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

* Phyllis A. Lane, 69, of Bassett 10 a.m. Aug. 6

* Meeting reports located below for:

July 28 Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees

July 21 Brown County Commissioners

July 15 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

July 8 Ainsworth City Council

July 7 Brown County Commissioners

* 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.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn July Weather Summary.mp3

Zach Welch (right) has been named the 2014-15
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.

audio clips/Zach Welch - KBRB Athlete of the Year.mp3

* 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 Ainsworth.
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 disparities.
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)

July 19

* 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.

 

July 20

* 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.

 

July 21

* 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.

 

July 22

* 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.

 

July 23

* 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.

 

July 24

* 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.

 

July 25

* 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.

 

Weekly Summary

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.

* Davis to hold town hall meetings throughout 43rd District next week

(Posted 3 p.m. July 23)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis will hold town hall meetings next week across the district to discuss the recently completed legislative session and to talk about bills he is working on for the 2016 session.
Davis will be in Sam and Louie’s at Alliance from 7 until 8:30 p.m. MST Tuesday, and in the Ranch House at Crawford from 5:30 until 6:30 p.m. MST and the Bean Broker at Chadron from 7:30 until 8:30 p.m. MST Wednesday.
On Thursday, Davis will be in the Bar J Steakhouse at Hay Springs from 4 until 5 p.m. MST, at the Modisett Ballpark at Rushville from 5:30 until 6:30 p.m. MST., and in the Gordon Community Building from 7 until 8 p.m. MST.
Friday will find Davis in the western portion of the district. He will host a town hall meeting from 5 until 6 p.m. Friday in the Valentine High School Auditorium, followed by a town hall from 7 until 8:30 p.m. Friday in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 1:45 p.m. July 23)

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

Mishai S. Peacock, age 18, of Ainsworth, charged with speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, fined $25.

Vinson K. Smith, 31, of Ainsworth, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

James Thornburg of Ainsworth, two counts of issuing a no-account check, fined a total of $100 and ordered to pay a total of $486 in restitution.

John Boomsma, 71, of Wessington, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Brandy R. Bussinger, 39, of Bassett, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Maureen Jackman, 42, of Ainsworth, disturbing the peace, $300.

Dewey L. Jefferis, 62, of Ainsworth, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $325.

Wayne E. Schroder, 30, of Stuart, commercial vehicle brake violation, $50; commercial vehicle inoperable lights violation, $25.

Jacinto G. Obregon, 65, of Orland Park, Ill., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Ali N. Johnson, 23, of Pierre, S.D., failure to have or carry a fuel permit, $100.

Allysa N. Nelson, 24, of Rapid City, S.D., failure to have or carry a fuel permit, $100.

Christopher J. Markman, 33, of Wahpeton, N.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Grant Huntley, 47, of Brighton, Colo., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

William M. Wood, 47, of North Richland Hills, Texas, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Charlotte M. Crowe, 26, of Canton, Conn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Taylor A. Ross, 22, of Hughesville, Md., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Bo D. Painter, 15, of Ainsworth, failure to yield the right of way, $25.

Bradley W. Kelly, 17, of Ainsworth, careless driving, $100.

Yendy A. Marquez, 24, of South Sioux City, Iowa, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Tyson E. Dowler, 20, of Alliance, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Mark J. Desiderio, 32, of Denver, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Zachary D. Jones, 16, of Ainsworth, careless driving, $100.

Shannon S. Aubushon, first offense reckless driving, fined $500 and sentenced to six months of probation.

Steve Allen Erickson, 60, of Beresford, S.D., commercial vehicle brake violation, $50; commercial vehicle marking violation, $50.

Tacie M. Hawkins, 44, of Wood Lake, licensing a vehicle without liability insurance, $100.

Kyle B. Hobbs, 17, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Clint J. Ruegge, 19, of Johnstown, driving under suspension, $100.

Kraig A. Brown, 28, of Ainsworth, two counts of failing to correct equipment, fined $10 on each count.

Tiffany R. Barnum, 24, of Ainsworth, possession or use of drug paraphernalia, $300.

Donald Shald, 82, of Stuart, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Michael A. Farrier, 56, of Lindsay, violation of hunting or fishing regulations, $100.

Scott E. Hallock, 37, of Springview, commercial vehicle brake violation, $50; commercial vehicle marking violation, $50.

Sammy Baysy, 48, of Venus, Texas, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

James A. Novak, 32, of East Durham, N.Y., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Austin J. Sybrant, 18, of Pierce, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Siobhan E. Fitzgibbon, 35, of Omaha, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

James B. Shirbrown, 57, of Ames, Iowa, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

* State Patrol to conduct high visibility enforcement Friday in Cherry County

(Posted 3 p.m. July 22)

The Nebraska State Patrol Troop B- Norfolk and the Cherry County Sheriff’s Department will conduct a night of special enforcement activities on Friday, July 24.
The special enforcement will include a vehicle check and high visibility patrols during the early evening hours, in an effort to reduce the potential for serious injury and fatality crashes.
“It is our hope a strong law enforcement presence will lead drivers to voluntarily comply with all traffic safety laws.” Sgt. Reagan Wiebelhaus, with the Troop B-Ainsworth unit of the State Patrol, said. “Help us save lives, always buckle up and never drive impaired or distracted.”

* April taxable sales spike in Brown, Cherry, Keya Paha counties

(Posted 11:45 a.m. July 22)

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


County
or City

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

2014
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

2014
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

36,854

43,793

(15.8)

2,026.98

2,408.63

Boyd

810,150

798,343

1.5

44,558.36

43,908.96

Brown

3,248,144

3,077,171

5.6

178,648.19

169,244.52

Ainsworth

3,116,818

2,945,874

5.8

171,425.25

162,023.18

Cherry

5,015,293

4,570,701

9.7

275,841.49

251,388.92

Valentine

4,793,900

4,299,836

11.5

263,664.80

236,491.26

Custer

8,039,037

9,741,271

(17.5)

442,147.52

535,770.32

Broken Bow

6,636,460

8,058,742

(17.6)

365,005.55

443,231.02

Holt

8,706,046

10,500,798

(17.1)

478,833.15

577,544.53

Atkinson

1,481,726

2,182,227

(32.1)

81,495.07

120,022.68

O'Neill

6,200,670

6,918,353

(10.4)

341,037.15

380,509.75

Keya Paha

217,632

200,606

8.5

11,969.79

11,033.35

Loup

100,549

66,684

50.8

5,530.22

3,667.64

Rock

746,731

886,856

(15.8)

41,070.26

48,777.14

Valley

3,266,726

4,203,756

(22.3)

179,670.13

231,206.79

Ord

2,894,648

3,679,145

(21.3)

159,205.82

202,353.13

State Total

$2,254,530,653

$2,240,437,861

0.6

$124,036,097.21

$123,496,440.08

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


County
or City

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

2014
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

2014
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

106,068

93,519

13.4

5,764.13

5,098.08

Boyd

661,884

438,984

50.8

36,475.68

24,125.87

Brown

881,034

566,926

55.4

48,705.78

31,360.34

Cherry

1,555,961

1,188,773

30.9

86,092.49

65,748.50

Custer

3,186,187

2,069,971

53.9

175,965.18

114,681.47

Holt

$2,935,567

$2,410,978

21.8

$162,379.77

$133,282.97

Keya Paha

364,025

155,099

134.7

20,012.37

8,534.34

Loup

244,602

200,822

21.8

13,427.74

11,004.08

Rock

473,911

433,945

9.2

26,133.02

23,946.32

Valley

1,422,569

1,036,511

37.2

78,751.29

57,398.69

State Total

$366,713,481

$336,953,081

8.8

$20,331,251.45

$18,688,411.96

* 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 awards presentation.
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)

July 12

* 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.

 

July 13

* 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.

 

July 14

* 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.

 

July 15

* 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.

 

July 16

* 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.

 

July 17

* 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.

 

July 18

* 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.

 

Weekly Summary

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.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 7-17.mp3

* 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.

* Small fire in Highway 20 ditch prompts firefighter response Monday

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

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was summoned to a small fire in the ditch on Highway 20 west of Ainsworth Monday.
According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, the fire call came in from a motorist just after 4 p.m. Monday 2 miles west of Ainsworth.
Fiala said either a spark from a vehicle or a cigarette tossed out a window ignited a small patch of grass. He said the fire in the Highway 20 ditch was contained to about a 15-by-5 foot spot, and another motorist had knocked down the flames by the time firefighters arrived on scene.
Firefighters returned to the fire hall shortly after arriving at the site.

* ATV accident Sunday claims the life of a 4-year-old Springview girl

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 14)

A 4-year-old Springview girl died Sunday night as a result of an all-terrain vehicle accident that occurred south of Long Pine.
According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department report, at 9:20 p.m. Sunday on a private drive 23 miles south of Long Pine, an all-terrain vehicle driven by a 10-year-old Springview boy overturned. Bit Reins Painter, 4, of Springview, was also riding on the ATV.
She was transported to the Brown County Hospital, where she was pronounced dead from injuries suffered during the accident. The 10-year-old driver was not injured.
A graveside service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Mount Hope Cemetery. Memorials for Bit Painter may be made to the family for a future designation.

* Long Pine residents will notice low water pressure for next few days

(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 13)

According to Long Pine city officials, residents on the city’s water system will notice low water pressure for the next day or two as the city drains its system to make routine repairs.
Water pressure should return back to normal in a couple days. Anyone with questions may contact the city office.

* Spalding man claims $154,000 Lottery prize purchased at Bassett

(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 13)

Curtis Stevens of Spalding recently won a $154,000 Nebraska Pick 5 jackpot.

On a recent Friday evening, Stevens was in Bassett on his way to Scottsbluff. He stopped at Scott’s Place, 102 West Highway 20.

“The only reason we even stopped is because we were lost,” Stevens told Nebraska Lottery officials while claiming his prize. “We stopped to get a map and I figured I’d buy a Pick 5 ticket, too.”

Stevens says he’s played Nebraska Pick 5 for 15 years, playing almost every drawing. Nebraska Pick 5 draws six nights a week. The overall odds for the game are 1 in 8. The odds for winning the jackpot, which begins at $50,000 and grows each time it’s not hit, are 1 in 501,942.

Stevens says he’s never won a prize this large and, when he first checked, he didn’t believe he’d really won.

“My wife didn’t believe me either,” he says.

Unlike most of Nebraska Lottery’s Lotto games, Nebraska Pick 5 is unique to Nebraska. All proceeds from ticket sales stay within the state and all tickets are sold in Nebraska.

* Several area students participate in annual Agricultural Youth Institute

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 13)

Several area high school juniors and seniors recently attended the 44th annual Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus.
“This was one of the largest NAYI delegations in the 44-year history of the Institute,” Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach said. “NAYI is designed to educate youth about agriculture, how to get involved in the agricultural industry, as well as about the numerous career opportunities available to them in the future. The week also provided the delegates an opportunity to network with industry leaders, top-notch speakers, and agricultural representatives.”
Among those participating in this year’s Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute were Jake Wilkins and Heather Martin of Ainsworth; Cash Cosgrove, Chris Coulter, Jayde Shankland and Katie Nolles of Bassett; Paige Bruns of Springview; and Hailey Paxton of Stuart.
During the five-day institute, the delegates participated in agriculture policy discussions, agricultural career explorations, and group discussions. Motivational speakers, a farm management program, and a media experience helped the delegates develop leadership potential, strengthen their pride in Nebraska’s agricultural industry and enable them to help tell the story of agriculture.
Since its inception in 1971, NAYI has reached well over 5,000 youth from across Nebraska. The institute is the longest-running agricultural youth institute of its kind in the nation. Delegates are able to attend the Institute free of charge because of the generous donations of numerous agricultural businesses, commodity groups and agricultural organizations.
NAYI is coordinated by the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council, which is comprised of 21 college students selected by the Department of Agriculture.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 13)

July 5

* Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a concern of possible animal neglect in Ainsworth

* Investigated a one – vehicle accident without injury in the alley behind 321 S Main St.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co Hospital.

* Responded to a report of a stray dog on East Zero St Ainsworth. The owner arrived to claim the dog.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to Faith Regional in Norfolk.

 

July 6

* Investigated a report of a semi / passenger vehicle accident, without injury, at the intersection of Hwy 183 & Hwy 20.

* Assisted with multiple firework complaints in the Ainsworth area.

* Provided a welfare check on rural residents East of Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of a bull out on North Wilson St Ainsworth. The owner was contacted & located the animal later.

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

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued a burn permit, for property East of the Spur 9A & Hwy 20.

* The Ainsworth & Long Pine Rural Firemen responded to a report of black smoke South of Long Pine.

 

July 7

* Investigated a report of vandalism to an Air conditioner pump at an Ainsworth business.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co Hospital.

* Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a court commitment from Drug Court.

 

July 8

* Responded to a report of a reckless driver, traveling west on Hwy 20.

* Responded to a report of a subject driving recklessly on the streets in Long Pine.

* Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of a stray dog. The animal was transported to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic, where its owner claimed it.

* After receiving a 911 call, resulting with no answer on caller’s end. Deputies responded to a rural Ainsworth residence to provide a welfare check.

* Assisted a Long Pine resident with a malfunction of their life line equipment.

* Assisted Cherry Co with a report of a family, possibly traveling East from Valentine, that had accidentally left a juvenile behind at a service station in Valentine. The NE State Patrol and a Brown Co. Deputy contacted the vehicle.

* The Ainsworth Firemen performed a controlled burn on 5th & Oak Sts Ainsworth.

 

July 9

* Responded to two reports of fireworks on West 6th St, Long Pine.

* Investigated a report of farm equipment knocking down a stop sign on Hwy 20 at Main St. Ainsworth.

* Responded to two reports of stray dogs in Long Pine. The dogs were transported to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co Hospital.

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

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

 

July 10

* Responded to a report of suspicious activity at a Main St Business in Ainsworth.

* Assisted subjects with information on possible drug activity in Brown County.

* Investigated a one – vehicle accident without injury on South Woodward St Ainsworth.

* Arrested & booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail for Driving Under Suspension & a warrant from Scottsbluff Co. The subject was released on bond.

* Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of vandalism to a tarp.

 

Weekly Summary

0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

3 - Handgun permits applied for

22 - Incidents Reports were taken.

9 - Paper Service was served.

193 - Phone calls were received.

19 - 911 emergency calls received.

10 - Titles were inspected.

5 - Traffic Citations were issued.

4 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

 

Monthly Summary

10 - Arrests

95 - Calls for Service 

8 - Citations were issued

0 - Crime Stopper call received

1 - Defect Cards issued

11 - Handgun permits issued

29 - Paper Service served

739 - Phone calls were received

32 - 911 emergency calls received

20 - Titles inspected

41 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued

* City Council meets

(Posted: 7 a.m. July 10)

The Ainsworth City Council voted to match a $10,000 contribution made by the Brown County Commissioners to provide funds to the Ainsworth-Brown County Ainsworth Care Center Interlocal Board.
The group was developed to lead the effort to purchase and operate a nursing home/care center in Ainsworth. The council had earlier provided $20,000 for the Ainsworth Care Center Task Force to cover expenses of obtaining feasibility and architectural studies, legal fees and other costs.
Council member Kent Taylor, who serves as chairman of the interlocal board, said they are currently working to develop a budget and continue their efforts to provide a care center for the community.
In other action by the city council during their meeting Wednesday: The council voted to provide $65,000 from LB 840 funds to the North Central Development Center for economic development administration. They also were presented with a six month report from the Citizen Advisory Review Committee.  The council voted to buy a new slurry tank unit for the Waste Water Treatment Plant from an Iowa firm of Naberhaus Implement Company. The cost of this unit was $16, 880.  The council reviewed and discussed a comparison collected from a number of cities in Nebraska regarding garbage collection fees. Ainsworth is faced with increasing costs to provide this service to residents and businesses. The comparison survey shows monthly residential charges in some of our neighboring cities range from $17 to $23 a month.  Ainsworth’s current residential garbage pickup fee is $11. The council will make a decision later on the amount of increases needed for both residential and commercial garbage collection.  They approved the reappointments of Diana Syfie and Helen Sherman to the Ainsworth Housing Authority and the school superintendent to the Community Redevelopment Authority.

* Presentation Contest winners

(Posted: 5 p.m. July 9)

The BKR Counties 4-H Presentation Contest was held Wednesday, hosted by Brown County 4-H.
Carol Plate judged the 10 4-H’ers and Cloverkids who presented a wide variety of topics during the contest. The team presentation by Shaley Starkey and Maia Flynn earned a purple ribbon with a talk on “All About Archery”. Henry Beel presented an ag literacy presentation about #HayingProbs and received a purple ribbon.
A new division in the 4-H Presentation Contest included the 4-H Film Fest. This division included a 60-second public service announcement focused on an activity or event.   Purple ribbons were awarded to Sydney Linse who focused on the “Benefits of 4-H”; Hannah Linse shared about the “Benefits of Exercise” and Adyson Linse  told about “Hunter Safety”. Blue ribbons in the novice division were awarded to Hannah Beel with a presentation about “How to Create Melty Bead Designs” and Jaxon Hitchler with a talk about American Ninja Warriors – Jaxon Style”.
Cloverkid ribbons were awarded to Holden Beel and Shelby Connell. 
Shaley Starkey, Maia Flynn, Henry Beel, Adyson Linse, Hannah Linse and Sydney Linse are now eligible to represent the BKR Counties during the Nebraska State Fair 4-H Presentation Contest.

* BOE session

(Posted: 2 p.m. July 8)

The Brown County Commissioners, meeting as a Board of Equalization, met Tuesday, July 7 to hear 2015 Tax Year protests. The board acknowledged the property valuation protest of Glen and Cathy Cole of Long Pine. This protest was dismissed by request of Cathy Cole. They acknowledged the property valuation protest of Tom Gallaway of Irvine, California. Gary Sever was present to give testimony at the hearing on behalf of Gallaway. Permission was given by Sever for the board to view the property and measure the garage. Following their viewing of the property near Johnstown, the board returned at 1 p.m. and adjourned their meeting. The next meeting for protest hearings is scheduled for Tuesday, July 21 at the Brown County Courthouse.

* Siren in Long Pine problem

(Posted: 8 a.m. July 8)

Residents of Long Pine are reminded that the Civil Defense Emergency Sirens are not working and the Long Pine Fire Department advises you listen to KBRB or Weather Radio for any warnings or advisories.

* Brown County Commissioners meeting

(Posted: 1 p.m. July 7)

Brown County Commissioners, Buddy Small and Reagan Wiebelhaus, met Tuesday in Ainsworth. Les Waits was absent.  The commissioners approved a budget transfer of $100,000 from Miscellaneous General to the County Highway Fund.  They also approved claims.  Several items on the agenda were postponed to the July 21 meeting of the county board including: A resolution on the Duffield-Billings road closing in northern Brown County. This was delayed to determine the legal description and exact language of the resolution.  Due to the absence of Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenneth Turpin, the discussion on road department issues and the evaluation of the road superintendent were rescheduled for the next meeting. A decision on the purchase of a tag or pusher axle for the Mack dump truck was postponed. And terms of the easement acquisition for a portion of the Paradise Valley Road south of Ainsworth was postponed to July 21 meeting.  The commissioners did agree to a project proposed by Rolling Stone Feedlot just north of Ainsworth to lower the elevation of the hard-surfaced road just to the north of their feed-mill. All costs of the project, including replacement of the section of roadway, will be paid by Rolling Stone.  They also approved signing of an agreement between Brown County and Northeast Nebraska Telephone Company for buried fiber optic cable.  They acknowledged a letter from the North Central Development Center regarding the annual contribution.  And a request for Highway Allocation Funds to the Nebraska Department of Roads.  The commissioners also discussed the 2015-2016 fiscal year levy allocation request from the Brown County Ag Society.  They also discussed and made plans to advertise to fill a position open on the county roads department.  The commissioners also set time aside to meet as a Board of Equalization to conduct protest hearings

 

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

 

Posted 2:55 p.m. July 6)

June 28

* Investigated a report of a disturbance on West Second Street in Ainsworth.

* Booked a subject into Brown County jail for Domestic Assault 3rd Degree.

* Brown County Ambulance service transported a person from their residence to Brown County Hospital in Ainsworth.

* Received reports of people blocking Main Street in Long Pine, possible criminal activity in Long Pine, a domestic disturbance in Johnstown and a complaint of a dog running at-large in East City Park.

June 29

* Investigated reports of criminal mischief on North Maple Street in Ainsworth, sexual assault and possible theft of lawn chairs from South Woodward Street in Ainsworth.

* Received reports of harassment to a person, dog running at-large on South Oak Street in Ainsworth and a gas drive-off in Ainsworth.

June 30

* Investigated a report of domestic assault in Ainsworth and a subject was booked into Brown County jail for Domestic Assault 3rd Degree.

* Received a report of a dog running at-large on South Oak Street in Ainsworth. Dog was taken to the owner’s residence.

July 1

* Two subjects were booked into Brown County jail; one on a warrant from another county, one for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.

* One subject bonded out and was released from Brown County jail.

* Deputy provided civil stand-by for persons in Ainsworth.

* Deputy responded to a complaint of juveniles throwing tubes in front of vehicles.

* Investigated a report of loud fireworks behind the Golden Steer in Ainsworth.

* Brown County Ambulance service transported a flight crew from the Ainsworth Airport to Brown County Hospital and then back to the airport.

* Ambulance service also responded to a call for a person who had fallen, no transportation was provided.

July 2

* One subject was bonded out and released from Brown County jail.

* Brown County Ambulance service transported a person from an Ainsworth business to Brown County Hospital.

* Received report of an individual who hit a deer east side of Plum Creek and a report of a lost dog.

* Investigated a complaint of a vehicle parked on Merten Street in Ainsworth and a report of a wild animal on First Street in Ainsworth. This person was assisted by Nebraska Game and Parks personnel.

July 3

* Ainsworth and Raven Firemen responded to a fire 18-miles south of Ainsworth near the old Raven schoolhouse and Ainsworth Firemen were also called to a dumpster fire behind the Ainsworth Super 8 Motel.

* Deputy performed a welfare check on an Ainsworth individual.

* Investigated a two-vehicle accident, without injury, on North Ash Street in Ainsworth.

* Received a report of a lost puppy.

July 4

* A subject, with time served, was released from Brown County jail.

* Received a report of two neglected dogs. Deputy took both dogs to the vet clinic.

* Responded to fireworks complaint.

The weekly summary:

2 handgun permits applications

24 incident reports were taken

6 paper service were served

105 telephone calls were received

5 emergency 911 calls received

5 titles were inspected

4 traffic citations were issued

10 verbal and written warnings were issued

* Care Center Board begins budget work, could see substantial first-year shortfall

(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 30)

Working on a preliminary budget, Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Interlocal Board member Jim Walz said the group needed to be prepared to experience a substantial operating loss during the first year, but he said it appears a facility would reach the break-even point by the second year if it could get to 30 residents.

Walz said he looked at the budgets from nursing homes at Bassett and Kimball, and incorporated information from the feasibility study that was conducted using Ainsworth Care Center data.

“I think it is safe to say that the county has committed $340,000, and the city plans to give $340,000,” Walz said. “The first year, we may have to come up with dramatically more than that.”

Walz said the preliminary budget estimated expenses of $2.8 million in the first year. He said he started conservatively on the revenue side, estimating one month of operations with no residents, one month with two private-pay residents and one month with four private-pay residents before the facility would likely be able to accept Medicare and Medicaid residents.

“I am being conservative on the revenue side and planning for quite a few expenses in the first year,” Walz said. “We could see a shortfall of around a half-million dollars in the first year before we would start cash-flowing.”

Walz said the data he used from the other two facilities and the feasibility study showed monthly expenses to operate a facility ranging from $145,000 to $165,000.

“I estimated a slow build-up of residents,” Walz said. “The concern will be when we can being accepting Medicare and Medicaid patients and when Medicare and Medicaid will begin paying us.”

Walz said, estimating $155,000 in expenses each month, if the facility can eventually get to 30 residents, revenue from that number of residents would be approximately $175,000 monthly based on data provided in the feasibility study.

Board member Leanne Maxwell asked former Ainsworth Care Center Director of Nursing Amanda Tucker if it was reasonable to expect that the facility, if it could be purchased and the licensed beds obtained from the state, could get back up to 30 residents after a year.

Tucker said she was confident a local care center could achieve that level of occupancy.

“I think getting back up to 30 residents is completely realistic,” Tucker said. “We were running between 30 and 35 residents prior to this.”

Walz said either the city and county would likely have to kick in additional funding for the first year, or the board would have to find other ways to make up the difference, whether through grants, donations or a loan.

No official action was taken on the budget.

Board Chairman Kent Taylor provided an update on the potential purchase of the Ainsworth Care Center real estate and personal property.

He said the group did not know a lot more than it did when it last met. He said a full list of the inventory included as the facility’s personal property was not yet known.

“The Department of Health and Human Services is apparently processing an application from the buyer for the licensed beds,” Taylor said.

A contingency of an offer made to the owners of the care center building was that the 46 beds licensed to the Ainsworth facility be sold and moved, so the community could then utilize state legislation to get the licensed beds back at no cost.

Taylor said the company that owns the facility had not responded to the North Central Development Center’s offer for the real estate and personal property, perhaps because it was waiting until the sale of the licensed beds was complete.

A 5 p.m. Monday deadline on the offer passed during the board’s meeting without a response, ending the official offer from the local group. An offer would have to now be reissued by one of the parties to continue the negotiation process.

“I remain frustrated, but I am not surprised,” Taylor said.

With no pressing issues to address now that the Ainsworth Care Center has closed and all the former residents have been relocated to other facilities, the interlocal board set its next meeting for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5, in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

* Winning $154,000 Nebraska Pick 5 ticket sold at Bassett Friday

(Posted 8:30 a.m. June 29)

One lucky player who bought a Nebraska Pick 5 ticket for the Friday drawing is holding a ticket worth $154,000.
The Nebraska Lottery has confirmed that one ticket sold for Friday’s Nebraska Pick 5 draw matched all five winning numbers for the $154,000 jackpot. The ticket was sold at Scott's Place, 102 West Highway 20 in Bassett. The winning numbers from Friday’s Nebraska Pick 5 draw were 15, 16, 23, 33, 37. Players are encouraged to check their tickets at any Nebraska Lottery retailer, online at www.nelottery.com, or by calling the Lottery office at 402-471-6100.
Winning Nebraska Lottery Lotto tickets expire 180 days after the drawing. Prizes of $20,000 or more must be claimed in person at Lottery headquarters in Lincoln. Additional information about claiming prizes can be found at the Nebraska Lottery website, www.nelottery.com or by calling 800-587-5200.
Nebraska Pick 5 is Nebraska's unique Lottery game: all the proceeds from Nebraska Pick 5 stay in Nebraska, and all the winning tickets are sold in Nebraska at Nebraska Lottery Lotto game retailers.
The odds of winning the Nebraska Pick 5 jackpot, which starts at $50,000 and grows by $4,000 each drawing that it is not won, are 1 in 501,942. The overall odds of winning any Nebraska Pick 5 prize which has drawings six nights a week, are 1 in 8.

* Johnstown boy injured after falling under trailer tire during alumni parade

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

A 6-year-old Johnstown boy was injured during Saturday’s Ainsworth Alumni Parade after being run over by a trailer on Second Street.

According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, which investigated the accident, at 10:19 a.m. on East Second Street just east of the Elm Street intersection, a 2003 Dodge pickup, driven by Candace Fernau, 47, of Ainsworth, was pulling a trailer in the alumni parade.

Hobie Smith, 6, of Johnstown, had gotten off the trailer and was attempting to get back on the trailer when he was struck by the trailer’s tire and run over.

Smith was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital with injuries suffered during the accident.

 

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department also investigated a two-vehicle accident on Tuesday, June 23, in Ainsworth.

According to the sheriff’s department report, at 5:50 p.m. on Highway 20 at the Oak Street Intersection, a collision occurred between a 2006 Ford pickup, driven by Mary Moody, 74, of Ainsworth, and a 1998 Toyota pickup, driven by Tammy Elkins, 35, of Ainsworth.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $1,100. The Toyota sustained approximately $1,400 damage.

 

* Irrigation District board green lights Game and Parks temperature gauge in canal

(Posted 3:15 p.m. June 25)

Following discussion on how the data would be collected and analyzed, and following encouragement from representatives of the Bureau of Reclamation, the Ainsworth Irrigation District Board of Directors Thursday approved allowing the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to place a temperature gauge in the district’s canal system as part of monitoring efforts on the Plum Creek and Pine Creek basins.

During a special meeting, board members discussed the goal of the data collection with representatives from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Bureau of Reclamation.

Jeff Schuckman, the Northeast District fish manager for the Game and Parks Commission, said the commission plans to concentrate on several streams in the basin to collect temperature data in an effort to maintain its trout streams.

“There is an emphasis on Plum Creek,” Schuckman said. “We are at the beginning stages of this entire program. We have a lack of data on these streams. We are asking to put a temperature gauge in the canal and another in Plum Creek to gather data on any temperature changes.”

Schuckman said any water from the irrigation canal that enters Plum Creek may or may not make a difference in the creek’s temperature. Currently, there was no data available to make a determination.

“We collected fish data on the streams last year,” Schuckman said. “We would now like to get a picture of what is happening to the stream temperatures.”

Game and Parks fisheries biologist Andy Glidden said the commission would also take temperature readings on the Pine Creek drainage.

“We will take readings on the upper ends of each stream and temperatures at their confluences,” Glidden said. “We have not had the ability in the past to collect data on private waters, because fishermen pay the tab for us. We now have an opportunity through a grant to gather this data.”

Andrea Severson with the Bureau of Reclamation’s McCook office said the data would help the bureau from an engineering standpoint if there are any noted changes in stream temperatures in different stretches.

“We know you have a job to do and that is to deliver water,” Severson said. “We don’t want to compromise that. We understand the irrigation district’s job is to deliver water to its customers, and the Game and Parks Commission’s objective is to protect the stream. The Bureau of Reclamation is willing to work with both groups to find a solution that does not negatively impact the irrigation district.”

Severson said the data is needed to determine if there is even a difference in water temperature on the streams.

“Without that data, there is no way to make a determination,” she said.

Irrigation District Manager Rod Imm said there is very little water that ever goes from the district’s system into Plum Creek.

“Several years ago we created a ponding area, and that shows we are conscious of Plum Creek,” Imm said. “We try not to release any more water than we have to. This is the only place where we can regulate our system.”

He said there is a misunderstanding that if the canal is full and the area receives substantial rain that all the water in the canal goes down Plum Creek.

“That is not the case at all,” Imm said. “When the ponding area reaches a high level there is an automatic gauge that releases a small amount of water into Plum Creek.”

Imm said he had concerns regarding the objectiveness of the study.

“I am concerned there may be conclusions reached before the data is even collected,” Imm said.

Board member Steve Bartak said he was concerned any data collected would be used to try and adversely affect the irrigation district’s operations.

“We have to have a way to adjust water, and this is how we do that,” Bartak said of moving water into the ponding area. “After the data is collected, someone is still going to come back and try and determine what is an acceptable level. We have a responsibility to protect our irrigators and our operations.”

Schuckman said the Game and Parks Commission was charged with protecting Plum Creek, which is a Class A trout stream.

“Depending on what the data shows, there may be ways to mitigate the temperature changes,” Schuckman said. “We would be willing to work with the irrigation district in that scenario.”

Schuckman said there could be funding available through the Nebraska Environmental Trust to assist with any mitigation projects should the data show any substantial changes on Plum Creek in water temperatures above the district’s ponding area and below it.

Severson said the Bureau of Reclamation also has a grant program that could cover 75 percent of the cost of mitigation efforts should a major temperature change be observed.

“We believe having the data and letting the data do the talking is the best way to proceed at this point,” Severson said.

She said the data may show there is no issue with water temperature variance. Obviously, in that case, no mitigation would be required.

Schuckman said, to him, obtaining the data was a win-win for both the Game and Parks Commission and the irrigation district.

“If we monitor and there is no effect, then we can shake hands and say ‘it was nice working with you,’” Schuckman said. “We will share with you all of the data we collect.”

Following the discussion, the Board of Directors voted to approve the placement of the temperature gauge. Board members indicated it could take several years of monitoring to get a true picture of whether the water temperatures change, as each irrigation season can be unique depending on the amount of rainfall the area receives.

* Area students named to UNK spring semester dean's list

(Posted 8:15 a.m. June 24)

The University of Nebraska at Kearney announced the names of students who earned a place on the dean’s list for the spring 2015 semester.

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

Spring semester dean’s list students include:

Ainsworth – Amanda Theis

Bassett – Harlee Hollenbeck, Aaron Kroll and Jamie Turpin

Springview – Brittany Schrantz and Jessica Cook

Stuart – Marayah Laible

Atkinson – Halli Thurlow, Kamaha Cone and Dana Slaymaker

Wood Lake – Emilee Jacquot

Valentine – Tayler Mcpeak, Abigail Paxton and Marki Coleman

Dunning – Shelby Saner, Matthew Thomas

* Sorensen discusses hospital's path to finding its newest physician

(Posted 4:30 p.m. June 22)

Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen discussed the process of locating a new physician with KBRB's Graig Kinzie Monday.
To hear the details on the hospital's hiring of new physician Dr. Russ Tourtsev, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Shannon Sorensen - New Physician.mp3

* Brown County Hospital Trustees approve hiring of physician Dr. Russ Tourtsev

(Posted 2:45 p.m. June 22)

The Brown County Hospital has signed an employment agreement for a new physician.

During a recent meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees, Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen reported Dr. Russ Tourtsev had committed to joining the Brown County Hospital in the summer of 2016.

Following an executive session, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the physician employment agreement with Dr. Tourtsev as presented.

Sorensen said Tourtsev is in his final year of residency in the Geisinger Medical Center at Wilkes-Barre, Penn. A New York City native, Sorensen said Tourtsev visited Ainsworth May 11-12 and has agreed to a contract beginning next year when his residency is complete.

Two representatives from Trane Heating and Air discussed a heating and cooling piping project for the hospital.

The hospital plans to update the heating and cooling system in the patient wings of the facility. Board members asked Trane representatives Kaylinn Nienhueser and Jamie Klootwyk questions regarding the capabilities of the facility’s current system and the benefits of upgrading the patient wings.

Nienhueser and Klootwyk also discussed timelines and warranties. The board tabled taking action on the improvements until additional information could be gathered.

In the only other action item during the board’s recent agenda, Hospital Administrator Sorensen and Lisa Wood provided information on the hospital’s custodial care rates. Following discussion, the trustees approved changes to the rates.

In other business, Sorensen reported the Brown County Hospital Auxiliary had recently received close to $25,000 in donations. The Hospital Auxiliary uses those funds toward improvements at the hospital.

Sorensen also briefed the board regarding the closing of the Ainsworth Care Center and developments on the potential sale of the facility.

The next meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees is scheduled for 4 p.m. July 20.

 

The team of Matt Sells, Alicia Sells, Cory Brodbeck and Monica Wiehn won a scorecard playoff over the Ainsworth Motors team of Brett Knoetzel, Cam Palmer, Robert Magill and Kade Gracey Friday during the 13th annual Brown County Hospital Foundation golf tournament at the Ainsworth Golf Course.

Both teams shot rounds of 10-under par 62, with the Sells team winning on a scorecard playoff. The Dan Griess team finished third in the championship flight.

The Ainsworth Area Retired Persons team, anchored by Larry Rice and Jerry Ehlers, won the first flight, with the Cassell Executive Offices team finishing second and the Smith-Giles Ranch team taking third.

The Fischer and Sons team won the second flight, with the Willow Ridge team taking second and the Bart Waits team third.

A vast majority of the flight prize winners donated their earnings to the Brown County Hospital Foundation. Two outings to the Prairie Club were auctioned, with Dakota Claims Service and KBRB Radio the winning bidders.

Tournament chair Mike Depko with the Brown County Hospital said more than $6,000 was raised for the hospital foundation through the annual tournament.

* Area rodeo athletes qualify for National Finals Rodeo

(Posted 7:45 a.m. June 22)

Three athletes from the KBR area qualified to participate in the National High School Finals Rodeo by finishing in the top four of their event following the completion of the Nebraska High School State Finals Rodeo Saturday at Hastings.

The area will send two barrel racers to the National Finals Rodeo July 12-18 at Rock Springs, Wyo. Rachel Calvo of Bassett and Macey Vonheeder of Ainsworth both finished in the top four overall following the state finals to claim spots in the national finals. Calvo entered the state finals in the top spot in the barrels and held on to a nationals bid by ending the year in third place. Vonheeder entered the state finals in sixth, but a strong state finals performance moved her up to fourth place and a national bid. Shaina Simonson of Dunning is the barrel racing alternate. She did qualify for nationals in the breakaway and goat-tying competitions, finishing fourth overall in both events. Simonson was also named the reserve all-around champion.

Nolan Sybrant of Bassett qualified for nationals in tie-down roping, finishing third overall. Ty Milleson of Dunning ended the year in the top spot in the tie-down roping competition.

Elsewhere, Cord Hesseltine of Thedford is headed to nationals with a third-place overall finish in bareback riding. JT Bradley of Brewster qualified fourth in boys cutting to earn a trip to Wyoming.

Riley Wakefield of O’Neill was the top steer wrestler, with Boyd Sawyer of Thedford qualifying third. Wakefield qualified in the top spot in the team roping competition as well, and finished as the all-around champion for the 2015 spring season.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 9:45 a.m. June 20)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred on Friday, June 19, on Highway 183 northeast of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 9:55 p.m. on Highway 183 approximately 6 miles north of the Highway 20 intersection, a 2014 Ford F-150, driven by Shawn Fernau, 39, of Ainsworth, was traveling south when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $3,500.

* Taylor places second nationally with her National History Day documentary

(Posted 3 p.m. June 18)

Ainsworth High School student Vanessa Taylor finished as the runner-up in the country during the 41st annual National History Day contest on the University of Maryland campus at College Park, Md.

Presenting a documentary entitled, “Electricity for All: The Leadership and Legacy of George W. Norris,” Taylor on Thursday received a silver medal and a monetary prize.

National History Day sponsor Nichole Flynn said Taylor’s second-place medal was the highest finish for an Ainsworth Community Schools student.

More than 600,000 students from around the world competed in National History Day contests, with the top entries from 58 affiliate members invited to participate in the national finals June 14-18.

Contestants represented all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and international schools in Central America, China, Korea and South Asia. Contestants could enter documentaries, exhibits, papers, performances or web sites.

Ainsworth Middle School student Katrina Beel also qualified to compete in the National History Day national contest, performing, “The Leadership and Legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt.”

The theme for this year’s contest was “Leadership and Legacy in History.”

National History Day Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn said, “Once again, I am amazed by the research and effort put into these projects. The students spend an entire year preparing these projects and deciding between such astounding works is incredibly difficult. I know the judges always find it challenging to choose a winner. I congratulate all of the winners, and all of the contestants who made it to nationals. That itself is quite an accomplishment.”

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 2:45 p.m. June 18)

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

Deborah S. Benedict, age 59, of Tilden, charged with speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, fined $25.

Brian G. Vogelsang, 63, of Ainsworth, commercial vehicle brake violation, $50.

Wesley H. Hitchcock, 45, of Sparks, violation of load content requirements, $100.

Lois M. Maier, 73, of Columbus, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Lindsey M. Fernau, 30, of Meadow Grove, failure to use child passenger restraint, $25; also charged with failure to use a seat belt, $25.

Isaac G. Tessmer, 34, of Earlham, Iowa, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Chelsea D. Grunhaupt, 24, of Valentine, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Adam W. Gardner, 38, of Chadron, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Dean E. Watzel, 37, of Winner, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Logan T. Baragar, 23, of Ainsworth, third degree assault, sentenced to 45 days in jail.

Timothy A. Williams, 54, of Ainsworth, third offense driving under the influence, fined $1,000 and also sentenced to 42 days in jail with credit for 42 days served, two years of probation, driver’s license revoked for two years, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Derek S. Phelps, 22, of Sidney, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Joseph G. Miller, 36, of Ord, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $75.

Jeffrey L. Miller, 59, of Ericson, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Royce G. Jennings, 39, of Seneca, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Johnny L. Frew, 45, of Corona, Calif., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Laramie J. Lanz, 28, of Bassett, no proof of ownership, $25; also charged with no proof of insurance, $100.

Vinson K. Smith, 31, of Ainsworth, obstructing a peace officer, sentenced to 14 days in jail with credit for three days served.

Casey D. Armstrong, 37, of Omaha, driving under suspension, $100.

Levi J. White, 25, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation, ordered not to drive for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Austin S. Crane, 22, of Ainsworth, issuing a bad check less than $200, fined $25 and ordered to pay $46 in restitution; also charged with two counts of issuing a no-account check, less than $200, fined a total of $50 and ordered to pay $45 in restitution.

Darla D. Gray, 51, of McCook, two counts of second degree forgery less than $300, fined a total of $200 and ordered to pay a total of $99 in restitution.

Danielle S. Yates, 26, of Ainsworth, issuing a no-account check less than $200, fined $25 and ordered to pay $108 in restitution.

* Area students named to UN-L Dean's List for second semester

(Posted 1:15 p.m. June 18)

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has announced its Deans' List and Honor Roll for the spring semester of the 2014-15 academic year.

Qualification for the Dean's List varies among the eight undergraduate colleges and the Honor Roll for undeclared students. All qualifying grade-point averages are based on a four-point scale and a minimum of 12 or more graded semester hours. Students can be on the Dean's List for more than one college.

Named to the Dean’s List from the area were:

Ainsworth

Devron Michael Crawford, junior, College of Engineering, construction management.

Kayla Marie Klammer, senior, Hixon-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, theatre.

Conner Kozisek, junior, College of Arts and Sciences, communication studies.

Kellie Frances Sholes, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, animal science.

Maggie Elise Steinhauser, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, speech-language pathologist.

Katherine Kay Wilkins, junior, College of Arts and Sciences, communication studies.

Atkinson

Kent Anthony Frickel, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agronomy.

Springview

Kendra Rose Bretschneider, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, horticulture.

Stuart

Dylan Christopher Laible, junior, College of Arts and Sciences, computer science.

Valentine

Matthew Wayne Harris, senior, College of Arts and Sciences, political science.

Skylar Dawn Mathis, junior, College of Business Administration, marketing.

Eli William Perrett, senior, College of Business Administration, business administration.

Scott Julian Rupe, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, fisheries and wildlife.

Alex Joseph Schubauer, senior, College of Journalism and Mass Communications, broadcasting.

* Taxable sales decline in March in Brown County while motor vehicle sales soar

(Posted 2:30 p.m. June 17)

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


County
or City

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

2014
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

2014
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

50,165

52,400

(4.3)

2,759.10

2,882.02

Boyd

895,533

823,364

8.8

49,254.46

45,285.14

Brown

2,954,418

3,294,448

(10.3)

162,493.30

181,194.92

Ainsworth

2,819,060

3,171,201

(11.1)

155,048.56

174,416.30

Cherry

5,224,366

4,631,286

12.8

287,340.58

254,721.30

Valentine

4,976,935

4,457,620

11.7

273,731.80

245,169.51

Custer

8,447,167

8,221,873

2.7

464,651.45

452,203.84

Broken Bow

6,723,304

6,435,867

4.5

369,782.01

353,973.09

Holt

9,121,497

9,478,496

(3.8)

501,683.07

521,318.15

Atkinson

1,633,738

1,611,752

1.4

89,855.77

88,646.61

O'Neill

6,261,634

6,541,051

(4.3)

344,390.24

359,758.16

Keya Paha

192,226

220,337

(12.8)

10,572.47

12,118.58

Rock

640,200

692,985

(7.6)

35,211.07

38,114.28

Valley

3,405,502

3,529,725

(3.5)

187,302.92

194,135.24

Ord

2,811,920

3,150,419

(10.7)

154,655.86

173,273.30

State Total

2,439,170,523

2,318,661,330

5.2

133,811,342.96

128,260,744.78

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


County
or City

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

2014
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

2014
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

304,989

84,630

260.4

16,719.29

4,579.66

Boyd

397,594

430,407

(7.6)

21,871.89

23,676.75

Brown

1,062,748

707,355

50.2

58,762.03

39,160.79

Cherry

1,833,742

1,001,760

83.1

101,336.94

55,287.85

Custer

3,294,587

2,699,667

22

182,076.70

149,393.73

Holt

$3,271,909

$2,308,362

41.7

$181,099.82

$127,704.50

Keya Paha

223,504

282,921

(21.0)

12,276.39

15,580.10

Rock

363,887

438,767

(17.1)

20,018.80

24,151.17

Valley

835,817

763,331

9.5

46,327.26

42,249.98

State Total

$365,062,481

$308,723,512

18.2

$20,239,189.68

$17,125,477.10

* Lions Club preparing for annual alumni banquet

(Posted 1:45 p.m. June 17)

The Ainsworth Lions Club will again serve the meal during the annual Ainsworth High School alumni banquet June 27.

Committee chairman Todd Mundhenke reported during a recent Lions Club meeting that assignments would be sent soon for the various tasks needed in advance of the event.

The Lions Club will hold a work night at 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 26, and are then asked to report by 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 27.

Phil Fuchs reported the Ainsworth Lions Club will have an entry in the annual alumni parade on the morning of June 27.

Lions Club Secretary Jerry Ehlers reported only 11 of the current roster of members have not yet pair their dues. Club members are asked to pay dues by the end of June.

A report was presented to club members on the new Lions Club highway signs that will soon replace the 3-year-old signs. The new signs were purchased and donated by former Ainsworth High School graduate Gordon Smith.

No information was available on the Lions Club project to replace and add protective crumb rubber surfacing around playground equipment in Ainsworth. Plans were discussed for the annual Ainsworth Lions Club family picnic set for Monday, July 20, at East City Park.

New membership applications were presented and the club welcomed three new members - Rhonda Lechtenberg, and Roland and Rita Paddock.

Lions Club members discussed and agreed to offer assistance to a fellow member in need of help to demo and remove an old garage/storage building from his property in Ainsworth.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club is scheduled for July 20 in the Golden Steer.

* Traffic Accidents

(Posted 1 p.m. June 17)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of recent motor-vehicle accidents in Ainsworth.
At 8:52 p.m. Friday, June 12, on Third Street near the Oak Street intersection, a 1995 Ford F-150 pickup, driven by Georgene Stenka, 73, of Ainsworth, was backing up and struck a parked 2004 Dodge sedan, owned by Kimly Cross of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Dodge was estimated at $1,000. The Ford did not sustain any damage.
At 4 a.m. Saturday, June 13, at the Rodeway Inn parking lot, a 2012 Dodge pickup, driven by Kevin Rohlk, 24, of Springview, was backing up and struck a parked 2012 Chevy Captiva, owned by Blair Ryser of Wathena, Kan.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $3,000. The Dodge did not sustain any damage.

* Commissioners split on paying for citation for an overweight county dump truck

(Posted 3:45 p.m. June 16)

A unique situation presented itself to the Brown County Commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting.

The board was faced with a decision on whether to pay for a citation issued to a county roads department employee for being overweight on the axle of a county dump truck.

Roads Foreman Chance Cole told the commissioners the dump truck operators weighed their first load of clay material and found it to be overweight.

Cole said they lightened the load for the second trip, but the single axle dump truck came in approximately 3 tons overweight on the second trip. It was on the second trip that the operator was checked by a weights and measures trooper from the Nebraska State Patrol and issued a citation for being overweight on an axle.

“It is tough to know how much we can haul with one load,” Cole said. “The different material we haul weighs different amounts, and it makes a big difference whether it is wet or dry material.”

Cole said the county roads crew tries to be as efficient as possible when hauling roads materials, but tries to make sure the loaded vehicles are under the required weight limits.

Brown County Commissioner Les Waits said, to his knowledge, it was the first citation received by a roads department employee in a county vehicle in numerous years.

Waits said he felt the county should pay the $342 citation.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said it would have been better for the operator to lighten the load of material after it was found to be overweight when it was put on the scale east of Ainsworth.

He said the county would not be responsible for a speeding ticket received by a county official on the way to a training location, so he felt the responsibility for the citation rested with the vehicle operator in this case as well.

Cole said the roads department employees get paid the same no matter how much material gets hauled.

“If the operator has to pay the ticket, I know the rest of the guys will be pretty nervous and we will have a lot less material getting hauled and a lot more scale fees,” Cole said.

Commissioner Buddy Small sided with Waits on paying the cost of the citation and Waits’ motion passed 2-1 with Wiebelhaus against. Waits put the roads department on notice that he would likely not agree again to pay for the cost of a citation, and the roads department employees should make sure loads are within the limits.

The board did discuss with Cole potentially adding a drop-down axle to the dump truck the employee was operating when the citation was issued to allow the vehicle to better comply with load restrictions.

In another roads item, the board voted to allow Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin, who could not attend Tuesday’s meeting, to move forward with advertising for bids to replace a 1982 model motor grader for the roads department. The county will budget for the new machine as part of the 2015-16 fiscal year.

During other items Tuesday, the commissioners approved the 2015-16 BKR Extension budget as presented by Extension Educator Dennis Bauer.

Bauer said the 2015-16 budget of $71,450 was $1,000 higher than the previous year’s budget to reflect a change in insurance premiums.

“The Extension Board is very conservative with our budget,” Bauer said.

The $1,000 increase in the overall Extension budget represented a $420 increase to Brown County, as Brown County pays 42 percent, or $30,009 of the overall budget. Rock County contributes 33 percent of the Extension budget, and Keya Paha County pays 25 percent of the budget. The proportions for each county are based on population.

The commissioners also acknowledged the receipt of the Ainsworth Public Library’s budget request for the 2015-16 year. The library requested $11,000 from the county, equal to the request from the 2014-15 fiscal year. The county approves a contribution to the library as part of its overall budget adoption.

The board approved a $1 per hour pay increase for custodian Tammy Grupe. Small said Grupe had completed her probationary period of employment.

“I have heard several compliments about the work she is doing in the courthouse,” Small said. “She is always busy, and I have received no complaints.”

The board approved a resolution changing the cash-in-lieu of health insurance payment to employees opting not to participate in county health coverage to 75 percent of the new premium. The cash option is slightly lower than the previous year’s payment due to the county’s health insurance premiums decreasing by approximately 3 percent for the upcoming fiscal year.

Meeting as the Board of Equalization, the commissioners scheduled property valuation protest hearings for 11 a.m. July 7, 8 a.m. July 14 and 11 a.m. July 21. All protest hearings must be held and a decision made by July 25. Sitting as the Board of Equalization, the commissioners typically hear only a handful of property valuation protests annually.

The next regular meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. July 7.

* Care Center board hears update on facility purchase, begins budget preparations

(Posted 7 a.m. June 16)

Progress continues toward the potential purchase of the Ainsworth Care Center real estate and personal property.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson told the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Interlocal Board of Directors Monday legal counsel for the owners of the property has been responding to the NCDC’s attorney.

“We feel confident there is a buyer for the licensed beds,” Olson said, which was one of the contingencies that must be met before the local group would consider purchasing the current care center building and contents.

“RP Midwest owns the real property, but there is some question as to the ownership of all the personal property,” Olson said.

Brown County David Streich said, after speaking with the NCDC’s legal counsel, a contract is being drafted to send to the broker and to the attorney for the owners of the property.

“The goal is to get this done as quickly as possible,” Streich said. “They are putting together a contract that specifically lists the equipment. Part of that process is identifying all of the personal property that goes with the building.”

Olson said, if a contract to purchase the licensed beds is in place, the beds won’t disappear July 1, which had been a concern.

“Our legal counsel sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services that Ainsworth was no longer interested in purchasing the licensed beds,” Olson said. “We are confident the buyer is purchasing all of the 213 beds.”

Olson said the state fire marshal’s office had approved the care center building being grandfathered in as far as complying with code.

Streich said the Department of Health and Human Services and the governor’s office indicated state surveyors could visit the facility within two to three weeks after it was back up and operating to begin the Medicare/Medicaid certification process.

“Dick Nelson (the NCDC’s legal counsel) was confident the process would move more quickly than we previously thought,” Streich said.

Olson said, if a purchase agreement was signed for the real estate and personal property, the group would complete a certificate of need application to get the licensed beds back from DHHS.

“We would then have to notify DHHS 30 days in advance of accepting any residents,” Olson said.

Board chairman Kent Taylor said a consultant would be needed to walk the board through that process.

“There is still a process to go through even if we had an acceptable contract to sign tomorrow,” Taylor said.

Board member Leanne Maxwell asked if staff had been contacted to see who would be willing to come back to work in the facility.

“We may have to start from square one on hiring staff,” Maxwell said.

The board looked at data showing that five of the former residents of the Ainsworth Care Center had relocated to the Good Samaritan Center at Atkinson. Four moved to the Callaway Good Life Center, four to the Parkside Manor at Stuart, and two had moved to Rock County Long Term Care.

Two former residents had returned home, and 13 residents had relocated to other facilities.

Following the update on the progress made toward the purchase and reopening of the facility, the board conducted a conference call with Pete Peterson of Ogallala, who serves as the budget preparer for Brown County and numerous other counties in the state.

Peterson questioned the board on how its financing would be handled, whether independently or through the city or county.

With the interlocal board handling the payment of claims, Peterson said that gave the group more flexibility and removed the state reporting requirements.

“You will want to start the budgeting process by trying to determine what your revenue will be,” Peterson said. “I would encourage you to be conservative in your approach to anticipated revenue.”

Peterson said the budget preparation would be difficult for the first year, and expenditures would likely exceed revenue.

“If your expenses are higher than your revenue, you will have to have a plan in place on how the shortfall will be made up,” Peterson said. “That could be through private funds, loans, or through a contribution from the city and county. You will have to make up the difference somewhere.”

Maxwell said the group was anticipating higher expenditures than revenue, especially in the first year of operation.

Streich said he would meet with board member Jim Walz to begin working on a preliminary budget, using an outline of budgets from similarly sized facilities.

“I am comfortable we can get the reimbursement rate numbers put together for the revenue side,” Streich said. “The question will be the number of residents we anticipate to have in the facility.”

Audience member Dr. Mel Campbell applauded the group for continuing to move forward with trying to save the facility.

“This is unprecedented in the state of Nebraska,” Campbell said. “I can’t tell you how much the medical community appreciates you undertaking this process.”

The board scheduled a meeting for 4 p.m. June 29 in the Ainsworth Conference Center to continue preparing a budget and responding to any updates regarding the purchase of the facility.

* National Legion Commander to visit area Wednesday

(Posted 2:30 p.m. June 15)

The National Commander of the American Legion, Michael Helm, is scheduled to visit several Nebraska Legion posts during a tour of the state that runs through Thursday.
Helm will visit north central Nebraska on Wednesday, appearing in the Springview American Legion Post Home at 9 a.m. Wednesday. From there, Helm will travel to the Ainsworth American Legion Hall for a 9:45 a.m. discussion on issues important to Nebraska veterans.
After leaving Ainsworth, Helm will make his way east to the Bassett American Legion Post Home.
Helm, a Nebraska native currently residing in Lebanon in the southwest corner of the state, is a member of the Nebraska Legion Post 313 at Lebanon.
All members of area Legion, Legion Auxiliary and Sons of the Legion organizations are encouraged to attend, and the public is also welcome to attend Wednesday and hear Helm’s message.

* Bassett, Atkinson receive tire grants from the NDEQ

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

Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Director Jim Macy announced the state is awarding $2 million to support 126 tire recycling and cleanup projects across the state.
Nebraskans generate more than one and a half million scrap tires each year, about one tire for every person in the state. The grants are part of NDEQ’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Grants program, and are funded by a $1 fee on new tires purchased in Nebraska.
"These grants will focus on effective methods of dealing with scrap tires and promoting their use in new products,” Macy said. “We’re supporting local efforts to clean up tire piles and conduct community scrap tire collections. These efforts help prevent health and environmental problems by preventing tires from accumulating in piles across the state.”
In addition, grants will partially reimburse individuals and organizations for rubber mulch and other new products that were made from scrap tires, Macy said.

Recipients of 2015 Waste Reduction and Tire Recycling Grants include:

The city of Bassett received $49,000 to clean up a 500-ton scrap tire pile that had been located in Rock County for numerous years.

The city of Atkinson received $28,898 to clean up 300 tons of scrap tires, and a $5,035 reimbursement for 25 percent of the cost of placing 25,350 pounds of rubber playground mulch at the Mill Race Park playground.

The St. Joseph Elementary School at Atkinson received a $16,600 grant to reimburse the school for 50 percent of the cost of purchasing 123,786 pounds of rubber playground mulch.

The Lower Loup Natural Resources District received $26,954 to host a 300-ton scrap tire cleanup at Burwell for 11 counties.
This year, $645,964 in grants was awarded to cities, counties and natural resources districts to conduct 30 scrap tire collections. It is estimated that these events will clean up an estimated 7,075 tons of scrap tires from Nebraska homes, farms and businesses.
Funds will also be used by schools and organizations across the state to provide partial reimbursement for playground mulch, synthetic turf fields, running tracks, and other recycled rubber projects.

* Johnson voted to have grilled best ribs during fire department's annual event

(Posted 7 a.m. June 15)

Randy Johnson, a longtime member of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department, was judged to have grilled the best ribs from among the 10 grill masters during Saturday's Ribfest at the Ainsworth Fire Hall.
Brandon Evans, another firefighter, received second place from the judges, and Waylon Reynolds took third.
The lucky judges who got to sample all 10 entries Saturday were Wade Alberts, Jim Hoch, Rick Mayfield, John Glidden and Brett Fernau.
Following the cook-off, the firefighters served ribs and other items to a hungry crowd, as the line backed up out of the fire hall and down the driveway at times Saturday.
GJW donated the pork ribs for the cook-off.

* Corkle hired as Northeast Community College regional coordinator

(Posted 3 p.m. June 12)

Northeast Community College has named Sonja “Sonny” Corkle as its new part-time regional coordinator to serve Brown, Keya Paha and Rock counties in the College’s western service area. She began her new duties June 1.

“The constituents in the tri-county area are excited for the opportunity to have additional program opportunities, and I will work hard to make sure that happens,” Corkle said. “My goals include increasing awareness of the services and many opportunities that Northeast Community College already offers our region and expand or begin to offer dual credit classes for high school students, credit, non-credit, and continuing education classes in all three counties. I want to be an advocate for our region and establish relationships with businesses, organizations, and schools.”

Corkle will report directly to Northeast’s main campus at Norfolk to coordinate classes or programs that may be needed in the three counties. Northeast’s regional office will be located at Ainsworth in the Educational Service Unit 17 building, at 1292 East Highway 20. Corkle said she wants to work toward establishing regular office hours in each of the three county seats of Ainsworth, Bassett and Springview.

Wayne Erickson, dean of institutional advancement, said Northeast is excited to have Corkle represent the college in its western service area.

“We are delighted to find someone with such a diverse background and ties to the region such as Sonja,” Erickson said. “Her passion for the three counties and educational goals very much align with our goals at Northeast. She will be a wonderful liaison between Brown, Keya Paha and Rock counties and Northeast Community College.”  

Northeast began the process of reestablishing its physical presence in the three counties in December 2013, with the first meeting of the Northeast Community College Tri-County Adult and Continuing Education Advisory Committee. The intent of the committee was to recommend additional credit and non-credit programming ideas to serve Brown, Keya Paha and Rock counties. A number of classes and programs have been offered in the three counties during the past year.

Dr. Michael Chipps, president, and other college personnel traveled to the region earlier this year to meet with business and industry leaders, school officials, and citizens in the three counties to discuss the opening of the regional office and the hiring of a part-time coordinator.

“Our Board of Governors is always looking for ways to bring our services closer to all our constituents in every county we serve,” Chipps said. “The college is pleased to have Ms. Corkle come on board; she is well known in the three-county area and can hit the ground running in representing Northeast and begin making contacts. While she is the vital link, the great people in this part of our service area will need to work with Ms. Corkle to ensure that the desired courses are well attended, so that this regional office works well in the tri-county region.”

Chipps said, in addition to credit and non-credit programming, the college would like to see additional dual credit and career academy opportunities in the region.

“Northeast has increased its dual credit enrollment from approximately 850 students to 1,050 over the past year,” Chipps said. “That number has grown significantly in such a short period of time because the public continues to have a better understanding of what community colleges can do on their behalf. We want that success to translate to Brown, Keya Paha and Rock counties. These are the type of opportunities the Northeast board wants us to undertake with rural revitalization - to train and educate a workforce in order to sustain rural Nebraska, especially Northeast and North Central Nebraska.”

Corkle is a member of the Ainsworth Women's Club and has served as the club's president since 2011. She is a member of P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization) and also volunteers as a catechist teacher, t-ball coordinator and coach.

Corkle has ties to all three counties. She and her husband, Chad, live in Brown County. Chad Corkle is a regional president of Sandhills State Bank in Rock County and he and his father ranch in Keya Paha County.

Sonja Corkle was raised in Colorado. She attended the University of Northern Colorado and graduated with a BA in psychology. She and her husband moved to Nebraska in 2007 to raise their growing family in the Sandhills near the family ranch in Norden.

Corkle may be reached at (402) 387-2688, Extension 110 or via email at sonja@northeast.edu.

* Davis discusses override of Ricketts' veto on DACA driver's license bill

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

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis continued to wrap up the recently completed legislative session by discussing one of the three major pieces of legislation vetoed by Gov. Pete Ricketts that was then overridden by the Unicameral.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 6-10-15.mp3

* Senior housing complex proceeding, 15 units to be constructed

(Posted 2:15 p.m. June 11)

During his report to the Ainsworth City Council Wednesday, Mayor Larry Rice said the 15-unit housing complex for those ages 55 and over will proceed, as the investment money for the development has been raised.

Rice told the City Council Aschoff Construction plans to begin the project by the end of the month, and, if work progresses on schedule, the complex may be completed by the end of the year.

The two-bedroom, one-bathroom units will be built on the south side of Zero Street west of the Ainsworth Family Clinic, and will be available to rent for people ages 55 and over.

Rice said Aschoff Construction planned to utilize several local contractors.

Rice also discussed the second round of nuisance abatement inspections that were underway in the northeast quadrant of the city, from Main Street east to the city limits and from Highway 20 north to the city limits.

City Administrator Kristi Thornburg said courtesy letters were recently sent to property owners where nuisance violations were noted by the Central Nebraska Housing Developers staff. The city contracts with CNHD as its nuisance abatement officer.

“Some of the things they are identifying are probably things that should not be considered a nuisance,” Thornburg said, citing as an example a resident with a nice yard who received a letter for placing one dead branch near the curb prior to disposing of it.

Councilwoman Deb Hurless said the council directed CNHD to use common sense with the inspections and avoid sending letters for small items.

Thornburg said a committee met Friday on the 14 properties with nuisance violations remaining from the 2014 inspections in the southeast quadrant of the city.

She said some dilapidated homes were forwarded to the city’s Board of Health for inspection. The committee would draw up guidelines on how to abate the other remaining nuisances.

If not handled by the property owner, the city will abate the nuisance and place the cost of the abatement on the property’s tax statement.

In action items during a light agenda Wednesday, the council gave Streets Foreman Monte Goshorn the go-ahead to replace the surface of one block of East First Street from Pine to Cedar streets. The asphalt is compromised on the block. Goshorn said city crews had patched where it could.

“I think we need to mill the whole thing,” Goshorn said. “I don’t think we could just do part of it.”

Goshorn said the patches are holding for now, but they are a temporary solution.

Thornburg said she hoped the city crew could get the surface replaced prior to Topkote arriving in Ainsworth to armor coat city streets.

Goshorn said the streets department would chop out the city’s millings pile and find a dry weather window to get the work done. He said that block of First Street would likely be closed for two or three days while the work was completed.

The council approved the low bid of $1,550 submitted by Utility Service Co. of Omaha to clean and inspect the city’s west water tower.

Thornburg said it had been four years since the west water tower was cleaned and inspected, and the city was required to have its water towers cleaned and inspected every five years. She said Utility Service Co. performed the work on the city’s east water tower a couple years ago, and the city was satisfied with the company's performance. Maguire Iron of Sioux Falls, S.D., submitted a bid of $1,650 for the work.

The council approved recommending the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission approve special designated liquor licenses for the Silver Circle and the Ainsworth Elks Club for upcoming events.

Trent Kinney, representing the Elks, requested the city recommend approval for a special designated liquor license for that group to serve alcohol between the hours of noon July 18 and 1 a.m. July 19 for the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department’s 125th anniversary celebration.

The council agreed to recommend the license approval, and also approved a request from the fire department to close Third Street between Main and Walnut streets on July 18 for that 125th anniversary celebration.

Shane Jones requested the council okay the liquor license application for the Silver Circle for a fund-raising event for Bob and Carol Walton Aug. 29 from 6 p.m. until 1 a.m.

Jones said friends of the Waltons were hosting a dance, poker run and auction that day to benefit the Walton family for medical expenses incurred by their son Tyler during a recent motor vehicle accident.

The council recommended to the Liquor Control Commission the license be approved, and the council also approved the closing of the alley behind the Silver Circle bar and one block of West Second Street between Main and Woodward streets for the Aug. 29 event.

The consent agenda approved Wednesday allowed the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce to close Main Street from 4 p.m. Thursday until 7 a.m. Monday for the D.C. Lynch Carnival.

The carnival will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 6 p.m. each night, with the additional street closure window giving the carnival crew time to set up and tear down the rides and booths.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 8.

* Davis establishes site to support Care Center employees

(Posted 1 p.m. June 11)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis created an online site for people to contribute monetarily to support the Ainsworth Care Center employees who were not paid by Deseret Health for the work they performed in the final month of Deseret's operations.
According to Davis, between April 1 and May 7, Deseret Health Group failed to pay $71,648 in employee wages.
Contributions to the site will be turned over to the North Central Development Center's Ainsworth Care Center Employee Relief Fund and then distributed to the employees for their hours worked without pay.
A link to the site is located below.

http://de.gofund.me/ainsworthrelief

* Board affirms plan to purchase care center property if NCDC offer accepted

(Posted 3:30 p.m. June 10)

Meeting in emergency session Wednesday to coincide with a regular meeting of the North Central Development Center Board of Directors, the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors discussed the one offer that remains on the table for the purchase of the current Ainsworth Care Center building and personal property.

NCDC Executive Director Kristin Olson said all offers made by the North Central Development Center to the broker representing RP Midwest, the owner of the building, had been pulled with the exception of one offer for the building and personal property.

That offer, Olson said, was contingent upon RP Midwest selling the 46 beds licensed to the Ainsworth Care Center to another buyer and having those beds transferred at least 25 miles from Ainsworth.

Olson said that contingency was placed on the offer because the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors could then apply to the Department of Health and Human Services and regain, at no cost, the 46 beds that had been licensed to the community.

“There was another offer that had included the purchase of the 46 licensed beds,” Olson said. “Knowing the interlocal board indicated they were not interested, that offer was pulled. The only offer that remains is to purchase the property with the contingency that the beds are sold so the community can use the Sullivan Amendment to regain the beds at no cost.”

Olson said the NCDC’s legal counsel hired to work with the broker confirmed there was a potential buyer for all 213 beds owned by RP Midwest in Nebraska.

“Our legal counsel confirmed the beds were scheduled to be sold and transferred more than 25 miles away,” she said.

There was concern expressed, however, that Ainsworth’s 46 beds might not be included in the sale since the buyer and seller of the beds still believed the local group was interested in purchasing the licensed beds as part of an offer for the facility.

If those beds were not purchased by another company and moved 25 miles, or purchased by the local group, they would cease to exist on July 1 and the community could not reapply to the Department of Health and Human Services to have them reinstated.

Olson said, at this point, all of the residents of the Ainsworth Care Center had moved to other facilities.

Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen, who has worked on the project for several months as a member of a local task force, said if the local group could purchase the current building and return some of the residents who were moved and the staff members who are still willing to come back, it would create less risk than if the community started the process from scratch.

“We could buy the building contingent on the licensed beds being sold, because we can get the licensed beds back if they are sold,” Sorensen said. “We can continue operations and that continuum of care if we can get the building and the licenses. We can’t if the facility closes.”

Sorensen and Cottonwood Villa Manager Ann Fiala, another member of the task force, both said there was a continued need for the services provided by the nursing home and both hospital patients and assisted living residents would need those services moving forward.

Couple that with several former residents who indicated they would return to Ainsworth if the facility reopened under local ownership, and Sorensen said the potential to regain an operating facility was within the group’s grasp.

Sorensen said the group’s legal counsel was confident the beds and a license could be obtained from the Department of Health and Human Services and the facility could be operational in 30 to 90 days.

“The state is doing whatever it can to assist the community in this process,” Sorensen said.

Olson said the North Central Development Center is involved due to the economic impact to the community if the facility permanently closes.

“There is about $850,000 in workforce payroll we lose if we do nothing,” Olson said. “We lose those residents and those employees from our community. The overall impact is more than $3 million.”

NCDC Board member Doug Weiss said having an operating care center is not only essential for the Brown County Hospital, it drives revenue in numerous areas of the community.

Interlocal board member Leanne Maxwell asked if the group had confirmation the licensed beds would be sold and moved.

Olson said the NCDC’s legal counsel was confident the potential buyer of the beds was legitimate.

“We need these beds to sell,” Olson said. “The buyer was going to exclude Ainsworth’s 46 beds if Ainsworth wanted to buy them with the facility.”

She said the offer made to purchase the building was not valid unless the licensed beds were sold.

“We don’t want to own that building if the beds don’t sell,” Olson said.

Sorensen said, if the beds did sell and were transferred, the local group could not use the Sullivan Amendment and regain the licensed beds from DHHS unless it had a facility.

“We can’t function going forward without a building,” Sorensen said.

Interlocal board chairman Kent Taylor said his frustration level stemmed from the broker coming back after making an initial counter offer with another counter offer that was higher than the first one.

“I think this community stepped up just to make the offer it did,” Taylor said. “If we are committed to keeping this facility open, we have to also be committed to building a new facility.”

Interlocal board member Jim Walz expressed concern about the operating capital needed for the facility now that all of the residents had relocated.

Interlocal board member Buddy Small said if the group were to buy the building and put the plan into action, there would be a necessity for cash to operate the facility in the short term.

“It would be a substantial amount of cash that would be needed,” Small said. “Where would that come from?”

Fiala said she had complete faith the operation would be successful.

“We do not want our residents to have to go elsewhere,” Fiala said.

The North Central Development Center Board and the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors went into executive session to discuss financial aspects of the proposal and the operations.

Following the meeting’s adjournment, the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board scheduled a second emergency meeting in the courthouse to make a decision on supporting the remaining offer on the facility.

“The NCDC wants to make sure this board does not hang them out to dry with the offer that has been made,” Taylor said.

Following discussion, the board unanimously approved purchasing from the North Central Development Center the real and personal property of the Ainsworth Care Center for an amount discussed during Wednesday’s executive session.

The purchase is contingent upon the current owner of the property accepting the offer and upon the sale and transfer of the 46 licensed beds to a facility at least 25 miles from the community.

Due to continuing negotiations relating to the purchase of the real estate, the amount of the offer cannot yet be disclosed to the public.

Taylor said the North Central Development Center plans to reconfirm with the broker the offer it has on the table for the purchase of the real and personal property with the contingencies.

Prior to adjourning, the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board placed a budget workshop on the agenda for its 4:30 p.m. June 15 special meeting. The board will contact Pete Peterson of Ogallala, who is the budget preparer for Brown County, to assist the board with the creation of a budget.

* Two Ainsworth residents plead guilty to felony charges Tuesday in District Court

(Posted 3:45 p.m. June 9)

Two Ainsworth residents pleaded guilty in Brown County District Court Tuesday to felony charges relating to the possession of a controlled substance and the intent to manufacture methamphetamine.

According to Brown County Attorney David Streich, Stacy Reed, age 36, pleaded guilty Tuesday to Class IV felony counts of possession of a controlled substance and possession of ephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine.

Robert Allen, 55, also pleaded guilty to the same two Class IV felony charges as Reed.

Sentencing for both Reed and Allen is scheduled for Aug. 11 in Brown County District Court.

Both face the possibility of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each of the two felony counts to which they pleaded guilty.

* School Board hires former Howells-Dodge administrator for principal position

(Posted 5:45 a.m. June 9)

Ainsworth Community Schools has a new secondary principal as the Board of Education Monday approved a contract with Dirk Coon for the 2015-16 school year.

Coon, who has most recently served as a principal with Howells-Dodge Public Schools, was selected from among four candidates who were interviewed.

Coon met with outgoing Secondary Principal Richard Gilson May 29 to become familiar with the position and go over programs and issues the departing principal had undertaken.

In other business during Monday’s meeting, the board approved a 10-cent increase in the cost of school lunches and a 5-cent rise in the cost of school breakfasts.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson said the school received a waiver for the 2014-15 year and did not raise breakfast and lunch prices.

He said the increase for 2015-16 was required by the federal government, and the school would not be eligible for a waiver to avoid raising meal prices for the upcoming year.

“The federal government has a formula for lunch prices, so we didn’t have much of a choice,” Peterson said.

Breakfast prices will increase from $1.35 to $1.40 for students and from $1.95 to $2 for adults.

Elementary lunch prices will move from $2.40 to $2.50, with middle school and high school lunch prices increasing from $2.55 to $2.65 and adult lunches from $3.25 to $3.35.

The district finished the 2014-15 school year with a net profit of $7,330 in its meal service fund.

Peterson said the goal of the meal fund is to break even. He said students who qualify for reduced-price lunches will again be offered free breakfasts for the 2015-16 year.

With board member Aaron Jackman absent from Monday’s meeting, the board approved a change to the use of school vehicles for summer camps.

Previously, coaches and activity sponsors utilizing school vehicles for summer team camps had to not only pay for the fuel for the vehicles, but paid the school 50 cents for each mile traveled.

Peterson said rules have changed to allow schools to provide vehicles without charging mileage rates.

The board voted to allow coaches and sponsors to use school vehicles for summer camps by paying for the fuel only.

“This will be easier and less costly for the teams to use school vehicles for summer camps,” Peterson said. “They will still have to pay for the driver if a bus is needed.”

In a final action item, the board approved an option enrollment request for Cindy Rehkopf to allow her son Caspar to attend Rock County Public Schools.

The board reviewed its bomb threat and anti-bullying policies, as required annually, and made no changes to either policy. Peterson said a security company would visit the school, tour the building, review the district’s crisis procedures and make recommendations for any upgrades.

The board held public hearings on the district’s student fee and parent involvement policies. No changes were recommended to either policy, and the board made no changes to either policy.

Elementary Principal Sarah Williams said there were 32 students signed up to attend kindergarten in the fall, which would currently match the incoming fourth-grade class as the largest in the elementary.

During his report, Peterson said work has commenced to improve the school’s weight room. He said there were numerous students who assisted with the work on Friday after a challenge was issued between the fall sports programs.

He said the weight room would be open for the public’s use during the evening hours, with former student Derek Pollock supervising the weight room during that time.

Non-students utilizing the weight room will be asked to sign a waiver removing the school from any liability for any injuries suffered.

Peterson also reviewed the report submitted by the external visitation team that performed a five-year review of the district’s performance.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. July 15. The July meeting was moved from the second Monday of the month to a Wednesday.

* Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board issues Monday memo to public

(Posted 2:45 p.m. June 8)

The Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Interlocal Board of Directors issued a memo to the public Monday.
It reads:
“After a series of meetings over the past several weeks, we wanted to bring everyone up to date on the latest information about the attempts to purchase the Ainsworth Care Center. Our last public meeting was Monday, June 1, and at that time the offer submitted to the broker on our behalf by the NCDC board the week previously was not accepted by the 3 p.m. deadline.
“Late on Friday, June 5, the board chairman, Kent Taylor, was made aware that the broker had contacted the community through NCDC legal counsel with two different counter offers. We were encouraged to respond by Monday, June 8. Each offer had its own conditions. The chairman independently contacted the other three board members – Leanne Maxwell, Buddy Small and Jim Walz – to make them aware of the offers. None of the board members thought it was necessary to call a special meeting on Monday (today).
“We were expecting that this might happen. There are many issues which have lead (sic) us up to this point including the transfer of all the residents from Ainsworth Care Center by Tuesday of this week, the loss of personnel, deadlines imposed by the owners and/or the Department of Health and Human Services, licensing and the condition of the building just to name some of the major ones. We do not feel the current offers are reasonable because of the short time frame left to transact business and their burdensome financial impact.
“The interlocal board remains committed to its purpose statement from the agreement signed by both the County Commissioners (the Ainsworth City Council was omitted from the memo) which reads in part: ‘To establish and operate a nursing home in Ainsworth, Nebraska.’ We will continue to meet as a board, remain open to all options, both short and long term, and begin making plans for the next step in this process.”

* Agricultural land values rise sharply in Rock, Keya Paha counties for 2015

(Posted 4 p.m. March 23)

Just like in Brown County, owners of agricultural property in Keya Paha and Rock counties will also see substantial increases in the valuations of their ground.

Rock County Assessor Monica Turpin reported recently to the Rock County Commissioners that agricultural land values had to be boosted substantially for the county to comply with a state mandate that requires agricultural property values to be between 69 percent and 75 percent of actual value.

Turpin told the commissioners, without an increase, agricultural land in Rock County would come in at 59 percent of actual value.

Using an example of the top soil ratings in each classification, Turpin indicated irrigated cropland in Rock County would double in valuation for 2015 from $1,500 per acre to $3,000 per acre.

Using the three most recent years, Turpin told the commissioners there were 70 total agricultural sales that were analyzed to determine the valuation of agricultural land.

The other classifications of agricultural property in Rock County did not escape increases, though the jumps were not as high as the doubling in value experienced by irrigated cropland.

Dryland cropland jumped from $570 per acre to $950 per acre, a two-thirds increase in value per acre. Grassland with the top soil rating jumped from $580 per acre to $900 per acre, a rise of 55 percent.

Conservation Reserve Program grassland increased in value from $565 per acre to $705 per acre, an increase of just under 25 percent.

Keya Paha County Assessor Suzy Wentworth also reported substantial increases in agricultural property values for 2015, continuing a trend that includes eight substantial jumps in agricultural property values in nine years for irrigated cropland.

For 2015, irrigated cropland with the highest soil rating will carry a value of $2,800 per acre, up $500 (almost 23 percent) from $2,300 per acre in 2014. From a historical perspective, irrigated cropland values were $580 per acre just nine years ago in 2007.

They have steadily risen since, to $860 per acre in 2008 and $990 per acre in 2009. The only year those values remained static was 2010, when values remained at $990 per acre for irrigated cropland.

The values increased to $1,040 per acre in 2011, $1,300 per acre in 2012, $1,800 per acre in 2013, $2,300 per acre in 2014 and now $2,800 per acre for 2015.

From 2007 to 2015, irrigated cropland values have risen 382 percent for Keya Paha County property owners.

Though smaller compared to irrigated cropland, dryland cropland acres in Keya Paha County have also experienced sharp valuation increases.

For 2015, the top soil rating for dryland cropland acres will increase from $740 to $900, a rise of almost 22 percent. Since 2007, dryland cropland acres in Keya Paha County have increased 109 percent, from $430 per acre to $900 per acre.

Grassland acres with the top soil rating increased by $75 per acre in Keya Paha County for 2015, but at $700 per acre are valued lower than those acres in neighboring Brown and Rock counties.

Wentworth said it was important for property owners to remember that valuations are only one piece of the puzzle in determining the amount of property tax paid.

She said the Keya Paha County Commissioners have held to a zero percent budget increase during each of the past three years, which drops the tax levy requested by the county and therefore does not increase the amount of overall tax paid to that entity. But, even with the county levy dropping, some tax does shift from the residential and commercial side to the agricultural side with the rising valuations in that sector and the static valuations in the residential and commercial classifications.

Wentworth said there are several taxing entities in the county, including the school district and others such as the community college.

She said Northeast Community College always asks for close to its maximum of 10 cents per $100 in property value, regardless of how much valuations increase. However, Wentworth said overall tax increases in Keya Paha County have been small during the past few years.

Driven by sales, agricultural land values in all three KBR counties have shown no signs of peaking, while residential and commercial property has remained nearly static in value.

Turpin reported residential valuations in Rock County would experience a small increase for 2015 based on the 47 sales analyzed over a two-year period.

Commercial values for both Rock and Keya Paha counties remained within the 92 percent to 100 percent window of actual value as mandated by the state, so valuations on that classification of property will not change.

Any property owner in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties who will experience a change in property valuation for 2015, whether an increase or a decrease, will receive notice from the county assessor’s office postmarked by June 1. For those whose property was unchanged, notices are not mailed.

Anyone wanting to protest the value of a parcel of property may request a valuation protest hearing from the County Board of Equalization in each county. The window to file a protest opens after the valuation notices have been sent, and are typically heard by the Board of Equalization in June. The Board of Commissioners in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties also serve as the Board of Equalization for each of their respective counties.

* Brown County 2015 agricultural land values increase sharply, once again

(Posted 4 p.m. March 17)

Agricultural property owners in Brown County hoping a drop in commodity prices would lead to decreased demand for cropland, and therefore a respite from the rising tide of valuations, will be sorely disappointed when 2015 valuation notices are received in the mail.

Assessor Charleen Fox told the Brown County Commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting the prices paid for all classifications of agricultural land continue to increase substantially.

To comply with state statutes that require counties to value agricultural land within 69 percent to 75 percent of its actual value based on three years of sales, Fox said she was forced to adjust all classes of agricultural land upward by 25 percent, with dryland cropland jumping by an average of 30 percent due to a 41 percent increase in the sales prices for ground with the poorest soil rating. The top three soil classifications in dryland cropland increased by 25 percent. Fox said there was not a lot of dryland cropland acreage in Brown County.

“If we did not increase valuations, agricultural land would have been sitting at 58 percent of actual value,” Fox said. “We just didn’t have a choice, we had to get agricultural land into compliance. People are not going to be very happy, but some counties had agricultural land values go up by as much as 50 percent.”

With the state requiring county assessors to use the three most recent years of sales to establish valuations, Fox said the sales from three years ago drop off and the most recent year’s sales are added.

Thus far, there has been no ceiling on the rise in prices paid for agricultural land of all classes, from irrigated to dryland cropland, from grassland to Conservation Reserve Program ground.

Fox said the sales from three years ago were lower in price than the most recent year's sales prices, so the sales that drop off the three-year window are replaced by sales prices that are much higher. Agricultural property owners could see another valuation increase next year, if land sale prices stay at the current level.

“We have a lot of out-of-area buyers,” Fox said. “That seems to be keeping the prices up.”

A total of 56 sales of agricultural property were analyzed. With the prices being paid, the 25 percent jump in valuation across all land classes brings agricultural land to 73 percent of its actual value.

Using the example of the top soil ratings for each classification of agricultural land, pivot-irrigated cropland increased in value from $2,715 per acre to $3,395 per acre. Gravity-irrigated cropland jumped from $1,945 per acre to $2,430.

The top soil rating for grassland took a 25 percent valuation increase, from $545 per acre to $680. Irrigated grassland rose in value from $940 per acre to $1,200 per acre. Conservation Reserve Program grassland values increased from $565 per acre to $705.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, until the Nebraska Legislature comes up with a way to fix the way land is valued, there isn’t anything the commissioners or the assessor can do.

“As much as I hate to see a 25 percent increase for ag land, your hands are tied by the state,” Wiebelhaus said.

Fox said, based on three-year sales figures, current commercial and residential property values fell within the state-mandated level of being between 92 percent and 100 percent of actual value, so those valuations would not need adjustment for 2015.

She said new construction accounted for $6 million in additional valuation for the county in 2015.

Valuations are one factor in determining the amount of tax paid by property owners. After the valuations are set, taxing entities approve budgets with an accompanying levy rate.

The levy rates, coupled with the valuation, determine the amount of tax paid by the property owner.

For example, for a $100,000 home or business, if the county were to approve a 40-cent levy per $100 in property value and the school district were to approve a 90-cent levy per $100 in property value, the property owners would pay $400 in property tax to the county and $900 to the school district for a total of $1,300 in property tax. That would be unchanged from 2014 assuming the same levies from the previous year.
However, on the agricultural side, for a 160-acre, quarter section of pivot-irrigated cropland, the valuation of that land increased from $434,400 in 2014 to $543,200 for 2015. Assuming the same 40-cent general county levy and a 90-cent school levy per $100 in value, the owner of that quarter-section of pivot-irrigated crop land will go from paying $5,647 in property tax to $7,016.

Considering agricultural owners have seen substantial valuation increases during each of the past six years, while residential and commercial property values have remained fairly static, the tax burden being assumed by owners of ag land is becoming more onerous by the year.

There are other taxing entities in addition to the county and school, including Northeast Community College, which can levy up to 10 cents in property tax per $100 in value. The rural fire protection district typically receives 4 cents per $100 in property value. Bonds approved by voters for special projects, such as school or hospital additions, also receive property tax levy commensurate with the amount of money needed to service the bond payments.

Property owners who will see the value of their property change for 2015, whether through an increase or a decrease, will receive notice from the assessor’s office. Fox said those notices will be mailed by June 1.

* Ricketts elected as Nebraska's 40th governor

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 5)

Pete Ricketts will be the 40th governor of the state of Nebraska, winning by a comfortable margin during Tuesday’s General Election.

Ricketts, a Republican, succeeds Dave Heineman, the longest-tenured governor in state history, after 10 years in office. Former State Auditor Mike Foley will be sworn in as the lieutenant governor.

Ricketts received 58.5 percent of the Nebraska vote to just 39 percent for Democrat Chuck Hassebrook. There were 301,646 votes cast for Ricketts, and 203,968 votes for Hassebrook.

Republican Ben Sasse is headed to the U.S. Senate after winning a four-man race for that office over Democrat Dave Domina and Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson.

Sasse received almost 65 percent of the vote in the state, compared to 31 percent for Domina, 3 percent for Jenkins and a little over 1 percent for Watson.

Republican Adrian Smith was comfortably re-elected to another term in the U.S. House of Representatives, winning the Third District race by more than a three to one margin over Democratic challenger Mark Sullivan. Smith received 75.5 percent of the vote in the Third District, with Sullivan receiving 24.5 percent.

Republican incumbent Jeff Fortenberry had no trouble winning another two-year term in the House, defeating Democratic challenger Dennis Crawford by a margin of 69 percent to 31 percent.

It appears Democrat Brad Ashford in District 2 is the only candidate keeping the Republican Party from a clean sweep Tuesday.

Though not yet certified, Ashford has a slim lead over Republican incumbent Lee Terry. Ashford received 76,354 votes, 48.6 percent of the ballots cast. Terry picked up 72,222 votes, 46 percent of the ballots. Libertarian Steven Laird received just over 5 percent of the vote in District 2.

The state’s minimum wage will increase, after voters overwhelmingly favored Ballot Initiative 425. More than 59 percent of Nebraskans favored the state’s minimum wage increasing to $8 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015, and to $9 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016.

Republican Doug Peterson will replace Jon Bruning as the state’s attorney general after Bruning held the office for the past 12 years. Peterson received 66.5 percent of the vote, compared to the 33.5 percent for Democrat Janet Stewart.

In the race to replace Foley as the state auditor, former State Sen. Charlie Janssen, a Republican, bested Democratic candidate State Sen. Amanda McGill by a margin of 59.5 percent to 40.5 percent.

Republicans John Gale and Don Stenberg were easily reelected as secretary of state and state treasurer respectively.

By a 2-1 margin, Tyson Larson won reelection to the Nebraska Legislature in District 40 over challenger Keith Kube. Larson secured 67 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Kube.

In the Subdistrict 2 race for Nebraska Public Power District Board of Directors, Barry DeKay picked up just over 54 percent of the vote to slip past Dan Scheer.

James Lee in Cherry County, Stanley Tuton in Keya Paha County, and Charles Shaw in Rock County were elected to seats on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors.

Larry Poessnecker of Atkinson was reelected to the Northeast Community College Board of Directors in District 2 without a challenge.

Molly O’Holleran won reelection to the Nebraska State Board of Eduction, defeating Robin Stevens by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent.

Sue Weston, Jean Pinney and Duane Gudgel were reelected without opposition to the Educational Service Unit 17 Board of Directors.

Voter turnout in Nebraska was 46.5 percent, with 539,123 of the 1,159,085 registered voters casting a ballot in the General Election.

* Brown County Election results

(Posted 11 p.m. Nov. 4)

The 2014 General Election is in the history books, and the few contested races at the local level in Brown County have been decided.

Two of the three incumbent candidates were elected to four-year terms on the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education.

Incumbent Jim Arens received the most votes in the race with 701, while incumbent Dan Dailey secured 633 votes to win reelection. The third spot on the School Board was decided by 15 votes, with newcomer Erin Bejot Rathe edging incumbent Scott Erthum by a 570 to 555 margin. Jason Atkisson received 400 votes, and Cody Stutzman picked up 250 votes for School Board.

In the only other contested race at the local level, Larry Rice was elected as the Mayor of Ainsworth by a 430 to 145 margin over Myrna Jakob.

Running unopposed and winning offices at the county government level were Commissioners Les Waits (949 votes) and Reagan Wiebelhaus (922 votes), Sheriff Bruce Papstein (1,044 votes) , Treasurer Deb Vonheeder (1,059 votes), Attorney David Streich (920 votes), Assessor Charleen Fox (1,001 votes) and Clerk Travee Hobbs (1,009 votes).

At the city level, Brian Williams and Chuck Osborn were elected to four-year terms on the Ainsworth City Council with 487 and 466 votes respectively.

Spencer Schenk was elected unopposed to a six-year term on the Ainsworth Airport Authority with 475 votes.

Beverly Newport is the next Long Pine mayor, receiving 40 votes in an uncontested race.

David Cheatum and Fred Meyer were elected to the Long Pine City Council, receiving 54 and 52 votes respectively.

Brenda Goeken was the only candidate elected to the Johnstown Village Board. She received 10 votes. Two additional members will be appointed to the board by the four sitting members.

In state and federal races, Brown County voters sided with Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor by a 758 to 293 margin over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.

Voters in the county favored Republican Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate over Democrat Dave Domina, 880 to 176. Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson garnered 49 and 18 votes respectively.

Third District Rep. Adrian Smith, another Republican, won the Brown County vote for another term in the House of Representatives, besting Democrat Mark Sullivan in the county by a 976 to 133 margin.

Republican Doug Peterson earned 903 votes in Brown County in the Nebraska attorney general race to 154 for Democrat Janet Stewart.

State Treasurer Don Stenberg was reelected to his seat, and coasted to a 939 to 107 margin over Democrat Michael O’Hara.

In the race to replace Foley as state auditor, Charlie Janssen secured 803 votes in Brown County compared to 210 for Democrat Amanda McGill.

Molly O’Holleran bested challenger Robin Stevens in the District 7 State Board of Education race in Brown County by a 567 to 240 margin.

All four candidates ran unopposed for four seats on the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Board of Directors, with Dean Jochem At Large, Marty Graff in District 6, Cherryl Lovejoy in District 4 and Justin Hammond in District 2 elected.

Larry Poessnecker of Atkinson ran unopposed for the Northeast Community College Board of Directors District 2 seat.

Jean Pinney in District 5 and Sue Weston in District 1 ran unopposed for seats on the Educational Service Unit 17 Board of Directors.

Initiative 425 to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour was favored by Brown County voters by a 609 to 495 margin.

Brown County voters chose to retain all four judges on the ballot. District 8 Judge Mark Kozisek received 874 votes for retention compared to 176 against. Nebraska Workers Compensation Court judges Laureen Van Norman, Michael High and Thomas Stine were also voted for retention in Brown County, with Van Norman’s margin 646 to 216 in favor of retention, High’s 632 to 226, and Stine’s 641 to 227 to retain.

Voter turnout Tuesday in Brown County was 53 percent, with 1,150 of the 2,150 registered voters casting a ballot in the General Election.

* Rock County Election results

(Posted 10:45 p.m. Nov. 4)

Bassett voters approved the two issue items on the General Election ballot by a comfortable margin Tuesday.

The vote finished at 203 to 58 in favor of establishing an economic development program, and 197 to 63 in favor of imposing a 0.5 percent city sales and use tax with the proceeds to be allocated to the Bassett Economic Development Program.

The new 0.5 percent sales tax will be implemented beginning April 1, 2015, for all products sold inside the Bassett city limits that carry the state sales tax. The 0.5 percent sales tax sunsets on March 31, 2030.

In other Rock County races, Larry Ebert II, Becky LeZotte and Kayti Gordon were elected to the Rock County Public Schools Board of Education. Ebert II received 452 votes, followed by 416 votes for LeZotte.

The margin for the third seat on the School Board was razor thin, with Gordon picking up 346 votes to 342 for Tonya Larson.

Charles Shaw received 247 votes to 92 for Steve Coble to win election to the Rock County seat on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors.

Rick Foxworthy and Cheryl Arrowsmith were elected to the Bassett City Council, with Foxworthy garnering 205 votes and Arrowsmith 194 in the unopposed race. Foxworthy received 493 votes after running unopposed for a six-year term on the Rock County Airport Authority.

Winning election at the county government level and running unopposed were Clerk Joyce Stahl (561 votes), Treasurer Mona Davis (574 votes), Sheriff James Anderson (516 votes), Attorney Avery Gurnsey (505 votes), Assessor Monica Turpin (513 votes) and Commissioners Jim Stout (518 votes) and Stan Larson (418 votes).

Rock County voters supported Tyson Larson for another term in the Nebraska Legislature. Larson won the 40th District vote in Rock County by a 425 to 135 margin over challenger Keith Kube.

In state and federal races, Rock County voters sided with Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor by a 416 to 175 margin over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.

Voters in the county favored Republican Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate over Democrat Dave Domina to the tune of a 496 to 101 spread, with Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson picking up 23 and nine votes respectively.

Third District Rep. Adrian Smith, another Republican, won the Rock County vote for another term in the House of Representatives, besting Mark Sullivan in the county by a 562 to 56 vote.

Rock County voters sided with Republican Doug Peterson over Democrat Janet Stewart, 499 to 81, to be Nebraska’s next attorney general.

Republican Charlie Janssen earned 434 votes to 110 for Democrat Amanda McGill in the state auditor’s race.

Molly O’Holleran secured 233 Rock County votes for the State Board of Education compared to 164 for her challenger, Robin Stevens.

There were three contested races in the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District Board of Directors races, with Chip Whitaker receiving 191 votes in Subdistrict 4 in Rock County to 118 for Jerry Childers.

In Subdistrict 7, Michael Moser earned 165 Rock County votes compared to 114 for Keith Heithoff, and Paul Bartak secured 186 At Large votes to 124 for Christopher Dierks.

The other Natural Resources District Board seats from the Middle Niobrara, Lower Niobrara and Upper Elkhorn were uncontested races.

Initiative 425 to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour passed in Rock County by a 275 to 210 margin.

Rock County voters voted to retain all four judges on the ballot for retention. District 8 Judge Mark Kozisek received 362 votes for retention compared to 142 against. Nebraska Workers Compensation Court judges Laureen Van Norman, Michael High and Thomas Stine were also voted for retention in Rock County, with Van Norman’s margin 305-150 in favor of retention, High’s 286-150 and Stine’s 288-154 to retain.

Voter turnout in Rock County was almost 63 percent, with 644 of the 1,027 registered voters casting a ballot in the General Election.

* Keya Paha County Election results

(Posted 10:30 p.m. Nov. 4)

The only contested local races Tuesday in Keya Paha County were for the Springview Village Board and the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors seat.

Five candidates ran for three open positions on the Springview Village Board. Joe Caulfield was the leading vote-getter with 85 ballots cast in his favor. Larry Hespe finished with 77 votes to win a four-year term on the Village Board, and Rob Painter edged Larry Worth by two votes, 77-75, for the third seat. Michael Swan finished fifth in the race with 57 votes.

In the race for the Keya Paha County seat on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors, Stanley Tuton defeated Kirk Sharp by a margin of 315 to 89.

Bruce Ferguson and Donald Connell were elected to the Keya Paha County Public Schools Board of Education, with 338 and 288 votes respectively. Mark Frick ran as a write-in candidate for the third opening on the School Board, and received 108 votes to earn a seat on the School Board.

Winning reelection at the county level were the slate of uncontested Republican candidates, including Keya Paha County Sheriff Jeff Kirsch (343 votes), Clerk/Assessor Suzy Wentworth (351 votes), Treasurer Sandra McCoy (354 votes), Center District Commissioner Corey Nilson (130 votes) and East District Commissioner Bruce Ritterbush (95) votes.

In state and federal races, Keya Paha County voters sided with Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor by a 275 to 92 margin over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.

Voters in the county favored Republican Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate over Democrat Dave Domina and Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson. Sasse received 313 votes to 53 for Domina, seven for Watson and five for Jenkins.

Third District Rep. Adrian Smith, another Republican, won the Keya Paha County vote for another term in the House of Representatives, besting Mark Sullivan in the county by a 333 to 45 vote.

Keya Paha County voters favored Republican Doug Peterson over Democrat Janet Stewart, 294 to 60, in the race for attorney general.

Republican Charlie Janssen received 261 votes for state auditor to just 63 for Democrat Amanda McGill.

Molly O’Holleran picked up 149 Keya Paha County votes to 83 for Robin Stevens in the State Board of Education race.

All of the Lower Niobrara Natural Resources District and Middle Niobrara NRD candidates ran unopposed in the General Election. Thomas Higgins in Subdistrict 1, Marvin Liewer in Subdistrict 2, Bradley Mahon in Subdistrict 4, Kent Pavlik in Subdistrict 5, Dwain Marcellus in Subdistrict 7, Larry Baumeister in Subdistrict 8 and Sterling Schultz At Large were elected to the Lower Niobrara NRD Board.

Justin Hammond in Subdistrict 2, Cheryl Lovejoy in Subdistrict 4, Marty Graff in Subdistrict 6 and Dean Jochem At Large were elected to the Middle Niobrara NRD Board.

Barry DeKay picked up 136 Keya Paha County votes for the Nebraska Public Power District Board of Director position, compared to 113 for Dan Scheer.

Initiative 425 to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour failed in Keya Paha County by a 196-167 margin.

Keya Paha County voters overwhelmingly voted to retain all four judges on the ballot for retention. District 8 Judge Mark Kozisek received 239 votes for retention compared to 56 against. Nebraska Workers Compensation Court judges Laureen Van Norman, Michael High and Thomas Stine were also voted for retention in Keya Paha County, with Van Norman’s margin 164-60 in favor of retention, High’s 160-63, and Stine’s 161-69 to retain.

Sixty-five percent of Keya Paha County’s 651 registered voters cast a ballot in the General Election.

* Thank-you area firefighters for Second Street response

(Posted 10 a.m. Oct. 17)

I would like to thank the Ainsworth, Bassett and Brown County Rural Volunteer Fire departments for their amazing response Wednesday morning to the Royal Theater Fire on Second Street.
To save our business with a fire burning that hot was an unbelievable accomplishment, and is a testament to the countless hours of training exercises our firefighters have undergone to be able to respond to situations exactly like Wednesday morning’s fire. There is not a paid fire department anywhere that could have done a better job than our area volunteers.
To whoever noticed the flames coming out of the theater at that early hour, thank you. Your call likely saved an entire half block of businesses from burning to the ground.
Thanks to everyone for their well-wishes as we clean up from the smoke. Thanks to the KBRB staff for helping to keep us on the air and operating in these less-than-optimal working conditions, and to Larry Rice and Randy Brudigan for coming down in the middle of the night to rescue what they could while the fire was still burning next door.

Graig Kinzie
KBRB Radio

* Fire causes major damage to Royal Theater

(Posted 9 a.m. Oct. 15)

Ainsworth firemen, assisted by firemen and units from Long Pine, Raven and Bassett, were called out about 3 a.m. Wednesday after someone passing by on Second Street in Ainsworth noticed smoke coming from the Royal Theater.
The fire caused extensive damage to the front lobby area and projector room. The fire also burned through the upstairs portion into the roof. Flames were also coming out of the front of the building. The entire structure suffered smoke and water damage. The recently installed new theater seats were not destroyed but may or may not be able to be used again. In addition to the theater, heavy smoke damage was sustained in adjoining businesses including the offices and studios of KBRB Radio Station, Mundhenke Agency and Ainsworth Motors. The exact cause of the fire is being investigated by the State Fire Marshall and the theater's insurance company. The theater is operated by volunteers.

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Information from the 2012 Wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley

* Additional fire funding in Keya Paha County approved by wide margin

(Posted 7 a.m. Oct. 5, 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:

audio clips/Deb Fischer Saturday report.mp3

* 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 mph.
Things are starting to look really good," Fox said.
Though there will still be some areas inside the fire lines burning and causing some smoke, work on the edges of the three fires has progressed substantially.
Fox said he took an aerial tour of the site with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, and he anticipated many of the state and federal resources would be departing the area by Monday.
To hear the complete report with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Saturday Afternoon Update.mp3

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency update on containment progress

(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 28, 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.

Friday night’s thunderstorm provided little moisture and several positive lightning strikes. There continues to be the potential for new starts, active burning and re-burning throughout the areas.

Fairfield Creek - Crews will continue to patrol and mop-up. 

Hall - Crews will hold and improve lines.

Wentworth – Crews will continue securing open line with line construction and firing out operations.  They will also continue to hold and improve line, mop-up and patrol. 

Structure protection will continue on all three fires.

No road closures are in place, however local authorities recommend using Highway 183 as an alternative to Highway 7 as it will have heavy emergency vehicle traffic.

No evacuations are in place at this time.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 73 percent , estimated full containment by Monday

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 74,884 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 5,757; Hall, 2,382)

Personnel: 423, plus approximately 40 Rural Fire Department personnel

Crews: 8 crews on the fire line

Aviation: Five heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light

Engines: 27, plus 20 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 14 residences, 17 associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 152

* Firefighters continue work on Wentworth Fire; river valley picks up some rain

(Posted 7:45 a.m. July 28, 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:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Friday Noon Report.mp3

UPDATE: The Springview Volunteer Fire Department requested mutual aid assistance from the Ainsworth, Long Pine and Bassett departments to fight another small break-out of the Wentworth Fire Friday afternoon and to help with back-burns.
Brown County Sheriff's Department Dispatcher Judy Cole said the civil defense siren did sound in Long Pine for the mutual aid call, but not in Ainsworth as a truck was dispatched by Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala immediately. Cole said five trucks responded to the mutual aid call, including two from Bassett, two from Long Pine and one from Ainsworth.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

These photos were taken Monday from the vantage point of Nancy Reinhardt's ranch southwest of Springview, south of Highway 12 in Keya Paha County. Though the date on the photo says Sunday, the photos were taken Monday as the Fairfield Creek fire broke out to the north, fueled by a gusting south wind and temperatures that topped 105 degrees. Fire lines worked tirelessly to keep the fire contained to the Niobrara River canyons, but it did break the Highway 12 containment line Monday before being pushed back by firefighters. As of Friday, the Fairfield Creek Fire had burned close to 100,000 acres but was close to being declared closed by fire officials.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

A C-130 tanker drops flame retardant on the north end of the Niobrara River valley Monday in an effort to keep the fire from proceeding north. The C-130 planes were based out of South Dakota.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

Fire rages out of a Niobrara River canyon southwest of Springview as firefighters attempt to stop the flames at the canyon. The charred ground and the sod mound in the foreground show firefighters' attempts to create back burns and fire breaks to keep the fire from moving north and racing on flat ground.


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

Flames shoot more than 100 feet in the air on Monday as the Fairfield Creek Fire consumed pine and cedar trees on the north edge of the Niobrara River Valley southwest of Springview.

* Fire officials provide updates on firefighting effort on KBRB's Open Line

(Posted noon July 27, 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.

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 1.mp3

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 2.mp3

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 3.mp3

audio clips/Friday Open Line w Fire Officials Pt 4.mp3

* Gov. Heineman shares stories of the volunteers in weekly column

(Posted Noon July 27, 2012)

Fighting Fires

By Gov. Dave Heineman

July 27, 2012

 

Dear Fellow Nebraskans:

 

This week, we are monitoring the status of the drought-related fires throughout the state. While the magnitude of the fires and the drought impacts weigh heavy on Nebraskans and the economy of our state, I have been reminded the past few days of the strong resolve and resiliency of our state’s citizens.

Since the fires broke in north-central Nebraska, I have been to the affected communities twice and monitored the damage firsthand. While seeing 72,000 acres of scorched Earth is striking, what I saw in our people is inspiring. In every community, brave volunteer firefighters were on the frontlines, facing temperatures of 120 degrees. At the command posts, responders worked tirelessly to update and coordinate efforts to contain the massive fires, and anticipate the fire’s next moves through behavior modeling. In the communities, family-members and friends of the community provided aid and comfort, gathering donations of food, ice, water, ibuprofen, eye wash, and other necessities.

When meeting with volunteers, firefighters and responders, I heard story after story of the truly remarkable generosity and thoughtfulness of Nebraskans and caring strangers throughout our nation. At the Ainsworth Fire Hall, I spoke with local firefighter Ann Fiala who told me they have received much needed donations from throughout the state and as far away as Maine. Ann said they have had people walk into the Fire Hall and hand them checks for as much as $500 and $1000.

In Norden, volunteer Cathy Fauren, told me she had been volunteering for days on end. Her husband and son were in the fires, and that a simple phone call from them was all she needed to know they were ok. A volunteer in Springview, Linda Sheehan, told me about the Springview Nebraska Community Facebook page, which is covered with photos and encouraging messages.

While driving the recent fire paths in the Niobrara River Valley, the ground was still smoking and smoldering in many spots. As we drove down a dirt road, surrounded by burnt trees on both sides, we stopped to talk with a father and son from Grand Island who were driving the roads, putting out the residual fires in order to prevent a second round of immense burns.

These stories are examples of what makes Nebraska a wonderful place to live. Nebraskans are generous. We care about one another. We are always willing to help others.

At the incident command center in Ainsworth, I was briefed on current efforts. More than 32 volunteer fire departments have helped.  Low humidity, high temperatures, extreme drought, and dry lightning in the weather forecast continue to be major concerns.

This week, we activated the State Emergency Operations Plan in response to the fire emergency in Cherry, Brown and Keya Paha Counties. I declared a State of Emergency in early July, which activated parts of the State Emergency Operations Plan and allowed us additional options for use of state resources. Resources from the State Patrol, the Department of Roads, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are also responding to the emergency.

The Nebraska National Guard continues to mobilize available resources as the response grows. This included the mobilization of three Nebraska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with “Bambi buckets” and approximately 28 personnel to provide support to local firefighters. I also want to acknowledge and thank the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team for their continued efforts on site.

As I write this column, we are close to having the fires contained – thanks to everyone’s hard work and support. We are very proud of you.

* July could join June as one of driest in history

(Posted 7:15 a.m. July 27, 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)
 images/20120726_Region24Complex_NE_NES_120791_PIOThreeFire_MapCompressed_11x17.JPG
(Image courtesy of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency)

Instead of producing a smaller version of the map on the site, please click on the above link for the full-scale version. Areas in black indicate fire lines that are secure. Areas in red show boundaries of the fires that have not yet been completely contained. Thank you to the hundreds of folks who responded to our offer to email the full-scale version of the map we placed on our Web site on Tuesday. We tried to get the full-scale version emailed as quickly as time allowed, but we hope this method of delivery works a little better! This is the largest version of the map we have to view. The map may be available in an even larger form on the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency's site, but not confirming that.

* Bob Kerrey tours area, visits with fire officials and volunteers

(Posted 3 p.m. July 26, 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:

audio clips/Bob Kerrey Thursday visit.mp3

* 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 today.
The Wentworth Fire started Saturday from a lightning strike, a day after the Fairfield Creek Fire, the largest of the three fires, ignited from a lightning strike in northwestern Brown County. The Hall Fire sparked up on Monday.
Hallock said weary area firefighters are finally starting to get a break, as federal hot-shot crews are working on the fire lines and removing hotspots.
The Springview fire chief said the current fuel bill for the department is more than $60,000, which is equal to or above the department's entire annual budget.
In addition to the North Central Development Center fund that has been established to assist the fire departments and those who lost homes and livelihoods, an additional fund has been created for the Springview department.
Donations can be made to the Springview Fire Hall at PO Box 204, Springview, NE 68778, or to West Plains Bank at PO Box 189, Springview, NE 68778. Write "fire relief" in the check's memo line.
To hear the complete report from early Thursday afternoon with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Thursday Noon Report.mp3

* NEMA reports Meadville evacuation lifted, Highway 12 reopened to traffic

(Posted noon July 26, 2012)

The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency reports the evacuation notice for Meadville has been lifted, and Highway 12 west of Springview has reopened to traffic.  Crews on Thursday are focusing on improving fire lines, mopping up hot spots, patrolling the fires' perimeters and protecting any structures still at risk.
State and federal officials estimated full containment of all three fires by Sunday.

The weather is forecasted to be warmer and drier through the weekend with possibility of afternoon thunderstorms along with accompanying lightning.  Fuels are still very receptive to fire and the possibility for new starts remains elevated.

“We currently have sufficient fire resources on the incident," Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said. "If additional resources are needed, local fire chiefs will put out a call for assistance."

While Highway 12 is open to traffic, the Nebraska State Patrol recommends motorists use caution when traveling in the area.

Volunteer evacuations have been lifted for Meadville and Norden.

The Niobrara River between County Line and Brewer bridge remains closed but is scheduled to reopen on Friday.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 50 percent, estimate containment by July 29

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 72,405 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 3,278; Hall, 2,382)

Personnel: 480, plus approximately 80 Rural Fire Department personnel

Crews: 7 crews on the fire line

Aviation : Four heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light.

Engines: 38, plus 40 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 152

* Fox says paying for cost of fighting fire will be a massive effort

(Posted 10 a.m. July 26, 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:

audio clips/Doug Fox Thursday AM Update.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Gov Dave Heineman Thursday Report.mp3

* UN-L Extension taking donations to help cattle producers affected by fires

(Posted 6:50 a.m. July 26, 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 dbauer1@unl.edu. The NCDC can be contacted at 402-387-2740 for more information.

* Red Cross has delivered more than 4,000 meals to firefighters, volunteers

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 26, 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:

audio clips/Fire Chief Brad Fiala Wednesday Evening.mp3

* Communications infrastructure one of the key elements of firefighting efforts

(Posted 7 p.m. July 25, 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:

audio clips/Communications Report w Brian Delimont.mp3


(Photo courtesy of Cody Croghan)

Fire burns above the Niobrara River canyon on Monday as the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County jumped out of the river valley. Firefighters pushed the fire back into the canyon Monday night, then spent Tuesday combating a change in wind direction that sent the Wentworth Fire south toward the Niobrara River.


(Photo courtesy of Cody Croghan)

A Blackhawk helicopter hovers near a raging portion of the Wentworth Fire Monday afternoon in Keya Paha County. As of Wednesday evening, the Wentworth Fire had been contained to the canyons on the north side of the Niobrara River valley in southeastern Keya Paha County.

* KBRB's Larry Rice begins putting voices to the volunteer effort

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 25, 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.

audio clips/Larry Rice Report on Volunteer Effort.mp3

* Fire halls appreciative of donations, cash for fuel bills needed at this point

(Posted noon July 25, 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

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 72,405 total (Fairfield 66,745; Wentworth, 3,278; Hall, 2,382)

Personnel: 321, plus approximately 80 Rural Fire Department personnel

Aviation : Six Heavy-lift helicopters, one medium, and one light.

Engines: 30, plus 40 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 128

* Firefighters making progress in difficult terrain

(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 25, 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:

audio clips/Firefighter Nate Rau.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Doug Fox Wednesday AM Report.mp3

audio clips/Springview Chief Scott Hallock Wednesday.mp3


(Photo courtesy of Emily Estes of Stuart)

A C-130 tanker drops flame retardant on a fire burning Tuesday afternoon in the Niobrara River canyon. Firefighters pushed the flames back into the canyon in an attempt to protect Greg Bammerlin's home in southeastern Keya Paha County threatened by the Hall Fire.


(Photo courtesy of Emily Estes of Stuart)

Firefighters from Keya Paha County and several other assisting departments work to save Greg Bammerlin's home in southeastern Keya Paha County Tuesday afternoon as the Hall Fire moves north out of the Niobrara River canyons.


(Aerial photos of the Fairfield Creek Fire courtesy of Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

The Fairfield Creek fire burns the bluffs on the north side of the Niobrara River in Keya Paha County on Monday.


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

The Fairfield Creek fire, which jumped Nebraska Highway 12 Monday and moved north into the grasslands of Keya Paha County. Firefighters stopped the fire.


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

Sgt. Richard Shearer of the Nebraska National Guard watches for their target for their bucket of water as the Blackhawk helicopter fights the Fairfield Creek fire.


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

The Fairfield Creek fire north of Nebraska Highway 12 on Monday. Firefighters stopped the fire from continuing north, but 150 acres burned and a home was lost north of Highway 12.

To view Biermann's photo gallery taken from a Blackhawk helicopter above the Fairfield Creek Fire, click on the following link:
http://odc.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=5002&p=3787

* Fiala reports major progress Tuesday on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted 9 p.m. July 24, 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:

audio clips/Brad Fiala Tuesday Night Report.mp3

* 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 counties.
"My sense is we are on the verge of making some significant progress to contain the fires, and that would certainly be very good news for all of us," Heineman told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday evening. "I am pleased to see all the federal, state and local forces working together."
Heineman said the volunteer spirit and effort being displayed in north central Nebraska makes him proud.
"We are in a much stronger position today trying to contain the fires," Heineman said. "I can see we are making progress, but the weather still makes you nervous."
Heineman said the state's focus will remain on assisting the volunteer fire departments in the area until the fires are completely under control.
To hear the complete report with Gov. Dave Heineman from his Tuesday evening conversation with KBRB, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Gov Heineman Tuesday Evening Report.mp3

* North central Nebraska not the only area dealing with fires

(Posted 6 p.m. July 24, 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:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Tuesday 5 PM update.mp3

* 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 kbrb@sscg.net, but will be forwarded only as staff time allows)
With the Niobrara River dissecting it, the large orange area on the left is the Fairfield Creek Fire, which is burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties on both sides of the Niobrara River. That fire started Friday morning in northern Brown County from a lightning strike. The western edge of the fire is the prime concern for firefighters today, as they are trying to keep the fire east of the fire breaks that have been created along the river valley.
The area jutting to the northern end of the fire area represents the ground that was burned Monday evening after the fire broke the containment line north of Highway 12 approximately 3 miles west of Cub Creek. A home was destroyed when the fire broke north of Highway 12 before firefighters could get it stopped. Approximately 150 acres burned north of Highway 12.
The center orange area represents the scope of the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County. After starting from a lightning strike Saturday, the fire raced to the north Monday afternoon before being pushed back by firefighters into the Niobrara River canyons Monday night.
The far right orange area is the Hall Fire burning in southeastern Keya Paha County. That fire started on Monday and moved quickly to the north, fueled by south winds gusting to 25 mph. Firefighters were able to halt the progress of the Wentworth and Hall fires before any homes were lost.

* Red Cross serving 1,800 meals per day to firefighters, volunteers; donations of cash, bananas, snack mixes and beef jerky sought

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 24, 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:

audio clips/Mindy Mangus w the Red Cross.mp3

The Red Cross has mobilized to support area residents and the more than 30 fire fighting departments who are responding to the Fairfield Creek Wildfire in north central Nebraska with urgently needed hydration, meals and a shelter to comfort those in need. 
So far, the Red Cross has served 2,583 meals and snacks both in the shelter and to the emergency responders at the front lines. The organization has also provided cots and other relief items to firefighters in multiple staging areas set up in the field.
The Red Cross shelter remains open in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. in Ainsworth.
Displaced residents and responders can find comfort and care from trained Red Cross Volunteers. Disaster workers in emergency response vehicles are circulating in and near affected areas, delivering water and food, supplies and comfort items. The Red Cross is working with community partners to provide support.
The easiest way to help is to make a financial donation. Financial donations are the best option to support those in need because they offer agencies, like the Red Cross, the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources. Donations of goods require helping agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing relief services to sort, transport, warehouse and distribute items that may not meet the needs of those affected by the disaster.
You can help people affected by disasters such as floods, tornadoes, fires and hurricanes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support AmericanRed Cross Disaster Relief. To make a donation, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).  Contributions may also be sent to a local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

* Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team volunteers preparing 1,800 meals daily

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 24, 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 firefighting effort.
Lee said the Southern Baptist team volunteers have been welcomed warmly to the area, and are working hard to provide the firefighters and volunteers with the energy they need to sustain their effort.
For the complete report with Andrew Lee from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team Report.mp3

* Johanns says he will pursue additional federal resources if needed

(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 24, 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 counties.
Officials said the priority for fire officials today is the western lines of the Fairfield Creek Fire. A substantial effort is being made to stop the western progress of the fire, which has entered Cherry County west of the Rocky Ford area.
With fire crews launching a massive effort to create fire breaks in that area, if the fire jumps those breaks and continues west, it will be extremely difficult to contain.
Heineman said any state resources needed will be available to combat the three fires burning in the Niobrara River valley.
"We don't want these fires going on for another two or three weeks," Heineman said. "With the conditions we have across the state, we could see more and more fires spring up."
Heineman asked about a realistic estimate for having the fires brought under control.
"I know that is hard a question to answer at this point, but do you have any sense on when you can say it is contained?" Heineman asked.
The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team officials indicated, unless the fires erupted again Tuesday afternoon and evening and broke out past the fire lines, that the fires could be contained in approximately three days, though they said there are still several factors that could alter that timeline.
Officials estimated the containment of the Fairfield Creek Fire at 15 percent on Tuesday, though they said they hoped that percentage would go up by nightfall.
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said there are an additional 22 to 24 pieces of fire equipment moving into the area today from surrounding volunteer departments.
"That is going to allow some of these departments that have been up here for a while to rotate back out," Fox said.
Though costs of the federal and state resources used in the fire-fighting effort were briefly discussed, Heineman said the first priority was getting the fires controlled.
Following the briefing, Heineman toured the Norden area to see first-hand the damage caused by the Fairfield Creek Fire as it moved through that community on Friday night.
Following a tour of the area today, Heineman will appear on KBRB to talk about the firefighting efforts and the state and federal response.

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Tuesday fire report, statistics

(Posted 12:50 p.m. July 24, 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.

Air Operations

Four Helicopters and Two Air Tactical Platforms will continue to assist ground crews in achieving containment goals. 

Fire retardant drops may be available.

Road Closures

Road blocks will be in place on Highway 12.  Motorists are asked to find alternate travel routes. The Meadville Avenue and Norden Road are also closed to traffic.

Evacuations: 

Volunteer evacuations are still in place for Meadville.

Niobrara River is closed for recreational use between County Line and Brewer bridges.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 15%

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 65,580 total

Personnel: 239

Aviation : (3) Type (1) National Guard Black Hawks, and 1 Type 2

Engines: 30

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 80

* North Central Development Center has established a Pay Pal account for funds to support fire departments

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 24, 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 winds.
"We have both those fires contained to the canyons, but they could flare up again today with the wind," Hallock reported at 11 a.m. Tuesday from the Springview Fire Hall.
Hallock said the Wentworth and Hall fires were kept clear of homes in southeastern Keya Paha County, but one home west of Springview was damaged Monday evening when the Fairfield Creek fire jumped the northern containment at Highway 12 approximately 3 miles west of Cub Creek, 6 miles west of Springview.
Hallock praised the volunteers working in the Springview Fire Hall to keep the front lines supplied with water and food.
"They were making food and water runs out to the guys at 3 and 4 a.m. this morning," Hallock said.
He reported federal forces were assisting with the Hall and Wentworth fires, and fire lines would continue to be created with some back-burning to try and keep the fires from moving north rapidly if they again move up out of the river canyons.
To hear the complete report with the Springview fire chief, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Tuesday 11AM Fire Report.mp3

* Susan Ford with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management team checks in with an update on the fire response efforts

(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 24)

audio clips/Susan Ford incident management Tuesday report.mp3

* Firefighters describe conditions at the front line of the fires

(Posted 9:30 a.m. July 24, 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:

audio clips/Report w firefighters Evans & Keezer.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Doug Fox Tuesday AM report.mp3

* Ainsworth fire chief says ground units struggling to keep up with fires; asks Sparks residents to be on alert in case fire continues west

(Posted 9:15 p.m. July 23, 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.

audio clips/Fire Chief Brad Fiala Monday Night.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire reportedly crosses Highway 12 west of Springview

(Posted 5:45 p.m. July 23, 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:

audio clips/Scott Hallock update on southeastern KPC fires.mp3

* Firefighter and EMT Ann Fiala discusses the volunteer effort

(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 23, 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:

audio clips/Ann Fiala report on volunteer effort.mp3

* Fox reports 3 fires jumping out of Niobrara canyons fueled by dry, south winds

(Posted 4 p.m. July 23, 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:

audio clips/Doug Fox Monday Afternoon Report.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Scott Hallock - Wentworth Fire.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Rocky Mountain Incident Management.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Sheriff Papstein Road Closure Report.mp3

* Fox reports another home lost Sunday night, 1 feared lost found still standing

(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 23, 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 Paha County.
More than 100,000 acres have burned. Fox said six homes have been lost to the fire. One home feared lost in the Norden area was found still intact with only the outbuildings burned. That home was one of several in the Norden area that were saved from destruction, though others were lost.
However, Fox said the fire again jumped the Niobrara River to the south, where it destroyed a home in the Fairfield Creek area Sunday night. He said the fire is moving quickly west, and is now burning several miles west of Norden. Another finger of the fire is burning in the Rocky Ford area of Cherry County.
Fox said the wind will be the main factor on Monday, and could cause additional problems. He said the backfire efforts west of Meadville has stopped the fire for the time being from moving east. Those backfires were set approximately five miles west of Meadville to remove the dry vegetation on which the fire is feeding.
The fire is still burning in Brown County south of the Niobrara River, and is currently west of the old Plum Creek dam.
To hear the complete report from Monday morning with the Region 24 emergency manager, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Monday Report.mp3

* Heineman reports state assets being brought to bear on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 23, 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:

audio clips/Gov Heineman Monday Report.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire 50 percent contained, but tentative with Monday winds expected; 6 homes lost thus far

(Posted 8:30 p.m. July 22, 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:

audio clips/Doug Fox Sunday Evening Report.mp3

* 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:

audio clips/Red Cross Sunday update.mp3

* 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 and released.
Fiala said the difficult terrain and the high level of fuel in the Niobrara River valley are making the fire almost impossible to slow down. Fiala said a large amount of resources are being utilized to protect Meadville. He said C-130 tankers are being flown into the area dropping fire retardant, and three Blackhawk helicopters are taking water from area dams and dropping it in certain areas.
Fire lines are in the vicinity of the Coleman Creek canyon west of Norden on the fire's western front, west of Meadville on the eastern front, Highway 12 on its northern boundary, and just south of the Niobrara River on its southern boundary.
Winds are not expected to blow at more than 10 to 15 mph for the remainder of Sunday, and will generally be from the northwest. However, on Monday, winds are expected out of the south at 15-20 mph with gusts to 30 mph.
To hear the full report from Fire Chief Fiala, click on the link below:

audio clips/Brad Fiala Sunday Fire Report.mp3

* Heineman activates Emergency Operations Plan; 3 Blackhawk helicopters dropping water on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted July 22, 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 Meadville.
Heineman said the state of Nebraska has declared a state of emergency to allow for the use of additional state and federal resources to combat wild fires in the state.
The complete audio report with Gov. Heineman can be accessed by clicking the link below.

audio clips/Gov Heineman Report Saturday.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire has now burned approximately 100,000 acres

(Posted July 21, 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.

audio clips/Doug Fox Saturday Update.mp3
 

* 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)

audio clips/Red Cross Report.mp3

* 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 surrounding area.
The Fairfield Creek Fire is moving quickly to the east today, and with the dry and hot conditions and the steep terrain.
Those people east of the Norden Bridge to Highway 183 need to evacuate to the south, not to the north. Those evacuees are asked to report to the Ainsworth Community Schools, where the Red Cross has set up a temporary shelter.
The Brown County Ambulance Service is asking for donations of ice packs and towels to help cool down firefighters who have been battling the fire since it started before 10 a.m. Friday.
Stay tuned to KBRB for the latest information on the Fairfield Creek Fire.

* Updated Fairfield Creek Fire Report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Fox

(Posted at 8 a.m. Saturday, 2012)

(click on the link below)

audio clips/Doug Fox Fire Update.mp3

Fox reported the fire has now burned more than 30,000 acres, with numerous structures destroyed. Firefighters are trying to contain the fire to a line south of Highway 12, and fire lines have been set up both east and west of Norden. Fox said the fire is still raging in the Norden area. While firefighters try and contain the fire from the east and the west, aerial support is being brought in from South Dakota and other areas. A Blackhawk helicopter is dropping water on the flames, and a tanker plane from Rapid City will be utilized to drop a slurry mixture on the flames.
Fox said any food, water and ice donations for the firefighters can be taken to the Ainsworth Fire Hall. Highway 12 west of Springview remains closed. No traffic is allowed anywhere near the Norden area, which has been completely evacuated.

* Audio report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala Friday evening

* Fox reports leading edge of Fairfield Creek Fire 6 to 7 miles wide

(Posted 8 p.m. July 20, 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 County.
Recapping the events since the fire was first reported 13 to 14 miles north of Johnstown, the flames moved quickly through the Fairfield Creek area and jumped across the Niobrara River. The fire began moving north through Keya Paha County. Residents of Norden and the surrounding area were evacuated ahead of the fire reaching the community.
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Friday evening most of the Norden area has sustained extensive damage. No injuries have been reported due to the fire, but the Long Pine Rural Volunteer Fire Department did lose a fire truck to the blaze, and another truck belonging to the South Brown County Fire Department was damaged fighting another Friday afternoon fire south of Long Pine. Fox said that truck is salvageable with new wiring.
"We haven't had any injuries," Fox said. "People were evacuated ahead of time. Some of our firefighters are experiencing some symptoms of heat stress."
Temperatures Friday again soared to near 105 degrees, and south winds gusting to 25 mph led to the fire moving quickly through the area already dealing with severe drought.
As of 6 p.m. Friday, the fire had burned an area more than 10 miles long and reportedly up to four miles wide in some areas near Norden.
"The fire is moving faster than we can keep up with," Fox said after the blaze jumped a containment line set up on Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Some residents living north of Highway 12 in northern Keya Paha County and into southern Tripp County, S.D., are being evacuated. Highway 12 has been closed to traffic west of Springview.
Firefighters from the Ainsworth, Johnstown, Wood Lake, Long Pine, Bassett, Springview, Calamus, Raven and South Brown County departments battled what is being referred to as the Fairfield Creek Fire, while the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Bassett and Stuart fire departments fought the fire south of Long Pine. That fire was brought under control by 5 p.m. Friday. Damage from the fire south of Long Pine was limited to pasture ground and the loss of the South Brown County Fire Department truck.
Fox reported additional fires were burning north of Merriman in Cherry County on both sides of the Niobrara River, and east of the Spencer Dam in Boyd County. All of the fires in the area Thursday night and Friday morning were sparked by lightning from a storm that carried extensive lightning but little rain.
Aerial support was utilized, but Fox said the numerous buckets of water dropped from the plane were not effective in slowing down the fire in Keya Paha County.
The extent of the damage is not yet known, but thousands of acres and numerous structures, including homes, have now been burned by the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Brown County Board of Commissioners Chairman Buddy Small on Friday signed a declaration asking for disaster assistance for the county stemming from the wildfires burning in northern and southern Brown County.
Dozens of volunteers flooded the Ainsworth Fire Hall with bottled water, sports drinks, ice and coolers to send to the front lines of the fires. Organizer Heather Walnofer said the outpouring of support from the area has been overwhelming.
Stay tuned to KBRB for additional information.

* Fire crosses Niobrara River, Norden area evacuated

(Posted July 20 as of 4:50 p.m., 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 – 77                         Fire Calls Ainsworth

 

Ainsworth Calls Responded to – 723            Accidents with Injuries - 9

 

Animal Cases – 14                                       Accidents w/o Injuries - 4

 

Board Of Health –           0                                     Assist Tower Rescue - 1

 

Brown County Arrests – 70                         Attempt to Locate missing people - 2

 

Burglaries – 6                                               Building Fires: House/Garage/Royal Theater - 3

 

Citations – 190                                             Burn Permits Issued - 102        

 

Crime Stopper Calls – 28                             Canyon Fires - 1

 

County Calls Responded to – 358                Chimney Fires - 1

 

Court Commitments – 17                             Corn Field Fire - 1

 

Criminal Cases –   32                                   Gas Meters & Leaks -3

 

Dog Complaints – 139                                 Grass Fires - 5

 

Domestic Assault Cases – 14                       Hay Bales - 1

 

Drug Cases – 3                                            Possible Electrical Fire - 1

 

Fix it tickets – 55                                         Power Lines Down - 2                       

 

Handgun Permits – 110                                School Alarm - 3  

 

Incident Reports –          1,204                              Storm Spotting - 3

 

Incoming Phone Calls –   8,467                     Tractor/Mechanical Fires - 2

 

Information Files – 28                                  Vehicle Fires - 4

 

Inmates Housed in Brown County – 106                

 

Inmates Housed for other agencies – 3

 

Inmates Housed for NSP arrests – 12           Ambulance Calls

 

Inmates – Females – 27                                This is just a summary of the Ambulance

 

Inmates – Males – 79                                   calls for 2014

 

Johnstown Calls Responded to – 5               Local Calls for Service - 137

 

Juvenile Cases – 15                                      Transfers to other Facilities - 43

 

Long Pine Calls Responded to – 118           

 

Mental Health Cases – 16

 

MIP’s – 18

 

911 Calls – 404

 

Papers Served – 200

 

Sex Crimes – 1

 

Thefts – 23

 

Titles Inspected – 242

 

Total Traffic Stops – 688

 

Traffic cases – 62

 

Traffic Stops where no action was taken - 7

 

Vandalism Cases – 15

 

Verbal Warnings - 144

 

Written Warnings - 292

 
   

 

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