effort have been working to knock down trees and clear paths into areas otherwise not accessible. That equipment is also being used to create the fire lines, which have helped stall the fires' progress in several areas.
Ainsworth Firefighter Nate Rau said he has been working west end of Fairfield Creek and west of Norden, an area where on Tuesday fire officials concentrated their efforts to keep the Fairfield Creek Fire from breaking a fire line and burning unabated to the west.
"We have been doing our best to make sure it doesn't get any farther west," Rau told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Wednesday morning at the Ainsworth Fire Hall while awaiting orders on where he would be deployed. "It is rough. There is no way to get two-wheel trucks in there."
Rau said, though not working frequently in areas where aerial drops have been made, he has seen their impact.
"They have been helping," Rau said. "We had one Saturday morning drop about right on me, and that cooled me off quite a bit."
To hear the complete report with Ainsworth Firefighter Nate Rau, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Firefighter Nate Rau.mp3

* Wednesday efforts to focus on Wentworth, Hall fires

(Posted 10 a.m. July 25)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said progress continues to be made in containing the Fairfield Creek Fire burning in southwest Keya Paha, northwestern Brown and eastern Cherry counties.
Fire officials are focusing their efforts Wednesday on the Wentworth and Hall fires burning in southeastern Keya Paha County.
"Additional ground units are being moved east to assist with the Hall and Wentworth fires," Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Wednesday morning. "There is a concern that both of those fires could jump the Niobrara River to the south, but the federal officials are confident the aerial drops can keep the fire contained to north of the river."
Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said firefighters on the front lines of the Wentworth and Hall fires had another exhausting night, first keeping the fire from jumping out of the canyons to the north, then watching as the wind shifted to the north and fires began blazing a new path to the south.
"There is just no way for the ground forces to get in front of it to the south," Hallock said. "The Wentworth Fire is in some very deep canyons. We don't have a way to contain it after the wind shifted."
Hallock said the Niobrara River will be used as the southern containment line for the fires, and additional crews are massing to create fire breaks to try and keep the fires from moving east and threatening additional homes.
Fox said at least nine aircraft will be focused on dropping water and fire retardant on the Hall and Wentworth fires.
As for the Fairfield Creek Fire, Fox reported containment continues to progress, and firefighters made significant progress on the fire's southwest, northwest and southeast boundaries.
"With the resources going to the east today, I am fairly optimistic that in the next few days we can get these fires to the point of being mop-up situations and we can get the job finished," Fox said.
To hear the complete Wednesday morning reports with Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox and Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio links below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Wednesday AM Report.mp3

audio clips/Springview Chief Scott Hallock Wednesday.mp3


(Photo courtesy of Emily Estes of Stuart)

A C-130 tanker drops flame retardant on a fire burning Tuesday afternoon in the Niobrara River canyon. Firefighters pushed the flames back into the canyon in an attempt to protect Greg Bammerlin's home in southeastern Keya Paha County threatened by the Hall Fire.


(Photo courtesy of Emily Estes of Stuart)

Firefighters from Keya Paha County and several other assisting departments work to save Greg Bammerlin's home in southeastern Keya Paha County Tuesday afternoon as the Hall Fire moves north out of the Niobrara River canyons.


(Aerial photos of the Fairfield Creek Fire courtesy of Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

The Fairfield Creek fire burns the bluffs on the north side of the Niobrara River in Keya Paha County on Monday.


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

The Fairfield Creek fire, which jumped Nebraska Highway 12 Monday and moved north into the grasslands of Keya Paha County. Firefighters stopped the fire.


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

Sgt. Richard Shearer of the Nebraska National Guard watches for their target for their bucket of water as the Blackhawk helicopter fights the Fairfield Creek fire.


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

The Fairfield Creek fire north of Nebraska Highway 12 on Monday. Firefighters stopped the fire from continuing north, but 150 acres burned and a home was lost north of Highway 12.

To view Biermann's photo gallery taken from a Blackhawk helicopter above the Fairfield Creek Fire, click on the following link:
http://odc.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=5002&p=3787

* Fiala reports major progress Tuesday on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted 9 p.m. July 24)

Sounding optimistic for the first time since the Fairfield Creek Fire ignited Friday morning, Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala reported major progress was made on all fronts Tuesday despite another day of extreme heat and south winds.
Fiala said substantial progress was made on the south side of the Niobrara River in the Plum Creek and Meadville areas.
"A large effort was focused on knocking down the flames there because of concerns with the wind possible shifting to the north later tonight," Fiala told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday evening.
The fire chief said there are still several hotspots north of Norden, southeast of the community of Sparks. On Monday night, fire officials were concerned that Sparks could be in the path of the fire if it continued to progress to the northwest Tuesday.
"We had some large flare-ups there, but we had two Blackhawk helicopters and one Huey dumping from the air," Fiala said. "We made a lot of progress in that area today."
Fiala said, with the number of volunteer crews who have responded to the area to help with the three fires burning in the Niobrara River valley, the Ainsworth crew was going to be pulled off the fire for a night of rest and to allow the department's equipment to be checked and serviced if needed.
"Some other departments have had some equipment problems, so we are pulling everyone off the fire tonight and giving them a night of rest," Fiala said. "We'll get our trucks checked out and hit it hard again tomorrow.
To hear the complete report Tuesday evening with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Brad Fiala Tuesday Night Report.mp3

* Heineman hopeful containment of the fires is progressing

(Posted 7 p.m. July 24)

After visiting Ainsworth, Springview and Norden Tuesday and hearing a briefing from Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team officials, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said he is hopeful meaningful progress is being made in combating the three major fires burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties.
"My sense is we are on the verge of making some significant progress to contain the fires, and that would certainly be very good news for all of us," Heineman told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday evening. "I am pleased to see all the federal, state and local forces working together."
Heineman said the volunteer spirit and effort being displayed in north central Nebraska makes him proud.
"We are in a much stronger position today trying to contain the fires," Heineman said. "I can see we are making progress, but the weather still makes you nervous."
Heineman said the state's focus will remain on assisting the volunteer fire departments in the area until the fires are completely under control.
To hear the complete report with Gov. Dave Heineman from his Tuesday evening conversation with KBRB, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Gov Heineman Tuesday Evening Report.mp3

* North central Nebraska not the only area dealing with fires

(Posted 6 p.m. July 24)

Hot, dry weather and stronger western winds helped Ash Creek Fire jump a line and grow to approximately 1,000 acres and 20 percent containment, compared to this morning’s 300 acres and 25 percent containment.

Steve Lenzo, deputy forest supervisor, said, “We ordered a Type 2 Incident Management Team that is expected to arrive tomorrow by mid-afternoon.  At this time there have been no evacuations or structures lost. There was one injury.”

Most of the fire growth is attributed to weather, especially shifting western winds. Additionally, fire crews’ efforts are hindered by steep ravines and rugged terrain.

The Ash Creek fire started from a Saturday late night lightning storm in the Pine Ridge National Recreation Area approximately 20 miles southwest of Chadron.

* Hallock reports Wentworth, Hall fires flaring, but firefighters keeping up

(Posted 5:30 p.m. July 24)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock told KBRB Radio late Tuesday afternoon the Wentworth and Hall fires burning in southeastern Keya Paha County are again trying to climb out of the Niobrara River Canyons, jump fire lines and move north, but firefighters have been able to get the fires put out before they gain much steam north of the fire lines that have been built.
Hallock said additional manpower and equipment is on scene at the Wentworth and Hall fires today, helping to keep both fires from gaining momentum.
Federal officials are anticipating a wind change Tuesday night, with winds expected to move from southerly to northerly. While Hallock said crews are prepared to combat them if the flames move south, having the fire move back onto ground that has already burned may help firefighters gain even more grounds.
For the complete report from 5 p.m. Tuesday with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Tuesday 5 PM update.mp3

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency provides map of fires

(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 24)


Map provided by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency

(A larger copy of the map can be emailed by providing a return email address to kbrb@sscg.net, but will be forwarded only as staff time allows)
With the Niobrara River dissecting it, the large orange area on the left is the Fairfield Creek Fire, which is burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties on both sides of the Niobrara River. That fire started Friday morning in northern Brown County from a lightning strike. The western edge of the fire is the prime concern for firefighters today, as they are trying to keep the fire east of the fire breaks that have been created along the river valley.
The area jutting to the northern end of the fire area represents the ground that was burned Monday evening after the fire broke the containment line north of Highway 12 approximately 3 miles west of Cub Creek. A home was destroyed when the fire broke north of Highway 12 before firefighters could get it stopped. Approximately 150 acres burned north of Highway 12.
The center orange area represents the scope of the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County. After starting from a lightning strike Saturday, the fire raced to the north Monday afternoon before being pushed back by firefighters into the Niobrara River canyons Monday night.
The far right orange area is the Hall Fire burning in southeastern Keya Paha County. That fire started on Monday and moved quickly to the north, fueled by south winds gusting to 25 mph. Firefighters were able to halt the progress of the Wentworth and Hall fires before any homes were lost.

* Red Cross serving 1,800 meals per day to firefighters, volunteers; donations of cash, bananas, snack mixes and beef jerky sought

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 24)

Mindy Mangus, the disaster services manager with the Central Plains Chapter of the American Red Cross, said volunteers with the Red Cross are cooking and serving as many as 1,800 meals daily to assist the firefighters and volunteers working in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties.
Mangus told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday the Red Cross is delivering meals to 10 staging areas near the front line of the fires, and volunteers are preparing as many as 600 meals per meal from their location at Ainsworth Community Schools.
Mangus said the communities have been very welcoming and appreciative of the Red Cross, and the volunteer support has been tremendous.
She said, in addition to cash donations to help support the 100 percent volunteer effort, the Red Cross can use bananas, Chex Mix, peanuts, and snack items such as beef jerky that are sent out with the prepared meals. Those items can be delivered to Ainsworth Community Schools.
The work of the Red Cross is completely voluntary, and free of charge for those receiving its services. Red Cross operations are paid for through the generosity of the American public.
For the complete report with Mindy Mangus, click on the audio report below:

audio clips/Mindy Mangus w the Red Cross.mp3

The Red Cross has mobilized to support area residents and the more than 30 fire fighting departments who are responding to the Fairfield Creek Wildfire in north central Nebraska with urgently needed hydration, meals and a shelter to comfort those in need. 
So far, the Red Cross has served 2,583 meals and snacks both in the shelter and to the emergency responders at the front lines. The organization has also provided cots and other relief items to firefighters in multiple staging areas set up in the field.
The Red Cross shelter remains open in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. in Ainsworth.
Displaced residents and responders can find comfort and care from trained Red Cross Volunteers. Disaster workers in emergency response vehicles are circulating in and near affected areas, delivering water and food, supplies and comfort items. The Red Cross is working with community partners to provide support.
The easiest way to help is to make a financial donation. Financial donations are the best option to support those in need because they offer agencies, like the Red Cross, the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources. Donations of goods require helping agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing relief services to sort, transport, warehouse and distribute items that may not meet the needs of those affected by the disaster.
You can help people affected by disasters such as floods, tornadoes, fires and hurricanes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support AmericanRed Cross Disaster Relief. To make a donation, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).  Contributions may also be sent to a local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

* Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team volunteers preparing 1,800 meals daily

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 24)

Andrew Lee of North Platte is one of the 17 volunteers from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team assisting the American Red Cross by cooking meals at Ainsworth Community Schools for the firefighters battling the fires burning in the area and the volunteers working to help support the firefighting effort.
Lee said the Southern Baptist team volunteers have been welcomed warmly to the area, and are working hard to provide the firefighters and volunteers with the energy they need to sustain their effort.
For the complete report with Andrew Lee from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team Report.mp3

* Johanns says he will pursue additional federal resources if needed

(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 24)

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns said on Tuesday he is monitoring the fires burning in the Niobrara River Valley, and will pursue additional federal resources for the area if needed.
“This summer’s drought has adversely affected nearly every Nebraskan and is now exacerbating the wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley,” Johanns said. “My thoughts are with those who have been displaced, who have lost homes, or whose livelihoods are being threatened. I also want to join every Nebraskan in thanking the firefighters, National Guard and other emergency responders for their dedicated, tireless service as they work to extinguish this blaze.
“I am closely monitoring the situation and in contact with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and county officials. If additional federal assistance is required, I’m ready to ensure that aid is delivered quickly and efficiently.”

* Officials provide Gov. Heineman with an update on fire progress

(Posted 2:30 p.m. July 24)

Officials with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team provided Gov. Dave Heineman and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency officials with an update on the three fires burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties.
Officials said the priority for fire officials today is the western lines of the Fairfield Creek Fire. A substantial effort is being made to stop the western progress of the fire, which has entered Cherry County west of the Rocky Ford area.
With fire crews launching a massive effort to create fire breaks in that area, if the fire jumps those breaks and continues west, it will be extremely difficult to contain.
Heineman said any state resources needed will be available to combat the three fires burning in the Niobrara River valley.
"We don't want these fires going on for another two or three weeks," Heineman said. "With the conditions we have across the state, we could see more and more fires spring up."
Heineman asked about a realistic estimate for having the fires brought under control.
"I know that is hard a question to answer at this point, but do you have any sense on when you can say it is contained?" Heineman asked.
The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team officials indicated, unless the fires erupted again Tuesday afternoon and evening and broke out past the fire lines, that the fires could be contained in approximately three days, though they said there are still several factors that could alter that timeline.
Officials estimated the containment of the Fairfield Creek Fire at 15 percent on Tuesday, though they said they hoped that percentage would go up by nightfall.
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said there are an additional 22 to 24 pieces of fire equipment moving into the area today from surrounding volunteer departments.
"That is going to allow some of these departments that have been up here for a while to rotate back out," Fox said.
Though costs of the federal and state resources used in the fire-fighting effort were briefly discussed, Heineman said the first priority was getting the fires controlled.
Following the briefing, Heineman toured the Norden area to see first-hand the damage caused by the Fairfield Creek Fire as it moved through that community on Friday night.
Following a tour of the area today, Heineman will appear on KBRB to talk about the firefighting efforts and the state and federal response.

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Tuesday fire report, statistics

(Posted 12:50 p.m. July 24)

“We will coordinate and integrate efforts with local, state and federal resources to be effective as possible,said Incident Commander Todd Pechota at this morning’s briefing. “The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team 2B is interagency, comprised of state and local resources, as well as federal. Our role is to assist and coordinate state and local fire management.”

Hot, dry conditions are expected for another day at the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth fire and Hall fires in north central Nebraska close to the Niobrara River. A total of approximately 65,580 acres have burned.

The Fairfield fire is approximately 58,560 acres and straddles the river. The Wentworth fire is 20 miles east of the Fairfield Creek fire and 3 miles north of the river. It is estimated at 2,595 acres.

A new fire started yesterday approximately 6 miles east of the current Wentworth fire and 3 miles north of the river.  It has been labeled the Hall Fire and was estimated at 1,425 in size. Both the Wentworth and Hall fires are east of Springview.

For most of Tuesday hot and dry weather is expected.  A heat advisory is in effect until 9 p.m. on Tuesday and a Red Flag Warning is in effect for winds and low relative humidity. Late afternoon severe weather with high winds is forecast with the potential to affect fire behavior.

Work continues on the four divisions of the Fairfield Creek fire:

Division A (southwest) Cherry County Fire District—continue to establish and hold line.

Division C (northwest): Springview Fire District, Keya Paha County--hold line and burn-out where possible to bring defensible line down to the river.

Division E (northeast): Springview Fire District, Keya Paha County—anchor line at the river, hold, improve and secure spot that crossed Highway 12.

Division H (southeast): Ainsworth Fire District, Brown County—construct a direct hand line toward the southwest.

Air Operations

Four Helicopters and Two Air Tactical Platforms will continue to assist ground crews in achieving containment goals. 

Fire retardant drops may be available.

Road Closures

Road blocks will be in place on Highway 12.  Motorists are asked to find alternate travel routes. The Meadville Avenue and Norden Road are also closed to traffic.

Evacuations: 

Volunteer evacuations are still in place for Meadville.

Niobrara River is closed for recreational use between County Line and Brewer bridges.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 15%

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 65,580 total

Personnel: 239

Aviation : (3) Type (1) National Guard Black Hawks, and 1 Type 2

Engines: 30

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 80

* North Central Development Center has established a Pay Pal account for funds to support fire departments

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 24)

The North Central Development Center has established an online Pay Pal account that allows those who would like to donate funds to support the firefighters fighting the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires.
Go to Facebook and like the North Central Development Center. A link to the Pay Pal account can be found on the NCDC Facebook page.
For those not on Facebook, make checks payable to the North Central Development Center, 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Write fire relief on the check.
All donations are tax deductible, and 100 percent of the money donated will be used to support the firefighting efforts and support the victims who have lost their homes.

* Springview fire chief says Wentworth, Hall fires pushed back into Niobrara River canyons, 1 home lost west of Springview when fire jumped Highway 12

(Posted 11:15 a.m. July 24)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said crews worked through the night to push back the Wentworth and Hall fires southeast of Springview that raced north Monday afternoon fueled by the heat and strong south winds.
"We have both those fires contained to the canyons, but they could flare up again today with the wind," Hallock reported at 11 a.m. Tuesday from the Springview Fire Hall.
Hallock said the Wentworth and Hall fires were kept clear of homes in southeastern Keya Paha County, but one home west of Springview was damaged Monday evening when the Fairfield Creek fire jumped the northern containment at Highway 12 approximately 3 miles west of Cub Creek, 6 miles west of Springview.
Hallock praised the volunteers working in the Springview Fire Hall to keep the front lines supplied with water and food.
"They were making food and water runs out to the guys at 3 and 4 a.m. this morning," Hallock said.
He reported federal forces were assisting with the Hall and Wentworth fires, and fire lines would continue to be created with some back-burning to try and keep the fires from moving north rapidly if they again move up out of the river canyons.
To hear the complete report with the Springview fire chief, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Tuesday 11AM Fire Report.mp3

* Susan Ford with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management team checks in with an update on the fire response efforts

(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 24)

audio clips/Susan Ford incident management Tuesday report.mp3

* Firefighters describe conditions at the front line of the fires

(Posted 9:30 a.m. July 24)

Ainsworth Volunteer Firefighter Brandon Evans said he has never seen anything like the fire burning in the Niobrara River valley.
It is unbelievable," Evans told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday morning as his crew was getting its marching orders and preparing to head back out for another day on the fire lines. "I never imagined something like this could happen. I hope we never see anything like it again."
Evans said the crews are basically trying to surround the Niobrara River valley and put out fires as they jump out of the canyons.
"We have seen fire moving at more than 60 mph," Evans said.
Ainsworth Firefighter Jeff Keezer said his crew was out 32 hours straight from the time the Fairfield Creek Fire ignited Friday morning north of Johnstown until they grabbed a break Saturday morning.
"After we got a little break, we went back out for another 24 hours," Keezer said.
Keezer said trying to get ahead of the flames when they break out of the canyons is not an easy task for the crews on the front line.
"When it breaks out, you are moving fast and driving hard over some very rough terrain," Keezer said.
To hear the complete report with the firefighters, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Report w firefighters Evans & Keezer.mp3

* Region 24 manager says crews made progress overnight, another tough day ahead today

(Posted 9:15 a.m. July 24)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Tuesday morning progress was made overnight to push the numerous fires burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties back into the Niobrara River basin after gusting south winds Monday caused the fire to break out at several locations.
Fox said the Wentworth Fire exploded Monday, but crews there pushed it back south into the canyons and are now working on fire lines in anticipation of strong south winds again today.
Fires continue to burn in several locations. He said the western edge of the Fairfield Creek fire was still burning west of Norden in the Rocky Ford area, and fires were still burning on both the north and south sides of the Niobrara River.
The hear the complete report Tuesday with the Region 24 emergency manager, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Tuesday AM report.mp3

* Ainsworth fire chief says ground units struggling to keep up with fires; asks Sparks residents to be on alert in case fire continues west

(Posted 9:15 p.m. July 23)

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala says the 300 to 400 fire personnel are doing their best to knock down fires that are flaring to the north out of the Niobrara River valley at numerous locations, pushed by gusting south winds and extreme heat on Monday.
Fiala said the Fairfield Creek Fire's western edge is burning rapidly, and the small community of Sparks should be on notice that an evacuation may be necessary on Tuesday if the fire continues on its current path.
"Today, the aerial units were giving the ground forces their only chance to keep up," Fiala said. "If we can keep the wind down on Tuesday, we might be able to get on top of it a little."
During the late afternoon hours Monday, a portion of the Fairfield Creek Fire broke the northern containment line on Highway 12 approximately 3 miles west of Cub Creek.
"It burned about 150 acres north of Highway 12, but the fire resources in that area got it knocked down," Fiala said. "It would have been a huge fire in that terrain if had kept burning north, and there would have been no place to stop it."
Fiala also commended the work of the crews that battled the Wentworth and Hall fires in southeastern Keya Paha County on Monday afternoon.
"The Wentworth Fire blew up in the early afternoon hours," the Ainsworth fire chief said. "Those guys were working really hard to slow that fire down."
For the complete Monday night report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Fire Chief Brad Fiala Monday Night.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire reportedly crosses Highway 12 west of Springview

(Posted 5:45 p.m. July 23)

KBRB has received reports that a portion of the Fairfield Creek Fire has moved across Highway 12 west of Springview, which had been the northern boundary of the fire that has been burning since Friday morning.
The fire reportedly jumped the highway approximately three miles west of Cub Creek.
Firefighters are continuing to battle extreme weather conditions in addition to the fires, and are working to try and keep the flames from breaking free to the north of the river valley in several areas.
KBRB will try and bring listeners an evening update on the status of the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires.

* Area departments trying to head off fires in southeastern Keya Paha County

(Posted 5 p.m. July 23)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said crews in southeastern Keya Paha County are struggling to slow down the Wentworth Fire and the Hall Fire that have jumped out of the Niobrara River valley and are being pushed northwest by the wind.
Hallock said the Wentworth Fire is now eight miles southeast of Springview, moving to the northeast, and the Hall Fire is located farther east in southeastern Keya Paha County.
Hallock said getting enough water to the fire crews is a big issue at this point, as tankers are doing their best to keep up with demand. Firefighters on the ground are also trying to coordinate with one of the Blackhawk helicopters being used to drop water from the air.
For the complete report with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock update on southeastern KPC fires.mp3

* Firefighter and EMT Ann Fiala discusses the volunteer effort

(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 23)

Ann Fiala, a firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician who is helping to coordinate the volunteers assisting the front lines with food and water, told KBRB Monday afternoon she continues to be overwhelmed by the way the communities have come together to support the firefighting effort.
For the full report with Fiala, including how to assist the volunteer effort, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Ann Fiala report on volunteer effort.mp3

* Fox reports 3 fires jumping out of Niobrara canyons fueled by dry, south winds

(Posted 4 p.m. July 23)

In addition to the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County that has jumped out of the Niobrara River basin and is moving northeast, Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said a new fire, being referred to as the Hall Fire, is now burning in southeastern Keya Paha County east of the Wentworth Fire, and a third fire has jumped out of the river canyons in western Keya Paha County. These flare-ups are in addition to the large Fairfield Creek Fire that continues to burn in the river canyons in northwestern Brown and southwestern Keya Paha counties.
To listen to the full report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Monday Afternoon Report.mp3

* Wentworth Fire southeast of Springview breaks containment, heading northeast

(Posted 2:15 p.m. July 23)

During the late morning and early afternoon hours on Monday, the fire burning in southeastern Keya Paha County known as the Wentworth Fire broke containment in the Niobrara River basin canyon area and is now moving over open ground to the northeast.
Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said the fire is moving quickly, and personnel from several departments are en route to try and get ahead of the fire as it moves to the northeast.
Hallock said, if its present direction holds, the fire should miss Burton, but it could move close to that community if the departments cannot get it slowed down.
Residents potentially in the fire's path have been notified. Temperatures at 2 p.m. were already 104 degrees and climbing, with south winds at 16 gusting to 25 mph.
To hear the full report with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock - Wentworth Fire.mp3

* Federal team coordinating firefighting efforts from conference center

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 23)

The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team 2 Bravo has set up in the Ainsworth Conference Center to help coordinate firefighting efforts on the Fairfield Creek Fire. This is the third wildland fire to which the team has been deployed during 2012.
KBRB's Graig Kinzie spoke with Susan Ford, the team's public information officer, Monday in the conference center.
Ford said aerial infrared data shows the southwestern and southeastern edges of the Fairfield Creek Fire are continuing to burn at a very high temperature. She said their aerial surveillance of the fire showed it had burned approximately 50,000 acres. Estimates have ranged from 50,000 to 100,000 acres that have burned since the fire started Friday morning in the Fairfield Creek area.
To hear the complete report with Ford, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Rocky Mountain Incident Management.mp3

* Meadville Avenue, Norden Road, Highway 12 remain closed

(Posted 10 a.m. July 23)

Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein reported Monday morning to KBRB that the Norden Road and Meadville Avenue in both Brown and Keya Paha counties, and Highway 12 in Keya Paha County remain closed to traffic.
Papstein said, with fire equipment traveling the narrow roads, other vehicle traffic is prohibited. He warned people to stay away from the area. Law enforcement officials have had to warn several motorists to turn around who were trying to make their way toward the Niobrara River for a closer look at the fire.
To hear the complete report with Sheriff Papstein, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Sheriff Papstein Road Closure Report.mp3

* Fox reports another home lost Sunday night, 1 feared lost found still standing

(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 23)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said he plans to tour the area to assess the damage from the Fairfield Creek Fire, which has been burning since Friday morning in northwestern Brown County and southwestern Keya Paha County.
More than 100,000 acres have burned. Fox said six homes have been lost to the fire. One home feared lost in the Norden area was found still intact with only the outbuildings burned. That home was one of several in the Norden area that were saved from destruction, though others were lost.
However, Fox said the fire again jumped the Niobrara River to the south, where it destroyed a home in the Fairfield Creek area Sunday night. He said the fire is moving quickly west, and is now burning several miles west of Norden. Another finger of the fire is burning in the Rocky Ford area of Cherry County.
Fox said the wind will be the main factor on Monday, and could cause additional problems. He said the backfire efforts west of Meadville has stopped the fire for the time being from moving east. Those backfires were set approximately five miles west of Meadville to remove the dry vegetation on which the fire is feeding.
The fire is still burning in Brown County south of the Niobrara River, and is currently west of the old Plum Creek dam.
To hear the complete report from Monday morning with the Region 24 emergency manager, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Monday Report.mp3

* Heineman reports state assets being brought to bear on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 23)

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman told KBRB Monday morning state and federal resources have been brought in to assist with the effort to contain the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Heineman said a federal incident management team has taken control of the coordination of the firefighting efforts. He said the federal team has extensive experience in fighting wildland fires.
To hear the full report with Gov. Heineman, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Gov Heineman Monday Report.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire 50 percent contained, but tentative with Monday winds expected; 6 homes lost thus far

(Posted 8:30 p.m. July 22)

In a report with KBRB's Graig Kinzie Sunday evening, Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox estimated the Fairfield Creek Fire was 50 percent contained, though that figure could easily change Monday as southwest winds are forecast at 10-20 and gusting to 30 mph.
Fox said six homes have been destroyed by the fire since it started Friday morning north of Johnstown from a lightning strike. The fire tore through the Norden area Friday, but Fox said some homes have been saved in that area.
As of Sunday evening, the western edge of the fire was the most aggressive, burning rapidly west of Norden and potentially endangering three homes. Fire breaks burned Sunday west of Meadville have helped slow the eastern movement of the fire and protect the Meadville area for another day. The northern edge of the zone remains at Highway 12, and the southern edge of the fire continues to jump south of the Niobrara River.
Fox said the fire that started in southeastern Keya Paha County Saturday evening due to a lightning strike has been contained to the river canyons. No homes have been lost in that fire.
For the complete report Sunday with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox, click on the link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Sunday Evening Report.mp3

* Updated information from the American Red Cross

(Posted July 22)

KBRB's Graig Kinzie spoke with Red Cross volunteer Susan Epps Sunday on the activities of the organization, which has set up a shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools to aid firefighters and those who have been displaced by the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Also, Ainsworth Fire Hall volunteers reported they now have a sufficient number of coolers to transport water to the front lines of the fire. They again thank everyone who has made donations to the firefighting effort.
To hear the full report with Susan Epps of the Red Cross, click on the link below:

audio clips/Red Cross Sunday update.mp3

* NCDC setting up online avenue to assist firefighting effort

(Posted July 22)

The North Central Development Center is in the process of setting up an online shopping cart for all of the local departments and those who have been impacted by the fire.
All donations will be tax-deductible. Anyone who would like to help with the effort can go online to donate to the departments. As soon as everything is set up, more information will be posted. Items the departments have requested include an ice truck, supplies and items for the families who have lost their home. The North Central Development Center thanks everyone who is supporting the effort to control the Fairfield Creek Fire.

* Fiala reports fire still threatening Meadville area, impossible to control

(Posted July 22)

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said two Ainsworth firefighters were injured while working on the front lines of the Fairfield Creek Fire on Saturday. Both firefighters were injured while working on the fire lines. They were taken to the Cherry County Hospital, where they were treated and released.
Fiala said the difficult terrain and the high level of fuel in the Niobrara River valley are making the fire almost impossible to slow down. Fiala said a large amount of resources are being utilized to protect Meadville. He said C-130 tankers are being flown into the area dropping fire retardant, and three Blackhawk helicopters are taking water from area dams and dropping it in certain areas.
Fire lines are in the vicinity of the Coleman Creek canyon west of Norden on the fire's western front, west of Meadville on the eastern front, Highway 12 on its northern boundary, and just south of the Niobrara River on its southern boundary.
Winds are not expected to blow at more than 10 to 15 mph for the remainder of Sunday, and will generally be from the northwest. However, on Monday, winds are expected out of the south at 15-20 mph with gusts to 30 mph.
To hear the full report from Fire Chief Fiala, click on the link below:

audio clips/Brad Fiala Sunday Fire Report.mp3

* Heineman activates Emergency Operations Plan; 3 Blackhawk helicopters dropping water on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted July 22)

Gov. Dave Heineman has activated the State Emergency Operations Plan in response to the fire emergency in Brown and Keya Paha Counties. Saturday, Heineman surveyed firsthand the affected areas in north central Nebraska and met with local responders in Ainsworth, Long Pine and Norden.

“I am continually impressed with the hard work of Nebraskans in difficult situations,” Heineman said. “The local communities are working very hard and are supportive of the efforts of local responders and firefighters, including providing aid in the forms of food and water. We will continue to work closely together as we fight these fires.”

The Nebraska National Guard continues to mobilize available resources as the response grows. This includes the mobilization of three Nebraska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with “Bambi buckets” and approximately 28 personnel to provide support to local firefighters fighting a wildfire in Keya Paha and Brown Counties at the request of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. The helicopters are equipped with “Bambi buckets” which can scoop water from local sources and place the water where needed by ground firefighters.

The Nebraska National Guard is also preparing to send up to 35 additional ground, red-card certified Nebraska National Guardsmen to support local firefighters if needed.

Resources from the Nebraska State Patrol, Nebraska Department of Roads, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are also responding to the emergency.

At the beginning of this month, Heineman authorized an emergency declaration for statewide drought and fires that allows state personnel and resources to assist with emergency situations and prevention, and allows maximum flexibility to the state to deploy Nebraska National Guard and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency assets and resources as needed.

The governor and the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency will continue to monitor the situation throughout the state, as the drought continues.

* Gov. Heineman reports additional state resources on the way to battle fire

(Posted July 21)

Calling in Saturday evening to KBRB, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said two additional Blackhawk helicopters and members of the Nebraska National Guard would be in the area Sunday to help combat the Fairfield Creek Fire, which as of Saturday evening had burned to within four miles west of Meadville.
Heineman said the state of Nebraska has declared a state of emergency to allow for the use of additional state and federal resources to combat wild fires in the state.
The complete audio report with Gov. Heineman can be accessed by clicking the link below.

audio clips/Gov Heineman Report Saturday.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire has now burned approximately 100,000 acres

(Posted July 21)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said the Fairfield Creek Fire was now burning out of control on Saturday evening. Despite massive efforts from fire departments representing almost one-third of Nebraska, the fire is burning faster than allows for fire lines to be established.
Fox said firefighters were beginning to experience major fatigue and heat-related problems, and a few firefighters have been injured in non-fire incidents relating to digging fire suppression lines.
The fire, at last report, was located four to five miles west of Meadville, which has been evacuated. The fire on Friday devastated the small community of Norden on the north side of the Niobrara River in Keya Paha County.
Additional fires have sparked southeast of Springview Saturday evening from another round of lightning strikes, and some of the firefighting resources from the Fairfield Creek Fire were moved to suppress those fires before they spread.
The complete report with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox is located below. Click on the link for the audio report.

audio clips/Doug Fox Saturday Update.mp3
 

* Brown County Ambulance Service requests towels, ice packs

(Posted July 21)

Anyone with towels and ice packs to spare, please drop them off at the Brown County Ambulance Service. The towels and ice packs will be used to help aid in cooling down firefighters battling the Fairfield Creek Fire.

Some area retailers are running low on water and ice. Deliveries are expected again tomorrow. Stay tuned to KBRB for reports on inventory supply.

* Report with Red Cross organizer Susan Epps

(Posted July 21)
(Click on the link below for the audio report)

audio clips/Red Cross Report.mp3

* Red Cross volunteers have arrived at Ainsworth Community Schools

(Posted July 21)

The American Red Cross has opened a shelter for people displaced by the Niobrara River Canyon Fire in north central Nebraska.  The shelter is located in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. Anyone displaced by the fire is urged to come to the shelter for a safe place to sleep, a meal, minor first aid, referrals and a shoulder to lean on. Volunteer teams will continue to provide food and hydration to the firefighters from 16 departments battling the wildfire.
As soon as conditions are deemed safe by local authorities, additional Red Cross volunteers will arrive to assess damage to area homes and conduct interviews with affected families. Food, clothing, shelter, comfort and care will be provided based on need. Snacks and drinks will be provided to area residents as well.

* Red Cross setting up emergency shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools

(Posted July 21)

Two teams of Red Cross volunteers from Grand Island and North Platte are setting up an emergency shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools for residents evacuated from the path of the Fairfield Creek Fire.
The Red Cross will also help provide meals and hydration to firefighters from the now more than 16 departments trying to battle the fire in the Niobrara River Valley.
More Red Cross volunteers are standing by. The Red Cross will work with local agencies and community organizations to ensure that the needs of first responders and those who have been evacuated are met.
To make a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief, call 1-800-REDCROSS or visit the web at www.redcross.org.

* Emergency personnel evacuating area east of the Norden Bridge to Highway 183

(Posted July 21)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox has issued an evacuation notice for all residents of the Niobrara Valley from the Norden Bridge east to Highway 183. This evacuation notice includes Meadville and the surrounding area.
The Fairfield Creek Fire is moving quickly to the east today, and with the dry and hot conditions and the steep terrain.
Those people east of the Norden Bridge to Highway 183 need to evacuate to the south, not to the north. Those evacuees are asked to report to the Ainsworth Community Schools, where the Red Cross has set up a temporary shelter.
The Brown County Ambulance Service is asking for donations of ice packs and towels to help cool down firefighters who have been battling the fire since it started before 10 a.m. Friday.
Stay tuned to KBRB for the latest information on the Fairfield Creek Fire.

* Updated Fairfield Creek Fire Report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Fox

(Posted at 8 a.m. Saturday)

(click on the link below)

audio clips/Doug Fox Fire Update.mp3

Fox reported the fire has now burned more than 30,000 acres, with numerous structures destroyed. Firefighters are trying to contain the fire to a line south of Highway 12, and fire lines have been set up both east and west of Norden. Fox said the fire is still raging in the Norden area. While firefighters try and contain the fire from the east and the west, aerial support is being brought in from South Dakota and other areas. A Blackhawk helicopter is dropping water on the flames, and a tanker plane from Rapid City will be utilized to drop a slurry mixture on the flames.
Fox said any food, water and ice donations for the firefighters can be taken to the Ainsworth Fire Hall. Highway 12 west of Springview remains closed. No traffic is allowed anywhere near the Norden area, which has been completely evacuated.

* Audio report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala Friday evening

* Fox reports leading edge of Fairfield Creek Fire 6 to 7 miles wide

(Posted 8 p.m. July 20)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox is reporting the leading edge of the Fairfield Creek Fire is between 6 and 7 miles wide as it moves through Keya Paha County north of Highway 12.
"The wind is starting to switch a little, so we may be able to start slowing this thing down," Fox said.
The fire has burned several thousand acres in northern Brown County and southern and central Keya Paha County, including extensive damage in the community of Norden. Numerous homes and structures in the Norden area have been damaged, though Fox said the exact number of homes damaged won't be known until the area can be surveyed.
Fox said more firefighting assets continue to move into the area, as units from the six-county North Platte Mutual Aid District are making their way to the area from as far south as Curtis. Fox said those firefighters will concentrate on mopping up hot spots Saturday in both Brown and Keya Paha counties.
A large air tanker from Rapid City, S.D. will also be in the area Saturday, as will a water-carrying helicopter from Lincoln.
No injuries have been reported from the fires, though Fox said some firefighters were being treated for symptoms relating to heat stress. A Long Pine Volunteer Fire Department truck was destroyed by the Fairfield Creek Fire, and a second truck belonging to the South Brown County Fire Department was damaged fighting a second fire south of Long Pine Friday afternoon, though Fox said that truck will be salvageable but will require new wiring.
Fox will again appear on KBRB Saturday morning to provide an update on the firefighting activities and the extent of the damage.

* Fire does severe damage to Norden area, jumps Highway 12 containment line

(Posted July 20 at 6:30 p.m.)

The small community of Norden has been severely damaged by a fast-moving fire that began at 9:45 a.m. Friday north of Johnstown, jumped the Niobrara River and broke through a containment line on Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Recapping the events since the fire was first reported 13 to 14 miles north of Johnstown, the flames moved quickly through the Fairfield Creek area and jumped across the Niobrara River. The fire began moving north through Keya Paha County. Residents of Norden and the surrounding area were evacuated ahead of the fire reaching the community.
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Friday evening most of the Norden area has sustained extensive damage. No injuries have been reported due to the fire, but the Long Pine Rural Volunteer Fire Department did lose a fire truck to the blaze, and another truck belonging to the South Brown County Fire Department was damaged fighting another Friday afternoon fire south of Long Pine. Fox said that truck is salvageable with new wiring.
"We haven't had any injuries," Fox said. "People were evacuated ahead of time. Some of our firefighters are experiencing some symptoms of heat stress."
Temperatures Friday again soared to near 105 degrees, and south winds gusting to 25 mph led to the fire moving quickly through the area already dealing with severe drought.
As of 6 p.m. Friday, the fire had burned an area more than 10 miles long and reportedly up to four miles wide in some areas near Norden.
"The fire is moving faster than we can keep up with," Fox said after the blaze jumped a containment line set up on Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Some residents living north of Highway 12 in northern Keya Paha County and into southern Tripp County, S.D., are being evacuated. Highway 12 has been closed to traffic west of Springview.
Firefighters from the Ainsworth, Johnstown, Wood Lake, Long Pine, Bassett, Springview, Calamus, Raven and South Brown County departments battled what is being referred to as the Fairfield Creek Fire, while the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Bassett and Stuart fire departments fought the fire south of Long Pine. That fire was brought under control by 5 p.m. Friday. Damage from the fire south of Long Pine was limited to pasture ground and the loss of the South Brown County Fire Department truck.
Fox reported additional fires were burning north of Merriman in Cherry County on both sides of the Niobrara River, and east of the Spencer Dam in Boyd County. All of the fires in the area Thursday night and Friday morning were sparked by lightning from a storm that carried extensive lightning but little rain.
Aerial support was utilized, but Fox said the numerous buckets of water dropped from the plane were not effective in slowing down the fire in Keya Paha County.
The extent of the damage is not yet known, but thousands of acres and numerous structures, including homes, have now been burned by the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Brown County Board of Commissioners Chairman Buddy Small on Friday signed a declaration asking for disaster assistance for the county stemming from the wildfires burning in northern and southern Brown County.
Dozens of volunteers flooded the Ainsworth Fire Hall with bottled water, sports drinks, ice and coolers to send to the front lines of the fires. Organizer Heather Walnofer said the outpouring of support from the area has been overwhelming.
Stay tuned to KBRB for additional information.

* Fire crosses Niobrara River, Norden area evacuated

(Posted July 20 as of 4:50 p.m.)

The fire burning north of Johnstown has crossed the Niobrara River, pushed by strong south winds. The Keya Paha County Sheriff's Department confirmed at 4:45 p.m. firefighters are attempting to contain the fire to an area south of Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Norden residents and those in Keya Paha County between the Niobrara River and Highway 12 in the Norden area have been evacuated from their residences.
Traffic is prohibited in the area until the fire has been contained.
The Keya Paha County Sheriff's Department is asking for anyone with a large disc to call the sheriff's department at 402-497-3201, as firefighters are trying to utilize that type of equipment to create a containment area and keep the fire from crossing Highway 12.
The Brown County Sheriff's Department reported just before 5 p.m. Friday the fire burning south of Long Pine had been brought under control by the Long Pine, Ainsworth, Stuart and Bassett departments. A Brown County Rural Fire Department truck was damaged fighting the fire south of Long Pine, though no injuries were reported.
No structure damage has been reported with either fire, though that could change as the fire moves its way from the Niobrara River north into the Norden area in Keya Paha County.
Brown County Board of Commissioners Chairman Buddy Small on Friday signed a declaration asking for disaster assistance for the county stemming from the wildfires burning in northern and southern Brown County. Aerial resources continue to be sought to battle the fire burning north of Johnstown that has now crossed into Keya Paha County.

* Another large fire burning south of Long Pine

(Posted July 20)

Area fire resources continue to be taxed to the limit as another large fire has been reported south of Long Pine.
According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, just before 1 p.m. Friday a fire was reported 15 miles south of Long Pine on property owned by Glenna Abbott. Resources from the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Bassett and Stuart volunteer fire departments responded to fight that fire while numerous area departments continue to fight a large fire north of Johnstown.
According to Papstein, a South Brown County fire truck was damaged by the fire south of Long Pine, but no injuries have been reported.
Area residents continue to volunteer at the Ainsworth Fire Hall, filling coolers with donated water, sports drinks and ice to get to the firefighters as they work in the 100-plus degree heat. Dozens of volunteers were working in the fire hall early Friday afternoon to get coolers of cold drinks headed to the front lines of the fires.
Volunteer organizer Heather Walnofer thanked the community for its support in answering the call for supplies.
"The response has been overwhelming," Walnofer said.
Papstein said the fire north of Johnstown continues to be pushed north by strong south winds, and firefighters are having a difficult time containing the blaze.
"It is a real bear," Papstein said. "It is just really tough for them to keep up with it right now. Thankfully, there has not been any structure damage."
Papstein said the fire has approached the Niobrara River, and there have been conflicting reports on whether it had possibly jumped the river. There has, as of yet, been no confirmation of the fire burning north of the river.
Stay tuned to KBRB for more information throughout the day.

* Firefighters battling large fire north of Johnstown

(Posted July 20)

Numerous area fire departments are battling a 1,000-acre fire that started Friday morning north of Johnstown due to a lightning strike.
According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, the fire was reported at approximately 9:45 a.m. 13 to 14 miles north of Johnstown.
Firefighters from the Ainsworth, Johnstown, Wood Lake, Long Pine, Bassett, Springview, Calamus, Raven and South Brown County departments are on the scene trying to keep the fire from spreading.
Papstein said a plane is also on its way to drop water on the fire. He said residents in the area have been contacted and provided information. He said one residence was in jeopardy from the fire, which he estimated at between 800 and 1,000 acres.
Papstein urged people to stay away from the area and let the fire departments have room to work and try and contain the fire.
Stay tuned to KBRB for additional updates.

* Lightning sparks 500-acre fire northwest of Ainsworth Thursday

(Posted July 20)

A lightning strike Thursday night sparked a fire northwest of Ainsworth that burned more than 500 acres and prompted the mutual aid response of four fire departments to get the blaze under control.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, a lightning strike sparked the fire at 8:45 p.m. approximately 5 miles west and 4 miles north of Ainsworth on property owned by Pat Schumacher.

Fiala said winds with the thunderstorm pushed the fire to the southwest onto ground owned by Taylor Johnson.

He said the fire remained on pasture ground but did work its way into a tree grove.

“It burned through the tree grove fast enough that it didn’t do much damage,” Fiala said. “It only burned the bottom of the trees.”

Fiala said firefighters were able to get the fire under control by using a county road and two cornfields to help block its advance.

Fiala said the fire was under control by 11:30 p.m., and firefighters returned to the fire hall by 12:30 a.m. Friday.

The Johnstown, Long Pine and Wood Lake fire departments provided mutual aid to the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.

“We are just waiting now to see if any more fires start up today from those lightning strikes last night,” the Ainsworth fire chief said.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department 2014 year-end report

2014 Year End Totals

 

Accidents Investigated – 77                         Fire Calls Ainsworth

 

Ainsworth Calls Responded to – 723            Accidents with Injuries - 9

 

Animal Cases – 14                                       Accidents w/o Injuries - 4

 

Board Of Health –           0                                     Assist Tower Rescue - 1

 

Brown County Arrests – 70                         Attempt to Locate missing people - 2

 

Burglaries – 6                                               Building Fires: House/Garage/Royal Theater - 3

 

Citations – 190                                             Burn Permits Issued - 102        

 

Crime Stopper Calls – 28                             Canyon Fires - 1

 

County Calls Responded to – 358                Chimney Fires - 1

 

Court Commitments – 17                             Corn Field Fire - 1

 

Criminal Cases –   32                                   Gas Meters & Leaks -3

 

Dog Complaints – 139                                 Grass Fires - 5

 

Domestic Assault Cases – 14                       Hay Bales - 1

 

Drug Cases – 3                                            Possible Electrical Fire - 1

 

Fix it tickets – 55                                         Power Lines Down - 2                       

 

Handgun Permits – 110                                School Alarm - 3  

 

Incident Reports –          1,204                              Storm Spotting - 3

 

Incoming Phone Calls –   8,467                     Tractor/Mechanical Fires - 2

 

Information Files – 28                                  Vehicle Fires - 4

 

Inmates Housed in Brown County – 106                

 

Inmates Housed for other agencies – 3

 

Inmates Housed for NSP arrests – 12           Ambulance Calls

 

Inmates – Females – 27                                This is just a summary of the Ambulance

 

Inmates – Males – 79                                   calls for 2014

 

Johnstown Calls Responded to – 5               Local Calls for Service - 137

 

Juvenile Cases – 15                                      Transfers to other Facilities - 43

 

Long Pine Calls Responded to – 118           

 

Mental Health Cases – 16

 

MIP’s – 18

 

911 Calls – 404

 

Papers Served – 200

 

Sex Crimes – 1

 

Thefts – 23

 

Titles Inspected – 242

 

Total Traffic Stops – 688

 

Traffic cases – 62

 

Traffic Stops where no action was taken - 7

 

Vandalism Cases – 15

 

Verbal Warnings - 144

 

Written Warnings - 292

 
   

 

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