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* Funeral Service notes: (see more on the obituaries page)
* Teresa L. Percival, 59, of Ainsworth 10:30 a.m. March 27
* Jack M. Osborne, 81, of Atkinson 10:30 a.m. March 27
* Meeting reports located below for:
March 21 Brown County Commissioners
March 14 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education
March 13 Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board
March 9 Ainsworth City Council
* Arens earns two medals during Nebraska State Speech Championships
(Posted 12:45 p.m. March 24)
Jack Arens picked up two medals during the Nebraska State Speech Championships Thursday at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.
Arens qualified for the finals in extemporaneous speaking by placing first and second respectively in the two preliminary rounds. In the finals, Arens earned one first-place vote from a three-judge panel, and was ranked third by the other two judges to finish in third place by one ranking point. Brandon Unverferth of Raymond Central won the event.
Arens also qualified for the finals in informative speaking, placing second and third in the two preliminary rounds. In the finals Arens finished with a sixth-place medal. Bethany Tebbe of David City won the event.
Cassidy Gilliland, competing in humorous prose, received a superior rating in her two preliminary round speeches.
Ainsworth finished ninth in the Class C-1 team sweepstakes with 26 points. David City won the title with 202 points, placing two speakers in the finals in four events and taking the top two spots in both poetry and persuasive speaking.
Malcolm was the runner-up with 106 points. Valentine finished with 10 points thanks to a sixth-place performance by Will Major in humorous prose.
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 1:45 p.m. March 23)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Kevin G. Fobroy, age 34, of Sioux Falls, S.D., charged with driving under suspension, fined $100 and driver’s license revoked for one year; also charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.
Shi Ann James, 28, of Ainsworth, third-degree assault, ordered to pay restitution in the amounts of $491 and $1,628.
Timothy C. Melcher, 26, of Pierce, second offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to 10 days in jail with credit for two days served, six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 18 months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Ernesto A. Gonzalez-Cano, 31, of Albuquerque, N.M., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Britt T. Hollenbeck, 16, of Long Pine, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.
Jacob D. Sinsel, 17, of Ainsworth, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.
Sharon Goff, 66, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for one day served, driver’s license revoked for six months, ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Melody R. Martin, 22, of Ainsworth, unsafe backing, $25.
Jacob R. Nelson, 19, of Ainsworth, negligent driving, $25.
Michael V. Gay, 41, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for four days served, driver’s license revoked for one year, ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Robert J. McLeod, 43, of Ainsworth, driving during revocation, $100; also charged with obstructing a peace officer, sentenced to two days in jail.
Joni L. Tiller, 52, of Springview, second offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to 10 days in jail with credit for two days served, six months of probation, and driver’s license revoked for 18 months.
Tiffany B. Le, 19, of Savage, Minn., possession of a controlled substance, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.
Keith L. Johnson, 25, of Ainsworth, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.
Reid V. Pikula, 19, of Baxter, Minn., minor in possession, $300; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.
Ryan A. Koehn, 20, of Center, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $75.
Orlando Jones, 30, of Pinion, Ariz., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Mason O. Skari, 19, of Humboldt, S.D., attempt of a Class IV felony, $1,000 and sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for 16 days served; also charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.
Roger W. Fullerton, 51, of Broken Bow, no operator’s license, $75.
Joshua A. Trenary, 31, of Rockwell City, Iowa, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Mary C. Miguelino, 47, of Glenwood Ho, Md., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Benjamin L. Beard, 17, of Bassett, no fishing permit, $100.
Nicholas P. Peterson, 27, of Lakewood, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Marlion S. Barnett, 46, of Corona, Calif., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Henry L. Greve, 23, of Wakefield, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Anthony R. Wiarda, 31, of Parker, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Nathan P. Hawley, 21, of St. Cloud, Minn., attempt of a Class IV felony, $1,000; also charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.
Justin D. Dearmont, 20, of Rose, minor misrepresenting age to obtain alcohol, $100.
Damien Bowers, 18, of Chester, S.D., attempt of a Class IV felony, $1,000; also charged with carrying a concealed weapon, sentenced to 60 days in jail with credit for 16 days served; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Alex A. Hawke, 24, of Sioux Falls, S.D., attempt of a Class IV felony, $1,000; also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Debra K. Gillam, 45, of Woodridge, Ill., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Wyatt L. Larson, 20, of Columbia, S.D., 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.
Spencer W. Knecht, 20, of Groton, S.D., 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.
Robin S. Tuttle, 60, of Bassett, leaving the scene of an accident or failing to furnish information, $100.
Jeffrey L. Swanson, 40, of Minden, driving too fast for conditions, $100.
Amber M. Ogden, 30, of Ainsworth, failure to correct equipment, $25.
Kay Lynn Collins, 35, of Long Pine, first offense reckless driving, $500 and sentenced to six months of probation.
* Commissioners hire Wambold as Brown County Weed Superintendent
(Posted 5:15 p.m. March 21)
Following an executive session Tuesday, the Brown County Commissioners appointed Matt Wambold to serve as the county’s weed superintendent.
Wambold will split his time between handling the duties of weed superintendent and his current position as a sheriff’s deputy.
Wambold replaces longtime weed superintendent Doug Mulligan, who retired effective at the end of February.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners met with representatives from the city of Long Pine regarding the placement of a dumpster at Hidden Paradise. Currently, cabin owners at Hidden Paradise pay a $5 monthly garbage fee to Brown County, and are responsible for hauling their own trash.
Commissioner Buddy Small said the county had previously agreed to purchase a dumpster for Hidden Paradise if the city of Long Pine agreed to empty the dumpster.
“For whatever reason, this just hasn’t happened,” Small said.
Long Pine Mayor Ed Brown said the city has identified a place for the dumpster, and would likely put in a concrete pad.
“We would also likely have to put up a camera to make sure people aren’t dumping things they shouldn’t, like carpet or construction debris,” Brown said.
Brown asked how the city would fund having Hidden Paradise added to the route for its garbage truck.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, if a dumpster is placed, Long Pine would then bill Hidden Paradise cabin owners for garbage service instead of the county. Hidden Paradise cabins would then be added to Long Pine’s census and taken off the county census when it comes to the percentages for the KBR Solid Waste compact.
Brown said Long Pine currently charges $15 for garbage service.
Hidden Paradise cabin owners are currently billed $5 monthly by the county, but are responsible for hauling their trash themselves.
No action was taken, as Brown said he would place the item on the next Long Pine City Council agenda.
The commissioners approved a lease-purchase agreement with DA Davidson for the Brown County Ambulance Association for the purchase of a new ambulance.
Ambulance Association representative Ann Fiala said, after looking at the association’s budget, it would support a payment on the current ambulance during this budget year, with the first payment on the new ambulance due in December, which falls in the 2017-18 fiscal year budget.
Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen and Chief Financial Officer Lisa Wood provided the commissioners with a quarterly update on the hospital’s finances.
Wood reported that revenue for the fiscal year was pacing 3 percent ahead of 2016 at $6.74 million. That is up from $6.54 million for the same period in 2016. Out-patient revenue is up 8 percent to $4.87 million for the current fiscal year, and clinic revenue is up by 7 percent to $812,000. In-patient and swing bed revenues are down 13 percent and 17 percent respectively.
Wood reported that expenses for the current fiscal year are nearly equal to the prior year. Expenses of $6.61 million are up only $3,863 from the previous year.
The net operating margin for the Brown County Hospital for the current fiscal year, taking into account the $274,000 in voter-approved bond funds for the hospital addition, is $149,436, or 2.3 percent.
The commissioners approved the resignation of Jeff Keezer as the county’s deputy emergency manager. Keezer is moving from the community.
The board approved a request from Will Williams to allow the Brown County Farm Bureau to utilize the Courthouse Park for a picnic from 4:30 until 8 p.m. May 4.
In a final action item, the commissioners approved an agreement with the state of Nebraska to tie out and relocate corner monuments along the Calamus River.
During his report, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the road crew was performing shoulder work on Meadville Avenue, and is hauling white rock from South Dakota.
He said there were low spots on Road 881 near the Lutheran Cemetery the department planned to raise soon.
Turpin reported he had the engineering estimate for a culvert to replace a box culvert on Norden Avenue. The 84-inch wide by 64-foot long culvert would cost $21,000. He said replacing the box culvert with a metal culvert at the site would allow the road to be widened.
Andy Glidden with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission presented the board with a copy of a letter he planned to send to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the potential construction of a fishing pond on the south side of East City Park.
Glidden said the letter to the Corps of Engineers requests the development of a 2-acre pond at the site.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. April 4.
* Lentz provides update from Ainsworth Community Schools
(Posted 10:45 a.m. March 21)
Ainsworth Community Schools Secondary Principal Bill Lentz
appeared on KBRB's Open Line program Tuesday.
* Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame announces 2017 inductees
(Posted 10:45 a.m. March 21)
The Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame Board has announced this year’s inductees to the Hall of Fame.
Milton A. Richstein – Ainsworth
George Lyman “Doc” White, DVM – Long Pine
Meredith “Punk” Worth – Springview
Bernard Sheets – Dunning
Donald K. “Don” Bandy – Stapleton
Hadley Barrett – Kersey, Colo., formerly from North Platte
Blayne Beguin – Rushville
Kenneth Boyer – Mullen
Byron Eatinger – Thedford
Jason Garwood – Whitman
Joe A. Nutter – North Platte
Walter “Pearl” Nutter – Thedford
G.V. (Jerry) Thompson, DVM – North Platte
The 12th annual Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame Banquet and Induction Ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. June 10 in the 4-H Building at the Cherry County Fairground with the Peppermill & EKV Lounge catering.
* Brown County Foundation to award several donor-based scholarships
(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 21)
The Brown County Community Foundation Fund will award several donor-advised scholarships to 2017 graduates of Ainsworth High School.
Scholarships for 2017 include the Adkisson Family $1000 Scholarship, three Ainsworth High School Alumni $1600 Scholarships, two Elizabeth Aten Memorial $600 Scholarships, two Roy Aten Memorial $600 Scholarships, the First National Bank $500 Scholarship, and the Tansy Pitcher Forbes Memorial $500 Second Semester Scholarship.
For more details, current seniors at Ainsworth High School should contact Counselor Lisa Schlueter. Applications are to be returned to the counselor’s office by April 3.
Additional scholarships for upper-class college students and non-traditional students will be offered by the foundation at a later date.
* Rock County, Stuart and West Holt speakers qualify for state
(Posted 6:30 a.m. March 21)
Stuart finished second in its Class D-2 District Speech Meet sweepstakes, and both the Broncos and Rock County qualified several speakers for this week’s Nebraska State Speech Championships.
Stuart finished with 320 team points, nine behind district champion Verdigre. Rock County placed fourth with 114 points, and Keya Paha County was seventh in the nine-team district with 91 points.
State qualifiers from the area included:
Extemporaneous speaking – 1. Megan Erickson, Rock County; 2. Sunny Rodewald, Stuart; 3. Zachary Michka, Stuart.
Persuasive speaking – 1. Peyton Alder, Stuart; 3. Shay Thin Elk, Rock County.
Entertainment speaking – 2. Christopher VanMeter, Stuart.
Informative speaking – 3. Elle Schmaderer, Stuart.
Oral Interpretation of Drama – 3. Peyton Alder, Kennison Kunz, Christopher VanMeter, Brook Doke and Zachary Michka, Stuart.
West Holt finished fourth in its Class C-2 District Speech Meet, and qualified two events for the State Speech Championships.
The Huskies finished with 186 points. Crofton won the district sweepstakes with 352 points, followed by Hartington-Newcastle with 328 points and Plainview with 321 points.
West Holt’s Chase Harrison finished second in serious prose to qualify for state, and the duet acting team of Bailey Boh and Chase Harrison won the district title to qualify.
The Nebraska State Speech Championships are scheduled for Thursday and Friday on the University of Nebraska-Kearney campus.
* Ramm receives degree from NCTA at Curtis
(Posted 7:45 a.m. March 20)
Nine students from the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture at Curtis completed their academic programs in December and have been working in agricultural and veterinary technology careers over the winter.
Eight received an associate of applied science degree and one was awarded a certificate.
The students are invited to return to the NCTA campus for graduation activities on May 3- 4.
December graduates included Trevor Ramm of Stuart, who received an Associate of Applied Science degree in agricultural production systems.
Graduates receiving an associate degree completed a minimum of 74 credit hours of courses in two or more years at NCTA.
* Traffic Accidents
(Posted 7 a.m. March 20)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of motor vehicle accidents Saturday, March 18.
At 6:06 a.m. on Highway 183 approximately 4 miles north of the Highway 20 intersection, a 2017 Hyundai Elantra, driven by Francis Hermes, 21, of Hankinson, N.D., was traveling north when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. The Hyundai was considered a total loss.
At 1:52 p.m. Saturday at the intersection of Highway 20 and Highway 7 in Ainsworth, a collision occurred between a 2005 Ford sedan, driven by Shaun Kramer, 42, of Ainsworth, and a 2005 Lincoln sedan, driven by Shirley Gambill, 77, of rural Johnstown.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $300. The Lincoln sustained approximately $1,500 damage.
* Gilliland, Salzman and Erthum selected for Girls State
(Posted 6:30 a.m. March 20)
Cassidy Gilliland, Elizabeth Salzman and McKenna Erthum have been selected to attend American Legion Auxiliary Cornhusker Girls State.
Gilliland will be a delegate from Long Pine Unit 260, and Salzman and Erthum will be delegates from Ainsworth Unit 79.
These delegates will study local, county and state government processes in this nonpartisan political learning experience. Every spring, the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State Program provides approximately 25,000 young women with a hands-on educational opportunity designed to instruct tomorrow’s leaders in the privileges and duties of responsible citizenship.
Delegates receive instruction in parliamentary procedure and organize themselves into two mythical political parties. They then campaign, hold rallies, debate and ultimately vote to elect city, county and state officials. Once elected to office, delegates are sworn in and perform their prescribed duties. Citizens not elected to office are given appointments and visit the offices of their elected or appointed counterparts in actual state, county and city government.
Two outstanding citizens, known as “senators”, are selected at each of the 49 Girls State sessions held across the country. These citizens will represent their state during American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation to be held at Washington, D.C. in July.
* Brewer discusses property and income tax bills, potential budget cuts
(Posted 2 p.m. March 16)
Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer discussed the
proposed changes to the property tax system, along with potential budget cuts
and other bills during a Thursday visit with KBRB's Graig Kinzie.
* Icy conditions Wednesday result in 2 accidents in Ainsworth
(Posted 11 a.m. March 16)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of motor vehicle accidents that occurred Wednesday, March 15, due to icy conditions.
At 8:56 a.m. Wednesday on East Second Street just east of the Main Street intersection, a 1989 Dodge Dakota, driven by Nathan Yankowski, 24, of Ainsworth, was turning east from Main Street onto Second Street when the vehicle slid on ice and struck a parked 2015 Buick sedan, owned by Randy and Pat Brudigan of Ainsworth. The impact caused the unoccupied Buick to slide into a parked 2006 Pontiac sedan, owned by Kenneth and Kim Galas.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Dodge was estimated at $150. The Buick sustained approximately $3,000 damage, and damage to the Pontiac was estimated at $1,500.
At 9:27 a.m. Wednesday at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 20, a 2016 Chevy Cruze, driven by Lindsey Holter, 27, of Grand Forks, N.D., was traveling north on Main Street when the vehicle slid on ice at the Highway 20 intersection and struck a stop sign.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $2,500. The stop sign and post, owned by the Nebraska Department of Roads, sustained $250 damage.
* District Court awards $40,807 in currency to county funds
(Posted 3:45 p.m. March 15)
During a Brown County District Court case Tuesday relating to the confiscation of $40,807 in currency seized during a January traffic stop, the court ruled the currency was intended to facilitate a violation of the Controlled Substance Act and ordered the funds to be forfeited.
After court costs are deducted, the funds will be divided between the Brown County Drug Law Enforcement Fund and the local school district.
Nebraska State Patrol Sgt. Reagan Wiebelhaus seized the more than $40,000 cash during a traffic stop Jan. 6. The two occupants of the vehicle denied any knowledge of the currency, leading to its seizure. Brown County Attorney David Streich prosecuted the case for the state of Nebraska.
In another District Court case Tuesday, Keith L. Johnson, 25, of Ainsworth, appeared for sentencing after being previously convicted of one count of attempted first degree sexual assault, a Class IIA felony.
Johnson was sentenced to between 30 and 60 months in prison in the Nebraska Department of Corrections minus 25 days that had already been served. Johnson must serve 15 months in prison prior to being eligible for parole. He will also be required to register as a sex offender and pay court costs within 180 days of his release from prison.
* Speech team qualifies 2 speakers for state meet
(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 15)
After being evacuated from their hotel early Tuesday morning due to a fire, the Ainsworth High School speech team finished third in the district contest and qualified two speakers for next week’s Nebraska State Speech Championships.
Jack Arens won district gold in both extemporaneous speaking and informative speaking. Cassidy Gilliland finished second in humorous prose to qualify for state.
Gilliland also earned a fourth-place medal in poetry. The duet acting team of Bo Painter and Bradi Scott finished fourth as well, missing out on a state berth by two places.
The oral interpretation of drama team made the finals and finished in sixth place. That team consisted of Bo Painter, Sam Wilkins, Morgan Osborn, Jenna Williams and Marley Murphy.
Henrik Elgsaether earned a sixth-place medal in entertainment speaking.
Bridgeport won the district sweepstakes, with Mitchell finishing second and Ainsworth third.
The Nebraska State Speech Championships will be held March 23 on the University of Nebraska-Kearney campus.
* Peterson provides update from board meeting during Open Line
(Posted 10:45 a.m. March 14)
Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Darrell Peterson
provided an update from Monday's Board of Education meeting during Open Line
* Prescribed fire training at the Niobrara Valley Preserve begins March 18
(Posted 9 a.m. March 14)
Expect to see smoke in the air from March 18 through April 2. Fire professionals from all over the U.S. will call The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve home as they learn and burn during the eighth annual fire training exchange.
The exchange was designed to meet the training needs of fire practitioners – those who serve state and federal conservation agencies and fire departments, as well as private sector nonprofits, businesses, and landowners. It is also a way to bring much-needed fire to land that will benefit from it.
“We know this landscape is a fire-adapted one, and we’ve seen the good results of regular controlled burns for wildlife and for grazing on the Preserve,” Rich Walters, Director of Stewardship for The Nature Conservancy, said. “We’ve also seen what happens when too much fuel builds up. Recent wildfires are a stark reminder of that. Having the personnel to get fire on the ground safely is essential. It’s a great two-way street of teaching and learning.” Weather conditions permitting, participants hope to burn 3,500 acres.
Twenty-eight firefighters from California, Colorado, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Utah and British Columbia, Canada, will attend the training.
“The Niobrara Valley Preserve has been an important base from which exchange programs have grown,” said Walters. “Folks who have met and trained in Nebraska have duplicated the event in South Africa and Spain.”
Large numbers of workers means a high level of vigilance in planning. Safety is paramount to the exchange’s leaders, who work under national standards.
“We choose the safest time of year to hold this training,” Walters said. “We anchor into previously burned areas, spend months working on burn plans, and relentlessly monitor weather reports. Local fire departments are involved in the permitting process.”
* School Board offers contract to Wentz for 2017-18 elementary principal post
(Posted 7 a.m. March 14)
Ainsworth Community Schools will have a new elementary principal for the 2017-18 school year, as the Board of Education Monday voted to offer a contract to Michael Wentz.
Wentz has administrative experience at Norris, Syracuse, Chase County, Aurora and Tecumseh public schools.
Wentz replaces longtime principal Sarah Williams, who asked to be reassigned to a classroom position within the school district for the 2017-18 year.
The board also approved a contract with Secondary Principal Bill Lentz for the 2017-18 year. Lentz will serve in that position for a second year.
The board also approved a contract with David Hellman to teach social studies at Ainsworth Community Schools. Superintendent Darrell Peterson said Hellman has taught social studies in Omaha Public Schools the past several years and wanted to return to a rural area. The superintendent said Hellman was also interested in coaching.
The board approved the resignation of third-grade teacher Misty Wroblewski effective at the end of the 2016-17 school year. Peterson said Wroblewski planned to complete her specialist degree in school psychology and needed to take two years off to complete her coursework.
“She would love to return if the opportunity were to arise,” Peterson said. “She would like to maintain her volleyball coaching position.”
In other business Monday, Lori Stolcpart presented the board with information on new laptop computers for the one-to-one initiative the school has had in place the past eight years.
Stolcpart said the current laptops are 4 years old. She proposed repurposing those computers to the labs, libraries, paraprofessionals and school board members to replace the 8-year-old computers being utilized in those areas.
She provided the board with a quote of $200,761 for 170 Mac Book Airs with 11-inch screens, and a quote of $220,830 for Mac Book Pros with 13-inch screens, similar to the laptops the school has purchased in the past.
In addition, she recommended the computers be equipped with Microsoft Office software at a cost of $44 per machine, or a total of $7,600.
“I think our school is fabulous as far as technology goes,” Stolcpart said.
The board will make a decision on the laptop purchase during its April meeting.
In action items Monday, the board approved the 2017-18 school calendar. The calendar will be similar to the 2016-17 calendar, with the exception that there will be five fewer 2 p.m. dismissals for teacher in-services and instead there will be an additional two full days with no school to allow for in-service time.
Peterson said attendance hours are counted, not days, so the change will result in about equal time out of the classroom.
The first day of class for students will be Aug. 14, with graduation set for May 13, 2018, and classes dismissing for students May 17, 2018.
The board approved two option enrollment requests, allowing Valerie Carroll to attend Rock County Public Schools and Colten Thornburgh to attend Sandhills Public Schools.
Peterson said both families recently moved into the district, and both stated it was more convenient to have their child attend the nearby school districts.
During her report, Williams said plans were underway for summer school for students completing kindergarten through the sixth grade.
“We are excited about summer school,” Williams said. “We will go through the teacher applications tomorrow.”
Summer school will be held three weeks in June and three weeks in July from 9 a.m. until noon each day. Summer meal service will be available for all children age 18 and under during those weeks.
Williams said the goals for summer school are to combat summer learning loss in reading, math, social studies and science; show children they can learn anytime and anywhere; provide interesting, safe activities; and provide small field trips within Ainsworth and one longer field trip.
During his report, Peterson said semester tests have been moved back one day, adding one extra day of class that week to make up for one of the snow days the district was forced to take.
Peterson said he would go out for bids for concrete work on the east side of the elementary school. New playground equipment will be set up in that area.
He reported Gov. Pete Ricketts will tour the Beel Ranch March 22 at 9 a.m., and the school’s fourth-grade students will travel to the Beel Ranch that day to greet the governor as part of National Agriculture Week festivities.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education has been moved to 8 a.m. April 10 instead of the normal 8 p.m. meeting time.
* Care Center Board approves line of credit until $237,931 in city funding arrives
(Posted 5:45 p.m. March 13)
With $237,931 in city of Ainsworth funds from a Community Development Block Grant account not scheduled to arrive until March 19, the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board voted Monday to approve a $45,000 line of credit with First National Bank to cover March payroll and general expenses.
Care Center Administrator Stephanie Rucker said current claims amount to $30,458, with an additional $12,000 due to Rural Health Development for administrative services and $33,000 in upcoming payroll expenses. Rucker said she currently has $31,266 in the care center operating account and $409 in the payroll account.
When the city funds become available March 19, the $237,931 will be used to cover payroll expenses, allowing the care center to build its operating account from the revenue being generated by the 14 residents currently in the facility.
The care center generated $71,793 in income during February, with expenses running at $102,284 for an operating loss of $30,491.
Board member Buddy Small said, “I am very concerned. This is a shaky operation right now.”
Board member Leanne Maxwell said all the projections the board received showed it would take several months of operations to build the resident census to the point where the facility would break even.
Board Chair Kent Taylor said, “It all comes down to census. We knew we were going to go through some tough times until the census builds up.”
Rucker said the goal was still to have the facility reach a break-even point on a cash flow basis by July.
Rucker said there is a shortage in the facility’s nursing department, and agency LPNs are being utilized.
“We spent $14,810 on agency nursing between Feb. 1 and today, and that is for an LPN,” Rucker said. “The LPN through the agency is paid $49 per hour.”
Rucker presented the board with information regarding a three-year nursing contract with PR&R Recruiting Corporation.
PR&R utilizes international nurses, which cuts the rate about in half from what facilities are currently paying for agency nurses. Rucker said using PR&R would provide the facility with a registered nurse instead of an LPN at a cost below what it is currently costing the facility to use an agency LPN.
“We have two agency nurses covering the night shifts now because we have nursing vacancies,” Rucker said. “There is a lack of nurses across the state, and it is affecting more than just our facility.”
Rucker said she believed a contract with PR&R for an international nurse would be beneficial for the long-term future of the facility.
“RHD just used PR&R at its Crawford facility, and they couldn’t be happier with the results,” Rucker said.
The board gave Rucker the go-ahead to look into a contract with PR&R and present additional information to the board during its April 10 meeting.
Taylor reported May would be his final meeting as chairman of the board, as he would resign his position at that point.
“I have an opportunity to join a state board in my profession,” Taylor said.
May will also be the final meeting for board member Jim Walz, who accepted a position on the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees.
The Brown County Commissioners will replace Walz, and Taylor’s replacement must be agreed on by both the commissioners and the Ainsworth City Council.
Small said he had a concern regarding three nurses recently leaving employment with the facility. Doug O’Hare, who said his parents are both in the Sandhills Care Center, thanked the board for opening a facility locally.
“I am thankful it is here,” O’Hare said. “I do have some concerns I would like to discuss.”
The board entered into executive session with O’Hare and the spouses of two additional residents to discuss personnel matters.
No action was taken following the executive session.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. April 10.
* Ricketts plans tour of Beel Ranch during National Ag Week events
(Posted 2:30 p.m. March 13)
Gov. Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach announced three days of activities and stops across Nebraska to support and celebrate National Ag Week.
During March 21-23, the governor and agriculture industry representatives will visit several Nebraska communities including Ainsworth, Auburn, Fremont, Friend, Grand Island, Omaha, Plattsmouth, Scottsbluff, Wakefield, and West Point. National Ag Week will be celebrated on March 19-25 across Nebraska.
Ricketts will tour the Beel Ranch south of Johnstown from 9 until 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 22.
“Visiting these communities during National Ag Week is a great way to highlight agriculture in Nebraska and celebrate our state’s number one industry,” Ricketts said. “Our planned stopovers around the state pay tribute to those who contribute to agriculture from livestock and crop producers to the innovative technology, processing, and infrastructure that goes along with it.”
Ibach said the three-day tour will showcase Nebraska’s number one industry – agriculture.
“Nebraska’s agricultural industry is quite diverse from the east to west,” Ibach said. “With three days of stops and activities planned, we’re able to highlight a variety of Nebraska agriculture products and family farm operations. Nebraska is a leader in production of meat, grain, dry beans, and many other commodities while also showing promise in new areas, like hops production.”
Ricketts said the group will use the stops to talk about the importance of Nebraska agriculture, livestock and value-added agriculture development, international trade, and agriculture education. The governor will also unveil the 2017 edition of the Nebraska Agriculture and You magazine.
* Representative from Smith's office to visit Ainsworth, Brewster March 22
(Posted 9 a.m. March 13)
Constituents of 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith who need assistance dealing with a federal agency are invited to attend Caseworker in Your Community events on Wednesday, March 22, at Ainsworth and Brewster.
A representative from Smith’s office will be in the Brown County Courthouse meeting room from 10 until 11 a.m. March 22, and will be in the Blaine County Courthouse at Brewster from noon until 1 p.m.
Caseworker in Your Community is an opportunity for constituents to meet directly with one of Smith’s congressional caseworkers. Caseworkers may be able to assist constituents who are having problems dealing with a federal agency such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security, Medicare, passports and visas through the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or the Internal Revenue Service.
For additional information, contact Smith’s Grand Island office at (308) 384-3900.
* Arens, Barbaza finish second in model bridge contest
(Posted 6:30 a.m. March 13)
The distance learning physics class from Ainsworth and Rock County high schools competed in the 38th annual Nebraska Model Bridge Contest at Aurora Saturday.
Jack Arens and Valentin Barbaza built a bridge that weighed 25.7 grams, held 92.7 pounds and placed second among the 26 bridges entered. They have qualified for the International Bridge Building Contest at Dallas, Texas, April 22.
Jacce Beck and Henrik Elgsaether built a bridge that weighed 29.6 grams, held 50 pounds and earned 10th place.
Vanessa Taylor built a 19.9 gram bridge that held 15.0 pounds and finished in 18th place. Jack Gale of Rock County built a bridge that placed 23rd.
Ainsworth placed third and Rock County finished ninth of the 10 schools participating.
* Six Ainsworth students receive top spots in National History Day district contest
(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 10)
Nine Ainsworth students have completed projects and participated at the district level of the National History Day contest. Six of those students received the top stop in the district contest advance to state competition.
This year’s theme was “Taking a Stand in History.”
Sixth-grader Savannah Holmes earned first place for her individual exhibit called “Hannah Senesh’s Stand for Jews.” Ally Conroy won first place for her individual web site called “Save Boyd County: One County’s Stand Against a Nuclear Waste Dump.”
Sixth-grade student Dakota Stutzman won first place for her individual performance called “Natalia Makarova: One Dancer’s Stand for Artistic Freedom.”
Seventh-graders Maren Arens and Maia Flynn placed first for their group web site titled “Clara Lemlich: Taking a Stand for Garment Industry Workers.”
Senior Vanessa Taylor placed first for her individual documentary titled “Never Yield an Inch: The Omaha DePorres Club’s Moral Stand Against Employment Discrimination.” Taylor also won the Twentieth Century Award.
Sixth-grader Ethan Fernau completed an individual exhibit titled “Father Flanagan’s Stand for Troubled Youth.” Sixth-graders Cameryn Goochey and Emma Sears created a group exhibit titled “Jesse Owens: Taking a Stand Through Olympic Competition.”
All of the students who received first-place awards have qualified to compete in the state contest Saturday, April 8, at Lincoln. Those six students will share their projects in the Ainsworth High School Learning Center at 7 p.m. Monday, April 3.
* Council approves CDBG loan request to benefit care center
(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 9)
Following a public hearing Wednesday, the Ainsworth City Council approved a Community Development Block Grant re-use loan request that will be used toward the city’s contribution to the Sandhills Care Center.
The $265,000 loan request was submitted by Helm HR LLC, doing business as Lyons HR. City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the care center, as a governmental entity, would not qualify for the CDBG funds itself.
“That took us down a long road,” Schroedl said. “The CDBG re-use fund has to be paid back to the state if it is not used.”
Ron Ross with Rural Health Development recommended the city work with Helm HR to utilize the CDBG funding as a pass-through to the care center.
Central Nebraska Economic Development District Director Judy Peterson, who serves as the administrator of the city’s CDBG re-use loan fund, said she has worked in conjunction with the state of Nebraska to make sure everything was handled properly.
Schroedl said both the city and Brown County agreed to supply the Sandhills Care Center with $340,000 when agreeing on the joint venture to reopen the nursing home in the community. She said, while the county had met its obligation, the city had only contributed $150,000.
The CDBG funds would allow the city to reach its obligation to the care center. Helm HR would use the CDBG funds to cover the payroll for the care center as it continues to build its resident population to the point where it is self-sustaining.
The council unanimously approved the request.
In other business Wednesday, the council opted to take a year off from having an additional area of the city inspected for nuisance violations and will instead use that funding to pursue and abate the nuisances identified during previous inspections that were not cleaned up.
Mayor Larry Rice said. “We have conducted inspections on three sections. It does some good, but then a few months later some of the properties go back to the way they were.”
Councilwoman Deb Hurless said, “If we need to take a year off to address those that have already been identified, then we need to do that. The city will have to pay the cost up front of cleaning up those places.”
Councilman Chuck Osborn agreed, saying taking a year off to follow up on the properties previously identified for abatement was the right way to go.
Rice said he liked the program, but inspections were costly and the follow-up process is difficult.
Mike Marvin and several representatives from the Nebraska Public Power District were on hand to present the council with a renewal agreement for power service to the city. While Marvin said the current agreement still had two years remaining, NPPD planned to make investments such as LED lighting in the city and a new substation near Bassett.
Council members thanked Marvin and NPPD for the service the utility provides and the ways it volunteers in the community.
The council approved the 25-year renewal agreement with the utility.
Brown County Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus presented the council with information regarding the construction of a fishing pond on the south side of East City Park.
“We started toying with the idea of a fishing pond about a year ago,” Wiebelhaus said. “We have worked well with the city in the past and wanted to see if you wanted to be involved.”
Wiebelhaus said the plan would be to construct a 1-1/2 to 2-acre pond that he said would be large enough to sustain a bass and bluegill population.
He said he would work with Andy Glidden with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to get the paperwork started with the Corps of Engineers and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.
Osborn said he thought a fishing pond was a great idea.
The council approved a proposal from Miller and Associates for a new chlorinator for the Ainsworth Swimming Pool. With the city handling the cost of installation, the cost for the project would be $14,745.
Rod Worrell questioned the $4,500 Miller and Associates was charging the city for the engineering and construction observation since it was only a piece of equipment that was being replaced.
Water Superintendent Brad Miller said that cost also included all reporting requirements to the state.
Kim Buckley provided the council with an update on activities at the Ainsworth Golf Course. Buckley said Paul Hermsmeyer would return this year as the course superintendent, and would begin training Landon Welke as his assistant.
“Our expenses will be up this year, but we are hoping we can get Landon trained so he can take on a larger role next year and Paul can step back,” Buckley said.
He said Sheri and Steve Gann would be the joint managers of the clubhouse.
In a final action item Wednesday, the council approved allowing the Shriners Circus to be held on city property June 4-5.
During her report, Schroedl indicated longtime swimming pool manager Susan Scholtes would not be applying for the position this year, and she encouraged anyone interested in the position to stop in the city office and apply.
Rice highlighted the Ainsworth Public Library during his report, recognizing librarian Gail Irwin as the longest-serving city employee at 38 years. Irwin then provided the council with an update on library activities and improvements.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 12.
* Williams discusses elementary school happenings during Open Line
(Posted 8:30 a.m. March 8)
Ainsworth Elementary Principal Sarah Williams appeared on KBRB's Open Line program Tuesday. To hear the report, click on the audio link below.
* February finishes warmer, wetter than normal
(Posted 8 a.m. March 8)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported February
finished with more than double the expected amount of moisture, as 18 inches of
snow produced 1.18 inches of moisture. February averages .58 of an inch of
* Arens wins Southwest Conference gold in informative speaking
(Posted 6:45 a.m. March 8)
==SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE SPEECH==
1st: Jack Arens—Informative Speaking
2nd: Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking
3rd: Sam Wilkins—Extemporaneous Speaking
6th: Cassidy Gilliland—Poetry
Vemund Berg/Henrik Elgsaether/Jace Kremer/Korey Rathe/Miranda Raymond—OID
Superiors: Bradi Scott—Serious Prose
Cassidy Gilliland—Humorous Prose
Jace Kremer—Persuasive Speaking
Henry Beel—Informative Speaking
Bo Painter & Bradi Scott—Duet Acting
Vemund Berg & Miranda Raymond—Duet Acting
Morgan Osborn/Jenna Williams/Bo Painter/Sam Wilkins/Marley Murphy—OID
Team: 4th of 8
“SWC was just as tough as it always is in speech,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. “This year, Ogallala won the championship with Minden placing second. As a team, the speakers performed to the best of their ability. Going against larger schools is a Catch-22; we don’t bring home as many medals, but we definitely learn some new skills by watching them perform. I’m very proud of our medalists. It’s very hard to break into finals at conference.”
The next competition for the speech team will be the district meet at North Platte Tuesday, March 14. Rounds begin at North Platte High School at 9 a.m.
* Agenda for Ainsworth City Council meeting Wednesday
(Posted 6:30 a.m. March 8)
Ainsworth City Council
I. ROUTINE BUSINESS
a. Announcement of Open Meetings Act
b. Roll Call
c. Pledge of Allegiance
II. CONSENT AGENDA – All items approved with the passage of one motion.
a. Approve minutes from the February 8, 2017 City Council Meeting
b. Approval of Claims
c. Treasurer’s Report
d. Department Head Reports
*Any item listed on the Consent Agenda may, by the request of any single Council member, be considered as a separate item under the Regular Agenda section of the Agenda.
III. MAYOR’S APPOINTMENTS AND REPORT
a. Mayor’s Report
IV. PUBLIC HEARINGS
a. Public Hearing on CDBG ED Reuse Business Loan in the amount of $265,000 to Helm HR, LLC d/b/a Lyons HR
V. OLD BUSINESS
a. Nuisance abatement – Abated properties and status
b. Discuss/consider the proposal from Miller & Associates regarding the Swimming Pool chlorinator
VI. REGULAR AGENDA
a. Update/discussion from County Commissioner Wiebelhaus regarding plans for development of a pond on the South end of the City limit
b. Discuss/consider the renewal/updated agreement from NPPD
c. Discuss/consider allowing the Shriners Circus to be held on City property (soccer fields) on June 4th and 5th, 2017
d. Discuss/consider the recommendation by the CDBG Loan Committee for approval of a CDBG ED Reuse loan in the amount of $265,000 to Helm HR, LLC d/b/a Lyons, HR
e. Discuss/consider the direction and/or random selection of properties for the Nuisance Abatement program
f. Update on the Ainsworth Golf Course – Kim Buckley
g. Approval of Certification of Delinquent Utilities
h. City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Report
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 11:48 a.m. March 6 )
The Brown County Sheriff's Department investigated a one vehicle accident Thursday, March 2 on US Hwy 20 near Long Pine.
According to the Brown County Sheriff's Department, at 4:43 p.m., Thursday, March 2 on US Hwy 20 near Willow Ridge Road near Long Pine, a 2017 Ford Pickup, driven by Jean K. Brandemuehl, 74, of Lancaster, WI, was westbound and ran off the road onto the right ditch, over corrected and crossed the center line and ran off the road into the left ditch. The vehicle hit two sign posts. No injuries were reported. Damage to the pickup was estimated at $2000.
* Ainsworth woman injured during one-vehicle accident Wednesday
(Posted 6:30 a.m. March 6)
An Ainsworth woman was injured in a one-vehicle accident Wednesday on Highway 20 east of Johnstown.
According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, at 12:35 p.m. Wednesday, March 1, on Highway 20 approximately 1 mile east of Johnstown west of the Road 420 intersection, a 2006 Ford sedan, driven by Shonda O. Voss, 42, of Ainsworth, was traveling west when the vehicle left the roadway.
The Ford struck trees in the south ditch before coming to rest. Voss was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for injuries suffered during the accident.
Damage to the Ford was estimated at $3,500.
* Smoke in home draws response of 2 fire departments Tuesday south of Ainsworth
(Posted 7:45 a.m. March 1)
The Ainsworth and Raven volunteer fire departments responded Tuesday afternoon to a report of smoke in a home south of Ainsworth.
According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, smoke was reported in the home of Fred and Shirley Pitcher 12 miles south of Ainsworth on the east side of Highway 7.
Fiala said the Pitchers had turned on their stove, and smoke began to come out of the stove vent.
Upon arrival, Fiala said firefighters used a thermal imaging camera to check for any heat in the home’s walls.
“We checked all the walls, and no heat was detected,” Fiala said.
Firefighters disconnected power to the stove, which will be inspected to see if it needs to be repaired or replaced.
In addition to the response from the Ainsworth and Raven departments, the Brown County Ambulance Service also provided standby service, as it does during any house fire call.
* Murphy qualifies for Nebraska State Geography Bee
(Posted 11 a.m. Feb. 28)
Ainsworth eighth-grader Brandt Murphy is one of the semifinalists eligible to compete in the 2017 Nebraska National Geographic State Bee. The contest will be held at the University of Nebraska at Omaha Friday, March 31.
This is the second level of the National Geographic Bee competition, which is now in its 29th year. School Bees were held in schools with fourth- through eighth-grade students throughout the state to determine each school champion. School champions then took a qualifying test, which they submitted to the National Geographic Society. The National Geographic Society has invited up to 100 of the top-scoring students in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense Dependents Schools and U.S. territories to compete in the State Bees.
Each state champion will receive $100, the National Geographic Concise Atlas of the World, 4th Edition and a trip to Washington, D.C., to represent their state in the National Geographic Bee Championship to be held at National Geographic Society headquarters, May 14-17.
The national champion will receive a $50,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the society, including a subscription to National Geographic magazine, and an all-expenses paid Lindblad expedition to the Galápagos Islands aboard the new National Geographic Endeavour ll.
The National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo WILD will air the 2017 National Geographic Bee Championship, moderated by journalist and humorist Mo Rocca, on Friday, May 19, at 7 p.m.
* Principal Bill Lentz provides update on weather postponements during Open Line
(Posted 10:45 a.m. Feb. 28)
Ainsworth Community Schools Secondary Principal Bill Lentz
appeared on KBRB's Open Line program Tuesday to provide an update of the
rescheduled school events that were postponed due to the recent snow.
* North Central RC&D working to support recycling activities in the area
(Posted 3 p.m. Feb. 27)
The North Central RC&D has initiated a recycling pilot project, with an electronics recycling collection event scheduled from 9 a.m. until noon. April 29 at the O’Neill High School parking lot.
E-Stroyed of Grand Island will collect electronics for recycling. The items collected during the event will be taken to the E-Stroyed facility, sorted and dismantled for recycling. E-Stroyed will wipe any devices that have data on the hard drive.
For more information on the recycling event April 29, contact Lynn Sobotka at 402-340-2774.
During a recent meeting of the RC&D Board, Neil Wescott from NK Waste of Valentine said he would recycle all usable material with the exception of glass.
Wescott said Valentine residents can receive a one-time $10 rebate on their utility bills for recycling. He told the board he has room to stockpile items and bale all equipment. He then hauls the recyclable material to end users.
Wescott said he would also be willing to host an electronic recycling day if a few volunteers agreed to help sort and load the materials collected.
RC&D Board members agreed to work with Wescott to set up a second recycling event.
Board member Kim Burge said she has been working on a directory for area recycling, and handed out a sample of the directory. Additions were made by board members, and Burge said she would plan to have the directory ready to publish prior to the Sandhills Ranch Expo.
The board members discussed additional potential recycling opportunities in the six-county area, which includes Brown, Rock, Keya Paha, Cherry, Holt and Boyd counties.
The next meeting of the North Central RC&D is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. March 8 in the Bassett City offices.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 1:15 p.m. Feb. 27)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
two-vehicle accident Monday, Feb. 20, in Ainsworth.
* Traffic Accident
(posted 12:10 p.m. Feb. 24)
The Brown County Sheriff's Department investigated a
two-vehicle accident that occurred Friday, Feb. 24, in Ainsworth.
* Wind ignites grass fire Wednesday from previous controlled burn
(Posted 10:30 a.m. Feb. 23)
A grass fire Wednesday afternoon northwest of Ainsworth burned 3 to 4 acres and prompted the response of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.
According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday northwest of Ainsworth on property owned by Gary Kelly, a controlled burn from Feb. 12 reignited in the wind and began to spread.
Fiala said the fire burned a pile of fence posts and some irrigation pipe located on a trailer, and started two older out-buildings on fire.
Firefighters extinguished the flames on the outbuildings upon arrival, and were on scene for approximately 1 hour bringing the grass fire under control. Approximately 3 to 4 acres burned along with the fence posts and irrigation pipe.
* UN-L names Dean's List students for fall semester
(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 23)
More than 4,500 students have been named to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Deans' List/Explore Center List of Distinguished Students for the fall semester of the 2016-17 academic year.
Qualification for the Deans' List/List of Distinguished Students varies among the eight undergraduate colleges and the Explore Center. All qualifying grade-point averages are based on a four-point scale and a minimum of 12 or more graded semester hours.
Deans’ List students from the area are:
Lydia Allen, sophomore, College of Arts and Sciences, English.
Devron Crawford, senior, College of Engineering, construction management.
Austin Harthoorn, freshman, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural economics.
Shea Sinsel, sophomore, Explore Center, pre-health.
Victoria Davis, sophomore, College of Education and Human Sciences, pre-elementary education and early childhood education.
Kyle Jackman, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agronomy.
Buck Cronk, sophomore, College of Arts and Sciences, computer science.
Dylan Laible, senior, College of Arts and Sciences, computer science.
Alex Fritz, sophomore, College of Engineering, electrical engineering.
Kyle Linders, freshman, Explore Center, pre-health.
Megan Wenner, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, elementary education and special education (K-6).
Thomas Ammon, senior, College of Engineering, mechanical engineering.
Shawna Wheeler, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural education.
Jacy Spencer, junior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural economics.
Macey Mathis, freshman, College of Education and Human Sciences, pre-speech-language pathology.
Jennifer Schubauer, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, child, youth and family studies.
* Steinhauser talks AHS activities on Open Line
(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 22)
Ainsworth Activities Director Scott Steinhauser appeared on KBRB's Open Line Tuesday to discuss the nearly complete winter activities season. To hear the report, click on the audio link below.
* One-year roads plan includes 25 projects, more than $600,000 in improvements
(Posted 1:45 p.m. Feb. 21)
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin presented the one- and six-year roads plan to the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday, announcing 25 projects on the one-year plan.
Turpin said the county roads department completed eight projects with a price tag of $1.1 million in 2016, the largest of which was replacing the Norden Bridge on the Niobrara River at a cost of more than $800,000. Turpin said the county was only responsible for about $30,000 of the total cost of the Norden Bridge replacement.
Other projects completed in 2016 included the replacement of the canal bridge on 428th Avenue at a cost of $90,000. The county used federal bridge funds to complete that bridge replacement. The roads department also replaced a second bridge on the Norden Road with new culverts at a cost of $25,000, and replaced a wooden bridge with new culverts on 430th Avenue at $30,000.
A majority of the 25 projects on Turpin’s one-year plan are grading and rock resurfacing plans that carry smaller price tags.
One of the more expensive projects on the one-year plan is $127,000 in armor coating and asphalt repair on South Pine Avenue from the Long Pine city limits south 7.5 miles.
The county also plans to replace two bridges in 2017, one a canal bridge on 429th Avenue 1 mile west of Ainsworth at a cost of $86,000, and the other the Wilson Street bridge just north of the Ainsworth city limits. The roads department plans to replace that bridge with two metal culverts at a cost of $100,000.
The county also plans to replace a bridge 3 miles north of Johnstown on Norden Avenue with a metal culvert at a cost of $15,000.
The grading, aggregate and rock resurfacing projects on the one-year plan are scheduled for:
* Richardson Road 7 miles south and 4 miles east of Ainsworth, 1.5 miles ($30,000).
* Road 885 7 miles north of Ainsworth, one-tenth of a mile ($8,000).
* Road 879 1 mile north of Ainsworth, one-half mile of raising the road to alleviate drifting ($6,000).
* Norden Avenue 15.5 miles north of Johnstown, one-tenth of a mile ($8,000).
* Norden Avenue 10 miles north of Johnstown, one-half mile ($20,000).
* Road 888 2.5 miles west and 10 miles north of Long Pine, 1.5 miles ($18,000).
* Road 880 one-quarter mile west of the Ainsworth Airport, intersection work ($1,600).
* Meadville Avenue 8 miles north of Ainsworth, 2 miles ($18,800).
* Beel Lane 3 miles west and 2 miles south of Johnstown, 2 miles ($23,500).
* Beel Lane 1.5 miles west and 2 miles south of Johnstown, 1.5 miles ($18,000).
* Road 876 1.5 miles south and 3 miles west of Ainsworth ($8,500).
* Rauscher Avenue 4 miles east of Johnstown, ditch re-grading 1 mile ($5,500).
* Road 877 one-half mile south of Ainsworth, one-half mile ($2,500).
* 435th Avenue 3 miles west and 2 miles north of Long Pine, ditch cleaning one-half mile ($5,000).
* Moon Lake Avenue 16.5 miles south of Johnstown, seven-tenths of 1 mile ($10,000).
* Road 881 2 miles west and 5 miles north of Ainsworth, ditch cleaning one mile ($10,000).
* Road 879 northwest of Ainsworth, raising the road for 1 mile ($12,000).
* 431st Avenue 1 mile south of Ainsworth, 1 mile ($9,000).
* East Calamus Road 28 miles south of Long Pine, 4.5 miles ($54,000).
* Cattle Drive Road south of Johnstown, 1.5 miles ($22,500).
* 423rd Avenue 2 miles east and 1 south of Johnstown, 1 mile ($12,000).
Turpin said he added five new grading projects, mostly due to requests from the public. Otherwise, with the number of projects on the plan he did not add many new projects to this year’s report.
Four of the projects on the one-year plan were new projects, eight were moved up from the six-year plan, and the remaining 13 projects on the one-year plan were carried over from 2016.
“How much we get done will depend on how the year goes,” Turpin said. “If we get a lot of rain and we have to spend more time blading, we won’t get as many of these done.”
Turpin said he hoped to get to a lot of the smaller grading and resurfacing projects this year.
He said there was a total of $630,900 in roads projects on the one-year plan, and a total of $1.83 million for the 25 projects on the one-year plan and the 46 projects on the six-year plan.
The commissioners, with Buddy Small absent, approved the one- and six-year plan as presented.
Turpin also reported the county received $57,300 in federal STP program funds for this year, and an additional $34,916 in bridge funds.
“We are getting to the point with those STP funds where we can do a decent project,” Turpin said. “There is close to $200,000 in that fund now.”
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners gave the Brown County Ambulance Association the green light to work within the association’s current budget to replace the 2004 transfer ambulance with a 2016 Ford F-450 at a total cost of $164,900.
“Our transfer ambulance is failing,” Ambulance Association member Ann Fiala said. “We just spent $5,000 in repairs. The last problem we had with it happened with a patient on board. It is never a good thing to break down with a patient on board, and we found a unit that will work really well for us.”
Marlin Smith told the commissioners the 2016 Ford F-450 was just like the 2013 Ford the association purchased three years ago. With it being a demo model with 1,900 miles on it, the association will save $36,000 on the purchase, and the ambulance is available immediately as opposed to a nearly one-year wait if the association ordered an ambulance.
The $164,900 quote from Arrow Ambulances of Rock Rapids, Iowa, includes an $8,000 trade-in value for the 2004 ambulance.
Darlene Miller said if the association was allowed to move some money around within the line items of its current budget, it would have enough to pay off the remaining $18,000 owed on the 2013 ambulance.
“There are some line items in our budget that we haven’t touched,” Miller said.
County Attorney David Streich said the association could move unspent funds from one line item to another as long as it stayed within the boundaries of its overall budget.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus told the association, “If you can make it work within your budget, go for it.”
Streich recommended the association declare an emergency during its next meeting to approve the purchase, as having an immediate need would allow the association to forgo the formal bidding process.
The commissioners opened bids for armor coating work for 2017. Topkote of Yankton, S.D., submitted a bid of $11,141 per mile, and Sta-bilt of Harlan, Iowa, quoted a price of $10,700 per mile for armor coating work.
After agreeing the specifications for both bids were comparable, the board accepted the low bid from Sta-bilt. The county is additionally responsible for the cost of the gravel needed for the armor coating work.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. March 3.
* Lions Club will serve AHS All-Sports Tailgate Party meal April 25
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 21)
During its recent meeting, the Ainsworth Lions Club Board heard information on the Ainsworth High School All-Sports Tailgate Party, which has been set for April 25 in McAndrew Gymnasium.
The Lions will provide the meal for the event, and the club received a donation of hamburger to serve.
Evan Evans reported the swing set has been delivered, but parts to the benches did not arrive with the other equipment to be placed at East City Park. Evans assured the board the company will take care of sending the missing parts to the benches. Installation of the new equipment will likely take place in May.
Dave Spann presented information to the club regarding the 75th anniversary celebration for the Ainsworth Regional Airport. Activities are being planned for Saturday, July 29, at the airport, including a fly-in breakfast, hot air balloons and more. Spann asked if the Lions Club would consider running a concession stand from late morning until about 4 p.m. The menu would be simple, including hamburgers and hotdogs, chips, and drinks. Members were asked to consider the request and be ready to commit or decline during the club’s March meeting.
The club received a thank-you note from Nebraska 38-L District Gov. Nancy Russell for the club’s $200 donation to the Lions Club Foundation Backpack Disaster Relief Fund to aid children in Nebraska, ages 4-10, who have been in a disaster, such as fire, flood, or tornado. The backpacks, filled with supplies, will be warehoused at Broken Bow, a central location for easy distribution across the state.
Taylor Ficek, an optometry student originally from Lincoln, sent the club a thank-you note for providing funding to help him participate in the Student Volunteers in Optometric Service to Humanity program. The program annually provides free eye exams and eye glasses to the needy in Third World countries. The club donated $100 to assist Ficek. Ficek agreed to provide a report back to the club regarding his experiences in the program.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club Board is scheduled for noon March 20. Members are asked to check in for the location of the next meeting.
* November taxable sales show mixed results for area counties
(Posted 9:45 a.m. Feb. 20)
Nebraska Department of Revenue
Nebraska Department of Revenue
* Firefighters respond to a pair of Friday fire calls
(Posted 7:30 a.m. Feb. 20)
The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department responded to a pair of fire calls Friday, and the current warm and breezy conditions have prompted Fire Chief Brad Fiala to suspend all burning permits until further notice.
Depending on the amount of moisture received later this week from forecasted snow, Fiala said he would make a determination on whether additional burn permits will be issued.
The first fire call Friday occurred at 10:15 a.m. A tractor that was being used to grind hay caught fire on property owned by Mark McNally approximately 7 miles northwest of Ainsworth.
Fiala said the tractor caught fire near the cab. The operator was able to exit the cab safely, but the tractor was considered a total loss. The grinder was saved. A small patch of grass around the tractor burned, but the fire did not spread further.
At 2:20 p.m. Friday, a fire was reported 4 miles north of the old Pineview Drive In intersection on Highway 20 northeast of Long Pine.
Fiala said three tree piles were being burned on property owned by Greg Gilg. Fiala said a total of 12 acres burned after the fire spread from the tree piles. The Ainsworth and Long Pine departments responded, and were on scene until after 8 p.m.
A tractor being operated by Sam Coulter to assist in keeping the fires from spreading tipped over on a hillside. Fiala said the tractor operator was not injured, and, after the tractor was set back into an upright position, it was able to be restarted with no apparent damage.
Fiala said Long Pine firefighters returned to the location Saturday and Sunday and poured more water onto the tree piles to keep the fire from reigniting in the warm and breezy conditions.
* Speech team places third in home invitational
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Feb. 20)
1st: Jack Arens—Informative Speaking
Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking
3rd: Henry Beel—Informative Speaking
Vemund Berg/Henrik Elgsaether/Jace Kremer/Korey Rathe/Miranda Raymond—OID
5th: Sam Wilkins—Extemporaneous Speaking
Bo Painter & Bradi Scott—Duet Acting
6th: Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking
Jace Kremer—Informative Speaking
Jace Kremer—Persuasive Speaking
Cassidy Gilliland—Humorous Prose
Superiors: Bradi Scott—Serious Prose
Korey Rathe—Serious Prose
Bo Painter—Humorous Prose
Vemund Berg & Miranda Raymond—Duet Acting
1st: Morgan Osborn & Jenna Williams—Duet Acting
2nd: Henrik Elgsaether—Extemporaneous Speaking
Coy Carson—Humorous Prose
Jodi Beach & Coy Carson—Duet Acting
Team: 3rd of 10
“We enjoy hosting a home tournament, especially when we see the many faces of the community members who come to watch and support our team,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. “It’s intimidating but fun to entertain a home crowd.
“As a team, we still have some work to do before Southwest Conference and Districts. Our seniors are excelling, and our other team members continue to improve and medal higher at each competition. We need to work really hard to polish our performances.”
Ainsworth’s last regular season tournament will be held at Centura High School on Saturday, with rounds beginning at 8 a.m.
* Grass fire Thursday burns approximately 3 acres in southern Brown County
(Posted 7:15 a.m. Feb. 17)
Three area fire departments responded Thursday, Feb. 16, to a grass fire in southern Brown County.
According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at 2:15 p.m. Thursday approximately 20 miles south and 5 miles east of Ainsworth, a grass fire was reported on property owned by Roger Brede.
Fiala said a cutting torch that was being used on metal created sparks that started the grass on fire. The property owner attempted to put out the fire, but a gust of wind caused it to spread.
The fire chief said approximately 3 acres burned. The Ainsworth, Calamus and Raven volunteer fire departments responded.
“The fire was just entering a tree grove and started one tree on fire when the Raven crew got to it,” Fiala said. “Raven had the fire under control when we got there.”
No property damage was reported.
* Recent cases from Brown County District Court
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 17)
During Brown County District Court Tuesday, Raige R.
Fernau, age 19, of Ainsworth, was sentenced to two years of probation, ordered
to pay a $500 fine and complete a chemical dependency evaluation after having
been previously convicted of one count of criminal intent to possess marijuana
more than 1 pound, a Class I misdemeanor.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 2:45 p.m. Feb. 16)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
two-vehicle accident that occurred Wednesday, Feb. 15, in Ainsworth.
* Rock County High School ag issues team presents topic on KBRB
(Posted 9:45 a.m. Feb. 16)
Members of the Rock County High School ag issues team
appeared on KBRB to discuss this year's issue, neonicotinoids and their
potential affect on bee populations.
* Superintendent Peterson appears on Tuesday edition of KBRB Open Line
(Posted 10:15 a.m. Feb. 14)
Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Darrell Peterson
appeared on Open Line Tuesday to discuss happenings at the school.
* Slight changes proposed for 2017-18 school calendar
(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 14)
During a short meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education Monday, Superintendent Darrell Peterson presented the board with a draft of the 2017-18 school calendar.
The calendar shows Aug. 14 as the first day for students, with semester tests Dec. 21-22. The second semester will start Jan. 3, 2018, with graduation May 13 and semester tests May 16-17.
Peterson said the only substantial change from the current school calendar is there will be five fewer 2 p.m. dismissals. Instead of the early dismissals for teacher in-service sessions, the district will have two full days off for in-services.
Peterson said hours of attendance are counted for reporting to the state, not days of attendance, so the change will result in equal in-service time.
Students will be in class, barring snow days or other instances where school is not held, for 178 days during the 2017-18 school year, with teachers putting in a total of 185 days.
In other business Monday, the superintendent reported breakfast and lunch participation remains above-average.
Breakfast and lunch participation have been above the benchmark goal each month. The district thus far has a profit in its meal program of $6,623. Peterson said the goal of the meal program is to break even.
In action items Monday, the board approved annual membership to the Nebraska Association of School Boards. The annual membership fee of $4,600 includes a 2 percent discount for renewing early.
The board approved two foreign exchange students for the 2017-18 year, with Loren and Laurel Applemen hosting girls from The Netherlands and Sweden.
The board also approved an amended corporate banking resolution approved during January’s meeting that included additional language.
Elementary Principal Sarah Williams’ report included plans for summer school for kindergarten through sixth-grade students. The plan is two host two, three-week sessions of summer school beginning the week of June 12. The second three-week session begins July 10.
Summer school will run from 9 until 11:30 a.m. daily, with lunch served from 11:30 a.m. until noon as part of the Summer Food Program, which will be available to all children 18 years of age and younger free of charge.
Letters will be sent this month to parents of prospective kindergarten students for the 2017-18 year. Williams’ numbers indicate 31 students will be eligible for kindergarten in the fall.
Secondary Principal Bill Lentz reported senior Jack Arens has been named a finalist for a National Merit Scholar Award.
Lentz reported attendance during the second session of parent-teacher conferences was low. With parents having the ability to monitor a student’s progress and communicate with teachers, the second session of parent-teacher conferences may need to be changed.
Lentz reported there have been a substantial number of students sick during the past week. He commended the work of school nurse Leanne Maxwell going back and forth between the two school buildings tending to students.
During his report, Peterson said the district is beginning to interview candidates for open teaching positions for the 2017-18 year.
He said he will provide information for the board to consider for extending the district’s 1-to-1 laptop initiative. The current laptops are four years old and are nearing the end of their lifespan.
Peterson told the board, after missing six days of school due to inclement weather, he planned to have school Monday, April 17, the day following Easter Sunday, to make up a day.
The superintendent said the school is planning to host a program at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, commemorating Nebraska’s 150th birthday. The public will be invited to the program.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 13.
* Speech team competes at North Platte Invitational
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 13)
==BLUE AND GOLD INVITATIONAL==
2nd: Jack Arens—Informative Speaking
6th: Bradi Scott—Serious Prose
9th: Cassidy Gilliland—Poetry
10th: Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking
Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking
Superiors: Cassidy Gilliland—Humorous Prose
Bo Painter—Humorous Prose
Marley Murphy—Serious Prose
Bo Painter & Bradi Scott—Duet Acting
1st: Henrik Elgsaether—Extemporaneous Speaking
“North Platte was as tough as usual,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. “Twenty-five teams were in attendance, so competition was stiff. Overall, North Platte, Gothenburg, and Ogallala dominated the day, but I was pleased with the number of Ainsworth speakers in the finals. About half brought home medals.
“We’re in the home stretch now. We only have our home tournament and Centura left in the regular season, and then we’re into conference, district, and hopefully state. This season seems to have flown by.”
The Ainsworth Speech Invitational is scheduled for Saturday at 9 a.m., with performances going on throughout the day in the high school. The tournament is free and open to the public.
* Governor provides details on major income, property tax reform legislation
(Posted 4 p.m. Feb. 9)
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts spoke at length Thursday with
KBRB's Graig Kinzie on the bills his staff helped craft to reduce the state's
top income tax rate over time and completely transform the way the agricultural
property is assessed in the state.
* Council approves 1- and 6-year streets plan during Wednesday meeting
(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 9)
Following a public hearing Wednesday, the Ainsworth City Council approved the city’s one- and six-year streets plan as presented by Streets Foreman Monte Goshorn.
Only one project is listed on the one-year plan, replacing the gravel on Elm Street between Fourth and Sixth streets with asphalt millings. That project is estimated to carry a $40,000 price tag.
Goshorn said the streets plan was similar to the plan submitted the previous year.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the city did not undertake many big streets projects in 2016 due to the uncertainty with the care center.
All of the projects on the six-year plan were carried over from 2016. Among those projects are asphalt overlays on East Second and East Third streets between Main and Walnut streets, and West Second and West Third streets between Main and Woodward streets.
Those four total blocks of new asphalt are estimated at a total of $164,000.
The six-year plan also includes new concrete surfaces for Oak Street between First and Second streets, Maple Street between First and Fourth streets, Elm Street between First and Fourth streets, First Street between Main and Pine streets, and Woodward Street between First and Third streets.
The other major projects on the six-year plan involve new concrete at the intersection of Meadville Avenue and Highway 20, and concrete on Meadville Avenue from Highway 20 north to the city limits.
In another streets item, the council accepted a bid of $1.08 per square yard for armor coat oil from Topkote. Goshorn said the price per yard was reasonable. He said the city did not undertake any armor coating work in 2016.
Goshorn also updated the council on recent snow removal efforts, telling the council a total of 325 truckloads of snow were hauled off city streets from the first 15-inch snowfall, including 285 truckloads off Main Street alone.
“Bruce Dannatt brought in a side dump and loader and cleared a block and a quarter for us,” Goshorn said. “He didn’t charge the city for that work. It was taking us about two hours per block to haul off snow.”
Mayor Larry Rice said he sent a letter to Frontier Diesel thanking Dannatt for the assistance.
Councilman Greg Soles asked how much it would help the streets department to have all vehicles off of Main Street anytime the city removes snow.
Goshorn said having vehicles off Main Street would cut down considerably on the time it takes the department to get the snow moved to the center of the street.
Rice said the city could announce the day prior that no overnight parking would be allowed on Main Street when snow was in the forecast.
Soles said it would also be easier for the streets department if all privately-contracted snow removal service for business sidewalks on Main Street was completed prior to the city moving snow on Main Street.
Goshorn said he had been trying for five years to get something done along those lines.
“We have talked about several scenarios,” Goshorn said. “It would be nice to have one or two contractors handle it all.”
Discussion included curb stops that have been damaged with snow removal contractors unfamiliar with where the stops are located, and the different times that snow is removed from the Main Street sidewalks, forcing the city to make return trips to get the snow pushed to the center of the street so it can be hauled away.
Rice said he had talked to all the businesses on Main Street the previous year.
“There is no easy solution,” Rice said. “There is more awareness now, but I don’t know how to get them all together.”
The council discussed having the city go out for bids from one or two contractors and paying for the cost of snow to be removed from Main Street sidewalks. The cost to the city would likely be recouped from the time the streets department would save not having to go back two or three times to move snow on Main Street.
The council took no action.
The council discussed updates at the Sandhills Care Center with Administrator Stephanie Rucker and Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board members Kent Taylor and Buddy Small.
Rice said the care center was starting to run fairly low on funds, but the facility is starting to see success.
Rucker said she believed there was a bright future for the nursing home if everyone stays together.
“Having the Medicaid certification is huge for us,” Rucker said. “We are getting back on our feet and changing around the bad reputation the facility had in the past. I am pleased with the way things are going. We project breaking even by July.”
Small said, after receiving an explanation from Schroedl and Rice during Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners, he understood the city’s situation relating to why it had not yet matched the county’s $340,000 contribution to the nursing home.
Schroedl said, following conference calls Wednesday, the two documents needed to accompany the application for the $265,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding for the nursing home should be available within the next few days.
“I am hopeful we can have a meeting next week with the loan committee,” Schroedl said. “Then, we can publish notice and have a special council meeting March 1.”
In another care center item, the council voted to discontinue sending the care center a bill for city water, sewer and garbage service.
Small said, with the city waiving fees for utilities, the county would gladly take on the responsibility of clearing snow from the care center driveway and parking lot.
Larry Steele with Miller and Associates presented the council with a quote of $27,150 for a new chlorinator for the swimming pool.
Steele said the regulations have changed on the amount of chlorine stabilizer that can be present in the swimming pool. If the pool has too much stabilizer, the chlorine will not kill bacteria.
Brad Miller said the swimming pool had to be emptied at least twice last year due to the levels.
Schroedl said keeping the levels within the regulations were an issue all year.
“We had some late openings and early closings as we fought the levels,” Schroedl said.
Steele said the cost of the project would be reduced by about $10,000 if the city handled the installation of the equipment.
After discussing with Miller, the council told Steele the city would handle the installation. Steele said he would submit a new quote removing the installation costs. The council will take action on the chlorinator purchase minus the installation costs during its March meeting.
The council again discussed the issue of nuisance abatement. Rice said, at some point, the city needed to decide whether to move forward with having another segment of the city inspected for nuisance code violations.
“I have mixed opinions about this,” Rice said. “It has raised awareness, but I have traveled with the Board of Health, and some parts of the city that have gone through nuisance abatement have now fallen back into their previous condition.”
Councilman Chuck Osborn said the Board of Health has not followed up on addressing some of the violations that were not corrected.
“If we aren’t going to follow through, it is not worth continuing,” Osborn said.
Councilwoman Deb Hurless proposed the city take a year off from inspecting a new segment of the city and instead use those funds to follow through with cleaning up the properties that were previously identified as nuisances.
The city would have to pay the up-front cost of abating the nuisances not voluntarily completed by property owners and then assess the cost back to the owner of the property.
In two final action items, the council approved a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to provide $2,000 in ABC sales tax funds to the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce for the annual Fourth of July fireworks display, and overruled a previous motion and approved having Dana F. Cole handle all of the city’s 2016 audit, including the LB 840 account.
Previously, the council had voted to conduct a separate audit of the LB 840 fund after City Attorney Rod Palmer cited state statute that he said called for an independent second firm to audit the fund.
Schroedl said she visited with the Nebraska League of Municipalities, and said the league indicated most cities in the state used one firm to handle the entirety of the audit.
“The estimate was high for a second audit, about $5,000,” Schroedl said. “Dana F. Cole charges us $8,000 for the entire audit. The audit report is due by the end of March, and the second auditor would not get here until May.”
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for March 8.
* Commissioners, city officials discuss Sandhills Care Center funding
(Posted 2:15 p.m. Feb. 7)
The Brown County Commissioners met with Ainsworth Mayor Larry Rice and City Administrator Lisa Schroedl during Tuesday’s meeting to discuss continued funding for the Sandhills Care Center.
Commissioner Buddy Small, who also serves on the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board, said there was concern about the continued financing of the nursing home.
“Brown County has contributed $340,000,” Small said. “The city has contributed much less than that. We wanted an update on how the city was meeting its obligation.”
Schroedl said the city planned to use $265,000 in a Community Development Block Grant re-use fund toward its remaining commitment to the nursing home.
“We have a signed application,” Schroedl said. “We just need a few more pieces of information before it goes to the loan committee. We hope to have the application to the loan committee by March 1.”
Schroedl said, if the loan committee recommends the funds be awarded, the city would publish notice and the City Council would decide following a public hearing whether to approve the application.
She said the application will be for all of the $265,000 in CDBG funds.
Small asked what the earliest date would be that the city could get the CDBG funding into the hands of the care center.
Schroedl said, if the application gets to the review committee by March 1, it could receive City Council approval March 8.
Small said he was concerned whether the care center would have enough funding to continue operations until the city funding is received.
Care Center Administrator Stephanie Rucker indicated the center may need additional funding to cover expenses as the resident population continues to build.
“That is why we are here today,” Small said. “We have a decent reputation now. I don’t want that to go bad.”
Rucker said the care center was projected to reach the break-even point by July of this year after the facility did recently receive its full Medicaid certification.
Rucker said the Medicaid certification received from the Department of Health and Human Services is effective as of Dec. 23, 2016, so the care center would receive Medicaid compensation for the Medicaid residents it began admitting in January.
“I have probably turned away 10 phone calls for Medicare skilled nursing beds because we were not yet certified,” Rucker said. “Now, we can accept those residents.”
She said there were currently 15 residents being cared for in the facility, with 10 paying for their care using private funds and five receiving Medicaid.
Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board Chair Kent Taylor said about $72,000 remained in the care center’s account from previous contributions made by the city and county coupled with the revenue now coming in for resident care.
Taylor said, if the $265,000 comes in from the CDBG fund, the city’s total contribution would be $400,000.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus asked if another $60,000 from the county combined with the funding from the city so that each entity put in a total of $400,000 would get the facility to the point where it would reach the break-even stage.
“I don’t mind the county giving a little more if there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Wiebelhaus said. “But, we cannot just keep depleting the Inheritance Tax Fund. What happens if we go to $400,000 and then we are right back here in April and more money is needed?”
Both Taylor and Rucker said the facility should get to the stage of being self-sufficient if both entities made that contribution.
“A lot of the big bills are now starting to slow down,” Rucker said.
Taylor said a total of about $54,000 was spent renovating the current building, which was well under the initial $150,000 that was projected.
“We can stay in this building for a while,” Taylor said. “But, we are still dealing with a building that was built in the 1960s.”
Wiebelaus said, “Before we even think about a new building, we need to be at least breaking even on a building that was given to us. I think we take a deep breath and see how this plays out. If it works, then we can look at new.”
The board agreed to discuss the topic of an additional $60,000 to the care center from the county’s inheritance tax fund during the board’s Feb. 21 meeting.
In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said he had traveled to view the 2011 International semi bid by Cornhusker International of Norfolk. He recommended the county complete the purchase of that semi for $52,000.
During its Jan. 17 meeting, the board opened bids for a used semi and authorized Turpin to travel to Norfolk to view the 2011 International and complete the purchase if the semi met his approval.
The commissioners met with Sheriff Bruce Papstein to discuss the recent heavy snow sliding from the metal roof of the sheriff’s department building and bending three gutters. The board discussed placing guards on the edge of the roof to keep snow from sliding off.
Wiebelhaus said any guards placed on the roof should be attached by adhesive only.
“I don’t want to see more holes screwed into the roof for the guards,” Wiebelhaus said.
In action items Tuesday, the commissioners approved updates to the Brown County Ambulance Association member roster, and approved an agreement to have Dr. Mel Campbell serve as the medical director for the ambulance association.
The board approved the 2017-18 NIRMA underwriting questionnaire, and acknowledged the 2017 annual report submitted by the BKR Extension office.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Feb. 21.
* Sundquist picks perfect score to win KBRB Big Game Contest
(Posted 1:15 p.m. Feb. 6)
This year’s KBRB Big Game Contest is in the books, and it took being within four points of the 34-28 Patriot victory to get into the prize package this year.
Cole Sundquist of Ainsworth picked a perfect score, as the Patriots roared back from a 25-point third quarter deficit to force the first overtime game in the Big Game.
The Patriots completed the rally with a touchdown in overtime, leading to the 34-28 final and a perfect prediction from Sundquist.
Brian Sisson of Ainsworth, Shelly McKimmey of Ainsworth and Adrianna Shaw of Bassett each missed the total score by a single point, picking the Patriots by identical 34-27 scores.
Jennifer Hodge missed the score by two points to finish fifth in the contest. Eugene Hodge, Kelby Rice and Jill Ganser of Ainsworth, Gage Herrington of Bassett and Dave Cheatum of Long Pine missed the total score by three points to tie for sixth, and there was a tie for 11th in the contest among five callers who picked the final score within four points. Those scores belonged to Ronda Theis, Heidi Lauer and Carol Woods of Ainsworth, Deb Hollenbeck of Long Pine, and Kurt Ammon of Bassett.
In the case of ties, the earliest call is the tie-breaker.
Winners receive gift certificates to this year’s Big Game Contest sponsors. Certificates may be picked up in the KBRB Studios beginning Tuesday morning.
Big Game Sponsors
Four Seasons Furniture – Valentine
Red and White Market – Ainsworth
First Class Auto – Ainsworth
The Elks Bar and Grill – Ainsworth
Huskerland Communications – Valentine
The L-Bow Room – Johnstown
Ainsworth Flowers and Gifts
Buckles Automotive – Ainsworth
The Whistle Stop – Bassett
Husker Meats – Ainsworth
Nelson Furniture – Valentine
Sandhills Lounge – Long Pine
Bassett Lodge and Range Café
Turp’s Automotive – Bassett
Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative Ampride – Ainsworth
McIntosh Jewelry – O’Neill
Brown’s Furniture – Ainsworth
J’s Keggers – Ainsworth
Century Lumber Center – Ainsworth
Plains Equipment Group – Ainsworth
Scott’s Place – Bassett
Simple Solutions – Long Pine
Print Express – Ainsworth
Last Chance Truck Stop – Newport
T’s Auto Detailing – Bassett
Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative Mr. Tire – Ainsworth
Rodeway Inn – Ainsworth
* Accident near Amherst results in the death of a 21-year-old Bassett woman
(Updated 11 a.m. Feb. 6)
Bassett woman was one of two passengers killed in a one-vehicle rollover
accident early Saturday near Amherst.
The exact time
of the accident has not yet been determined. Emergency responders were first
notified at 2:55 a.m. Saturday.
The university issued a statement, saying, “Amber was an active participant in student life and activities at UNK, particularly in Campus Recreation and our Wellness Center. Many knew her and will miss her. We’re offering counseling resources for our campus community. It’s devastating for us, but more so for her family and friends, who our hearts go out to.”
The Buffalo County Sheriff’s Department was assisted in the accident response by the Kearney Police Department, the Kearney/Buffalo County Fatality Accident Reconstruction Team, the Amherst Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, CHI Good Samaritan Hospital paramedics and the Buffalo County Highway Department.
The investigation into the cause of the accident is ongoing.
Funeral service for Frerichs is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the Rock County High School Gym at Bassett. Memorials have been directed to the family for a future scholarship to be named in her memory.
* Brewer discusses bills he introduced during first legislative session
(Posted 9:15 a.m. Jan. 26)
Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer spoke with
KBRB's Graig Kinzie Thursday, discussing his first impressions of the
Legislature and the bills he introduced in his inaugural session.
* Osborn reports on 1988 blizzard that overshadowed Tuesday's 14-inch snowfall
(Posted 9:15 a.m. Jan. 26)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn went back to the
historical weather data to find a storm that made Tuesday's 14-inch snowfall
pale in comparison.
* Care Center Board discusses options for new facility with USDA reps Monday
(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 24)
The Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board met with representatives from the USDA Monday to discuss the agency’s direct loan program and its potential use for the construction of a new nursing home in the community.
The conversation Monday centered on a market study recently completed that showed a need for 29 licensed beds in the 35-mile service area, not the 46 licensed beds owned by the community.
The preliminary architecture designs for a new facility included 42 private rooms and two double rooms.
Adam Strom with Eide Bailly, the firm that conducted the market study, said the study bears out that there is a need for increased beds in the market area.
“The question is how many beds are needed and how many beds the USDA is willing to loan the community,” Strom said. “We look at population trends and neighboring facility occupancy. After analyzing those factors, the number of beds needed came down from the 46 pictured to 29.”
Ken Shaw with USDA said there were three different methodologies used in the market study, and all came out with a similar number of beds needed.
Shaw said the USDA would likely not be willing to loan the community money for the construction of a 46-bed facility. He said the building could be constructed for 29 beds with the plan that it could be expanded should the demand be shown to exist.
Shaw said the community could also raise the remaining funding needed to build the 46-bed facility.
“The total beds needed for the entire market area is 131, and there are 119 beds currently available,” Shaw said. “When you add an open rate factor of 5 percent, that gets you to the 29 beds. You need to feel comfortable that you are going to be able to pull some residents from the Valentine area into your facility.”
Ron Ross with Rural Health Development, the Sandhills Care Center’s management company, said, in his opinion, a new facility would not work at a 30-bed capacity.
“You would not be able to service the mortgage with 30 residents,” Ross said. “You would not be able to spread out the mortgage payment among those 30 beds.”
Board Chairman Kent Taylor read a letter from a former admissions director in the Ainsworth Care Center, who stated the care center in the 1990s consistently had 36 residents in the facility. Mike Harris with RHD said the latest three-year average for residents was 29.
Capital campaign committee chair Rolland Paddock said he believed a nice new facility would draw residents from a larger area.
“I think our new facility would be the first option for people compared to the other facilities in the area that would be much older,” Paddock said.
He said if there was a need for 131 beds in the market area, a 46-bed facility in Ainsworth should have plenty of potential residents to draw from.
Board member Leanne Maxwell said a bond issue should be something for the group to consider, to gauge the community’s support for the project and its willingness to contribute through a property tax levy.
“I have a concern with the capital campaign committee trying to focus on getting all the dollars we need from a smaller number of contributors,” Maxwell said. “I know a bond and raising taxes is not popular, but it would be nice to see if the community supports this project. If they do, great. If not, then the voters will let us know.”
The board discussed the potential benefits and pitfalls to a bond issue, and discussed how much time remained on the two school bonds. Those voter-approved bonds will be completed within the next two or three years, and the Brown County Hospital addition bond, also approved by voters, has a little more than eight years remaining.
Taylor thanked the USDA representatives for making the trip.
“You folks have been more than accommodating,” Taylor said. “This will be a community decision.”
Taylor said he would have new building committee chair Todd Mundhenke visit with the architectural firm that designed the 46-bed facility that carried an estimated $9.5 million price tag to see if the firm could put together a cost estimate for a 29-bed facility.
Sandhills Care Center Administrator Stephanie Rucker reported Monday the fire marshal had returned to see if the initial issues he identified had been addressed. Rucker said the facility passed the fire marshal’s re-inspection. Once the fire marshal’s report is submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services, the facility should receive its Medicaid certification.
Rucker said there are currently 12 residents in the facility, with eight private-pay and four Medicaid residents. She said another resident would likely be admitted this week.
* North central Nebraska counties see largest 2016 valuation increases
(Posted 2:30 p.m. Jan. 18)
Statewide, Nebraska property taxes will increase for the 2016 tax year by $123 million, from $3.78 billion to $3.90 billion. The Nebraska Department of Revenue recently certified the tax levy reports submitted by the state’s 93 county assessors.
The $123 million increase represents a 3.26 percent climb from the 2015 tax year. Of the increase, $17 million is attributed to voter-approved bonds, $44 million comes from new construction, and $62 million comes from tax increases to existing property.
Four of the seven counties with the highest percentage of increased tax levies are in the north central part of the state.
Boyd County will experience the second-highest property tax increase in the state, up 12 percent from $6 million to $6.75 million.
Blaine County property owners will see the fourth highest percentage increase, up 10.73 percent from $2.76 million in 2015 to $3.05 million in 2016.
Thomas County is fifth, with a 9.7 percent jump from $3.15 million to $3.43 million.
Brown County had the seventh largest percentage increase in the state, with property taxes up 8.79 percent from $10.2 million collected in 2015 to $11.12 million collected in 2016.
Arthur County in the Sandhills had the highest percentage increase in the state at 16.47 percent.
Eighteen counties in Nebraska will collect fewer property tax dollars than were collected in 2015.
Rock and Holt are among the 18 counties taking in fewer property tax dollars for 2016. Rock County had the 10th best drop in property tax, from $6.5 million collected in 2015 to $6.4 million that will be collected in 2016. That represents a 1.7 percent decline in property tax collections.
Holt County was the 13th best, with a drop of 1.36 percent from $36.3 million to $35.8 million.
Cherry County had a modest increase of 1.76 percent, from $21.8 million to $22.2 million, and Keya Paha County’s property tax asking increased by just 1.25 percent, from $3.47 million to $3.51 million.
The total property tax asking includes all the taxing entities within a county, such as school districts, county government, city government, natural resources districts, community colleges and rural fire districts.
The overall value of property statewide increased by 4.68 percent, from $227 billion to $238 billion.
North central Nebraska saw the largest overall property valuation gains in the state.
Blaine, Brown, Cherry, Loup and Boyd counties had the five largest property valuation increases in the state.
The value of property in Blaine County was up almost 29 percent, from $249 million to $321 million. That percentage was the highest in the state.
Brown County’s overall property value was up 23.4 percent for 2016, from an overall value of $668 million in 2015 to $824 million in 2016. That was the second largest increase in property value.
Cherry County’s valuation increased by 18.4 percent, from $1.63 billion to $1.93 billion, the third largest increase.
Loup County had the fourth highest increase in property value, up 17.35 percent from $288 million to $338 million.
Boyd County saw the fifth largest overall valuation increase in the state, up 16.4 percent from $498 million to $579 million.
Rock County was also among the top 10 counties in the state with the highest overall valuation increases. Total property in all classes – agricultural, residential and commercial – was up 14.5 percent for 2016 in Rock County, from $579 million to $664 million.
The value of all property in Keya Paha County was up by 10.1 percent, from $418 million to $461 million.
Holt County’s overall property value increased by 5 percent, from $3.11 billion to $3.27 billion.
The increases include both new construction and a jump in value for existing property.
Valuation, coupled with the levy rates set by all property taxing entities, account for the overall property tax dollars requested in each county.
While the actual property tax dollars requested by taxing entities in Brown County had the seventh highest increase in the state, the overall levy rate in Brown County actually dropped by 11.8 percent. The drop in the levy rate moved Brown County down the list a bit among the counties asking for the largest tax dollar increase year over year.
Some taxing entities in Brown County, such as the county government and school district, decreased their levy rates somewhat with the higher valuation. Others, such as the community college, kept the levy rate virtually the same as the previous year, which led to a substantial increase in tax dollars collected thanks to the 23.4 percent increase in the county’s valuation.
For the first time in several years, six counties actually saw the overall value of their real property decrease from the previous year.
The value of all classes of property for 2016 in Hitchcock, Franklin, Webster, Thurston, Stanton and Kimball counties was down from its 2015 valuation, with declining value in the sale of property in each county the factor for the decline.
County assessors use property sales data over a period of years to determine the valuation of agricultural, residential and commercial property in each county.
Even with six counties seeing their overall value decline for 2016, there were still 21 counties in the state that experienced double digit percentage increases in their overall property valuation.
Only 20 counties in the state saw overall levy rates that were above 2015 levels. In those counties, for properties that had the same value as the previous year, actual property tax collections will be higher.
For the other 73 counties, if a property’s value did not change, the owner’s tax bill will be lower.
The state of Nebraska offsets a portion of the actual property taxes levied by the county tax entities by providing $204 million in direct relief from the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund.
The state provides an additional $14 million in personal property tax relief spread out among those who have personal property that is taxed, and an additional $75 million in property tax is offset by the state through its homestead exemption program for those who qualify.
Property tax statements have been sent to all property owners by the treasurers in each county. The first half of 2016 property taxes become delinquent on May 1, and the second half of the property tax due becomes delinquent Sept. 1. If not timely paid, interest is charged on the outstanding property tax balance.
* Market study shows need for 29-bed nursing home, shy of the planned 46-bed facility
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Jan. 11)
The Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board reviewed a market study during Tuesday’s meeting that was completed to determine if a need existed for the construction of a new nursing home facility in the community.
A requirement of the USDA to utilize its direct loan program, the market study showed a need existed for a skilled nursing home in Ainsworth, but the number of beds needed did not reach the 46 bed-facility the group had planned to construct.
Board Chair Kent Taylor said the market study indicated the need for 29 licensed beds, not 46.
The board questioned some of the assumptions made in the market study, including adding the Pine View Good Samaritan Center’s beds at Valentine in the market area while the report states the area includes a 35-mile radius of the city of Ainsworth.
Taylor said, after speaking with the USDA personnel in charge of the direct loan program, the USDA indicated it would not be willing to provide a loan for a 46-bed facility, but would loan funds for a 29-bed nursing home that could be designed for future expansion.
After discussion, the board scheduled a special meeting for 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, in the Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative office to discuss the results of the market study with the USDA representatives.
Taylor indicated, after sending information to five firms, two had replied with proposals for a financial study for a new facility, which, along with an environmental study, would also be a requirement for the USDA direct loan program.
Taylor said it would be wise to hold off on the financial study until the group determines whether there is any flexibility from the USDA on the size of the facility it would be willing to support.
“We will find out from the USDA what our options might be, and move forward from there,” Taylor said.
Sandhills Care Center Administrator Stephanie Rucker told the board there are currently 10 residents in the facility, and another would be moving in on Thursday.
Of those 11 residents, eight are private pay residents and three are Medicaid residents. She said the facility is currently generating $54,000 in monthly revenue.
“We are now down to minimal expenses on fixing the facility,” Rucker said. “We have three more Medicaid residents on our waiting list, and four people in assisted living who are not quite ready to make the move.”
Rucker said there were four Medicare residents on the waiting list.
She said the facility has all the paperwork in for its Medicare certification, but it has to receive Medicaid certification before it can move forward with becoming Medicare certified.
She said the facility’s plan of correction has been accepted by the Department of Health and Human Services after its inspection of the facility found a deficiency in a cup of hot coffee in a resident’s room without a lid.
She said all the issues identified by a second fire marshal inspection have been corrected, and the facility is simply waiting on the fire marshal to return and sign off on the improvements.
Mike Harris with Rural Health Development said everything on the health side was ready to go for the facility’s Medicaid certification.
“If we can get the fire marshal here and get his approval, there should be nothing holding us back,” Harris said. “We have to have the Medicaid certification before we can get Medicare certification.”
Rucker reported staffing was adequate currently for the nursing home, but the facility was trying to find additional skilled nursing. She said, if they cannot find additional RNs and LPNs, they would likely have to utilize agency staffing.
Rucker told the board she was approached by representatives from a nursing home at Broken Bow that had recently closed, offering beds for $250 each.
“The beds are less than five years old, and they are in good shape,” Rucker said.
She said there were 12 beds in the nursing home that either needed repaired or replaced. She said repairing the beds would run about $300 each. New beds cost $1,500.
The board expressed concern about the funds available for the facility, but did approve the purchase of 12 beds at a total cost of $3,000.
Board member Buddy Small said the Brown County Commissioners agenda for its Jan. 17 meeting included an action item to transfer the remaining $90,000 pledged by the county to the care center.
Currently, the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center has received $250,000 in county funding and $150,000 in funding from the city of Ainsworth. Each entity pledged $340,000 in funds to acquire and operate the facility.
Ainsworth City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the city was still in the process of working through the use of its Community Development Block Grant re-use funds for the nursing home.
She said she hoped an agreement would be finalized within a week or two and an application submitted for those funds.
Taylor said about $54,000 was spent to renovate the current facility, which was well below the projections. He said RHD projected the community would need to have about $420,000 in cash to get the facility operational and to the point where it could build its census enough to cash flow.
“We are about to the midway point in those projections,” Taylor said.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board is set for 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, in the Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative office, with the only agenda item being a discussion with the USDA on the market study data for its direct loan program. The board will then hold a regular meeting in February.
* Osborn provides December and 2016 Ainsworth weather summaries
(Posted 1:45 p.m. Jan. 4)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn provided the
summaries for December and the entirety of 2016's weather for the city.
Ainsworth finished with just over 25-1/2 inches of moisture during 2016, which
is 2-1/2 inches above normal.
* Commissioners appoint Walz, reappoint Gross to Hospital Board of Trustees
(Posted 1:15 p.m. Dec. 20)
John Gross was reappointed Tuesday to a six-year term on the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees, and the Brown County Commissioners appointed Jim Walz to a six-year term on the Board of Trustees to replace Mike Schrad, who chose not to seek reappointment to another term.
Following a special meeting Dec. 14 in which hospital and clinic staff turnover was the main topic, the commissioners heard the management team at the Brown County Hospital encourage them to reappoint Gross to the Board of Trustees.
Gross said he was appreciative of the vote of confidence given him by the staff, and told the commissioners that was certainly not something he solicited or anticipated.
“We have the institution going in a direction that is favorable,” Gross said. “These people know their jobs. They are professionals.”
Commissioner Buddy Small thanked Gross for the work he has done on the board, and said he wishes the board the best as the two groups try to move past recent contention.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said he had received some calls against reappointing Gross to the trustees, but said the positive comments he received outweighed the negative.
“We all want to put this issue to rest,” Wiebelhaus said.
Small said he had spoken several times with Walz regarding an appointment to the Board of Trustees.
“I have worked with Jim on the nursing home interlocal board,” Small said. “He jumps right in and is not afraid to work.”
In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners voted to begin maintaining a one-mile stretch of Road 145 southeast of Johnstown after hearing from Jeremy O’Hare that he planned to build a home on 60 acres of ground in the area.
“The first mile out there is maintained, but then it goes to a dirt trail,” O’Hare said. “I am hoping to get that next stretch maintained.”
O’Hare said he would like to begin constructing a home at the site in the spring.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the stretch of road O’Hare was referencing had been treated as a minimum maintenance route because no one lived out there.
“At one time, it was scheduled to be vacated,” Turpin said. “But, that was never completed. We can probably fix it up in the spring for $5,000 or less.”
Wiebelhaus said if the road was a dedicated county road, and if O’Hare planned to build a home at the site, the county would provide maintenance.
Turpin said the county did something similar in that area when Mark Sedlacek constructed a home at a site that had only a minimum maintenance trail.
Small said the county may wait until after all the heavy equipment moves out following construction to completely rehabilitate the stretch.
“If we fix it up too much ahead of time, the heavy equipment that will be in and out of there might just tear it all up again,” Small said. He encouraged O’Hare to coordinate with Turpin in the spring.
In another roads item, Turpin told the board he attended a recent session of the Nebraska Association of County Officials and learned NACO was talking about proposing that property owners be required to mow road ditches three times during the year instead of the current two.
“They talked about requiring that ditches be mowed once by July 10, once by Aug. 15, and again by Sept. 15,” Turpin said. “Most of the highway superintendents I talked to did not think that was necessary.”
Turpin said, instead of requiring three separate mowings, he believed it would be more effective to re-time the second mowing. Currently, property owners are required to mow once prior to July 10, and again sometime during the month of August. He said requiring two mowings, with one in September, would be a better option in his eyes.
Wiebelhaus said the biggest thing for the county was to have the ditches mowed so the grass cannot get high enough before it snows to the point where the grass catches the snow and causes drifts in the roadways.
In another agenda item Tuesday, Craig Bernbeck of Long Pine addressed the commissioners, asking them to grant him open access to the phone records of a deputy sheriff.
“I believe a crime was committed against me by a public employee,” Bernbeck said.
He said the phone records should be publically available since the deputies receive tax dollars for their cellular phones.
County Attorney David Streich said law enforcement officers have private cell phones that sometimes must be used as part of their enforcement responsibilities.
“Through funds we receive by holding a traffic diversion program, deputies receive $45 every quarter because sometimes they have to use their cell phones for the job,” Streich said. “The funds used are not tax dollars, and they certainly do not cover the full cost of the cell phone.”
Small said the commissioners have no authority over the sheriff’s department.
“Unless formal charges are brought, I am not sure what we could do,” Small said.
Streich said, for his office to open an investigation, there would have to be some basis to start the investigation.
“The commissioners have very little authority to address this,” Streich said. “If you believe there is a conflict with one law enforcement agency, you may contact the Attorney General’s office.”
Wiebelhaus said Sheriff Bruce Papstein is the most honest man with the most integrity he has ever worked with.
“I will visit with him about your concerns,” Wiebelhaus said. “It will be up to the sheriff’s department to handle it if there is an issue.”
Assessor Charleen Fox spoke with the commissioners about the heating and cooling system in her office.
She said, with the only temperature control located in the clerk’s office, the temperature fluctuations between the two offices have been major.
“We have had this problem forever,” Fox said. “We had it with the old system, and we have it with the new system.”
She said for the assessor’s office to be at a comfortable temperature, the clerk’s office was way too hot. For the clerk’s office to be at a comfortable temperature, the assessor’s office was extremely cold.
Small said he spoke with the owner of the company that installed the new system. The owner offered to drive up at no charge and work with the employees on finding a solution.
Treasurer Deb Vonheeder discussed the procedure for having the Brown County Agricultural Society repay funds borrowed from the Inheritance Tax Fund to make improvements to the rodeo arena at the fairgrounds.
The commissioners approved allowing the Ag Society to borrow funding from the Inheritance Tax Fund to complete all the improvements at the same time. The commissioners agreed to allocate $20,000 annually to the Ag Society for the improvements, with the Ag Society repaying the Inheritance Tax Fund over the following years with the money allocated by the commissioners.
Small said the Ag Society was able to purchase used chutes in excellent condition, saving about $12,000.
Vonheeder asked if she needed to set up a sinking fund
Wiebelhaus said he didn’t see a need to take the entire $40,000 from the Inheritance Tax Fund unless it was needed by the Ag Society.
“We can transfer the money from the Inheritance Tax Fund as they need it, and then withhold that amount spread out over the next two years to repay it,” Wiebelhaus said.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Jan. 3, 2017.
* Commissioners hold special meeting to address hospital personnel moves
(Posted noon Dec. 15)
Citing numerous concerned phone calls received, the Brown County Commissioners Wednesday conducted a special meeting in the Brown County Courtroom with the five members of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees. More than 50 members of the public were in attendance.
Commissioner Buddy Small opened the meeting saying the special meeting was not scheduled in response to any one hospital or clinic employee’s termination.
“We have noticed a high attrition rate,” Small said. “Attrition is a normal experience in any business, but many people have left the Brown County Hospital and the Ainsworth Family Clinic in the past few years.”
Small said he was told the number of employees who have left the hospital and clinic was between 40 and 60 during the past few years.
“I have received dozens of calls since the latest termination of a hospital employee, from the public, past employees and some current employees,” Small said. “I have received a few calls supporting the hospital board.”
Small said he did not enjoy becoming embroiled in controversy, but he felt a special meeting was necessary to address the concerns.
Commissioner Reagan Weibelhaus concurred that the special meeting was not called based on one specific individual, but due to general concerns regarding employee turnover.
“There are things the commissioners can do,” Wiebelhaus said. There are things the hospital board can do. They do not co-mingle.”
Wiebelhaus said he too had been contacted by many people regarding the employee turnover. He said he talked to many others who said they did not have enough information on the subject, and others who expressed a trust in the Hospital Board of Trustees to make necessary decisions.
“I believe the Hospital Board makes the best decisions they can with the information they have,” Wiebelhaus said.
Hospital Board Chairman John Gross said the trustees, who volunteer their time to serve, meet on the third Monday of each month, and there is a time allocated during those meetings for public comment.
“The community voted to improve the bricks and mortar at the hospital,” Gross said. “Now we are working on the infrastructure.”
Gross said comments from the public do not fall on deaf ears.
“We don’t answer to the rumor mill, but we do not operate in a vacuum,” Gross said. “This board is dedicated to the hospital and to the community.”
Numerous members of the audience spoke in support of practitioner Elizabeth Nelson, whose employment with the Brown County Hospital and Ainsworth Family Clinic recently ended.
Expressing that concern over her no longer being employed with the facility, Pam Hollenbeck of Long Pine said she has lived in the area for more than 20 years.
“When we moved here, Sue Buckley was our doctor as far as I was concerned,” Hollenbeck said. “Libs was the closest thing to Sue we have had since I have been here. I believe, if you don’t reinstate her, you will lose a pile of patients from the clinic and from the hospital.”
Former Hospital Trustee Mike Kreycik also expressed disappointment in the recent personnel move.
“When I was on the board, we couldn’t wait to get her on staff two-and-a-half years ago,” Kreycik said. “I don’t know all the details now, but I never heard a negative word about her when I was on the board.”
Directly addressing Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen, Kreycik told Sorensen she had done many great things for the hospital, but he sharply criticized her in the area of employee management.
“We have fired two people at the bank over 30 years,” Kreycik said. “When there are problems, we sit down with people and work it out. It feels like you are letting us down. A lot of people don’t love what is going on out there.”
Brown County Attorney David Streich said the county has a policy that asks employees to fill out an exit questionnaire when their employment with the county ends. He asked if the hospital has employees fill out an exit questionnaire when they leave the facility.
Hospital staff member Lisa Fischer said exit interviews are offered voluntarily to every employee who leaves the hospital and clinic.
“Some return them, some don’t,” Fischer said. “When we receive results that are negative, we do try to address them to improve our processes.”
Gross said the employee turnover rate for hospitals in Nebraska is 19 percent. For smaller, critical access hospitals, the turnover rate is 16 percent.
“Our turnover rate is 14.4 percent,” Gross said.
Terri Daniels also expressed her support for Nelson’s work at the hospital, saying Nelson had always treated her and her family with excellent care. She asked the commissioners what their involvement was with the hospital.
Small said the commissioners appoint members to the Board of Trustees.
“We have the authority to appoint whoever we want,” Small said. “We have the authority to fire trustees. It is distasteful to even think about that. We don’t know what goes on day to day at the hospital. That is the hospital board’s business. We cannot determine why any specific individual quit or was fired.”
Small said hospital staff members regularly brief the commissioners on the financial status at the hospital.
Wiebelhaus said all spending decisions less than 50 percent of the net worth of the hospital are left up to the hospital board.
“I do not want to micromanage the hospital,” Wiebelhaus said. “We try and put the best people we can in those positions, and trust they will make the best decisions they can. It doesn’t mean we always agree.”
Hospital employee Mike Depko encouraged everyone to take a step back and avoid knee-jerk reactions.
“We don’t know both sides to the story,” Depko said. “Most people are here because Libs got let go. We are not privy to anything on why that decision was made.”
Having been employed by the hospital for more than six years, Depko said he sees the work the volunteer board puts in. He said the hospital is a large employer, and of the 46 people who have left in the past few years, the difference between those who left voluntarily and those who were fired was huge.
Hospital nurse Connie Goochey agreed, saying the number of employees actually let go by the hospital was low.
“I have been employed at the Brown County Hospital since 1981,” Goochey said. “There are processes in place. They are in place for patient safety, and they have to be adhered to.”
Goochey said she believed the hospital board members have always done what they felt was in the best concerns for patients.
Audience member Lynn Cozad said she attended the meeting simply to try and gain some information.
“I know there are a lot of emotions,” Cozad said. “My understanding is this hospital is self-sufficient and is progressing. I did not know that until tonight.”
Jeep Cozad said he believed it seemed silly for the commissioners to try and make major changes to a business that is self-sustaining and not costing taxpayers money.
“I think the people up here on the board need to be commended,” Cozad said. “They are volunteers.
Following the public comments, Wiebelhaus and Small held an executive session with Gross and Hospital Board member Crystal Dailey.
Returning from the executive session, audience member Leanne Maxwell criticized the commissioners for allowing Kreycik to direct personal attacks at the hospital administrator after saying at the beginning of the meeting personal attacks would not be tolerated.
“I am disappointed,” Maxwell said. “Mike questioned the administrator’s moral fiber in an open meeting, and that should not have been allowed to continue. She is hospital personnel, and that was extremely unfair to her.”
Hospital employee Brandy Bussinger also expressed her disappointment with the way the commissioners conducted the meeting.
“I expected you to run a professional meeting,” Bussinger said. “The board and Shannon do not make decisions alone. You started this meeting saying people should conduct themselves in a professional way. I am very disappointed.”
Hospital Board member Ann Fiala said she attempted to have the commissioners put a stop to the personal attack on the administrator, but was ignored.
“We understood personal attacks would not be allowed,” Fiala said.
Small apologized for not fulfilling the promise made at the outset.
“I did not see that coming,” Small said. “I apologize for allowing it.”
Audience member Kathy Worrell asked the commissioners what the next step would be moving forward.
Small said the commissioners had no plans to take any action during Wednesday’s meeting.
“We have on next Tuesday’s agenda to appoint two members to the trustees,” Small said. “Mike Schrad is leaving, and someone will be appointed to replace him. John Gross’s term is expiring. We can either reappoint him, or not.”
Wiebelhaus said it was not easy finding people willing to serve on the Hospital Board.
“The last time we appointed a board member, I bet I talked to 12 people I believed were qualified to serve,” Wiebelhaus said. “It is tough to find someone willing. It takes a lot of time and devotion.”
The commissioners adjourned Wednesday’s meeting, taking no official action.
Those appointed by the commissioners to the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees serve a term of six years. The terms are staggered. Two, those belonging to Gross and Schrad, expire this month.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Dec. 20 in the lower level of the courthouse. The clerk’s office posts the agenda the day prior to the meeting, and KBRB airs the agenda ahead of each meeting.
* Ricketts discusses changes to the way agricultural property is assessed
(Posted noon Dec. 8)
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts discussed factors he wants to
see county assessors take into account when valuing agricultural property in the
state, including 1031 exchanges, premiums paid for purchasing adjacent land and
premiums paid for the recreational opportunities on a property.
* Trump wins; Brewer unseats Davis in District 43 legislative race
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 9)
Donald Trump proved the pollsters and the pundits wrong and captured the U.S. Presidency.
Trump shocked the experts, winning the states he needed to win (Florida, Ohio and North Carolina) and winning unexpectedly in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Michigan and New Hampshire were still too close to call Wednesday morning, but Trump had already secured 289 electoral votes to 218 for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Republicans retained control of the U.S. Senate with 51 seats to 47 seats for the Democrats and two races still outstanding.
Trump looks to have won all five electoral votes in Nebraska, edging Clinton in the 2nd Congressional District by about 9,000 votes.
Republican Don Bacon appears to have won a narrow race to unseat Democrat Brad Ashford in the 2nd Congressional seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, scoring 134,291 votes (49 percent) to 128,739 votes (47 percent) for Ashford.
By a 3-2 margin, Nebraskans overwhelmingly repealed the Nebraska Legislature’s decision to abolish the death penalty in the state. Almost 61 percent of voters (482,236) cast ballots to repeal the Legislature’s decision, compared to 39 percent (310,139) who voted to retain the Legislature’s action.
Challenger Tom Brewer defeated incumbent Al Davis Tuesday in the race for the 43rd District seat in the Nebraska Legislature, capturing 52.5 percent of the vote to 47.5 percent for Davis. Brewer secured 9,096 votes to 8,253 for Davis in a district that spans from Chadron and Alliance, east to Ainsworth and Springview, and south to Hyannis.
Davis was one of several incumbents who were not able to secure another term in office, as Tommy Garrett was beaten in District 3, David Schnoor lost in District 15, Les Seiler was defeated in District 33, and Jerry Johnson lost in District 23.
Jeffrey Scherer won an at-large race for Northeast Community College Board of Governors, securing 25,501 votes (54 percent) to 21,429 votes (46 percent) for Ted Hillman.
In the contested races for the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District Board, Mark Carpenter defeated Isaac Wright in Subdistrict 5 by a total of 3,485 (59 percent) to 2,396 (41 percent), and Keith Heithoff won a close race over Mark Schrage in Subdistrict 7 by a vote count of 3,124 (52.5 percent) to 2,811 (47.5 percent).
Voter turnout statewide was 68.5 percent, with 831,438 votes cast from among the 1.21 million registered voters.
Blaine and Keya Paha counties were two of the five counties that saw voter turnout exceed 80 percent.
* Nebraskans vote overwhelmingly to reinstate death penalty, repeal legislative action
(Posted 6:15 a.m. Nov. 9)
By Vincent Peña, Nebraska News Service
Nebraska voters have made up their minds, and they want the death penalty back.
After nearly two years of campaigning for what has turned out to be the most controversial issue in the Nebraska election, voters in the state decided to repeal Legislative Bill 286 (LB 286) and reinstate the death penalty as the ultimate form of punishment, in what turned out to be a landslide decision.
The "repeal" side received 59.6 percent of the vote, compared to just 40.4 percent for the "retain" side.
The decision is a big win for Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, who invested a large amount of money and time into getting Referendum 426 on the ballot in order to repeal the death penalty decision that outlawed the practice last year.
Bob Evnen, co-founder of the group Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, which led the push to repeal LB 286, said the victory was expected.
"From the time in 2015 when the unicameral repealed the death penalty, there were a number of us who thought a strong majority, a substantial majority of Nebraskans were for the death penalty and believed that it ought to be on the books," Evnen said.
In May 2015, Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, getting much-needed help from Republican senators within the officially nonpartisan Legislature, was finally successful in repealing the death penalty by a vote of 30-19 after decades of unsuccessful attempts.
Chambers and many others in favor of eliminating the death penalty have argued was ineffective, costly and perhaps most importantly, hasn't been used in nearly two decades. He has spent the bulk of his career in government working on abolishing the death penalty in the state of Nebraska, which he says is rife with issues.
After the Legislature repealed the death penalty in LB286, Ricketts promptly vetoed the bill. But within a few days the Legislature moved to override Ricketts' veto. Not long thereafter, a pro-death penalty group called Nebraskans for the Death Penalty and Ricketts launched a petition to put the issue on the ballot and give Nebraskans the opportunity to decide. They gathered more than 166,000 signatures.
"After the unicameral repealed we started a petition for a referendum," Evnen said, reiterating his earlier point. "We did that based on our belief that a substantial majority of Nebraskans believed that the death penalty ought to be utilized."
The referendum, known as the Nebraska Death Penalty Repeal Veto Referendum, or Referendum 426, was tinged with somewhat confusing language, in that people aren't voting whether to retain or repeal the death penalty itself, but rather the law that eliminated the death penalty in 2015.
The issue had split the state, both within the state's government and the populace. But the race didn't turn out to be as close as some expected. While the governor favored keeping the death penalty on the books, the unicameral wanted to eliminate capital punishment and use life without parole in its place.
One of the main issues for opponents of the death penalty is the drug protocol, which has been widely criticized as ineffective. Currently there are no drugs to carry out the executions. But Evnen said that with cooperation this issue too can be resolved.
"The hope is now that the unicameral will cooperate with the executive branch and work to establish a successful protocol," Evnen said. "Other states do it; we can do it too."
Chambers vowed in an interview with the Nebraska News Service in October to make death penalty a key issue once again his next term.
The "repeal" side had garnered support from various law enforcement agencies across the state, as well as Ricketts himself, who had injected $300,000 into the campaign, and several other groups, while the "retain" side was supported by a number of politicians and organizations as well, including the ACLU of Nebraska, the Lincoln Journal Star and others.
It's unclear if and when Nebraska will be able to start executing the 10 men serving on death row.
* Robust turnout among area voters during 2016 General Election
(Posted 10:30 p.m. Nov. 8)
A total of 76 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in Brown County for the General Election, with 1,618 voters submitting a ballot from the 2,129 who were eligible.
The race between Al Davis and Tom Brewer for the District 43 seat in the Nebraska Legislature was extremely close in Brown County, with the incumbent Davis picking up 784 votes to 779 for Brewer. The margin was less than half of 1 percent in Brown County between the two legislative candidates.
Brown County was Donald Trump territory Tuesday, with 1,380 votes cast for the Republican presidential candidate compared to just 153 for Democrat Hillary Clinton, 39 for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and seven for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. There were also 17 write-in votes cast for president in Brown County.
In a local referendum, Long Pine voters chose to recall Mayor Beverly Newport by a 103-30 margin. Approximately 77 percent of Long Pine voters chose to recall the city’s mayor.
Teresa Lemunyan was the top vote-getter in a race for two seats on the Long Pine City Council. Lemunyan received 98 votes, and will be joined by Aaron Miller on the council. Miller picked up 91 votes. Joyce Micheel received 52 votes to finish in third place.
Brad Wilkins (1,181 votes), Mark Johnson (1,100 votes) and Scott Erthum (1,092 votes were elected to the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education. There were 44 write-in votes for the school board.
Deb Hurless was re-elected to the Ainsworth City Council with 596 votes. There were a total of 148 write-in votes for the second council seat, with Greg Soles receiving 80 write-in votes to secure the second council seat. Melissa Wenger picked up 25 write-in votes, and Schyler Schenk received 15 write-in votes for City Council.
Randy Welke (24 votes) and Daniel West (17 votes) were elected to the Johnstown Village Board.
Republican Buddy Small ran unopposed for another term as Brown County Commissioner.
Brown County voters by a wide margin voted to go against the Nebraska Legislature and restore the death penalty in the state. There were 1,156 votes (75.5 percent) cast in the county to repeal the Legislature’s action to remove the death penalty, with just 374 votes cast to retain the Legislature’s decision.
In the contested race for an at-large seat on the Northeast Community College Board of Governors, Jeffrey Scherer carried Brown County over Ted Hillman by a margin of 617-436.
Brown County voters were in favor of retaining all the judges on the General Election ballot.
Donald Trump was the heavy favorite for president amongst Rock County voters, with 687 ballots cast for the Republican candidate compared to just 70 for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Libertarian Gary Johnson received 32 Rock County votes and Jill Stein four.
Voters in Rock County agreed to allow the county to expand the use of the previously approved 1 cent additional levy for the ambulance association. A total of 624 voters cast ballots in favor of the expanded use of funds for equipment and training, while 140 voters opted to keep the 1 cent of additional levy to strictly fund the purchase and outfitting of an ambulance.
In the lone contested race in Rock County, Rod Stolcpart won a four-year term on the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors, securing 296 votes compared to 150 for Sam Coulter.
Rock County voters were vastly in favor of repealing the Nebraska Legislature’s decision to abolish the death penalty in the state. There were 605 votes cast to repeal the Legislature’s decision compared to 177 who voted to retain the abolishment of the death penalty.
Ted Hillman edged Jeffrey Scherer by a 250-233 margin in Rock County in a race for an at-large seat on the Northeast Community College Board of Directors.
A portion of Rock County voters had a contested race for the Subdistrict 5 seat on the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District Board, with those voters siding with Mark Carpenter over Isaac Wright by a 273-141 margin.
Others in Rock County had a decision between Mark Schrage and Keith Heithoff for the Subdistrict 7 seat on the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District Board, with Heithoff winning the county by a narrow 204-201 margin.
Tim Shaw (622 votes), Teresa Wiiest (571 votes) and Leah Hagan (555 votes) earned four-year seats on the Rock County Public Schools Board of Education.
Gary Williams was re-elected as Bassett’s mayor with 216 votes, and Reno Gordon (254 votes) and Michael Turpin (247 votes) were elected to the Bassett City Council.
After winning a Primary Election race, Republican Dustin Craven ran unopposed Tuesday for a term as Rock County Commissioner.
The judges up for retention all received strong support from Rock County voters.
Rock County had 79 percent of its registered voters cast a ballot in the General Election. There were 815 voters who participated in the Election of the 1,030 who are registered in the county.
In Keya Paha County, voters overwhelmingly chose Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton for president, with 458 votes cast in the county for Trump. Clinton received 39 votes and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson secured 17 votes in the county.
Voters in Keya Paha County overwhelmingly chose to repeal the Nebraska Legislature’s decision to abolish the death penalty in the state, with 424 voters opting to repeal the Legislature’s decision compared to only 64 who voted to retain the Legislature’s decision.
Keya Paha County voters sided with challenger Tom Brewer over incumbent Al Davis, 295-187, in the race for the Nebraska Legislature’s 43rd District seat.
In the only contested race in Keya Paha County, incumbent Meredith Worth won another term on the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors, defeating challenger Kirk Sharp by a 294-178 margin.
Running for an at-large seat on the Northeast Community College Board of Governors, Jeffrey Scherer earned 172 Keya Paha County votes compared to 118 for Ted Hillman.
Erik Johnson (398 votes), Tanya Hallock (391 votes) and Brian Munger (337 votes) each secured four-year seats on the Keya Paha County Public Schools Board of Education.
Ernest Hallock (125 votes) and David Lewis (109 votes) won terms on the Springview Village Board.
After winning a Primary Election challenge, Republican Mike Tuerk was re-elected to the Keya Paha County Board of Commissioners unopposed Tuesday.
All of the judges received a comfortable margin of votes to retain their seats on the bench from Keya Paha County residents who cast a ballot.
A robust 81 percent of registered voters cast a ballot for the General Election, with 164 voting early and 362 casting ballots on Tuesday. A total of 526 of the 652 registered voters in the county participated in the General Election.
* Friday fire destroys Ainsworth family's home
(Posted 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21)
A Friday morning fire resulted in the loss of a home for an Ainsworth family.
At approximately 10:30 a.m. Friday, a fire was reported at 1111 E. Plainsman Drive in a home owned by Brandon and Mandy Evans.
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said, upon firefighters’ arrival, smoke was billowing from the home. He said the fire started in a storage room in the basement of the house.
“We gained access through the front door, and one crew took a line downstairs,” Fiala said. “But, it was just too hot so they had to come back up.”
He said fire crews battled the fire from the main floor, and also applied water through a basement window. The Bassett Volunteer Fire Department provided mutual aid to the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department. Crews remained on the scene as of 7 p.m. Friday.
The fire chief said no one was in the home when the fire started. He said the house and its contents would likely be a total loss.
One cat was rescued from the inside of the home and taken to a veterinary clinic. A second cat’s whereabouts were initially unknown, but the cat was able to make it outside the home and was found Friday evening.
Fiala said an inspector from the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s office had been on scene, but due to the smoke and debris had not been able to make a determination as to the cause of the fire. Fiala said no neighboring structures were threatened.
Monetary donations for the Evans family are being collected by all three Ainsworth banks, and the Red Cross will also provide assistance to the family.
* City Council asks Ainsworth property owners for $282,250
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 15)
The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday asked property owners for $282,250 to support a 2016-17 general fund budget of $5.14 million.
During the annual budget hearing and property tax levy hearing, the council proposed a levy of 47 cents per $100 in value for all property located inside the city limits.
The overall valuation in the city increased by just over $2 million to $60 million. The city kept the levy at the same 47-cent per $100 in value level that it did during the 2015-16 year, which will allow the city to collect an additional $27,000 in taxes from property owners.
The city’s $5.14 million budget includes $278,797 in debt service on the remaining $687,810 in bonded debt. The city has bonds remaining from past street, water and wastewater projects.
The city will not likely spend the entire $5.14 million budgeted for the general fund. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the city actually spent $2.35 million, including $222,260 to pay down debt. City spending in 2015-16 was below the $2.78 million spent during the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Included in the budget is the city allocating all $884,000 in economic development funding for disbursement, though the likelihood of that occurring is slim.
The budget includes $3.4 million in operating expenses, $744,198 in capital improvements, $557,384 in other capital outlays, $278,797 to service city debt, and $162,542 in miscellaneous expenses.
In the 2015-16 year, the city actually spent $1.69 million in operating expenses, $110,910 in capital improvements, $148,520 in other capital outlays, $222,260 to service bonded debt, and $181,376 in other expenses.
No one spoke in opposition to any of the spending in the 2016-17 budget during Wednesday’s hearings, and the council unanimously approved the budget and property tax request.
In other business Wednesday, the council voted to abate five remaining nuisance violations on parcels inspected this year by the Central Nebraska Economic Development District.
CNEDD Director Judy Peterson said two of the seven properties that were declared nuisances were cleared after the property owners abated the violations.
She said, of the remaining five parcels, three have done some cleanup and have indicated they have a plan to remedy the remaining violations. She said two property owners have not responded.
“One of the property owners was given additional time after a show-cause hearing,” Peterson said. “One property owner plans to do some demolition and has been in for a permit. One property is changing ownership, and there is a plan for cleanup.”
The board approved moving forward with abatement, with the five property owners having until Oct. 11 to either clear the violation or provide a written plan to the Central Nebraska Economic Development District for addressing the violations.
Should the violations not be cleared or a plan presented, the council will act on abating the nuisance violations during its Oct. 12 meeting and levy the cost of the abatement onto the parcel’s property tax statement.
Councilman Chuck Osborn said, “I wonder if we are doing any good with this. I have gone back and looked at the areas that were inspected the first two years. A lot of them have gone right back to the way they were before.”
Councilman Brian Williams agreed, saying, “There are some from the other two areas that are back to being in pretty bad shape.”
City Attorney Rod Palmer said, in his experience, nuisance abatement will be an ongoing project, not a one-time venture.
The council discussed potentially placing a ballot measure for city voters relating to bringing Keno to the community.
Councilwoman Deb Hurless provided the group with data on the percentage breakdowns for Keno related to paying back prize money and paying other expenses. At the end, the information indicated there was a profit margin of around 9 percent from the gross dollars spent playing the game of chance.
Committee member Graig Kinzie said he wanted some guidance from the council on the percentage it was willing to share with any proprietors potentially interested in having the game in their business.
“That is the first question I will be asked,” Kinzie said. “Looking at these percentages, I am a lot more lukewarm about this than I was before.”
The council agreed to offer a 50-50 split of any profits to proprietors interested. Kinzie said he would visit with two business owners in the community to see if there was any interest before the council determined whether it wanted to proceed.
The item was placed on the council’s October agenda.
During her report, City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said cemetery software has now been installed in the city office.
She said the streets department purchased a 1998 boom truck at a cost of $7,000. The truck, which was previously owned by an electrician in Wyoming, will be used primarily for tree trimming, and hanging flags and lights.
She reported building permits for the year totaled $882,450 in improvements.
The consent agenda approved Wednesday included a special designated liquor license for the Sandhills Lounge to serve alcohol in the Ainsworth Conference Center during the Nov. 4 Pheasants Forever banquet.
It also authorized the Ainsworth Women’s Club to close Main Street from 4:30 until 6:30 p.m. Oct. 31 for a Trick or Treat Safe Street.
The consent agenda also included approval of Mayor Larry Rice’s appointments of Keith Baker to another five-year term on the Ainsworth Housing Authority, Kristin Olson to another five-year term on the Community Redevelopment Authority, Jacob Sinsel to a two-year term on the Ainsworth Betterment Committee, and Pat Nelson and Maxine Mattern to fill vacant seats on the Sellors-Barton Cabin Advisory Board.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 12.
* Keya Paha County Commissioners adopt $3.25 million general fund budget for 2016-17
(Posted 3 p.m. Sept. 14)
Keya Paha County property owners will pay $962,990 to support the county’s general fund budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
During Tuesday’s budget hearing and property tax request, the board approved a $3.25 million budget, with $1.63 million budgeted for the general fund and $894,430 in the roads department fund.
The $962,990 in property tax is about $37,000 more than the $925,340 requested for the 2015-16 fiscal year budget.
Keya Paha County’s levy rate, despite the small increase in tax collection, dropped from 22 cents per $100 in valuation in 2015-16 to 20.8 cents per $100 for the 2016-17 year.
Had the county not collected the additional $37,000 in property tax, the levy rate would have been an even 20 cents per $100 in value.
The overall valuation in Keya Paha County increased from $418.7 million in 2015 to $461.5 million in 2016, an increase of $42.7 million. The overall value of all classifications of property in Keya Paha County rose 10 percent between 2015 and 2016.
One cent of levy in Keya Paha County for the 2016-17 year generates $46,148 in property tax, compared to the same 1 cent of levy generating $41,878 during the 2015-16 fiscal year.
In addition to the 20.8 cents in levy for the general fund, Keya Paha County property owners will also pay $14,037 to the Keya Paha County Agricultural Society, which represents about one-third of 1 cent of levy.
The Keya Paha County Rural Fire Protection District will receive a total of $44,635 in property tax, which represents a levy rate of nine-tenths of 1 cent.
The total levy approved by the commissioners Tuesday of 22.1 cent per $100 in valuation will generate $1.02 million in total property tax, up slightly from the $983,082 generated in 2015-16 from a levy of 23.4 cents per $100 in valuation.
Keya Paha County’s actual disbursements in 2015-16 were $1.43 million, which were down from the $1.71 million disbursed during the 2014-15 fiscal year.
The county spent $796,902 from its general fund in 2015-16, down from $907,686 in 2014-15. Roads department spending was down from $676,073 in 2014-15 to $553,374 in 2015-16.
Following Tuesday’s budget hearing, in which no opposition was expressed, the commissioners approved the 2016-17 county budget and the property tax request.
* Commissioners ask for $2.51 million to support 2016-17 general fund budget
(Posted 3:45 p.m. Sept. 13)
During the annual budget hearing and property tax request Tuesday, the Brown County Commissioners approved a general fund budget of $4.11 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year that asks property owners for $2.51 million in taxes.
The county’s property tax asking is $245,380 more than the $2.26 million requested for the 2015-16 fiscal year. However, with valuations in the county rising from $668 million to $824 million, due in large part to another jump in agricultural property value, the overall county levy decreased from 41.2 cents per $100 in property value to 35.6 cents per $100 in value.
The total value of all property in Brown County for the 2016 tax year is $156 million above the 2015 tax year total, representing a 23 percent year-over-year increase in the total value of property in the county.
With the increased overall valuation in Brown County, 1 cent of tax levy equals $82,438 in property tax generated, compared to $66,831 in tax generated from 1 cent of levy for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
Had the county asked for the same $2.26 million in property tax as it did for the 2015-16 fiscal year, the levy would have dropped to 33.4 cents per $100 in value. The 35.6 cents of property tax per $100 in valuation for 2016-17 is 5.5 cents below the 2015-16 levy.
In addition to the $2.51 million in property tax to support the general fund, property owners in Brown County will pay $401,540 in tax to support the voter-approved Brown County Hospital addition bonds.
The $401,540 hospital bond payment is lower than the $453,090 collected during the 2015-16 fiscal year. With the increased valuation in the county, the hospital bond represents 4.8 cents in tax levy per $100 in valuation for the 2016-17 year, compared to 6.7 cents in tax levy during the 2015-16 year.
The levy breakdown for property tax collections in Brown County for the 2016-17 year includes $2.51 million for the general fund for 30.4 cents in levy, $305,731 for the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District for 4 cents in levy, $52,500 to the Brown County Agricultural Society for a 0.6-cent levy, and $401,540 to the Brown County Hospital addition bond representing 4.8 cents in levy.
Keeping the Brown County Rural Fire District’s levy at 4 cents allows the district to receive $103,746 more than it did during the 2015-16 year. The $52,500 contribution to the Brown County Agricultural Society was $20,000 more than the previous year, with that $20,000 allocated for arena repairs.
Taking all funds into account, the total property tax asking of $2.94 million is $185,050 more than the $2.75 million collected during the 2015-16 fiscal year.
The commissioners, as part of the budget, approved a contribution of $11,000 to the Ainsworth Public Library to allow county residents the ability to utilize the library free of charge, and a $5,000 partnership contribution to the North Central Development Center.
The Brown County Hospital’s budget is also included as part of the overall county budget. However, the only tax dollars supporting the hospital are for the voter-approved addition bond. The Brown County Hospital’s general operating budget is funded completely through hospital revenue.
The hospital addition bond, thanks to attractive refinancing rates and a contribution from the hospital’s operating budget, has $4.85 million remaining. By refinancing the remaining 10 years of bond payments, and receiving the contribution from the hospital’s operating revenue, one full year of bond payments were removed, leaving nine years remaining to pay the hospital addition in full instead of 10 years.
The total county budget, including the hospital’s budget and the budgeting of the now $1.93 million in the county’s inheritance tax fund, is $19.5 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
As an accounting standard, the commissioners budget for the spending of the entire $1.93 million in the inheritance tax fund, though actual expenditures from the inheritance tax fund have only been approved by the board recently, and in the amount of $340,000, to support the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board’s efforts to reopen a nursing home in the community, which is expected this fall.
The commissioners approved $154,551 in disbursements from the inheritance tax fund during the 2015-16 fiscal year to support the Care Center Board. The inheritance tax fund still has $1.93 million remaining for use by the board to support the betterment of Brown County. As a practice, the commissioners have rarely utilized the funds in the inheritance tax.
Counting the hospital’s operating expenses, $16.2 million was disbursed by the county during the 2015-16 year, up $2 million from the $14.2 million disbursed during the 2014-15 fiscal year. Increased general fund disbursements from $2.52 million in 2014-15 to $3.5 million in the recently completed 2015-16 fiscal year accounted for about half of the overall disbursement increase.
Following the budget hearing, in which no opposition to the budget was expressed, the board approved the budget, the property tax request, and the allowable increase in restricted funds.
The next regular meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Sept. 20.
* School Board approves $9.36 million budget for 2016-17
(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 13)
Property owners in the Ainsworth Community Schools District will be asked to pay $5.96 million to support a 2016-17 budget of $9.36 million.
Following a public hearing Monday, the Board of Education approved the 2016-17 budget, which is about $61,000 higher than the 2015-16 budget.
In addition to the $5.96 million to support the school’s general fund, property owners will pay $176,585 to support the kindergarten through eighth grade building bond, and $122,712 to support the high school building bond.
Superintendent Darrell Peterson told the board the 2016-17 year will be the final time bond funds are collected for the school addition.
“That levy will drop off next year,” Peterson said. “The bonds will be paid off after those taxes are received. That will amount to about $300,000 in taxes that won’t have to be collected next year.”
The $6.26 million in total property tax asking is a little more than $400,000 more than was requested from taxpayers to support the 2015-16 budget.
Despite the increase in tax asking, the levy rate decreased dramatically for the 2016-17 year, as property owners will pay 83 cents for every $100 in value. That total includes the 9.2 cents in levy for the voter-approved bonds, and is almost 12 cents lower than the 2015-16 levy rate of 95 cents per $100 in value.
The levy rate for Ainsworth Community Schools dropped substantially thanks to the overall valuation in the county again skyrocketing, mainly due to agricultural property values that were up by more than 20 percent from the prior year.
The valuation in the Ainsworth school district rose from $655 million to $806 million, an approximately 23 percent jump.
Had the school district opted to keep the property tax asking the same as the 2015-16 school year, the levy rate would have dropped to just under 78 cents per $100 in value.
The current school aid formula utilized by the Nebraska Legislature has resulted in state assistance for education to the Ainsworth district dropping from $1.71 million during the 2010-11 school year to zero for the 2016-17 year.
This will be the first year under the formula where Ainsworth Community Schools receives absolutely no funding assistance through the TEEOSA formula, though it is the third straight year with state funding assistance of less than $48,000.
“There was a piece in the formula that provided us a little in sales tax dollars, but that went away for this year,” Peterson said.
That meager sales tax portion had returned $33,266 to the district in the 2014-15 year, and $47,819 in the 2015-16 year. The last year the district received anything significant relating to state assistance was back in 2013-14, when $356,086 was returned to the school through the state aid formula.
Peterson said the $9.3 million budget provides for a cash reserve of approximately 23 percent.
Just because that dollar amount is budgeted does not mean that many dollars will be spent.
For example, during the 2015-16 school year, the district adopted a budget of $9.29 million, but spent a total of $7.38 million, including the money toward the bond funds. In the 2014-15 school year, the district budgeted $9.05 million, and spent $8.37 million. A large portion of the spending difference between those two years was a bond payment in 2014-15 that was more than $1 million higher than the payment made in 2015-16.
No one spoke in opposition to the budget, nor questioned any of the spending line items, during Monday’s special meeting.
Following the public hearings, the board adopted the 2016-17 budget and the property tax request.
The only other action item Monday was the passage of the second reading of a policy regarding staff members being prohibited from assisting anyone in finding a job who had been convicted of sexual assault of a child.
During her report, elementary principal Sarah Williams said Roni Daniels is spearheading the backpack food program this year, which provides supplemental food during the weekend to families who qualify. Williams said Al Steuter with the Brown County Foundation has been key in assisting with raising funding for the backpack program.
Secondary principal Bill Lentz said he has shared his expectation for behavior with the high school students and staff, and the district is emphasizing the concept of respectfulness.
He said there would not be a ninth period or Saturday school this year, as Lentz reported he did not believe those methods were effective. Instead, he is asking teachers to work directly with students before and after school who need additional help.
During his report, Peterson said the district has been serving local beef through the school lunch program. He said they have already gone through one animal and were starting on a second.
“It will take about eight to get us through the full year,” the superintendent said. “We currently have four animals that have been donated.”
He said there would be an event, likely during homecoming week, to recognize those supporting the local beef in school lunch program.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 10.
* Department of Roads plans 9 projects for 2017 in District 8
(Posted 9:30 a.m. July 11)
Nebraska Department of Roads Director Kyle Schneweis released the fiscal year 2017 Surface Transportation Program, which details how the NDOR plans to use highway user dollars to provide the best state highway system possible for all Nebraskans and the traveling public.
The 2017 State Highway System Program is published at $520 million and is funded from state and federal highway user taxes and fees.
Ninety-five projects will be let to contract on the State Highway System during fiscal year
2017, which runs July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017.
There are nine projects on the 2017 highway plan for District 8, which encompasses north central Nebraska. Seven of those nine projects include resurfacing, with the other two slated for micro-surfacing.
Milling, resurfacing work and bridge repairs are scheduled for 6.3 miles of Highway 7 from the Calamus River north in Brown County at an estimated cost of just under $2 million.
An additional 12.3 miles of Highway 7 milling and resurfacing work is planned for Highway 7 north of the first project at a cost of $3.2 million.
An 8-mile stretch of Highway 12 from Springview west in Keya Paha County is scheduled for milling and resurfacing work at an estimated cost of $3.3 million.
More than 25 miles of Highway 61 in Cherry County is scheduled for micro-surfacing work at a cost of $1.5 million. There is a 7.8-mile stretch of Highway 83 between Thedford and Valentine scheduled for milling and resurfacing work at a cost of $3.2 million.
The other District 8 projects are planned for Highway 91 in Loup County, Highway 91 in Garfield County, Highway 183 in Loup County and Highway 281 in Boyd County.
The nine projects planned in District 8 for 2017 carry a total estimated cost of $29.2 million.
Numerous projects are included on the Department of Roads’ five-year plan, including:
NDOR Five-Year Plan
Blaine County from Brewster north – 8.4 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.6 million.
Brown County in the Ainsworth area – Micro-surfacing, $2.3 million.
Brown County in Ainsworth and south – 7.2 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.8 million.
Rock County from the Niobrara River south – 5.3 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.1 million.
Keya Paha County from the Niobrara River north – 4.7 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2 million.
Brown County in Ainsworth – 1.3 miles of concrete paving, $4.8 million.
Brown County near Willow Creek – Culvert repair, $600,000.
Brown County near Long Pine Creek – Bridge rehabilitation, $870,000.
Rock County – Micro-surfacing, $2.3 million.
Cherry County in Valentine – Micro-surfacing work, $4.3 million.
Cherry County from Merriman west – Micro-surfacing, $900,000.
Cherry County from Eli to Nenzel – Micro-surfacing, $1.7 million.
Holt County in O’Neill – Joint repair and grinding, $390,000.
Rock County from Rose south – 6 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.6 million.
Rock County from Rose north – Micro-surfacing, $1.8 million.
Rock County from Bassett south – 10.1 miles of resurfacing, $3.7 million.
Keya Paha County north and south of Springview – Micro-surfacing, $890,000.
Keya Paha County from the Niobrara River north – 4.3 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.1 million.
Keya Paha County from the Highway 12 junction north to the South Dakota line – 7.1 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.9 million
Loup County north and south of Taylor – Micro-surfacing, $1.5 million.
Rock County from Newport north – Resurfacing, $4.5 million.
Keya Paha County from the Niobrara River north – 9.7 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.3 million.
Keya Paha County from the Keya Paha River to the South Dakota line – 6.5 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $3.5 million.
Cherry County at the Minnechaduza Creek – Bridge project, $1.5 million.
Cherry County from Sparks east – 3.5 miles of milling and resurfacing, $1.5 million.
Keya Paha County east and west of Burton – 9.4 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge work, $4.5 milion.
Boyd County near Bristow – Culvert repair, $1.1 million.
Boyd County from Lynch to Monowi – 8.6 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $3.2 million.
Holt County from Amelia north – 6.4 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $3.2 million.
Holt County north and south of Holt Creek – 8.5 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3 million.
Holt County from Atkinson south – 6.1 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $2.8 million.
Holt County from Brush Creek to the Niobrara River – 4.8 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.2 million.
Boyd County from the Niobrara River to Butte – 5.2 miles of resurfacing, $1.9 million.
Boyd County from Butte north – 7.3 miles of resurfacing, $2.5 million.
Blaine County from Brewster east – 9.6 miles of milling and resurfacing, $4.7 million.
Loup County from the Blaine County line east – 6.3 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.5 million.
There are additional District 8 projects in the five-year plan for Highway 61 in Cherry County, Highway 83 in Cherry County, Highway 96 in Loup and Garfield counties, and Highway 281 in Holt County.
The projects on the District 8 five-year plan total $144 million.
The state received $246 million from motor fuel taxes, $119 million for transportation funding from motor vehicle sales taxes, and $43 million from motor vehicle registration taxes.
The Transportation Innovation Act, passed by the Nebraska Legislature in 2016, will also begin providing revenue for the Department of Roads. An estimated $58.5 million in roads revenue is projected for the 2017 fiscal year.