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* Funeral Service notes: (see more on the obituaries page)
* Myrtle B. Sears, 96, of Ainsworth later date
* Kenneth E. Rinehart, 78, of Orofino, Idaho formerly of Springview 10 a.m. Sept. 1
* Eldora Muirhead, 94, of Valentine 2 p.m. Aug. 29
* Meeting reports located below for:
Aug. 18 Brown County Commissioners
Aug. 12 Ainsworth City Council
Aug. 10 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education
Aug. 7 Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Interlocal Board
Aug. 4 Brown County Commissioners
* Davis discusses continued need for property tax formula changes
(Posted 4 p.m. Aug. 28)
Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis discussed his
efforts to try and change the way property valuations are set at the state
level, and the continued need to find a way to change the formula.
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 10 p.m. Aug. 27)
In addition to fines each case carries $48 in court costs
Michael A. Skeen, age 27, of O’Neill, charged with driving during revocation, sentenced to 13 days in jail with credit for 13 days served, driver’s license revoked for one year, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; also charged with speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, fined $125.
Daniel J. Adler, 36, of Bellevue, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Christopher J. Schneider, 25, of Omaha, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Ann M. Marshall, 39, of Ainsworth, no valid registration, $125.
Daniel L. Markley, 40, of Valentine, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Katelynn M. Landry, 22, of Ainsworth, driving under suspension, $100.
Levi J. White, 25, of Ainsworth, driving during revocation, $100 fine, driver’s license revoked for one year, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
David Benavidez, 57, of Scottsbluff, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Jason W. Fleming, 39, of Springview, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Meredith S. Beul, 18, of Leawood, Kan., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Bailey R. Baxter, 18, of Gothenburg, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Kevin D. Rohlk, 24, of Springview, first degree criminal trespassing, sentenced to two days in jail with credit for two days served, and one year of probation; also charged with theft by unlawful taking, sentenced to one year of probation; also charged with leaving the scene of an accident/failing to furnish information, sentenced to one year of probation.
Max W. Mueller, 22, of Littleton, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
David A. Leiding, 29, of Atkinson, driving under suspension, $100.
Bobbie J. Garhart, 32, of O’Neill, driving under suspension, $100.
Amy L. Thompson Cross, 35, of Ainsworth, accessory to a Class IV felony, sentenced to six months of probation; also charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300 and sentenced to six months of probation; also charged with possession or use of drug paraphernalia, $100 and sentenced to six months of probation.
Garson D. Sears, 19, of Omaha, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Keith R. Gerweck, 60, of Monroe, Mich., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Steven M. Statz, 57, of Lincoln, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Alyssa M. Cunningham, 27, of Omaha, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Alfred Jallah, 32, of Williston, N.D., first offense reckless driving, sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for seven days served.
Joshua Zeigler, 20, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for one day served, driver’s license revoked for six months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; also charged with first offense refusing to submit to testing, sentenced to seven days in jail.
Ciera J. Shaw, 17, of Atkinson, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Kristi L. Holz, 47, of Monogghela, Pa., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Denet V. Christopher, 25, of Sioux Falls, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Lindsey P. Johnson, 20, of Grand Island, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Thomas J. Goering, 61, of Grand Island, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Amy L. Haskell, 21, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, fined $500 and sentenced to six months of probation, ordered not to drive for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Charles L. Messbarger, 76, of Kearney, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Jerry L. Skinner, 40, of Gibson City, Ill., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Mary E. Cullin, 53, of Bellevue, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Ely W. Sharkey, 20, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Brent D. Scales, 46, of Forest Park, Okla., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
David M. Booth, 73, of Batesland, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Kyle B. Hobbs, 17, of Ainsworth, minor in possession of alcohol, sentenced to six months of probation and driver’s license impounded for 30 days; zero tolerance violation, sentenced to six months of probation.
Scott L. Finley, 41, of Wichita, Kan., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $25.
* Area projects awarded USDA grant funds for energy efficiency improvements
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 27)
Twenty-three Nebraska applicants have been selected to receive $486,026 in grants from USDA Rural Development through the Rural Energy for America Program. Funds will be used to install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements that will promote energy conservation.
Three projects in the area received funding. In Cherry County, Danielski Harvesting and Farming received a $50,000 grant to replace an existing grain dryer with a more efficient model.
In Holt County, Braun’s IGA was awarded an $18,651 grant to replace coolers in its grocery store, and The Alley/Millie’s Coffee received $10,240 to replace existing windows and install an insulated roofing system to its existing building.
“Through these projects, energy consumption will be reduced, thereby making more dollars available to be kept within rural Nebraska and assisting the state’s rural economy,” Nebraska State Director Maxine Moul, USDA Rural Development said. “Enough energy will be generated or saved to power 217 homes.”
Eligible agricultural producers and rural small businesses may use REAP funds to make energy efficiency improvements or install renewable energy systems, including solar, wind, renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), small hydroelectric, ocean energy, hydrogen and geothermal.
* May taxable sales for area counties decline substantially
(Posted 2:15 p.m. Aug. 25)
Nebraska Department of Revenue
Nebraska Department of Revenue
* Davis submits a report during legislative interim period
(Posted 1 p.m. Aug. 21)
To hear the weekly report submitted by Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis, click on the audio link below.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 1 p.m. Aug. 21)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Thursday, Aug. 20, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Viaero Wireless parking lot, a 2002 Freightliner semi, driven by Nelson Pajaron, 51, of Atlanta, Ga., was backing up in the parking lot and struck the wooden security fence surrounding the Viaero tower.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the fence, owned by Viaero, was estimated at $200. The semi trailer did not sustain any damage.
* Area residents warned to be on the lookout for scam phone calls
(Posted 3:14 p.m. Aug. 20)
A new scam phone call appears to be making the rounds in
the KBRB listening area.
An Ainsworth resident reported receiving a call on a cellular phone with the caller identification indicating the number generated from the 402 area code with a 760 prefix.
The caller identified themselves as a representative from Verizon needing to verify credit card information.
The resident hung up the phone, dialed the number and found that it was not a functioning telephone number. After visiting with representatives from Verizon, it was learned the phishing scam is fairly new, with the scammers able to manipulate the caller identification to show a number originating from the area.
Anyone receiving an unsolicited call from a suspect source is reminded never to provide credit card information over the phone, and never agree to settle any kind of purported bill by purchasing a prepaid or green dot card.
* Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative undergoing $17 million feed mill expansion
(Posted 9 a.m. Aug. 20)
Work has begun on a new $17.3 million feed mill addition for the Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative location along First Street in Ainsworth.
The Cooperative’s Board of Directors approved the feed mill addition next to the existing feed mill. A portion of the prior storage facility was torn down this week ahead of the construction of the new facility.
“The Board of Directors is confident that the demand is there for Farmers-Ranchers feed products with a history of volume growth at our existing mill and with the closings of other mill facilities in the region,” Board Chairman Ron Heerten said. “There is a feed team in place that has the vision, ability, commitment and proven record to make this project a success. Our co-op has a record of solid local earnings that make this expansion possible.”
Heerten said the board believes the expansion project is in the best long-term interests of current and future cooperative customers, owners and the entire community.
“After much consideration, we unanimously approved moving forward with this expansion project,” Heerten said.
The feed mill addition will consist of a mill tower, a five-ton mixer, two 400-horsepower pellet mills and two state of the art dryers. The cooperative will be able to increase production by an additional 40 tons per hour with the new facilities.
Co-op Feed Division Manager Rocky Sheehan said, “The existing mill, while in good condition, is 37 years old. With our service and quality of feed, there has been more demand for our products in an expanding trade territory.”
Sheehan credited the feed mill’s employees for the success the co-op has experienced in recent years.
“Due to increased demand, we have been running 24 hours per day during the peak of the season,” Sheehan said. “This expansion will make us more efficient.”
EBM Construction of Norfolk is the general contractor for the feed mill expansion project. Completion is expected in the fall of 2016.
Cooperative Chief Executive Officer Kent Taylor said, “The co-op has a respected history of being an important part of our customers’ success. We are excited to enter this new era for the Farmers-Ranchers Co-op. This feed mill project will allow us to continue to live up to our vision: ‘Earn the position of being the first choice for ag producers in our expanding territory.’”
* Miles brings glimpse of the Sandhills to Chicago agricultural students
(Posted 4:15 p.m. Aug. 19)
Ainsworth cattle feeder Mark Miles, a participant in the
Nebraska Lead 34 Class through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, recently
hosted several high school students and a teacher from an agricultural magnet
school in Chicago, Ill., showing the students first-hand how animals are raised
in north central Nebraska.
Miles and a Lead Nebraska classmate had previously taken six head of cattle to the class in Chicago, and set up the chance for some of those students to receive an expenses-paid trip to the Sandhills to view how cattle are raised and finished.
Students toured area ranches and feedlots, and had the chance to participate in several recreational activities, including a tubing trip on the Niobrara River.
Area residents opened their doors to the students, providing housing and meals as well as tours of their ranches and feedlots.
KBRB's Graig Kinzie talked with Miles about the Lead Nebraska program and how he became involved with the Chicago students. To hear the report, click on the audio links below.
* Rock County Sheriff's Department investigating theft from business near Bassett
(Posted 4:15 p.m. Aug. 19)
The Rock County Sheriff’s Department is seeking the
public’s assistance in solving a theft that occurred west of Bassett sometime
prior to Tuesday morning.
According to the sheriff’s department, someone removed numerous hand tools and power tools from a service truck at Sandhill Equipment west of Bassett.
The estimated value of the tools taken is between $4,000 and $5,000.
Anyone with information on who may be responsible for the theft is asked to contact the Rock County Sheriff’s Department at 402-684-3811.
* Armor coat work to begin Monday on Highway 20 between Johnstown, Ainsworth
(Posted noon Aug. 19)
According to Chuck Osborn with the Nebraska Department of
Roads, armor coating work on Highway 20 between Johnstown and Ainsworth is
scheduled to begin next week.
Osborn said the work will begin near Johnstown at 7:30 a.m. Monday and will continue east to Ainsworth. The roads will be marked, and traffic will be maintained with the use of flaggers and a pilot car.
Osborn urged motorists to reduce their speed when traveling on the armor coat, as slowing speeds will reduce the likelihood of the armor coat material damaging the windshields of oncoming motorists.
* Commissioners revisit law enforcement agreement with Ainsworth Tuesday
(Posted 2 p.m. Aug. 18)
The Brown County Commissioners discussed the interlocal agreement with the city of Ainsworth for law enforcement services with Ainsworth Mayor Larry Rice during Tuesday’s board meeting.
County Attorney David Streich said the most recent three-year agreement was initiated for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The agreement, initially drawn up by Mark Kozisek when the city of Ainsworth dropped its police force in favor of an agreement with the county, provides for the city to receive a credit if the sheriff’s department actual expenditures do not increase by 2 percent annually.
Streich reported the city is in line for a $1,372 credit from the 2013-14 year, and an additional $4,252 credit for the 2014-15 year as the sheriff’s department expenditures did not increase by the 2 percent threshold.
Streich said the city did not receive the $1,372 credit from the 2013-14 year ahead of the 2014-15 fiscal year, so the city would receive a credit on its first statement for the 2015-16 year for both credits due.
Rice said the agreement also calls for an annual meeting between the mayor, City Council president, county board chairman and the sheriff to discuss the interlocal agreement.
He said, though those meetings had not taken place in the past few years, he would like to meet once each year just to go through the agreement and make sure all parties were satisfied. Rice said the city of Ainsworth was satisfied with the current interlocal agreement, and had no desire to bring back a city police force.
In other items during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners allocated 4 cents of property tax levy authority for the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District. Commissioner Les Waits questioned whether the rural fire district needed the full 4 cents in levy, but was told the 4 cents in levy was required for the department to receive a full allocation of MFO funding from the state.
The board also approved a $27,500 property tax levy allocation to the Brown County Agricultural Society to maintain the Brown County Fairgrounds and host the annual fair.
The commissioners will meet with budget preparer Pete Peterson during the board’s Sept. 1 meeting to go through and finalize the 2015-16 county budget. The annual budget hearing and property tax request will be held during the board’s Sept. 15 meeting.
In roads items, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin discussed the possibility of leasing or purchasing a skid steer for the roads department.
Turpin said the county could lease a Caterpillar skid steer for $4,500 annually and use the machine up to 250 hours each year, then upgrade to a new model. He said the county could also make an initial purchase of a skid steer for around $45,000, then upgrade it annually to a new machine and pay a lease based on the number of hours the machine is used.
Streich said, even with a lease, the county would need to secure three informal bids. No action was taken, as Turpin will find leasing opportunities with at least an additional two equipment dealers.
Turpin reported he may have some of the roads department employees work some overtime hours with the county still short one full-time worker and not receiving applications for the open position. He said road crews are out working on the shoulders of the Elsmere Road and are patching some rough spots on the road ahead of armor coating work, which is scheduled for September on 11 miles of the Elsmere Road.
He reported 430th Avenue near Rolling Stone Feed Yard would be closed for approximately three days while improvements are made to the road.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Sept. 1.
* Lions Club prepares for Brown County Fair concession stand operations
(Posted 1:30 p.m. Aug. 18)
During its meeting Monday, the Ainsworth Lions Club made plans to again operate the concession stand during the Brown County Fair.
Jim Arens presented a worksheet assigning members times for assisting in the fair concession stand Sept. 5-7. Brian Williams, Jerry Ehlers and David Spann volunteered to assist with the final cleanup of the concession stand on Labor Day, Sept. 7, which is the final day of the Brown County Fair. The worksheet will be emailed to members, with final revisions expected in the weeks prior to the fair.
Todd Mundhenke reviewed the Alumni Banquet held on June 27 and served by the Lions Club. Mundhenke said he has already had discussions with representatives of the Ainsworth High School Class of 1991, the host class for the 2016 Alumni Banquet, to insure that the concerns encountered this past summer are not repeated.
Mundhenke said several new Lions Club serving pitchers will need to be purchased, since they were not returned after being sent to be cleaned after the theater fire and can no longer be located.
Club President Evan Evans reported grant funds will be sought for crumb rubber to be placed under playground equipment at the city parks next spring. The amount needed will be substantially less than the 22 bags approved by the Lions Club last February.
Nine Lions Club members and one guest volunteer assisted with the demolition of Lions Club member Richard Albrecht’s garage. Vergil Heyer and Brian Williams provided the heavy equipment to take down the building, with trailers provided by Bennie Burdick, Duane Saner and Ainsworth Motors. The club was assisted by Mike Smiley at the KBR Solid Waste Transfer Station.
The club received thank-you notes for the donation to the 2015 Post Prom Party, the contribution of the All-Sports Tailgate Party profit of $470 to the local chapter of Teammates, and from Richard Albrecht in appreciation of a memorial card sent by the Lions Club.
The Lions Club will again take tickets for home varsity football games. Jerry Ehlers will coordinate with the high school activity directors for dates and times.
The Ainsworth Lions Club held a winning ticket in the Lions District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund raffle held last spring in the cash amount of $50. The club approved donating the funds to the Ainsworth Food Pantry in lieu of conducting a local membership drawing as previously planned.
An inquiry was received regarding the possibility of the Lions Club providing a breakfast for a large Bike Tour Group considering the use of Ainsworth City Park for camping the night of June 24. Since this is on the AHS Alumni Banquet weekend, no action was taken.
Gordon Smith, a 1962 graduate of Ainsworth High School, gifted three Lions Club highway signs to the Ainsworth Lions Club to replace each of the signs currently located along each state highway entering the community.
Ehlers reported the new signs have been installed. Since Smith’s business provides an opportunity for him to periodically drive through Ainsworth, he will be asked to stop for a picture presentation.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club Board of Directors is scheduled for noon Sept. 21 in the Golden Steer.
* 430th Avenue near Rolling Stone closed for next 3 days
(Posted 1 p.m. Aug. 18)
Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported
430th Avenue near the Rolling Stone Feed Yard will be closed for the
next three days while improvements are made to the road.
Turpin will notify KBRB when the road is reopened to the public.
Keya Paha County Commissioner Mike Tuerk notified KBRB Tuesday that the Burton Road from Highway 7 north to Highway 12 will be closed after early morning rains washed out two culverts.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 17)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Saturday, Aug. 15, near Long Pine.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 5:02 p.m. Saturday on Pine View Road northeast of Long Pine, a 1997 Mercury sedan, driven by Joy Bechtold, 50, of Norfolk, was traveling south when the vehicle left the roadway, rolled onto its passenger side in the west ditch, and struck a tree.
No injuries were reported. Seat belts were in use. The Mercury was considered a total loss. A culvert, owned by Brown County, sustained $2,000 damage.
* Fischer touts Senate passage of highway funding bill during Ainsworth stop Friday
(Posted 6:15 p.m. Aug. 14)
Meeting with close to 30 residents during a listening session Friday in the Ainsworth Conference Center, U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer said things are beginning to work in the Senate after two years of partisan gridlock.
Fischer touted the Senate’s recent passage of a six-year highway funding bill following years of patchwork, short-term funding.
“It has been forever since we had a long-term highway bill,” Fischer said. “States, cities and counties need the certainty of a long-term bill.”
Nebraska’s senior senator said she hoped the House of Representatives would take up a similar bill in September, and the long-term highway funding bill could be signed in October.
Fischer, who serves on the Senate committee charged with the oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency, said she was adamantly opposed to the recent Clean Power Plan that was announced by the president and the EPA that will seek to limit by an additional 40 percent the emissions from coal-fired power plants.
“Nebraska will be one of the biggest losers in the Clean Power Plan,” Fischer said. “We are a public power state, and we will be the ones paying to retrofit the power plants. It is very costly for little, if any benefit.”
Fischer said she believed in a balanced energy portfolio that included wind and solar power, but this plan would do little on a global scale to address carbon emissions.
“China is building a coal-fired power plant every 10 days,” Fischer said. “And, the plants they are building are dirty.”
Addressing the recent nuclear agreement between the U.S. and Iran, Fischer said the agreement was not good for the United States. She said she disagreed with the lengthy notification that will be given to Iran prior to any inspections, and said Iran will not allow inspections of its military facilities as part of the agreement.
She said the loosening of sanctions will allow Iran to change the balance of power in the Middle East.
Following the listening session, Fischer spoke with KBRB’s Graig Kinzie. To hear that conversation, click on the audio link below.
* Work to begin on Highway 7 south of Ainsworth, Highway 83 south of Valentine
(Posted 1 p.m. Aug. 14)
According to the Nebraska Department of Roads, weather permitting, construction work is scheduled to begin the week of Aug. 17 on Highway 7 south of Ainsworth, from milepost 36 to milepost 43.
Werner Construction, Inc. of Hastings has the $1.09 million contract for milling
2 inches of the existing asphalt surface and placing a 2-inch asphaltic concrete overlay.
The work is anticipated to be completed in mid- September.
Construction work is also scheduled to begin next week on Highway 83 south of Valentine from milepost 146 to milepost 160, and north of Thedford from milepost 197 to milepost 207.
Sta-Bilt Construction Company of Harlan, Iowa, has the $901,780 contract for microsurfacing the roadway.
Traffic will be maintained during construction with the use of flaggers and a pilot vehicle. The work is anticipated to be completed in early September.
The Department of Roads' project manager for both projects is Michael Rudnick of Ainsworth. Motorists are urged to use caution while driving through highway work zones and to remember that speeding fines are doubled when workers are present.
* Davis provides weekly update on 43rd District activities
(Posted 11:30 a.m. Aug. 14)
Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis provided his
weekly summary of activity to KBRB.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.
* City Council declares 27 parcels violate nuisance code in city's northeast quadrant
(Posted 10 p.m. Aug. 12)
The owners of 27 parcels in the northeast portion of Ainsworth will receive certified letters that their property has been declared a nuisance by the city.
During Wednesday’s meeting of the Ainsworth City Council, Kathy Drake with Central Nebraska Economic Development District updated the council on the second stage of nuisance inspections performed on parcels east of Main Street, north of Highway 20.
Drake said, of the 207 parcels inspected, the owners of 81 parcels were sent courtesy letters showing them photos of potential nuisance code violations and giving them 30 days to remedy the issue.
“Forty-one of the 81 properties were cleared on July 7,” Drake said. “Five additional properties were cleared Aug. 11.”
After going through photos of the properties where the issues identified by CNEDD, the city’s contracted nuisance abatement officer, the council approved declaring 27 parcels as nuisances and directed CNEDD to send certified letters notifying the owners that the nuisance has been declared.
The letters will contain a copy of the city’s nuisance code, as well as the steps needed to abate the nuisance. Property owners have five days from receipt of the certified letter to request a hearing and state their case as to why their property should be removed from the nuisance list.
If property owners fail to abate the nuisance after receiving the certified letter, the council would then take action to have the identified nuisance code violation abated and charge the cost of the abatement to the property’s tax statement.
In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, the council, minus absent Councilman Kent Taylor, approved having Olsson Associates design a water and sewer line extension project on the east side of the city to coincide with new construction planned by Ainsworth Motors.
Jess Hurlbert with the engineering firm recommended the city extend an 8-inch water line from the Hunt Street intersection with Highway 20 east along the north ditch of the highway right of way to the Ainsworth Motors property.
He said an existing sewer line could be extended west on the northwest side of the property. He estimated the cost of the water line extension at $24,000.
Councilwoman Deb Hurless said it would be a good idea for the city to begin the process of annexing the site into the city limits if the water and sewer lines were to be extended.
Mayor Larry Rice said Ainsworth Motors owner Bret Younkin was agreeable to having the site annexed if the city would provide the water and sewer service, as the city is obligated to do with any property it annexes.
The city would then continue to capture a 1.5 percent sales tax on vehicles sold by the company.
City Attorney Rod Palmer said he could have the documents drawn up to annex the property well ahead of the construction of the project.
Hurlbert said Olsson Associates could have a survey crew on site within a week or two, and could have the necessary paperwork submitted to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and the Nebraska Department of Roads in short order.
“You could probably be able to begin the project in six weeks or so,” Hurlbert said. “It shouldn’t take long for DHHS or the Department of Roads to review.”
The council considered demolishing a restroom facility at the Courthouse Park, but audience member Carol Larson encouraged the council to save the restrooms and repair the plumbing so they could be utilized by the public.
“We need to have a restroom available at that park,” Larson said. “The library and the museum aren’t always open.”
She said the Courthouse Park itself was well-maintained and was utilized frequently by both residents and travelers.
Mayor Larry Rice said the current state of the restroom was an embarrassment for the city.
“It makes a terrible impression for any traveler who would stop and try and use it,” Rice said.
Water Superintendent Brad Miller said the men’s restroom was currently padlocked, as the facility was completely unusable. Larson said the women’s restroom was currently in working order.
Councilman Chuck Osborn asked if the restroom structure was still sound.
Streets Foreman Monte Goshorn said the structure was fine, but the plumbing would need to be completely replaced.
Councilman Brian Williams asked if Miller could look into the cost of replacing the plumbing in the two restrooms, which would require the cement floor to be torn out.
Osborn said, “I am not opposed to getting bids and at least see what it would cost to repair them.”
The council directed Miller to obtain cost estimates for replacing the plumbing in the men’s and women’s restrooms.
The council again discussed increasing the rate it charges for garbage removal. Rice said the city’s costs to KBR Solid Waste just went up 16 percent in the past two months, from $7,398 monthly to $8,615 monthly due to increases in costs to Lexington Area Solid Waste, where garbage from the county eventually winds up.
Osborn proposed a 30 percent increase from the current $11 rate that is charged to city residents. That would bring residential garbage service to $14.30 monthly.
“The last time rates were increased was in the 1990s,” Osborn said.
Rice asked the council to wait one month so city officials could gather data on the revenue being generated through the city’s garbage collections and compare it to the costs. He said the city was currently supplementing the garbage account with funding it receives through franchise fees from the Nebraska Public Power District.
“I think that department should be at least breaking even,” the mayor said.
The council opted to table the item until its September meeting.
The council approved a maintenance agreement with Agland Electric of Atkinson to service the city’s lift stations. Miller said it had been a few years since any of the city’s lift stations had been serviced. The contract approved Wednesday includes one year of maintenance service on the lift stations for a total price of $3,295.
In a related item, the council approved having Miller and Associates apply for grant funding through the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to upgrade five of the city’s lift stations.
The NDEQ grant could cover up to $20,000 in upgrades for the lift stations, with the council obligated only to provide a 10 percent funding match.
The council renewed its liability, worker’s compensation and property insurance coverage through LARM. By opting for a three-year renewal, the city received a 5 percent discount and will be billed $65,083 annually instead of the cost of a one-year agreement at $68,509.
The consent agenda approved Wednesday included the mayor’s appointments of Jason Adkisson and Brian Delimont to the City Park Board for three-year terms, and authorized the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce to close Main Street from 4:30 until 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30, for the annual Ainsworth Women’s Club Trick or Treat Safe Street.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 9.
* Rock County voters overwhelmingly approve lid increase for hospital, ambulance
(Posted 3:30 p.m. Aug. 12)
Rock County Clerk Joyce Stahl announced the results of the
mail-in voting for increasing the county's 50-cent levy lid by 3 cents to
support the Rock County Hospital, Long Term Care, and the Rock County Ambulance.
Stahl reported 550 votes were care, with 456 in favor and just 94 against, a margin of 83 percent to 17 percent.
The additional 3 cents in levy had also been passed five years and 10 years ago.
* Several appear in Brown County District Court Tuesday
(Posted 3:30 p.m. Aug. 12)
During District Court proceedings Tuesday in the Brown County Courthouse, Robert Allen, age 55, of Ainsworth, appeared for sentencing on two Class IV felony drug convictions.
Allen was sentenced to 30 days in jail after being convicted of possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to an additional 90 days in jail for his conviction on a felony count of possession of ephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine.
The sentences are to be served consecutively, meaning Allen will complete the first jail term before beginning the second. He was given credit for 10 days served.
Casey Gallegos, 44, of Ainsworth, appeared for sentencing after being convicted on two felony drug charges.
Gallegos was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine after being convicted of one count of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession of ephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine, both Class IV felonies.
Stacy Reed, 36, of Ainsworth, also appeared for sentencing after similar convictions. Reed was sentenced to three years of probation, including enrollment in an in-house substance abuse treatment facility, after being convicted of one count of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession of ephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine.
Nathan Yankowski, 22, of Ainsworth, appeared for sentencing Tuesday following convictions on two counts of third-degree sexual assault, Class I misdemeanors.
Yankowski received a sentence of three years of probation. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,707, and was ordered to attend outpatient counseling. He is also required to avoid contact with children under the age of 14, and will be required to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act.
Joseph Ward, 34, of Ainsworth, appeared in District Court Tuesday and entered a plea of no contest to a Class IIIA felony charge of child abuse. Ward will be sentenced Oct. 13.
* School Board approves 2015-16 staff members, coaches and sponsors
(Posted 9 p.m. Aug. 10)
The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education approved the 2015-16 roster of teachers, coaches and sponsors during Monday’s meeting.
A total of 49 staff members will be employed for the 2015-16 year, with five of those staff members approved as part of a contract with Educational Service Unit 17 for special education services. The 49 staff members does not include the two district's principals and superintendent.
A new addition to the secondary staff is Shane Harland, who will teach seventh- through 12th-grade social studies. Harland will also serve as an assistant football and girls basketball coach.
Jared Hansmeyer will serve as a co-activities director with Scott Steinhauser.
The school plans to welcome a Spanish teacher to the staff for the second semester, but will remain with Rosetta Stone for the first semester while the teacher completes her student-teaching requirement for college graduation in December.
Christy Paddock has been hired as a co-teacher at Little Paws Preschool. Elementary Principal Sarah Williams said the preschool classes are not quite full, but are close to being at capacity.
And, as previously reported, Dirk Coon is now with Ainsworth Community Schools as the secondary principal. He reported he had attended several recent trainings, and has been preparing for teacher in-service days and the first day for students.
In-services are being held this week for staff members through Wednesday, with the first day of class for students scheduled for Thursday.
Superintendent Darrell Peterson said all head coaching assignments will remain the same for the 2015-16 year, with the exception of girls basketball, where Zach and Nikki Welch will take over the head coaching duties from Jeff Carr, and track and field, where Hansmeyer had previously served as the head coach and asked that a replacement be identified. Hansmeyer will remain the cross country coach.
Peterson said a few assistant and junior high coaching positions remain unfilled at this point.
During his report, Peterson said the school’s insurance carrier valued the district’s buildings at a total of $19 million, which was an increase from the district’s previous $14.5 million valuation.
“We thought the previous valuation was probably low for the square footage we have,” Peterson said.
The superintendent said the increase in valuation will result in additional coverage and an increase of $7,400 in the district’s building insurance premium. He said the increase will be prorated for this year before taking full effect next year.
Peterson thanked Beck’s Well and Irrigation for donating time and equipment to install a new slide at the school playground. Beck’s Well and Irrigation also donated time and equipment for the improvements to the school’s weight room.
He said the district was still short-staffed in its custodial department, and he would continue to try and find someone to help fill the vacancy. Head custodian Ron Rennick plans is retiring this month.
Peterson also reported the district is still waiting for the installation of the new bleachers at the football field. He said the company hired to install the bleachers is behind schedule, and he was not sure if the new bleachers would be installed in time for the first home football game.
During her report, Williams said 29 students attended kindergarten roundup Aug. 6. All five elementary classes have between 28 and 32 students.
She reported the elementary will host an open house for first- through fourth-grade students and their parents. Parents will have the opportunity to meet the classroom teachers during the open house.
In action items, the board approved the second readings of several policies Monday. Policies approved on second reading included:
· A policy on assessments and academic content standards.
· A policy updating the district’s special education standards.
· The district’s purchasing policy and procedures for bidding construction projects.
· The district’s anti-discrimination policy.
· Removing a section of a policy regarding makeup work.
· A policy increasing the pay rate for substitute teachers.
The board also approved the first reading of a policy changing rental fees for school facilities.
Peterson said the district’s rental rates have not been changed for many years, and the revised fees will put the school closer to the Ainsworth Conference Center.
Fees had previously been charged by the hour, and will change to flat daily fees. The fee is $100 to rent the Learning Center, $75 per classroom, $100 per day for the cafeteria, $50 per day to use the kitchen facilities, $300 per day to rent McAndrew Gymnasium, and an additional $50 per day if floor mats are needed.
In a final action item, the board approved nominating Brad Wilkins as the Region 15 Board of Director candidate to the Nebraska Association of School Boards.
A special meeting was scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 31 to approve final expenditures for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
The 2015-16 budget hearing and annual property tax request was set for 8 p.m. Sept. 14 ahead of the regular meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education.
* Rock County performing shoulder work on WPA Road
(Posted 1:45 p.m. Aug. 10)
The Rock County Roads Department will perform dirt work on
the shoulders along the south half of the WPA Road during the next several days.
Rock County Roads Foreman Darrell Olson said the work is being done in preparation for an armor coating project on the WPA Road in September. Work will fall in an area from Scott Iverson’s property to the Pony Lake School.
Motorists are urged to use caution in that area.
* Work to begin week of Aug. 17 on Highway 12 east of Spencer
(Posted 8:45 a.m. Aug. 10)
Weather permitting, construction work is scheduled to begin the week of Aug. 17 on Highway 12, beginning at the Highway 12 and Highway 281 intersection east of Spencer and extending 9.4 miles to Lynch, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Co. of Hastings has the $2,5 million contract for milling
the existing asphalt surfacing and placing a four-inch asphaltic concrete overlay.
guardrail will be removed at several locations and roadway fore-slopes will be
Erosion control measures will include the placement of rock riprap at several drainage structures.
Traffic will be
maintained during construction with the use of flaggers and a pilot car.
Load widths greater than 11 feet will not be permitted through the project. The anticipated completion date is early November.
The Department of
Roads' project engineer is Gene Colfack of O'Neill. Motorists are
urged to use caution while driving through highway work zones and to remember that speeding fines are doubled when workers are present.
* Davis submits report on legislative activities
(Posted 3:30 p.m. Aug. 7)
To hear the weekly report submitted by Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis, click on the audio link below.
* Olson tells board deal potentially close on purchase of care center building
(Posted 3 p.m. Aug. 7)
North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson told the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors Friday the two sides are close on a deal for the purchase of the former Ainsworth Care Center building.
She said, with numerous legal questions remaining about the status of the personal property in the facility, the agreement now would be to purchase only the facility itself, not the personal property.
“RP Midwest’s attorney and our attorney both recommended an agreement on the property only,” Olson said. “They recommended letting the personal property go.”
She said the NCDC’s legal counsel and a consultant have been working on some pricing options for equipment and supplies.
“They are looking at leasing as well as purchasing options,” Olson said. “We will have to make some decisions on what we think will work best. But they are sure we don’t want to touch the personal property as part of this purchase agreement.”
Olson said she believed a deal could be completed for the building within the next 30 to 60 days.
“Nothing, however, is finalized at this point,” she said. “I think both parties now agree that it is beneficial for both parties to complete a sale. The owners of the building have had to sort out a lot of things from the company that was operating the care center. They had to deal with the same mess we had to deal with.”
Board member Jim Walz said, to him, this was RP Midwest’s last chance to reach an agreement before the board moved in another direction toward a new facility.
“If this doesn’t come together soon, I think the $340,000 allocated by the county and the $340,000 allocated by the city should be used toward a site plan and a study for a new facility,” Walz said. “If we don’t close this time, I am done messing with them and am ready to move on.”
Board Chairman Kent Taylor said it is frustrating, but the building is private property, so the group was forced to continue to wait.
“We would like to get this facility going as soon as we can, but our plan also is to continue to work for a new facility,” Taylor said.
Olson said she believed RP Midwest was working with the NCDC’s legal counsel in good faith.
Board member Leanne Maxwell said a concern remains on how the group would pay to build a new facility.
Board member Buddy Small said there were a wide range of estimates on what a new facility would cost.
“We need to pin that down to a closer number,” Small said.
Olson said there were several things the board could be working on ahead of the building purchase being finalized.
“There are things you can do now so you are not overwhelmed and trying to get everything done at once if the purchase is completed,” Olson said.
Addressing one of those items, the board authorized Brown County Attorney David Streich to formulate a request for proposals to manage the nursing facility in Ainsworth.
“You don’t have to bid for professional services, but I think you would still get the best value and the most options by bidding,” Streich said. “You could advertise requesting proposals and see what services the management companies propose to you and at what cost.”
Olson said a management company could assist the board with numerous steps in the process of reopening a facility.
“You need to think about a policies and procedures handbook, and you will have to start working with the state on a license and applying for the 46 licensed beds,” Olson said. “Management firms have the experience and could potentially assist us in those areas.”
Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen said four management firms had provided assistance at some stage of this process and were all familiar with the Ainsworth facility.
“Time is still so valuable to us,” Sorensen said. “We had eight more people from our community since this facility closed who have also had to transfer out to other facilities.”
She said there were several things the board could keep working on while waiting to see what happens on the building, such as equipment, licensure and regulations.
“That way, if and when a contract is approved, we are at least working on the pieces we will need to have in place,” Sorensen said.
She said a management company would be able to assist the board in those areas.
The board voted to direct Streich to draft a request for proposals to advertise in the Aug. 12 edition of the Ainsworth Star-Journal, and also to mail the request for proposals to the four management firms in Nebraska to make them aware.
The proposals are to be returned by Sept. 4, so the board can open and discuss the proposals during its next regular meeting, which was scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8, in the Ainsworth Conference Center. The board moved the regular meeting from its normal first Monday schedule due to the Labor Day holiday.
In other action items Friday, the board voted to establish a checking account at West Plains Bank, with Taylor, Small and Maxwell, and Clerk Travis Hobbs listed as signatories on the account.
Olson asked the board to consider assisting with the cost of the legal services that have accrued as part of the building negotiations.
“NCDC received $20,000 from the city in an LB 840 grant and has paid for some of the legal services, consulting work and the feasibility study,” Olson said. “We have spent more than that at this point, and we need to figure out how the remainder of the bills is going to be paid.”
Taylor encouraged Olson to submit a claim to the board on behalf of the NCDC.
Allowing questions from those in attendance, audience member Lonnie Price asked what the best-case scenario would be at this point for getting the facility reopened if the purchase were to be finalized.
Olson said a best-case scenario would likely be 60 to 120 days from the closure date on the property until the first private-pay residents could be admitted.
The next regular meeting of the board is 5 p.m. Sept. 8 in the Ainsworth Conference Center, but a special meeting may be called if RP Midwest responds to the contract for the purchase of the property.
* Traffic Accidents
(Posted 10:30 a.m. Aug. 7)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair
of one-vehicle accidents during the week.
At 7:55 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3, on Highway 20 approximately 1 mile northwest of Long Pine, a 2005 Chevy Impala, driven by Crystal Chase, 20, of Ainsworth was traveling east when the vehicle struck a deer near the intersection of Willow Ridge Avenue.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $1,500.
At 7:10 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6, in the alley east of Ainsworth Community Schools, a 2009 Ford SUV, driven by Amy Carr, 49, of Ainsworth, was backing up and struck a guard rail protecting a phone box near the alley.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $2,000.
* Shaw wins national gold medal in State Games of America shot put competition
(Posted noon Aug. 5)
Addie Shaw, a Rock County High School student, won a gold
medal during the recently completed State Games of America competition at
More than 15,000 athletes from 48 states competed in 60 sporting events during the event.
Shaw finished as the national champion in the shot put for the 17-18-year-old girls division. Shaw also placed fourth nationally in the discus.
Walker Shaw, competing in the 15-16-year-old boys division, won the national silver medal in the discus, and took the bronze medal in the javelin. Walker Shaw also finished seventh in the 100- and 200-meter races.
* Agenda for Friday meeting of Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 5)
County Care Center Interlocal Board
Noon Friday, Aug. 7
2. 1. Roll Call
3. 2. Approval of Minutes from 6-29-15 Meeting
4. 3. Approval of Claims
5. 4. Approval of Name Change to dba “Sandhills Care Center”
6. 5. Resolution to set up a checking account
7. 6. Purchase of the Ainsworth Care Center and related matters
8. 7. Process for the selection of a management firm
9. 8. Budget Preparations
10. 9. Future plans for a new facility
11. 10. Reports from Board Members
12. 11. Public Comments
13. 12. Agenda Topics/Meeting Date(s) for the next meeting(s)
14. 13. Adjourn
* Commissioners approve making repairs to courthouse foundation
(Posted 2 p.m. Aug. 4)
The Brown County Courthouse basement will be repaired to keep water from leaking into the building following the County Commissioners’ decision Tuesday to accept a bid from Thrasher Basement Systems.
After inspecting the lower level of the courthouse, Thrasher technicians made several recommendations to the county for repair work to improve the integrity of the courthouse’s foundation and keep water from working its way into the basement.
Thrasher Basement Systems supplied the only bid Tuesday for the repair work, at $25,390.
The board accepted the bid. Without the repairs, the board had concerns the lower level of the courthouse could continue to leak, which might lead to future mold issues.
The commissioners took no action on making potential repairs to the courthouse roof, as Chairman Buddy Small said one company sent a technician to inspect the courthouse roof, and another company asked for blueprints for the courthouse.
In other items during Tuesday’s meeting, KBR Rural Public Power District representative Terry McGill approached the commissioners about the possibility of spraying county ditches to kill small trees in a preventative measure to keep trees out of power lines and county right of way.
“We try to do what we can,” McGill said. “There are some spots to the north and to the south where we have sprayed trees. For maybe $5,000 per year, you could have someone come in and spray stretches to get caught up.”
McGill said the issue of trees encroaching into power lines from county right of way was not only an issue in Brown County.
“Next week, I am going to talk to the Keya Paha County Commissioners about the same thing,” McGill said.
Small said the most economical way for the county to address spraying trees would likely be to pay Weed Superintendent Doug Mulligan to work additional hours spraying trees.
“Doug already takes care of any noxious weeds in the county ditches,” Small said. “This is certainly an ongoing problem. The trees in the right of way are a problem for your operation and for our operation.”
During his report, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the plans for the Norden Bridge replacement project have been submitted to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
“Once the plans are approved, we can start taking bids for the project,” Turpin said.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, even if the bridge is replaced in 2016 instead of this fall, as originally planned, the replacement was still much quicker than the board had previously planned.
“Finding the state funding for that bridge is also going to make this project a lot cheaper than we were planning,” Wiebelhaus said.
Turpin said the roads department planned to remove a box culvert on 435th Avenue this week and replace it with a steel culvert. He said crews continued to haul white rock back to Brown County from South Dakota, and the department was in the process of hauling armor coat gravel to the Elsmere Road in anticipation of 11 miles of the road being armor coated this fall.
In a final roads item, Turpin said he would look into purchasing a pup trailer for the county’s 2008 Mack dump truck in addition to seeing if a tag axle would work for the truck. That item was placed on the Aug. 18 agenda to allow Turpin time to provide the board with additional options.
The commissioners again discussed the possibility of purchasing a dumpster to be placed in the Hidden Paradise area near Long Pine.
“We had twice before agreed to supply a dumpster, but nothing ever came of it,” Small said. “Is the county willing to spring for the cost of a dumpster if the city of Long Pine agrees to empty it?”
Small said Long Pine continued to face problems with people in the Hidden Paradise area dumping their trash in the city, either near the area where the garbage truck is parked, in the city park trash can, or even in the city’s recycling bin in some instances.
Weibelhaus said, after several years of dealing with garbage issues in that area, he was ready to purchase a dumpster.
“But, I want the details worked out on where it is going to be placed and who is going to be responsible for it before we buy it,” Wiebelhaus said.
The board plans to invite Long Pine city officials to the Aug. 18 commissioner meeting to work through the details of placing a dumpster in that area.
County Attorney David Streich presented information on a claim submitted by Dennis Jones for damage to a mower that occurred on Meadville Avenue after the mower struck a tree branch on the south approach to the Niobrara River.
Streich said he had visited a couple times regarding the claim with the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency representative who handles claims for the county.
“The issue is whether the county has any responsibility,” Streich said. “The tree was growing on private land, and the NIRMA advisor did not believe the county had any liability.”
All three commissioners agreed the county was not obligated to pay the claim.
Prior to adjourning, the board voted to reappoint Brad Wilkins, Steve Bejot, Pam Schmitz, Aaron Jackman, Brian Williams and Brian Arens to the Brown County Zoning Board for terms that began June 1 and continue through May 31, 2018.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Aug. 18.
* Evans named new Lions Club president for 2015-16
(Posted 1:30 p.m. Aug. 4)
The Ainsworth Lions Club held its Annual Family Picnic July
20 at East City Park, with 11 members and nine guests present.
President Pat Jones served as host for the potluck dinner and officer/director installation. The meat and drinks were provided by the Lions Club, with members providing a potluck dish and table service.
Jones conducted the Installation of Officers and Directors for the 2015-16 year. The club thanked its 2014-15 officers and directors for serving the past year. Evan Evans was installed as the new club president.
* Highway 20 micro-surfacing work begins next week between Atkinson and O'Neill
(Posted 2:45 p.m. Aug. 3)
Weather permitting, construction work is scheduled to begin
the week of Aug. 10 on
Highway 20, beginning at the east edge of Atkinson and extending 16.6 miles to O'Neill, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Monarch Oil of Omaha has the $736,475 contract for micro-surfacing the roadway and applying a fog seal to the asphalt shoulders.
Traffic will be maintained during construction with the use of flaggers and a pilot vehicle. The work is scheduled for completion by the end of August.
The Department of Roads project engineer is Gene Colfack of O'Neill. Motorists are urged to use caution while driving through highway work zones and to remember that speeding fines are doubled when workers are present.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 1:45 p.m. Aug. 3)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Sunday, Aug. 2, on Highway 20.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 12:50 p.m. Sunday on Highway 20 approximately 6 miles west of Johnstown, a 2012 Harley-Davidson motorcycle, driven by Joseph Kepford, 31, of Neligh, was traveling west when the driver apparently blacked out. The motorcycle crossed the center line and entered the south ditch, striking a fence.
Kepford, who was thrown from the motorcycle, was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Service to the Brown County Hospital with what were termed to be minor injuries.
Damage to the Harley-Davidson was estimated at $3,000.
* July finishes below average in moisture, near normal in temperature
(Posted 7:45 a.m. Aug. 3)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported the city
received 2.89 inches of precipitation in July, which is .68 below the average
and leaves the year-to-date moisture total at 12.88 inches, 2.07 inches shy of
the average. Six of the eight months in 2015 have been below normal.
To hear the complete report from Ainsworth's weather observer, click on the audio link below.
Zach Welch (right) has been named the
KBRB Athlete of the Year by the coaches and
staff at Ainsworth Community Schools.
* Welch named 2014-15 KBRB Athlete of the Year by coaches, staff
(Posted 2 p.m. July 30)
Zach Welch has been voted by the coaches and staff at Ainsworth Community Schools as the 2014-15 KBRB Athlete of the Year.
The annual award for performance both on the field, in the classroom and in the community includes a scholarship, in this case to the University of South Dakota, where Welch will compete in cross country and track.
Welch is a three-time state cross country medal winner, finishing as the state runner-up as a junior and winning the Class D State Championship as a senior. He finished the 2014 cross country season unbeaten, winning every race in which he participated.
Welch led the Ainsworth team to three top five finishes in the Class D team standings. He holds five school cross country records, including the fastest 5-kilometer time of 16:17.
Welch was named to the Nebraska Coaches Association Super State Cross Country Team for the 2014 season.
In addition, Welch was a two-time state track and field qualifier in the 3200 meters, winning a fifth-place medal in his junior year.
Welch also received a letter for two years on the Ainsworth boys basketball team, and was a member of the Class C-2 state runner-up Bulldog team during the 2013-14 year. Welch was named to the NSAA Academic All-State Team in basketball.
“Zach is not only a great athlete, but he is also a great kid who embodies the ideals of hard work and perseverance,” cross country and track coach Jared Hansmeyer said. “For his career, Zach will go down as one of the most outstanding distance runners in Ainsworth’s history. His work ethic and determination to be great separated him from his opponents. His contribution to the team went beyond running, as Zach went above and beyond to be a great teammate and support those around him.”
KBRB's Graig Kinzie
visited with Welch to discuss his high school career and his upcoming season
with the University of South Dakota cross country and indoor and outdoor track
and field teams.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.
* Bassett receives grant to crush 2,000 tons of concrete
(Posted 7 a.m. July 30)
Nebraska Department of
Environmental Quality Director Jim Macy announced the awarding of $2.25 million
in grants through the Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Grant Fund.
The city of Bassett received an $18,150 grant to crush 2,000 tons of concrete. The city will reuse the crushed concrete material on local roads.
The Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Grant Fund is generated by a fee on solid waste disposed of in landfills, an annual retail business sales fee, and a fee assessed on the sale of new tires for motor vehicles. The grants are provided to local integrated waste management projects including: recycling systems, household hazardous waste collection programs, transfer stations, and yard waste composting. Tire fee grants totaling $2.01 million for projects related to tire recycling were previously announced in June.
* Game and Parks Commission closing Valentine office
(Posted 7 a.m. July 29)
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has opted not to
renew the lease for its Valentine maintenance office.
The office, located at 420 E. First St. in Valentine, will close immediately. The Game and Parks Commission plans to move the office to Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area southwest of Valentine. Parks Division offices will be temporarily moved to the Valentine Fish Hatchery.
Personnel from the Valentine Maintenance office are responsible for operation and maintenance of Game and Parks facilities at Merritt Reservoir and the Cowboy Trail from Ainsworth to Crookston. A relocation of the office would allow the agency to streamline its operations and services at Merritt, which will include campground improvements. Parks maintenance staff can be contacted at 402-376-5908.
* Former Cherry County Courthouse employee charged with theft
(Posted 3:15 p.m. July 28)
A former Cherry County Courthouse
employee has been arrested on charges of theft and unauthorized use of a
financial transaction device.
Cherry County Attorney Eric Scott announced Tuesday that Monica Bristow, 44, of Valentine, was arrested on two charges following an investigation by the Cherry County Sheriff’s Department and the Nebraska State Patrol.
Bristow, who was employed in the Cherry County clerk’s office, is alleged to have diverted county funds for personal use through the misuse of a county credit card and the submission of fraudulent claims to the county.
Bristow is scheduled to appear in Cherry County Court Aug. 3 for an initial court appearance on the charges of theft and unauthorized use of a financial transaction device. She is currently being held in the Cherry County Jail on $200,000 bond.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 1:15 p.m. July 28)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a motor
vehicle accident that occurred on Monday, July 27, on the east side of
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 2:57 p.m. Monday on Highway 20 east of the Richardson Drive intersection, a 1997 Dodge pickup, driven by Derrick Grupe, 45, of Ainsworth, was eastbound when a chair fell out of the back of the pickup and struck a westbound 2014 Dodge Ram, driven by Kenneth Sopoci, 51, of Sioux City, Iowa.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the 2014 Ram was estimated at $1,500.
* Highway 183 milling and asphalt project begins this week
(Posted 9:45 a.m. July 28)
Asphalt and milling work is scheduled to begin this week on Highway 183 north of the Highway 20 junction.
The asphalt and milling work will begin at milepost 198 and end at the Brown County and Keya Paha County line at the Niobrara River near milepost 207.
Werner Construction of Hastings has the $4.6 million contract for the 8.7-mile milling and asphalt project, which will include widening the roadway from 12-foot to 14-foot driving lanes.
Work also includes culvert extensions, flume installation and new cable guardrail.
Traffic will be maintained during construction with the use of flaggers and a pilot car. Work is scheduled for completion in mid-October.
Mike Rudnick is the Nebraska Department of Roads project manager. Motorists are urged to drive cautiously through all highway construction zones. Speeding fines are doubled when workers are present.
* Hospital trustees approve heating and cooling system upgrade
(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 28)
The Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees approved the replacement of the hospital’s heating and cooling piping system during its recent meeting.
Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen spoke on the latest developments regarding the project, and presented documents from Trane on the proposed work that will be done to upgrade the heating and cooling system in the facility. Following questions, the board approved the more than $600,000 project.
Sorensen and Chief Financial Officer Lisa Wood presented the trustees with the 2015-16 budget. They provided an overview of the 2014-15 budget performance, and discussed the projected revenues and expenses for the 2015-16 year.
Following discussion, the board approved the budget, and Sorensen then presented the hospital’s budget proposal to the Brown County Commissioners the following day. The commissioners incorporate the hospital’s budget into the overall budget for the county.
In another planning item, the trustees approved the three-year plan for the hospital’s upgrades to its information technology systems.
Wood discussed making minor changes to the hospital’s financial assistance, prompt pay, and small balance write-off policies. The trustees approved the changes as recommended.
In another action item, the board approved consulting staff privileges for Dr. Michele Mulligan-Witt. The hospital’s medical staff reviewed Mulligan-Witt’s credentials and recommended the trustees approve the appointment.
Sorensen again briefed the board regarding the closure of the Ainsworth Care Center and the impact that was being seen at the hospital. She also provided an update on the roster of specialty clinic providers and the potential for additional providers.
Matt Lentz provided the trustees with a quality update, and indicated the hospital had not seen a single case of CAUTI infection during the past six months. He also discussed the potential for the hospital to see faster patient transfer times from changes being enacted by the Brown County Ambulance Service to have Emergency Medical Technicians on call to provide patient transfers from the Brown County Hospital to other facilities.
The trustees entered into an executive session to discuss strategic planning and recruitment, but no action was taken following the session.
The next meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees is scheduled for 4 p.m. Aug. 17.
* Sorensen to testify Tuesday before House of Representatives Subcommittee
(Posted 4 p.m. July 27)
Nebraska Third District Rep. Adrian Smith announced Brown
County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen will testify before the House
Ways and Means Health Subcommittee on Tuesday during a hearing on rural health
Among other issues, the hearing will focus on Smith’s Critical Access Hospital Relief Act to remove the 96-hour precertification requirement for patients at Critical Access Hospitals.
* Area students slated to graduate from UNK during summer commencement
(Posted 8:45 a.m. July 27)
Graduate and undergraduate degrees for 244 will be conferred during University of Nebraska at Kearney commencement exercises at 10 a.m. Friday, July 31. Graduation will be held in the Nebraskan Student Union.
Marilyn Hadley, faculty emeritus, will deliver the commencement address. Hadley is a native of Red Cloud. She earned her Bachelor of Science in education and Master of Arts in education from University of Nebraska-Lincoln and taught secondary social studies in Wisconsin and Nebraska. After earning her doctorate from the University of South Dakota, she spent 28 years in higher education.
John Gibbs will give the senior class reflection. Gibbs, a native of Lincoln (Pius X High School) is graduating honorable mention with honors with a degree in sports administration. He will pursue a master’s in counseling student affairs.
Gibbs is a member of Mortar Board, active with the Phi Delta Theta fraternity and student government.
Area students scheduled to receive degrees Friday include:
Bassett – Cameron Mueller, Bachelor of Science in recreation management.
Atkinson – Chelsey Thurlow, Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science fitness and wellness.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 7 a.m. July 27)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Wednesday northeast of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 10:57 p.m. Wednesday on Pleasant View Lane approximately 5 miles north and 2 miles east of Ainsworth, a 2009 GMC sport utility vehicle, driven by Maureen Jackman, 42, of Ainsworth, was attempting to turn around on Pleasant View Lane when the vehicle entered an irrigation ditch the driver stated she did not see. The GMC rolled onto its side, deploying the side curtain air bags.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the GMC was estimated at $5,000.
* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department
(Posted 7 a.m. July 27)
* Provided a civil standby at a residence in Long Pine.
* Investigated a report of a possible probation violation in Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of a domestic disturbance on East 3rd St Ainsworth.]
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a rural Ainsworth residence to the Brown Co Hospital.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from the Cottonwood Villa to the Brown Co Hospital.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported a fixed wing crew to the Brown Co Hospital from the Ainsworth Airport. Then transported the crew & patient back to the Ainsworth Airport, for transfer to another facility.
* Investigated a report of vandalism to a vehicle on East 2nd St Ainsworth.
* Performed a traffic stop where a subject was cited for expired plates in Ainsworth.
* Assisted an individual with a report of unwanted subjects at a resident in Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of barking dogs at a residence on Court St Ainsworth.
* Investigated a report of suspicious activity on West Dawes St Ainsworth.
* Investigated a report of possible vandalism to playground equipment at East City Park, Ainsworth.
* Received a report of the possible theft of private property in Johnstown.
* Responded to a report of an out of state vehicle, traveling through Brown Co., at a high rate of speed.
* Responded to a report of suspicious activity on Hwy 20 in Ainsworth.
* Received a report of possible child neglect in Ainsworth.
* Responded to a noise complaint in Long Pine.
* Received a report of a vehicle being driven recklessly, East of Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of cattle out on Hwy 183 South of Keller Park.
* Received a report of a possible disturbance.
* Attempted to locate a missing juvenile from the Long Pine area.
* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail as the charges were dismissed.
* Received a report of a rural resident possibly needing assistance from adult protective services.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a rural Ainsworth residence to the Brown Co Hospital.
* Received a report of suspicious juvenile activity in Ainsworth.
* Received a report of possible child neglect in Ainsworth.
* Performed a traffic stop where a subject was arrested & booked into the Brown Co Jail for Driving Under Revocation. The subject was released on bond.
* Responded to a report of a vehicle parking on rural roads South of Ainsworth.
* Received a report of a cow that had been struck by a vehicle and vandalism to a fence, South of Ainsworth.
* Investigated a one-vehicle accident, without injury, North East of Ainsworth.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a residence on East 2nd St to the Brown Co Hospital.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to the Long Care Facility in Stuart.
* Received a report of possible child abuse or neglect in Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of disturbing the peace on Main St Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of ATVs tearing around roadways to Hidden Paradise.
* Responded to a report of a vehicle losing trash along county roadways leading to the solid waste station. The subjects were contacted & cleaned up the lost articles.
* Assisted a Long Pine resident with a report of a disturbance.
* Arrested a subject on an Arrest Warrant, for Violation of a Harassment / Protection Order, & booked them into the Brown Co Jail. The subject was released on bond.
* Received a report of possible child neglect in rural Brown Co.
* Responded to a report of a disturbance at a rural residence near Ainsworth.
* Investigated a report of harassment & possible trespassing in rural Brown Co.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a residence on South Woodward to the Brown Co Hospital.
* Assisted a subject traveling through Brown Co.
* Responded to a report of a possible accident West of Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of a reckless driver on Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth. A subject was arrested & booked into the Brown Co Jail for Driving Under the Influence & no operator’s license.
* Received a report of a residential security alarm going off in rural Brown Co.
* Investigated a report of a possible domestic disturbance in rural Brown Co.
* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a gas leak at a residence on Woodward St. Ainsworth.
0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.
3 - Handgun permits applied for
41 - Incidents Reports were taken.
5 - Paper Service was served.
219 - Phone calls were received.
9 - 911 emergency calls received.
2 - Titles were inspected.
4 - Traffic Citations were issued.
6 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.
* Rock County voters to decide on additional levy for hospital, ambulance service
(Posted 3:30 p.m. July 23)
Registered voters in Rock County were sent a special election ballot in the mail Wednesday that will determine whether the Rock County Hospital and Rock County Ambulance Service will continue to receive property tax levy to support their operations.
Voters will cast a ballot either “For” or “Against” the ballot question, which reads, “Shall Rock County on behalf of the Rock County Hospital and Rock County Ambulance be allowed to levy a property tax not to exceed 3 cents per $100 of taxable valuation in excess of the limits prescribed by law (both statutorily and constitutional restrictions) until fiscal year 2020, with 2 cents per $100 of valuation of said additional levy to be for the purpose of general operations of the Rock County Hospital and 1 cent per $100 of valuation of said additional levy to be allocated to a sinking fund for the purchase and equipping of one or more replacement ambulances for the Rock County Ambulance?”
The 3-cent additional levy has been in place since 1994, but must be reauthorized by Rock County voters every five years. Approval of the special election ballot question would allow the additional levy to be collected each year until 2020.
Rock County voters most recently approved the same ballot question in 2010, which provided for the additional levy until this year.
The ballot mailed on Wednesday to registered voters in Rock County includes a return identification envelope. Voters are asked to place the ballot into the return identification envelope and then sign and seal the envelope. The ballot will not be counted if the voter does not sign the back of the return envelope.
Ballots may also be returned in person to the clerk’s office in the Rock County Courthouse. All ballots must be received by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11.
Anyone with questions on the special election, or any registered Rock County voter who does not receive a ballot in the mail, may contact the Rock County clerk’s office at 402-684-3933.
* Hospital's 2015-16 budget presented to Brown County Commissioners
(Posted 3 p.m. July 21)
Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen and Chief Financial Officer Lisa Wood discussed the 2015-16 hospital budget with the Brown County Commissioners during Tuesday’s board meeting.
Sorensen said the Hospital Board of Trustees approved the budget proposal during its meeting on Monday, and the budget was now being submitted to the commissioners for their consideration.
Wood said some rates for hospital services would increase for the 2015-16 fiscal year, as the hospital had not raised rates for the past two years.
She said there would be an increase in rates for services such as lab tests, overnight stays and other services. That increased rate for services would help the hospital continue to keep an approximately 1 percent operating margin for the fiscal year.
Sorensen said some of the hospital’s rates were being charged at a level below what insurance companies allow, so the Board of Trustees opted to bring those rates in line with insurance reimbursement standards.
Wood said the hospital would experience a 14 percent hike in employee benefit expenses, due to the hospital’s insurance carrier, Co-Opportunity, going out of business and the new carrier charging a significantly higher premium for the hospital’s employee health insurance premiums.
She said the hospital realized a net profit of $22,292 for the 2014-15 fiscal year, a figure that does not take into account the county’s bond contribution for the voter-approved hospital addition.
The Brown County Hospital employs the equivalent of 77 full-time workers. Wood said the hospital finished the 2014-15 fiscal year with $4.28 million cash on hand, which was an increase from the $2.8 million in cash on hand available following the 2013-14 fiscal year.
“We finished the year in a strong position,” Wood said.
When constructing the 2015-16 budget, Wood said they took into account a projected loss in contracted service revenue and swing bed revenue due to the closure of the Ainsworth Care Center.
On the flip side, the budget includes a projected increase in custodial care overnight stays as the hospital will likely see some additional private-pay revenue with a local nursing facility option being unavailable.
Sorensen said the hospital is not licensed to accept Medicaid patients for overnight custodial care.
Sorensen said a major expense item in the $9.8 million budget is a projected $607,000 to replace the heating and cooling piping system at the hospital. The hospital is budgeting for $9.9 million in expected operating revenue, which would give the facility an operating margin of 1 percent.
The commissioners will adopt the hospital budget as part of its overall 2015-16 county budget.
In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners approved the membership roster for the Brown County Ambulance Service.
Ann Fiala, Mike Rudnick and Darlene Miller presented the membership roster and discussed a new on-call transfer schedule the association was implementing in an effort to handle more of the transfers of patients from the Brown County Hospital to other facilities.
Miller said the association set a goal of covering more of the transfers to facilities out of the area, and an on-call schedule comprised of willing participants was being constructed.
She said those agreeing to be on call for transfers would be paid $25 per day while on call. She said the association would only need to pick up an additional nine transfers it is currently not handling in order to pay the association members for being on call.
“We are using some EMTs from Keya Paha, Blaine, Brown and Rock counties,” Miller said. “We have a handful of people who are already on board. We would rather keep the money here than having it go to Midwest, which is out of the area.”
Fiala said the association had been covering only one third to one half of the transfers from Brown County Hospital.
“Our goal is to cover 90 percent or more of those transfers,” Fiala said. “The hospital is excited, because patients will be able to get on the road quicker.”
Commissioner Les Waits asked how many transfers the association was missing because of not having available drivers and EMTs. Fiala said, on average, the association would handle an additional transfer each week that it currently misses.
Waits said, “That won’t take very long to pay for itself if you only need nine and you could get an extra transfer per week.”
The board approved the Brown County Ambulance Association roster, which includes 31 members, 15 of which are certified Emergency Medical Technicians.
Rudnick said, with the exception of the additional $13,000 line item to pay for having members on call to perform transfers, the remainder of the association’s budget was similar to the previous year.
“We stayed under our budget for the 2014-15 year,” Rudnick told the board. “We will send this budget to Pete Peterson and let him know about the additional line item.”
In roads items, the commissioners approved the low bid submitted by Nebraska Machinery for a 2015 motor grader for the county roads department.
Nebraska Machinery bid a new 2015 Caterpillar 12M-3 model motor grader at a price of $256,500. Nebraska Machinery offered the county $31,250 trade-in value for its 1982 Caterpillar grader, and offered the county an additional $18,000 in credit for parts, which sales representative Eddie Bomar said can be used for parts and filters for any of the county’s Caterpillar machines.
Murphy Tractor and Equipment submitted a bid of $279,200 for a new 2015 John Deere 772 model motor grader, and offered the county $30,000 in trade-in value for the 1982 machine the county planned to replace with the new model.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the roads department has one of the Caterpillar models currently, and has not had any problems with it.
Following discussion, the board approved the low bid of $225,250 after trade-in for the 2015 Caterpillar motor grader.
Dennis Jones asked the commissioners about the possibility of being reimbursed after the mower he was hauling on Meadville Avenue was damaged by overhanging trees on the curve heading down to the Niobrara River.
Jones said he had to move over after meeting a vehicle on the curve, and overhanging trees damaged the support and bent the bar on his mower. He said it would cost $841 to replace the bar.
The commissioners instructed Jones to meet with Turpin and submit a claim to the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency, which handles the county’s liability insurance. NIRMA would make a determination on whether or not to pay the claim.
The commissioners acknowledged receipt of a budget request from the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District. The district asked for a 4-cent levy, the same levy it has received for the past several years. The rural fire protection district’s budget will be included in the county’s 2015-16 budget.
Clerk Travis Hobbs reported the daily salary for court bailiff’s when needed for jury trials would be increased to $135 per day and $50 for a half-day. She said bailiffs are only utilized during jury trials, so the county only pays for a bailiff a few times each year.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Aug. 4.
* Schroedl hired as Ainsworth City Clerk/Treasurer
(Posted 7 a.m. July 21)
Lisa Schroedl has been hired as the new city clerk and
treasurer for the city of Ainsworth. Mayor Larry Rice announced Schroedl’s
hiring after a search to replace longtime city clerk Kristi Thornburg, who
announced her resignation.
Rice said the interview committee, which consisted of himself and two City Council members, felt Schroedl brings an educational and work experience background that should benefit the city office and the community.
“Of course, we will miss the nearly 26 years of experience and knowledge that Kristi provided to our city, but she has assured us that she will assist and work with our new person in this position," Rice said. "We appreciate her attitude of cooperation.”
Schroedl is an Ainsworth High School graduate. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Following her college graduation, she worked for five years for CenterPointe in Lincoln, treating and diagnosing patients for residential and out-patient care settings.
She also spent 10 years with an international not-for-profit organic certification agency, where she was responsible for managing certification systems, staff and regional offices, and ensuring compliance with private and federal regulations.
She returned to Ainsworth with her husband Corey and their three children in 2013.
* Fire department celebrates 125th anniversary with awards, community activities
(Posted 10:30 p.m. July 19)
The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department celebrated its 125
anniversary over the weekend with games, a dance, water fights and its annual
Devin Painter was named the Ainsworth Volunteer Firefighter of the Year. Trent Kinney was named the fire department's Rookie of the Year, and Greg Wilke with GJW received the Business Person of the Year Award from the fire department.
Rick Goochey received a 40-year membership award, with Bill Carr and Randy Johnson earning 35-year awards with the department, and Brad Fiala a 30-year award.
Justin Nelson, Scott Pirnie and Lee Conroy were presented 10-year membership awards, and Austin Cook and Nate Rau earned five-year membership awards to the AVFD.
The firefighters thank everyone who helped celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.
* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department
(Posted 10:15 p.m. July 19)
* Responded to a traffic complaint on South Main St. Ainsworth. A subject was cited for Minor in Possession, Minor in Possession of tobacco, & violation of a Provisional Operator’s Permit.
* Investigated an ATV accident South of Long Pine. The Brown Co Ambulance also responded & an individual was transported to the Brown Co Hospital.
* Received a report of a business alarm going off. / The owners were contacted by the alarm company and advised everything was okay.
* Provided a welfare check on a rural Brown Co resident.
* Provided a welfare check on a juvenile on East 1st St Ainsworth, after receiving a request from an out of the area caller.
* The Brown Co Ambulance responded to an emergency call on West 2nd St Ainsworth. No one was transported at that time.
* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a grass fire, West of Ainsworth.
* Assisted an individual with information on an individual residing with a possible felon, and having firearms present.
* Responded to a report of a stray dog on East 7th St Ainsworth. The dog was returned to the owner, who was out looking for the animal.
* Responded to a report of a careless driver on West Dawes St Ainsworth. A subject was cited for Careless driving & for expired plates.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to the Good Samaritan in Kearney.
* Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail for Contempt of Court. The subject was later released per judge’s order.
* Received a parking complaint on North Elm St Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of a disturbance on North Oak St Ainsworth.
* Investigated a report of an accident with injury on Hwy 20 East of Plum Creek Bridge. The Ainsworth & Johnstown firemen & the Ambulance personnel also responded. The NE State Patrol assisted in this investigation. One individual was transported to the Brown Co Hospital.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from the Cottonwood Villa to the Brown Co Hospital.
* Received a report of possible child neglect & abuse in Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of a verbal dispute on West Dawes St.
* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from South of Ainsworth to the Brown Co Hospital.
* Responded to a report of a disturbance on West Dawes St Ainsworth.
* Arrested a subject for Criminal Mischief and booked them into the Brown Co Jail. The subject was later released on bond.
* Received two reports of an irrigation system watering the roadway North & West of Ainsworth./ The owners were contacted to resolve the problem.
* Received a report of possible child neglect or abuse in Ainsworth.
* Provided a welfare check on an individual in Hidden Paradise.
* Responded to a report of a disturbance at a Long Pine residence.
* Assisted a subject with information on a phone scam involving a computer, in Ainsworth.
* Responded to a report of a stray dog on Walnut St Ainsworth. The dog was transported to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic.
* Investigated a report of possible vandalism to a vehicle in Long Pine.
* Assisted Long Pine residents with a report of possible wood burning.
* Responded to a Domestic Disturbance in Long Pine.
0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.
0 - Handgun permits applied for
19 - Incidents Reports were taken.
7 - Paper Service was served.
208 - Phone calls were received.
14 - 911 emergency calls received.
3 - Titles were inspected.
5 - Traffic Citations were issued.
8 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.
* Davis provides update during Legislature's interim period
(Posted 7 a.m. July 17)
Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis provided an
updated on his interim activities.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.
* Elkhorn woman killed Wednesday in 2-vehicle crash west of Johnstown
(Posted 10:30 a.m. July 16)
A 52-year-old Elkhorn woman was killed Wednesday in a
two-vehicle accident west of Johnstown on Highway 20.
According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, at 1:57 p.m. Wednesday on Highway 20 west of Johnstown on the east side of the Plum Creek Bridge, an eastbound 2001 Chevy Malibu, driven by Sheri Walkling, 52, of Elkhorn, and a westbound 2002 Chevy pickup, driven by Lindzie Huber, 17, of Oelrichs, S.D., collided in the westbound lane.
The sheriff’s department investigation indicated the Malibu crossed the center line prior to colliding with the pickup.
Walkling was pronounced dead at the scene. Huber was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Service to the Brown County Hospital, where she was treated for what were termed minor injuries and released.
Both vehicles were considered total losses.
* School changing the way rural residents are paid mileage
(Posted 6:15 a.m. July 16)
Rural residents who receive a mileage payment from Ainsworth Community Schools for driving students to the nearest bus pickup site will experience changes for the 2015-16 school year.
During Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Education, Superintendent Darrell Peterson said there have been questions posed during the past couple years on who should and should not be paid for transporting students.
Peterson said, after researching, the district needed to make a few changes to comply with state statute.
“This is going to mean more work for us, and more work for parents,” Peterson told the board. “There is a form that will have to be filled out logging the days the student is driven to school.”
The superintendent said the district had previously paid families once per semester. Statutes require the district to offer monthly payments.
The policy allows payments to be made to anyone who lives more than four miles from one of the district’s bus routes. People are paid to transport their student to either Johnstown or Long Pine, which are the nearest pickup points, or to Ainsworth Community Schools, whichever site is closest.
Peterson said the changes will allow the district to comply with state statutes, but parents will see additional reporting requirements and the district will have more paperwork to complete to allow parents the option of receiving a monthly check.
In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, Peterson provided the board with a report on the mileage logged on district vehicles during the 2014-15 school year.
The school’s fleet of vehicles logged a four-year high of 128,191 miles, but Peterson said that increase could be attributed to the additional bus route to Johnstown that was added for the 2014-15 year.
He said repairs were minimal this year for the district’s fleet.
“We may need to start thinking about replacing the 1997 bus,” Peterson said. “It has been used on the Long Pine route for as long as I have been here.”
That bus has almost 190,000 miles on it, and did have maintenance and repairs totaling $1,473. The only vehicle in the district’s fleet that is older is a 1994 van that is used for special education purposes. Many of the district’s vehicles are now 10 years old or newer.
In action items, the board approved an option enrollment request for Charity Fay to allow her children Emily, Bradley and Lily to attend Rock County Public Schools for the 2015-16 school year.
The board also approved a contract with Dana F. Cole & Co. to continue providing audit services to the district.
First readings of several policies were approved Wednesday, including:
* A policy relating to assessments and academic content standards.
* A policy regarding special education.
* A policy updating the district’s purchasing policies.
* A changed statutory procedure for bidding construction projects. The Nebraska Legislature passed a bill allowing schools to avoid bidding requirements for construction projects under $100,000.
* The district’s anti-discrimination policy.
* And the removal of a duplicative policy relating to makeup work.
The board also approved the first reading of a policy updating its pay scale for substitute teachers. Peterson said surrounding schools have increased pay for substitute teachers. He recommended the board increase pay for short-term substitutes from $100 to $110 per day, and pay for long-term subs from $135 to $145 per day.
Board President Mark Johnson asked if there were enough substitute teachers available in the district.
Peterson said the district had a decent supply of substitutes available.
“We have not increased pay for substitutes for three years and other schools have,” Peterson said. “This will just help us keep up.”
During his report, Peterson said the school received notice that it had been accredited by the Nebraska Department of Education for the 2015-16 school year.
He said the district would include several items as part of the citywide garage sales planned for Aug. 8.
The superintendent reported Nick Krause and Cindy Mays would split some of the duties performed by retiring head custodian Ron Rennich.
“We received minimal applications for the head custodian position,” Peterson said.
He said Krause would take over daytime maintenance duties, while Mays would handle ordering and scheduling.
He said the
district was still in need of a full-time and a part-time custodian.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 10.
* Department of Roads releases plans for 2016 highway construction projects
(Posted 3:45 p.m. July 15)
Nebraska Department of Roads Director Kyle Schneweis released the fiscal year 2016 Surface Transportation Program.
This publication details how the department plans to use the taxpayer’s highway user dollars to provide the best state highway system possible for all Nebraskans and the traveling public.
The 2016 State Highway System Program is published at $505 million and is funded from state and federal highway user taxes and fees. The Local System Program for city streets and county roads totals $334 million and is funded with state, federal and local highway user revenues.
A total of 110 projects will be let to contract on the State Highway System during fiscal year 2016 (July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016). Projects throughout the state will range in size and scope from small intersection improvements involving lighting and traffic signals to pavement and bridge preservation projects to large resurfacing and reconstruction projects.
Nine projects are scheduled in District 8, which includes the KBRB listening area. Two of those projects are on Highway 20 in Cherry County. The first is 4.6 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair from Valentine east, and the second is a bridge repair project west of Wood Lake. The resurfacing project carries an estimated price tag of $3.2 million, with the bridge repair at an estimated $91,000.
A 14.4-mile stretch of Highway 11 from Atkinson north to Brush Creek will be milled for an asphalt resurfacing project. That project carries an estimated cost of $5.2 million.
Three portions of Highway 91 are scheduled for improvement work. A 12-mile stretch of Highway 91 from Burwell east will receive $785,000 in micro-surfacing. A 6.2-mile stretch of Highway 91 from Taylor west will be milled and resurfaced, as will a 7.8 mile stretch of Highway 91 east and west of Almeria.
The five-year program for District 8 includes 7.2 miles of Highway 7 resurfacing from Ainsworth’s Main Street and south.
Ainsworth’s other major route, 1.3 miles of Highway 20, is scheduled for concrete paving in the five-year planning period.
Several other stretches of Highway 20, Highway 7, Highway 12 and Highway 183 are included in the District 8 five-year plan for road improvement projects. Seven Highway 12 projects in Cherry, Keya Paha and Boyd counties totaling more than 50 miles are scheduled for resurfacing in the next five years.
Highway 20 projects mainly include micro-surfacing work in Cherry, Brown, Rock and Holt counties outside the 1.3 miles of concrete paving inside the Ainsworth city limits.
Highway 183 projects in the five-year plan include more than 11 miles of resurfacing work in Keya Paha County, and 11 miles of resurfacing in southern Rock County.
Some of the larger projects statewide include 11.6 miles of roadway widening, asphalt resurfacing and bridge repair east of Farnam on Highway 23 in Frontier County and 10.6 miles of roadway widening, asphalt resurfacing and bridge repair on Highway 11 north of Burwell in Garfield County. In Keith County, 11.5 miles of Highway 30 will be resurfaced with concrete and in Merrick County, Highway 30 and Highway 14 in Central City will be reconstructed with concrete and 4.2 miles of Highway 14 south of the city will be resurfaced with asphalt.
Funds from The Build Nebraska Act will be put to use on reconstruction of a new interchange southeast of Nebraska City, completion of the 4-lane expressway between
Plattsmouth and Bellevue, construction of a 4-lane expressway on Highway 30 between Schuyler and Rogers and four-lane reconstruction of the Heartland Expressway south of Alliance.
Major projects on Interstate 80 include replacing 9.2 miles of concrete pavement between Lodgepole and Chappell in Cheyenne and Deuel Counties and replacing another 7.8 miles west of the South Platte River in Deuel County.
* 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
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)
* 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
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, 2012)
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.
* Incident Management Team transitioning out of the area Monday
(Posted 9 a.m. July 30, 2012)
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, 2012)
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, 2012)
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:
* Region 24 manager reporting containment efforts progressing
(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 28, 2012)
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
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:
* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency update on containment progress
(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 28, 2012)
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.
Fridaynight’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
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, 2012)
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.
* Springview fire chief said work continues on Wentworth Fire Friday
(Posted 2:35 p.m. July 27, 2012)
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:
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
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, 2012)
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.
* Gov. Heineman shares stories of the volunteers in weekly column
(Posted Noon July 27, 2012)
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, 2012)
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, 2012)
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, 2012)
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, 2012)
(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, 2012)
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:
* Springview fire chief reports substantial progress, mounting expenses
(Posted 1:30 p.m. July 26, 2012)
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
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:
* NEMA reports Meadville evacuation lifted, Highway 12 reopened to traffic
(Posted noon July 26, 2012)
The Nebraska Emergency
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
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, 2012)
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:
* Heineman says entire state focused on north central Nebraska efforts
(Posted 9 a.m. July 26, 2012)
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:
* UN-L Extension taking donations to help cattle producers affected by fires
(Posted 6:50 a.m. July 26, 2012)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, 2012)
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, 2012)
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:
* Communications infrastructure one of the key elements of firefighting efforts
(Posted 7 p.m. July 25, 2012)
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:
(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, 2012)
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.
* Fire halls appreciative of donations, cash for fuel bills needed at this point
(Posted noon July 25, 2012)
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, 2012)
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
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, 2012)
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:
* Wednesday efforts to focus on Wentworth, Hall fires
(Posted 10 a.m. July 25, 2012)
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:
(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:
* Fiala reports major progress Tuesday on Fairfield Creek Fire
(Posted 9 p.m. July 24, 2012)
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:
* Heineman hopeful containment of the fires is progressing
(Posted 7 p.m. July 24, 2012)
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
"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:
* North central Nebraska not the only area dealing with fires
(Posted 6 p.m. July 24, 2012)
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, 2012)
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:
* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency provides map of fires
(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 24, 2012)
Map provided by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency
(A larger copy of the map can be emailed by providing a
return email address to email@example.com, 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, 2012)
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:
* Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team volunteers preparing 1,800 meals daily
(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)
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
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:
* Johanns says he will pursue additional federal resources if needed
(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 24, 2012)
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, 2012)
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
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, 2012)
“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.
Four Helicopters and Two Air Tactical Platforms will continue to assist ground crews in achieving containment goals.
Fire retardant drops may be available.
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.
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
Acreage: 65,580 total
Aviation : (3) Type (1) National Guard Black Hawks, and 1 Type 2
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, 2012)
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, 2012)
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
"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:
* 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)
* Firefighters describe conditions at the front line of the fires
(Posted 9:30 a.m. July 24, 2012)
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:
* Region 24 manager says crews made progress overnight, another tough day ahead
(Posted 9:15 a.m. July 24, 2012)
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:
* 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, 2012)
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.
* Fairfield Creek Fire reportedly crosses Highway 12 west of Springview
(Posted 5:45 p.m. July 23, 2012)
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, 2012)
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:
* Firefighter and EMT Ann Fiala discusses the volunteer effort
(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 23, 2012)
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:
* Fox reports 3 fires jumping out of Niobrara canyons fueled by dry, south winds
(Posted 4 p.m. July 23, 2012)
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:
* Wentworth Fire southeast of Springview breaks containment, heading northeast
(Posted 2:15 p.m. July 23, 2012)
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:
* Federal team coordinating firefighting efforts from conference center
(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 23, 2012)
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:
* Meadville Avenue, Norden Road, Highway 12 remain closed
(Posted 10 a.m. July 23, 2012)
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:
* Fox reports another home lost Sunday night, 1 feared lost found still standing
(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 23, 2012)
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
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:
* Heineman reports state assets being brought to bear on Fairfield Creek Fire
(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 23, 2012)
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:
* Fairfield Creek Fire 50 percent contained, but tentative with Monday winds expected; 6 homes lost thus far
(Posted 8:30 p.m. July 22, 2012)
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:
* Updated information from the American Red Cross
(Posted July 22, 2012)
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:
* NCDC setting up online avenue to assist firefighting effort
(Posted July 22, 2012)
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, 2012)
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
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:
* Heineman activates Emergency Operations Plan; 3 Blackhawk helicopters dropping water on Fairfield Creek Fire
(Posted July 22, 2012)
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, 2012)
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
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.
* Fairfield Creek Fire has now burned approximately 100,000 acres
(Posted July 21, 2012)
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.
* Brown County Ambulance Service requests towels, ice packs
(Posted July 21, 2012)
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, 2012)
(Click on the link below for the audio report)
* Red Cross volunteers have arrived at Ainsworth Community Schools
(Posted July 21, 2012)
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, 2012)
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, 2012)
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
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, 2012)
(click on the link below)
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.
* Fox reports leading edge of Fairfield Creek Fire 6 to 7 miles wide
(Posted 8 p.m. July 20, 2012)
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., 2012)
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
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., 2012)
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, 2012)
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, 2012)
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, 2012)
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 – 77Fire 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
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
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