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

* Thomas William Kaup, 85, of Stuart 10:30 a.m. Nov. 24

* Richard F. "Dick" Tracy, 68, of Bassett 3 p.m. Nov. 22

* Patty Joan Fales, 68, of Bassett 2 p.m. Nov. 22

* Frances Kramer, 91, of Stuart 10:30 a.m. Nov. 22

* Marion Fox, 94, of Bassett 10:30 a.m. Nov. 21

* Meeting reports located below for:

Nov. 18 Brown County Commissioners

Nov. 12 Ainsworth City Council

Nov. 10 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

Nov. 6 Brown County Commissioners

Nov. 4 General Election Results

* Atkinson receives Rural Development assistance for wastewater plant

(Posted 3:45 p.m. Nov. 20)

City of Atkinson officials, residents and USDA Rural Development State Director Maxine Moul toured the city’s new lift station and mechanical treatment plant on Thursday.
“This project not only ensures quality drinking water but also makes sure sanitary water conditions meet regulatory requirements,” Moul said.
Atkinson Mayor Paul Corkle said, “Due to the change in regulations, the Wastewater Treatment Plant did not meet compliance.  We are grateful to USDA for the grant/loan to build the new Wastewater Treatment Plant.”
Rural Development funds of more than $2.6 million and grant funds of $1 million were used to correct inadequacies with the city’s current wastewater disposal system by constructing a new lift station and mechanical treatment plant. The existing system outlived its design life and was anticipated to exceed E. Coli and ammonia limits in the proposed 2012 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
The project was funded through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program of the USDA Rural Development.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 11:30 a.m. Nov. 20)

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

Frederick E. Macvaugh, age 43, of Benbrook, Texas, charged with speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, fined $25.

Brandon J. Clark, 32, of Valentine, driving under suspension, $100.

Christopher J. Burlison, 21, of Ainsworth, driving under suspension, $100.

Raymond M. Davis, 81, of Merriman, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Joshua D. Hobson, 34, of Eldora, Iowa, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Robert L. Robertson, 45, of Cameron, Mo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Calvin G. Roth, 71, of Succasunna, N.J., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Joshua D. Miller, 30, of Pingree Grove, Ill., two counts of possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, fined $300 on each count; also charged with possession or use of drug paraphernalia, $300.

Cody M. Doyle, 23, of Johnstown, careless driving, $100; also charged with operating a mini-bike on a state highway, $500.

Bradley W. Kelly, 16, of Ainsworth, negligent driving, $50; also charged with first offense littering, $100.

Nicholas Hoff, 28, of Ainsworth, disturbing the peace, $300.

Joyce A. McArthur Johnson, 58, of Omaha, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Benny L. Painter, 48, of Springview, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Scott A. Finley, 40, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $75.

Susan A. Ware, 53, of Las Vegas, Nev., first offense reckless driving, $200; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $400.

Kenneth E. Frederick, 17, of Falls City, no small game or fur harvest permit, fined $150 and ordered to pay $200 in liquidation fees; also charged with being over the bag limit on fish or small game, $200.

Michael T. Gross, 48, of Ravenna, three counts of being overweight on an axle or group of axles, fined a total of $175 on the three counts.

Bryan R. Niehoff, 37, of Pierre, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Dorothy A. Schuyler, 68, of Hamill, S.D., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Brandon S. Collins, 24, of Sioux City, Iowa, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Mark A. Bush, 56, of Scotland, S.D., commercial vehicle log book violation, $75; defective signal equipment, $25; driving a commercial vehicle without a commercial license, $100.

Scott M. Fuelberth, 19, of Ainsworth, careless driving, $100.

Hal Douglas Thorlakson, 35, of Wishek, N.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; no operator’s license, $75.

Brian Hughbanks, 30, of Ainsworth, dog running at large, $25.

David E. Cheatum of Long Pine, no vehicle title, $100.

Ryan Fleischman of Springview, no proof of insurance, $100.

Steven A. Piehl of Alda, domestic assault/intent to cause bodily injury, $250; also charged with driving under suspension, $100.

Thomas J. Pofahl, 61, of Thedford, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for four days served, driver’s license revoked for six months, ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Karsyn L. Irwin, 16, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Dean A. McDaniel, 81, of Johnstown, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Trevor Modaff, 19, of Ainsworth, dogs running at large, $25; also charged with failing to license a dog or cat, $25.

Vance M. Bennett, 58, of Elgin, Ill., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Monica R. Bristow, 44, of Valentine, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Michael K. Keck of Ainsworth, second offense driving under the influence, blood alcohol content of 0.15 or greater, $1,000, also sentenced to 90 days in jail with credit for two days served, driver’s license revoked for one year, ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Clint J. Ruegge, 18, of Johnstown, careless driving, fined $100 and ordered to pay $90 in restitution.

Joshua L. Zeigler, 20, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Jason M. Witt, 34, of Burke, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Marc A. Gentele, 27, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Robert P. Malone, 42, of Ainsworth, no registration, $25; no proof of insurance, $100.

Agnes D. Blake, 82, of Bassett, driving left of center, $25; driving on the shoulder of a highway, $25.

* Both AHS Mock Trial teams victorious Wednesday

(Posted 2 p.m. Nov. 19)

The Ainsworth Mock Trial teams were both victorious Wednesday during preliminary-round competition at O'Neill.

The Ainsworth Red team portrayed the defense in the case of the State of Nebraska v. Gail Gardener, who stands accused of 1st degree murder and 1st degree arson. The Red team was victorious over the Loup County squad, which handled the prosecution.

Members of the Red Team are sophomores Jack Arens, Emma Good, and Vanessa Taylor; and freshmen McKenna Erthum, Cassidy Gilliland, Marley Murphy, Jacob Sinsel and Kayla Witt.

The Ainsworth Blue team also represented the defense Wednesday, defeating the prosecuting team from Stuart High School.

Members of the AHS Blue Team are seniors Arianna Fletcher, Kirsten Gilliland, Nathaniel Goodloe, Sabree Porter, Shea Sinsel, and Maikayla Weiss; and juniors Hayes Chohon and Heather Martin.

The defendant allegedly burned down his Gardener’s Garden Gnome Factory in order to collect insurance, and the factory’s janitor, Cliff Stanley, was in the building at the time of the fire.  Stanley perished as a result of injuries he sustained in the fire.

The Ainsworth teams both advanced to the district finals, which are scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 25, and will compete against each other for a berth in the Mock Trial State Championships.

* Lions Club Christmas party scheduled for Dec. 9

(Posted 2 p.m. Nov. 19)

The Ainsworth Lions Club held its regular monthly meeting Monday in the Golden Steer, and set Tuesday, Dec. 9, as the date for the club’s annual Christmas party.

Due to club member conflicts with the originally scheduled date of Monday, Dec. 15, for the Family Christmas Party, the event was re-scheduled to Tuesday, Dec. 9.

The board approved donating $300 to the Ainsworth Food Pantry as a Christmas gift from the Lions Club.

A “thank you” note was received from Jacob Nordhues, a student at Southern College of Optometry.  Last spring the Lions Club provided financial assistance for him and other students on a trip to Mexico to provide free eye exams and glasses to over 1200 patients.

The Lions Club provides a Lions Club shirt to each new member to the club. Options were reviewed regarding the purchase of the shirts, either to purchase shirts from a local vendor as new members are initiated into the club or to purchase a larger amount to have shirts on hand. After discussion, the board approved purchasing shirts as needed from a local vendor.

President Pat Jones asked for suggestions for a member to serve as 2nd Vice-President for this year.  She will follow up on names suggested. 

Todd Mundhenke advised the club that some of the equipment stored in the back of the agency had been removed for cleaning due to the theater fire. Consumable supplies had to be thrown away. He said he will schedule a cleaning session in the spring prior to the All-Sports Tailgate Party to clean the remaining equipment.

Steve Hapner was presented with a 20-year membership certificate from Lions International, along with an appreciation certificate from the Ainsworth Lions Club.  

Lions Club International presented the club with a Membership Growth Award for 2013-14. Lions Club International has authorized a membership drive for U. S. Veterans, with a reduced membership fee for the first year. Lions Club members are encouraged to invite a veteran to a club meeting or activity this year. Lions Club International also is promoting a World-wide Lions Club Week of Service Jan. 10-16.  Suggestions for an activity may be given to President Jones.

Lions Club members are reminded that the Lions Club Fall Rally is scheduled for Grand Island on Nov. 21-23. Information is available in the November issue of the Nebraska Lion.

* August taxable sales slip in Brown County, vehicle sales rise

(Posted 12:45 p.m. Nov. 19)

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of August 2014 and August 2013 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

County
or City

2014
Net Taxable
Sales

2013
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2014
Sales Tax
5.5%

2013
Sales Tax
5.5%

Boyd

874,707

846,846

3.3

48,108.99

46,576.63

Brown

3,123,426

3,170,647

(1.5)

171,788.62

174,385.79

Ainsworth

2,927,836

3,027,212

(3.3)

161,031.16

166,496.84

Cherry

6,916,389

6,968,219

(0.7)

380,401.69

383,252.40

Valentine

6,695,433

6,762,443

(1.0)

368,249.08

371,934.66

Custer

9,201,847

9,250,677

(0.5)

506,102.17

508,787.79

Broken Bow

7,476,431

7,456,813

0.3

411,204.01

410,125.05

Holt

11,050,470

10,957,124

0.9

605,586.34

602,642.57

Atkinson

2,402,069

2,137,796

12.4

129,923.75

117,578.98

O'Neill

7,132,763

7,073,039

0.8

392,302.28

389,017.52

Keya Paha

268,639

225,448

19.2

14,775.17

12,399.67

Rock

895,031

1,213,846

(26.3)

49,226.76

66,761.59

Valley

4,271,812

4,209,878

1.5

234,949.93

231,543.50

Ord

3,637,038

3,389,849

7.3

200,037.31

186,441.88

State Total

$2,415,308,226

$2,312,612,621

4.4

$134,461,223.17

$127,268,499.45

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of August 2014 and August 2013
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

County
or City

2014
Net Taxable
Sales

2013
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2014
Sales Tax
5.5%

2013
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

139,345

139,602

(0.2)

7,599.20

7,635.97

Boyd

604,354

463,591

30.4

33,281.74

25,504.21

Brown

969,319

605,307

60.1

53,688.04

33,526.37

Cherry

1,367,811

1,108,422

23.4

75,665.61

61,312.81

Custer

2,549,472

2,492,747

2.3

141,099.42

137,870.66

Holt

$2,675,273

$2,631,477

1.7

$147,816.17

$145,589.02

Keya Paha

340,445

263,152

29.4

18,766.33

14,534.12

Loup

295,347

148,150

99.4

16,250.96

8,101.74

Rock

653,907

497,019

31.6

36,020.02

27,366.22

Valley

794,915

1,228,454

(35.3)

43,990.16

67,945.19

State Total

$359,538,346

$343,788,276

4.6

$19,934,999.06

$18,997,368.45

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 9 a.m. Nov. 19)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred on Tuesday, Nov. 18, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 3:35 p.m. Tuesday at the Ainsworth High School west parking lot, a collision occurred between a 1994 Chrysler sedan, driven by Jami Haskell, 17, of Ainsworth, and a 2009 Ford SUV, driven by Evyn Sharkey, 17, of Ainsworth. Icy conditions were a factor in the collision.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chrysler was estimated at $1,500. The Ford sustained approximately $1,500 damage.

* Commissioners hear road access dispute

(Posted 3 p.m. Nov. 18)

A road access issue between neighboring property owners in northern Brown County again found its way in front of the Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday.

After the disputing parties were directed during the Sept. 16 board meeting to try and resolve the issue privately, attorney Todd Flynn representing landowners Dave and Jane Duffield said no progress had been made in gaining access to their property.

“Historically, for more than 40 years, the Duffields have been able to access their property from the county road north of Keller State Park,” Flynn said. “Mr. (Lanny) Billings built across a county road that has not been vacated. The Duffields are amenable to working something out as long as they can get access to their property.”

Attorney Tom Hockabout of Norfolk, representing Billings, said, while his client would like to have the road abandoned, the best option may be to find an agreement that satisfies all parties.

“I would like to know if there is a survey that shows the house was actually built on the county road,” Hockabout said.

Commissioner Buddy Small said the garage attached to the house is the structure that was built across the road.

“I have never considered vacating any part of that road,” Small said. “My preference would be to let the two parties figure something out that works for everyone involved.”

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said he would prefer an agreement to be worked out privately.

“We are trying not to have to require that the garage be removed from the current road,” Wiebelhaus said.

County Attorney David Streich said the county was within it rights to take a hardline stance requiring the structure to be removed.

“We don’t want to have to take that drastic action if access can be obtained by the few landowners who currently use the road,” Streich said.

The road in question is officially listed as the Teal Road by the county.

Both attorneys requested 15 minutes outside the room to discuss the matter. Following that meeting, Flynn requested the issue be placed back on the Dec. 2 commissioner agenda to allow the two parties more time to privately reach an agreement.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the board heard a presentation from Adam Olson with Reiser Insurance Group regarding the county’s health insurance policy.

Olson said, by switching from the county’s current Blue Cross/Blue Shield policy to a CoOpportunity Insurance policy, the county would save $60,000 in premiums while providing employees with lower out-of-pocket expenses for deductibles and co-insurance.

“The CoOpportunity policy also removes the deductible buy-down you currently have with Blue Cross/Blue Shield,” Olson said.

North Central Insurance representative Judy Densberger, who is also an agent for CoOpportunity Insurance, agreed the policy looked like a better option for the county than its current policy.

“We have not written any group policies with CoOpportunity, but it has worked well for the individuals we have had on that plan,” Densberger said.

Olson said the premiums were the same no matter if the county went through Reiser Insurance Group, the local agent, or through the Nebraska Association of County Officials, which also offers the CoOpportunity policy.

Small said, initially, he was not inclined to leave Blue Cross/Blue Shield, but after listening the way the policy works, the decision became a no-brainer.

Olson said there was less risk exposure for the county than its current plan, since it would remove the deductible buy-down and keep the county from having to fund a gap from the current $600 employee deductible to the $2,500 deductible rate the county opted for with Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

“This policy removes that deductible buy-down, and still saves you $60,000 on the premiums,” Olson said.

The board placed the item on its Dec. 2 agenda to make a decision on the county’s insurance provider.

In other business Tuesday, the board approved a $600 contract with Marvin Planning Consultants of David City to prepare an Energy Element to add to the county’s comprehensive plan, as required by state statute.

Brown County Zoning Administrator Dean Jochem said the legislation requiring the energy component to a county’s comprehensive plan was passed in 2010, but most counties largely ignored the component because they did not know what it should entail.

“It now has to be implemented by Jan. 1, or our comprehensive plan could be found to be out of compliance,” Jochem said. “I don’t expect this ever to be used other than it makes sure our comprehensive plan stays legal.”

Jochem said the plan prepared by Marvin Planning Consultants would be the same as has been adopted by numerous other counties.

Streich said the plan was boiler plate.

“We will be the same as several other counties,” Streich said. “It is much more efficient to just go with this $600 contract than the time and effort it would take to try and create our own plan. If, for some reason, this plan is not acceptable for the state, it won’t be acceptable for the other 20 to 30 counties that have adopted this same plan.”

In the only other action items Tuesday, the board approved sending a letter to National Insurance that changes the worked hours to qualify for long-term disability insurance from 20 hours per week to 35 hours per week.

Wiebelhaus said the change makes the long-term disability policy coincide with the requirements of the rest of the county’s employee handbook. The change does not impact the county’s long-term disability insurance rate.

The board, acting upon a recommendation from budget consultant Pete Peterson, approved a transfer from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the election fund in the amount of $2,500, a transfer of $7,100 from the miscellaneous general fund to the county clerk’s fund, and $4,150 from the miscellaneous general fund to the clerk of the district court fund.

Small said the transfers were recommended by the county’s budget consultant, and were necessary due to under-budgeting by the previous county clerk.

Wiebelhaus said the county included the additional funds in the miscellaneous general fund line item in the budget to be able to make the correction following the new county clerk taking office.

The board also approved an amended resolution setting the expiration dates for terms on the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees.

The terms of trustees John Gross and Mike Schrad expire Dec. 31, 2016. The terms of Ann Fiala and Ryan Welke expire at the end of 2018, and the term of the recently re-appointed Board Chair Mike Kreycik expires Dec. 31, 2020.

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

* Weather limits deer success opening weekend

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

The wintry weather conditions during the weekend limited hunter success for the opening of the firearm deer season.
However, for those hunters braving the elements, there were some large, mature bucks that were taken, and the deer remain in the midst of the annual rut, according to Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Wildlife Biologist Ben Rutten.
To hear the full report on the opening weekend of the firearm deer season, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Deer Season Update w Ben Rutten.mp3

* Heineman discusses economy on KBRB

(Posted 8:30 a.m. Nov. 17)

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman visited with KBRB's Graig Kinzie Thursday on the economic outlook in the state with low commodity prices and high cattle prices. Heineman also discussed his testimony in front of the Nebraska Legislature's Judiciary Committee on the early release of numerous inmates from the Nebraska Penitentiary.
To hear the report with Nebraska's governor, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/Gov Dave Heineman 11-13 economic forecasts.mp3

audio clips/Gov Dave Heineman 11-13 prison reform.mp3

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

(Posted 8 a.m. Nov. 17)

The Brown County Sheriff's Department, through funding by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, will participate in the national “Click It or Ticket” campaign Nov. 24-30.

The campaign is designed to increase public awareness about the importance of wearing seat belts every time a person enters a vehicle.

The sheriff’s department is joining with other state and local law enforcement officers and highway safety advocates to help save lives by strongly enforcing seat belt laws, especially at night.

While this year’s “Click It or Ticket” enforcement runs from Nov. 24-30, motorists should be aware the sheriff’s department enforces seat belt laws year round.

The national “Click It or Ticket” mobilizations have increased seat belt usage and saved many lives during the years, but there is more that can be done. High-visibility enforcement and encouraging everyone in the vehicle to buckle up can turn thousands of lives lost into lives saved.

“Motorists should buckle up every time they go out, both day and night, whether it is a short drive across town or a drive across the country,” Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein said.

Papstein thanked everyone for doing their part to make roadways safer by always wearing a seat belt and make sure everyone in the vehicle is buckled up at all times.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 7 a.m. Nov. 17)

Nov. 9

* Responded to a report of suspicious activity in Long Pine.

* Investigated reports of a subject lying in the ditch on the West Side of Ainsworth.

* Received a report of the possible theft of money from a residence in Ainsworth.

* Took an individual into Emergency Protective Custody and transported the individual to Faith Regional in Norfolk.

* Responded to a report of children riding a small motorcycle and possibly playing with guns on Dawes St Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of a domestic disturbance in Ainsworth. A subject was arrested & booked into the Brown Co Jail for Domestic Assault 3rd Degree.

* Received a dog at large complaint on East 1st St Ainsworth.

* Assisted an individual with a report of a reckless driver in Long Pine.

* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a cornfield on fire South and West of Ainsworth.

* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a possible electrical fire at a residence on East 1st St. Ainsworth. The Brown Co Ambulance responded for standby.

 

Nov. 10

* Assisted an individual with a report of a phone scam that occurred in Ainsworth.

* Investigated a report of a dog that was shot in Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of a cow out on Hwy 183 North of the Hwy 20 junction.

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

* Responded to a report of a stray dog at a business on Main St. Ainsworth. The dog was transported to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic, where its owner claimed it.

 

Nov. 11

* Responded to a report of a US flag down on Hwy 20 near Richardson Dr. in Ainsworth.

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

* Received a report of a security alarm going off at a rural Brown Co residence.

* Assisted individuals with reports of a phone scam going around in Brown Co.

* Received a report of a lost dog in Ainsworth.

 

Nov. 12

* Received a report of possible child neglect in Ainsworth.

* Investigated a report of possible animal neglect on Elm St Ainsworth.

* Provided a welfare on an individual in Long Pine.

 

Nov. 13

* Provided traffic control for 600 head of cattle crossing Hwy 20 West of Ainsworth.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to Good Samaritan in Kearney.

 

Nov. 14

* Assisted a subject with a stray dog found in rural Brown Co. The dog was transported to the Ainsworth Vet Clinic.

* Investigated a report of possible animal neglect on East 3rd St. Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of suspicious activity at a business in Ainsworth.

* Arrested a subject for driving under the influence and booked them into the Brown Co Jail.

 

Nov. 15

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a residence on North Osborne St to the Brown Co Hospital.

* Assisted an individual with a report of vandalism to a phone box in an alley off Dawes St Ainsworth. This caused an outage of phone & cable services on the Southeast part of Ainsworth.

* Received a report of a broken fire hydrant on Main & 3rd St Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of 3 dogs chasing cattle from a shelterbelt Northeast of Ainsworth.

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued a burn permit to individuals burning West & North of Long Pine.

* Responded to a report of possible animal neglect on West Dawes St Ainsworth.

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued a burn permit to individuals burning South of Long Pine.

* Responded to a report of an unwanted subject at a residence on West 2nd St Ainsworth.

* Assisted an individual with information on a phone scam that occurred in Ainsworth.

 

Weekly Summary

0 - Crime Stopper call received.

1 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

0 - Handgun permits were issued

24 - Incidents Reports were taken.

1 - Paper Service was served. (Includes: 1 – Summons)

151 - Phone calls were received.

6 - 911 emergency calls received.

6 - Titles were inspected.

1 - Traffic Citations were issued.

2 - Warnings were issued.  (These include written and verbal.)

* Council identifies 21 properties for nuisance abatement

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 12)

Twenty-one property owners in the southeast quadrant of the city of Ainsworth will receive notice that the declared nuisances on their property will be abated by the city and charged back to the property owner if not remedied by March 31 of next year.

The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday approved a recommendation from Nuisance Abatement Officer Judy Peterson to remove 18 properties from the list of declared nuisances after those property owners took care of the nuisances that were listed by the abatement officer.

Peterson said another 21 property owners did not sufficiently remove the nuisance violation from their property.

“This process gives the city the right to abate the nuisance and charge the cost of doing so back to the property owner,” Peterson said. “If that charge is not paid, it is then assessed to the property.”

Some of the violations were due to unlicensed vehicles and trailers or vehicles and trailers with expired licenses. The council suggested those vehicles be turned over to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department to enforce.

“I agree with the process, but I think we need to tread lightly when we talk about going onto someone’s property,” Councilman Chuck Osborn said.

Councilman Kent Taylor said the property owners had been given plenty of time to clean up the problem.

“I don’t have any sympathy for 99 percent of these,” Taylor said.

With two or three of the nuisances that showed dilapidated and uninhabitable homes, the council indicated an interest to have the city’s Board of Health inspect the homes and determine whether they should be condemned instead of simply going onto the property to board up broken windows and doors of places that have obviously been empty for some time.

With winter approaching and the city likely being unable to find contractors to abate the nuisances during those months, the council set a deadline of March 31 to give property owners one final chance to abate the violation prior to the city taking action to have the violation removed.

The 21 parcel owners identified by the nuisance abatement officer as having continued violations of the code will be sent certified letters, informing them of the March 31 deadline and the plans of the city to abate the nuisance and charge the property owner for the cost of doing so.

The southeast quadrant of the city from Elm Street east and from Highway 20 south was the first to receive the nuisance inspections. The remaining three quadrants in the city will be inspected as well, one each year.

The council indicated an interest to begin the inspection process earlier in 2015 to keep from having the process reach the abatement stage right as winter hits.

In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, the council approved a $200,000 loan from the LB 840 program to the North Central Development Center’s Housing Committee for continued housing development in the city.

The Housing Committee has recently cleared three properties on North Osborne Street and is constructing a single-family home at the location. It will be the fourth new home in Ainsworth built as a result of the program.

“With these funds, it will allow us to finish one project while not having to completely stop until that project is finished,” NCDC Director Kristin Olson told the council. “We are also finding it is tough to get a project completed for $150,000.”

The Housing Committee initially received a $150,000 loan from the city to improve the housing situation in the community.

Olson said the home being constructed on North Osborne Street will be 1,600 square feet, and include three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Olson said, with the first three homes built, along with the completion of the fourth home and the construction of a commercial property on a fifth site obtained and cleared by the Housing Committee, the valuation increase for the city from the new properties will approach $1 million.

Taylor said he was encouraged by the work of the housing group, the dilapidated homes that have been cleared and the projects that have been completed.

The committee identifies and acquires property, clears any dilapidated structures, constructs a new house and then sells the home at a break-even cost. In two instances, the committee has sold the cleared lots and the purchaser of the lots has constructed the home.

The council also approved $60,000 in LB 840 funds to be used for the recruitment of professionals to the community.

Larry Rice said the funding was identified for recruitment efforts through the original Nebraska Community Improvement Program committee needs assessment.

“We are matching this program with state funds,” Rice said. “We successfully used past money to recruit one medical professional to the community.”

With the $260,000 in funding allocated Wednesday, the LB 840 fund has approximately $160,000 still available. There is an additional $273,362 in the Community Development Block Grant re-use fund available to loan for business projects.

The council approved a $4,000 allocation from ABC sales tax funds to the Ainsworth Elementary Backpack program following a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee.

Rice, the committee chairman, said there was discussion in the committee on whether the backpack program, which provides students in need with a backpack of food for weekends, was a program that fit the original design of the ABC program.

“There was discussion on whether a program like this should be funded by donations, churches and other sources,” Rice said.

Program coordinator Pam Bauer said the program costs about $10 per student per week to supply that student one week with things they can prepare themselves and the next week with things the family can prepare together.

“There are 16 students who have qualified and signed up for the program,” Bauer said. “The evaluations have come back showing the program is very helpful for these families, especially at the end of the month.”

Councilwoman Deb Hurless said she felt the program was a good use of the ABC funds.

City Administrator Kristi Thornburg said the ABC program receives about $60,000 in funding annually from an allocation of 20 percent of the original 1 percent sales tax that was implemented in the city.

In other action items Wednesday, the council:

* Approved a franchise agreement with the Nebraska Public Power District to operate and maintain all electric light and power systems in the city.

* Approved the purchase of two desktop computers and one laptop computer for city personnel.

* Authorized Osborn and Councilman Jake Adkisson to meet with the mayor and city administrator to compare quotes and secure a health insurance policy for the city’s employees prior to the Dec. 1 expiration of the city’s current insurance policy.

* Approved a request from the village of Johnstown to terminate the agreement with the city for garbage pickup services effective Dec. 1. Thornburg said Johnstown purchased a garbage truck and plans to pick up its own garbage.

* Approved the consent agenda, which included the reappointment of Mike Kreycik and Rick Goochey to the Ainsworth Planning Commission for three-year terms, and the reappointment of Tony Allen to the Ainsworth Cemetery Board for a three-year term.

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

* School Board approves $79,500 bleacher purchase

(Posted 9:45 p.m. Nov. 10)

East City Park will receive a new set of bleachers on the home side of the football field following the Ainsworth Board of Education’s approval Monday of a $79,500 bid from a Colorado company.

In an item added to Monday’s agenda, Superintendent Darrell Peterson said a board committee has looked at several different options to replace the current bleachers, which do not meet ADA requirements and have been flagged by the school’s insurance provider as a potential safety and liability issue.

Peterson said the new bleachers would bring everything up to code for handicap accessibility and would ease safety concerns by eliminating the gaps between rows.

Board President Mark Johnson said he believed replacing the bleachers was the best option for the district as opposed to trying to modify the current bleachers.

“We have some money set aside to take care of some of the cost,” Johnson said.

Board member Jim Arens said potential liability was an issue for the committee looking at the bleacher replacement.

“If there was a problem that occurred after we have already talked about the potential safety issue, it would open us up to a lawsuit and we would spend this much or more on legal fees,” Arens said.

Board member Scott Erthum said the bleacher replacement was a one-time capital expense.

“This is not a recurring cost,” Erthum said. “The same bleachers have been there for as long as I can remember. It is hard for people to get up and down them, and they are not ADA compliant.”

Board member Brad Wilkins said, while the new bleachers would be an improvement, he felt the money could be better used to improve facilities that are more utilized by the district.

“There are only 13 events out there each year between all the football games and the track meets,” Wilkins said.

By a 5-1 vote, with Wilkins against, the board approved a $79,500 bid from DGJD Inc. of Colorado for new I-beam bleachers that would seat 400 people.

A second bid for new bleachers from a different company in the amount of $105,000 was rejected.

In other business during Monday’s meeting, the board gave Elementary Principal Sarah Williams permission to proceed with a federal 21st Century Learning Grant application with assistance from the North Central Development Center.

Williams said the federal grant of $50,000 or more annually for five years would provide after school and summer learning activities for kindergarten through sixth grade students.

“These are competitive grants,” Williams said. “The grant would provide extensive learning opportunities after school and during the summer for these kids.”

Williams said she will work with Kristin Olson of the NCDC on the grant, as Olson has the expertise in writing federal grant applications.

“It is a five-year grant that is due Feb. 1,” Williams said. “After five years, you can reapply for funding, but the program is intended for the district to fund it long-term.”

Olson said there was $2 million available in the current round of 21st Century Learning funds.

“This grant is a great opportunity to increase partnerships with the school on experience-oriented programming,” Olson said.

Peterson said the grant fully funds the program for three years, then provides 80 percent funding in the fourth year and 60 percent funding in the fifth year before transferring the financial responsibility to the school district to continue operations.

“We didn’t want to move forward with starting this extensive application process without a sense from the board that it approved of the program,” Peterson said. “It will take additional personnel to run the program, and we will have to decide if we are going to offer transportation to rural, Long Pine and Johnstown students if the grant is awarded.”

Arens asked Williams if she had estimated how many students might participate in the after school and summer programming.

Williams said there was no way to tell for sure, but there is data going back for 12 years that shows participation levels for schools similar in size to Ainsworth.

“This program has worked in communities our size and smaller,” Williams said. “O’Neill was one of the original grant recipients for this program in Nebraska.”

The board unanimously gave its approval to proceed with the grant application. Peterson said the board would have the option of moving forward with the program once the grant was completed.

The board also unanimously renewed the district’s annual contract for service with the North Central Development Center in the amount of $10,000.

“I am pleased with the contract and with the work done for us by the NCDC,” Peterson said.

Social studies teacher Jeff Konkoleski presented the board with information on the Google Classroom program he has implemented in his government, geography, history and psychology classrooms.

Konkoleski said the free service is a great tool for the high school students who now all have laptop computers and Google accounts.

“This removes pencil and paper assignments in many instances,” Konkoleski said. “I can grade the assignments right on the computers, I can send messages to students, make corrections to their assignments and give them notes on why they missed a certain question.”

Konkoleski said the program made it much easier to monitor which students were having problems turning in assignments on time.

“It really helps kids who miss a class with an illness or an activity,” Konkoleski said. “There is no way now for a student to lose their homework. It has saved me a lot of classroom time. I think we could eventually have this be a uniform program throughout the high school.”

Secondary Principal Rich Gilson said there were more functions being added all the time.

“Anything Google has available can be incorporated into the Classroom program,” Gilson said.

In other action items Monday, the board approved an option enrollment request submitted by Gerardo Morales of the Bassett area to allow his son Adrian to attend Ainsworth Community Schools for the 2015-16 school year. Peterson said Adrian would be a kindergarten student next year, and a younger sibling would attend Little Paws Preschool next year as well.

The board approved the second reading of a policy to remove out of date and unneeded health policies from the district’s policy book.

The board also approved an amended budget that took into account the district’s refinancing of its addition bonds. Peterson said the amendment did not change the property tax requested, but only accounted for the refinancing of the addition bonds to show the money in and money out of the budget.

During her report, Williams said 92 percent of elementary school parents attended parent-teacher conferences in October. Gilson said middle school parent-teacher conference participation was 65 percent, with high school conference participation at 46 percent of parents.

Gilson reported the school’s Veterans Day program would be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday in McAndrew Gymnasium. Troop support program boxes will again be placed to send items to military personnel.

Peterson reported the district’s health insurance premiums for the 2015-16 year would only increase by 1.9 percent, with no changes to the coverage, deductibles or out-of-pocket expenses.

Peterson provided a report on ACT, Nebraska Performance Accountability and Adequate Yearly Progress tests, and said the district began offering an ACT preparation course this year for interested students.

He said the class floats between different periods so the students involved don’t miss the same class all the time.

Gilson said 36 students were participating in the course.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 8.

* Ainsworth Mock Trial teams unbeaten in early competition

(Posted 9:30 a.m. Nov. 10)

The Ainsworth Mock Trial teams have begun competition in the 2014 season, arguing the case of the State of Nebraska v. Gail Gardener, who stands accused of 1st degree murder and 1st degree arson.

The defendant allegedly burned down his Gardener’s Garden Gnome Factory in order to collect insurance, and the factory’s janitor, Cliff Stanley, was in the building at the time of the fire.  Stanley perished as a result of injuries he sustained in the fire. 

On Oct. 22 in the Brown County Courtroom, the Ainsworth Blue Team defeated Loup County in a unanimous decision of the judges, who were attorneys Bill Quigley, Eric Scott and Andrew Johnson from Valentine. Members of the AHS Blue Team are seniors Arianna Fletcher, Kirsten Gilliland, Nathaniel Goodloe, Sabree Porter, Shea Sinsel, and Maikayla Weiss; and juniors Hayes Chohon and Heather Martin.

On Oct. 30 in the Holt County District Courtroom, the Ainsworth Red Team defeated Stuart in a unanimous decision of the judges, attorney Chris Wickham of Broken Bow, and Chere Hatfield and Garrett Schroeder of Ord.   Members of the Red Team are sophomores Jack Arens, Emma Good, and Vanessa Taylor; and freshmen McKenna Erthum, Cassidy Gilliland, Marley Murphy, Jacob Sinsel and Kayla Witt.

The Ainsworth teams will compete against each other at 11 a.m. Wednesday at O’Neill, with the Blue Team on the prosecution and the Red Team with the defense.

The final preliminary round will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 19, at O’Neill, with Loup County (prosecution) against Ainsworth Red (defense) at 9 am, and Stuart (prosecution) against Ainsworth Blue (defendant) at 11 a.m.

The final trial will be conducted between the two teams with the best records after preliminary competition.  The district final will be held at O’Neill Nov. 25 with the competition beginning at 9 a.m.

* Ainsworth Fire Department responds to 2 calls Sunday

(Posted 8:45 a.m. Nov. 10)

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was called out twice on Sunday, once to a report of a fire south of Ainsworth and once to a report of a smoke smell in an Ainsworth home.
At approximately 12:30 p.m. Sunday, a fire was reported in a cornfield south of Ainsworth owned by Greg Wilke on the west side of Highway 7.
According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, the fire was likely started by a combine that was picking the corn field. The fire burned a 100 yard by 100 yard area of unpicked corn.
There was no damage reported to the combine, owned by Scott Loeske of Columbus.
At 3:15 p.m., the fire department was summoned to a home at 1021 E. First St. owned by Rick Orvis.
Fiala said the homeowner reported smelling smoke. Upon investigation, firefighters found a loose fuse holder, which then heated up producing the smell. Minimal damage to the fuse box was reported.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 10)

Nov. 2

* Provided a welfare check on an individual parked on a county road East of Ainsworth.

* Provided traffic control for 60 head of cattle crossing Hwy 183 North of the Hwy 20 junction.

* Investigated a vehicle / deer accident on Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth. The Ainsworth Firemen & The Brown Co Ambulance responded to this accident.  3 individuals were transported to the Brown Co Hospital.

 

Nov. 3

* Responded to a report of a reckless driver on Meadville Ave. North of Ainsworth.

* Assisted the NE Game & Parks investigate a report of a possible sighting of a mountain lion South of Ainsworth.

* Responded to a noise complaint on North Main St Ainsworth.

* Provided traffic control for 300 head of cattle crossing Hwy 20 at Plum Creek West of Johnstown.

* Received a report of possible child neglect or abuse in Ainsworth.

* Received a report of possible child abuse in Ainsworth.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from South Main St. Ainsworth, to the Brown Co Hospital.

 

Nov. 4

* Responded to a report of suspicious activity at a business in Ainsworth.

 

Nov. 5

* Assisted an individual with a report of possible credit card fraud in Brown Co.

* Responded to a report of children running into Hwy 20 Ainsworth.

* Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a court ordered commitment for Driving Under the Influence.

 

Nov. 6

* Investigated a report of possible animal neglect in rural Brown Co.

* Provided traffic control for 70 head of cattle crossing Hwy 20 at the Norden Rd.

* Assisted a business with a report of a repossessed vehicle from a rural Brown Co residence.

* Removed an unwanted subject from a residence in Long Pine.

* Responded to a report of cattle out on Hwy 183 North of the Hwy 20 junction.

* Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a court ordered commitment for Driving Under the Influence.

 

Nov. 7

* Investigated a vehicle / calf accident on Meadville Ave. North of Ainsworth.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from 1st & Oak to the Brown Co. Hospital.

 

Nov. 8

* Responded to a report of a barking dog on North Oak St Ainsworth.

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

* Assisted an individual with information on possible drug activity in Brown Co.

* Responded to a report of an unwanted subject at a residence on North Maple St Ainsworth. The subject was removed.

* Arrested a subject for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs & booked them into the Brown Co Jail.

* Responded to a traffic complaint in Long Pine.

 

Weekly Summary

0 - Crime Stopper call received.

4 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

4 - Handgun permits were issued

23 - Incidents Reports were taken.

10 - Paper Service was served. (Includes: 1 Small Claims, 1 Summons, Order of Garnishment, & 8 Summons)

140 - Phone calls were received.

3 - 911 emergency calls received.

9 - Titles were inspected.

5 - Traffic Citations were issued.

5 - Warnings were issued.  (These include written and verbal.)

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Nov. 10)

The Brown County sheriff’s department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred on Friday, Nov. 7, northwest of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department, at 6:25 p.m. Friday on 884th Road approximately six miles north and one mile west of Ainsworth, a 2011 Chevy pickup, driven by Christine Johnson, 51, of Ainsworth, was traveling east when the vehicle struck a cow in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. Seat belts were in use. The cow, valued at $1,850 and owned by Pat Schumacher of Ainsworth, was killed in the accident.
Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $4,500.

* Northeast Community College awards scholarships

(Posted 6:30 p.m. Nov. 7)

Officials in the Financial Aid Office at Northeast Community College of Norfolk recently announced the names of scholarship recipients for the 2014-15 academic year.

Listed first by their hometowns, the first-year scholarship winners include:

Ainsworth - Leah Taylor (Board of Governors - full tuition scholarship); Atkinson - Kyle Bendig (Peter Kiewit Scholarship), Cody Davis (Peter Kiewit Scholarship), Cameron Schmuecker (Art and Delores Robertson), Austin Braun (President's Early Entry - half tuition scholarship); Stuart - Kayla Bouska (President's Early Entry - half tuition scholarship);

Second-year students have also been awarded scholarships, including:

Ainsworth - Jennifer Vonheeder (Connie Day Memorial), Jamie Davis (Don & Marj Holloway), Tylinn Dodd (McIntosh Family), Jimi Pinney (Elmer & Eunice Mohl), Jami Jo Davis (Wayne and Harriet Studebaker Drafting); Atkinson - Shaely Thiele (Don Ballard and Gerald and Joyce Petersen), Cheleigh Sholes (William & Charmagne Gaines Business and Nebraska Open); Stuart - Shelby Paxton (McIntosh Family).

* Commissioners hear hospital financial update from new CFO

(Posted 11:30 p.m. Nov. 6)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday were introduced to new Brown County Hospital Chief Financial Officer Lisa Woods, who provided the board with an update of the hospital’s quarterly finances.

Woods said inpatient stays for the month of September were 47 percent above the previous year, but outpatient procedures and tests trended 11 percent lower than the prior year.

She said the hospital has an operating margin of $59,490 through the first quarter of the fiscal year, which is a 3 percent margin on total revenue.

Total operating revenue for the hospital increased $413,427 from the same period a year ago.

The commissioners discussed the recruitment of a new physician with Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen.

Sorensen was asked about the costs related to using a company to place a physician with the hospital. She said the hospital had paid a $15,000 contract to the company, and the company continues to provide the hospital with potential candidates for the physician opening.

“Geography is an issue for us,” Sorensen said. “We are looking for the right candidate, not just the first candidate.”

Sorensen said the hospital has reached the $15,000 maximum on the contract for the placement service, and the company would continue to work on placing a physician at the hospital for no additional charges. She said the company does receive a $12,000 placement fee once a physician has been secured for the hospital.

“We continue to receive potential candidates from the company until a physician is placed,” Sorensen said.

Hospital Board member Mike Schrad informed the commissioners the Board of Trustees had an opening, but current Trustee and Board President Mike Kreycik had agreed to serve another six-year term.

The commissioners, with Buddy Small absent from Tuesday’s meeting, appointed Kreycik to another six-year term on the board. This will be Kreycik’s third term on the Hospital Board of Trustees.

In other business during Tuesday’s brief meeting, the commissioners acknowledged a list of 12 distress warrants issued by Treasurer Deb Vonheeder for delinquent personal property taxes. The 12 warrants amount to $6,592 in unpaid personal property taxes that became delinquent Sept. 1.

In roads issues, Commissioner Les Waits discussed potential canal bridge replacement projects with Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin.

“There are such large loads on some of these canal bridges anymore,” Waits said. “How are they holding up?”

Turpin said most of the canal bridges were still in pretty good shape.

“We aren’t looking at any canal bridge replacements this year,” Turpin said. “I inspected the canal bridges on the Airport Road and Meadville Avenue, and they both still look like they are in pretty good shape.”

Turpin said, even with the heavier loads traveling across the bridges during the harvest season, the county just needed to encourage truck drivers to slow down when they cross the bridges.

“What is toughest on those bridges is those heavier loads driving fast across them,” Turpin said.

He said the bid letting for the Norden Bridge replacement project would likely be pushed back to February, as the county’s engineering firm, Miller and Associates, was going through a staffing change. The engineer who had been working on the project for the county left the company to pursue another employment opportunity.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Nov. 18.

* Ricketts elected as Nebraska's 40th governor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Brown County Election results

(Posted 11 p.m. Nov. 4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Rock County Election results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Keya Paha County Election results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Vehicle-deer accident Sunday on Highway 20 injures Omaha woman

(Posted 12:30 p.m. Nov. 4)

A vehicle-deer accident on Highway 20 east of Ainsworth Sunday sent an Omaha woman to the Brown County Hospital with injuries.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 6:01 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2, on Highway 20 approximately 1.5 miles east of Ainsworth, a 2013 Dodge minivan, driven by Anthony Peterson, 58, of Omaha, was traveling west when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
The collision caused the front airbags and passenger side curtain airbags to deploy.
Peterson and two passengers in the Dodge, Theresa Peterson of Omaha and Heather Peterson of Omaha, were transported by the Brown County Ambulance Service to the Brown County Hospital. The sheriff’s department report indicated Theresa Peterson was the only vehicle occupant to suffer injuries during the collision.
Seat belts were in use by the driver and both passengers. The Dodge was considered a total loss.

* October warmer, drier than normal

(Posted 10:45 a.m. Nov. 3)

Ainsworth weather observer Gerry Osborn recorded just .82 of an inch of moisture in October, which is .70 below the average.
The year to date precipitation inches up to 18.39 inches, which is 3.19 inches below average through the first 10 months of the year.
To hear the complete October weather summary for Ainsworth, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborne October Weather.mp3

* Brown, Keya Paha commissioners discuss Norden Bridge replacement

(Posted 3 p.m. Oct. 21)

Holding a meeting together Tuesday, the Brown County Commissioners and the Keya Paha County Commissioners discussed the logistics of replacing the Norden Bridge over the Niobara River between the two counties.

After working together to replace the Meadville Bridge, the boards discussed the costs to each county and the bidding process now that the bridge has qualified for 80 percent funding through a state of Nebraska bridge replacement program.

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin told the commissioners from the two counties the program agreement has been sent in to the Nebraska Department of Roads.

“When they get that signed at the state, things should start moving pretty fast,” Turpin said. “We could see bid letting yet this winter, and we might see replacement of the bridge starting in the second half of 2015.”

Turpin said the two counties, preliminarily, would split approximately $96,000 to replace the bridge, with the state contributing the remaining 80 percent of the estimated project costs.

He said the state capped the project at just over $1 million, but the estimate for the project came back at $805,000.

Keya Paha County Commissioner Mike Tuerk said he has heard a few concerns about landowners being able to haul cattle while the bridge is out, but people for the most part have been understanding of the need to close the bridge while it is replaced.

Unlike the Meadville Bridge replacement project, where the counties kept the old bridge open while the new bridge was constructed adjacently, the plan is to remove the current Norden Bridge and place the new bridge at the same location.

Brown County Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said he understands closing the bridge will be an inconvenience for some people for a short time.

“But, we need to get this done when we can,” Wiebelhaus said. “I know it is out of the way, but people can go around and use Highway 12 for access for the short time that bridge will be closed.”

Turpin estimated the site may be closed to traffic for two months or a little longer to allow time to remove the current bridge and construct the replacement.

Brown County Commissioner Buddy Small said people in the area could either endure a small inconvenience now or face a possible major inconvenience down the road if the current bridge is not replaced and it becomes compromised.

“We have estimates on the cost, but we will have to see what it looks like when it goes out for bids,” Small said.

Keya Paha County Commissioner Corey Nilson said there were some people who fought the counties prior to the Meadville Bridge being replaced.

“Now, everyone is happy after they saw how nice the new bridge is at Meadville,” Nilson said.

Tuerk suggested both counties look at the approaches to the Norden Bridge, as the possibility is likely that the new bridge will result in increased and heavier traffic similar to what the counties have seen after replacing the Meadville Bridge.

“I am just glad Kenny took the time to apply for these funds from the state,” Tuerk said. “This is going to keep a lot of the burden for this bridge replacement off of the counties.”

Following the meeting with the Keya Paha County Commissioners, the board welcomed representatives from the Rock County and Cherry County boards of commissioners to join the other two counties for discussion relating to the Niobrara Council and Niobrara National Scenic River boundary issues with the National Park Service.

Niobrara Council member and Cherry County Commissioner Mark Adamson said the National Park Service has pushed the Niobrara Council to try and lobby the Nebraska Legislature to recognize the 2007 scenic river boundaries, which would expand the borders of the scenic river from its current boundaries.

“The Park Service tries to hold us to the fire with our funding each year by saying we don’t do anything to get the 2007 boundaries recognized by the state,” Adamson said. “Our position is we are not a lobbying authority to the Legislature on behalf of the National Park Service.”

Tuerk, who is also a member of the Niobrara Council, said the threat of diminished funding will continue to be held over the council’s head until the 2007 boundaries are recognized at the state level.

Adamson said the Legislature may be willing to pass legislation accepting scenic river boundaries as proposed by each county government.

“However, there are concerns about starting a bill that looks like one thing and then becomes another after having amendments attached to it,” Adamson said. “There is a fear to try and have anything introduced because of what the final bill might look like.”

Brown County Zoning Administrator Dean Jochem said all of the counties understand where the current boundaries are located.

“The National Park Service’s way of controlling private property in the corridor is through perpetual easements,” Jochem said.

He said, while the counties have no say on easements that fall inside the scenic river corridor, they do have a say on whether perpetual easements are approved outside the corridor. He asked the Niobrara Council to work more closely with the zoning administrators of the four counties on any issues that may come up.

Keya Paha County Zoning Administrator Dolly Kienke said she would like to see the commissioners and the Niobrara Council work to ensure that the rights of private property owners are protected by keeping the scenic river boundaries where they are currently located.

No action was taken following the discussion.

In action items for the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday, the board approved a three-year membership renewal to the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency for the county’s liability insurance coverage. Small said the commissioners recently received a $5,600 dividend check from NIRMA.

The board also approved submitting a letter of intent to the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency requesting Hazard Mitigation Grant funding to address erosion issues at the Meadville Avenue box culvert at the Sand Draw Creek crossing.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Nov. 4.

* KBRB programming changes due to fire aftermath

(Posted 2 p.m. Oct. 17)

Unfortunately, with the smoke and soot damage from Wednesday's fire next door, KBRB is going to have to make some changes to its daily schedule.
In an effort to limit KBRB staff exposure to the conditions in the building, we will be limiting our on-air presence and front-office hours. We will look for a temporary location for our front-office personnel, and will do our best to continue to cover all the local news, weather, sports and community events.
In the short term, we will likely reduce the number of hours we are on the air with live programming, and will move more to some automated music programming for longer periods of time. So for those of you who want less talk and more country and classic hits music, you will get your wish.
We will still provide news, community events, local and Husker sports programming daily, and will still be available to our business customers for advertising needs.
We appreciate the outpouring of public support we have received since Wednesday's fire, and we will return to our regular programming schedule as soon as possible.

Graig Kinzie
KBRB Radio

* Thank-you area firefighters for Second Street response

(Posted 10 a.m. Oct. 17)

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

Graig Kinzie
KBRB Radio

* Fire causes major damage to Royal Theater

(Posted 9 a.m. Oct. 15)

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

* School Board meeting

(Posted 10 p.m. Oct. 13)

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education approved their budget, annual multi-cultural education report, recognized the A.E.A. as bargaining agent and first reading to remove outdated and unneeded health policies at their meeting last night.
The board also discussed ideas and options to upgrade or replace bleachers for the track-football field area at East City Park. The school is facing insurance company concerns regarding safety requirements on all of their bleachers. The board will get cost estimates for bleachers that would be large enough to have seating for both home and visiting fans.
The amended budget approved was required by the school auditors to include money in and money out for the bond refinancing. There are no changes to the original tax request and no additional taxes needed.
The board reviewed the school lunch participation showing that numbers have started out the year higher for breakfast. The school did not increase lunch prices this year and continue to give reduced price students free breakfast.
Other reports to the board noted parent-teacher conferences will be held October 20; Seventy-two K-8th grade participated in the North Central District Health Department sponsored Miles for Smiles dental health program; Enrollment in McAndrew Elementary school grades K-4th totals 146 (nearly 30 students per grade), Little Paws preschool for ages 3 and 4 has 31 students;
Principal Richard Gilson’s report included information on the new Team-Mates program. This program currently has 16 students enrolled and 24 mentors available.
Superintendent Darrell Peterson report covered the recent school audit and audit from the Nebraska Retirement System. He also said that flu shots would be available to the public during the parent-teacher conferences Oct. 20.
The next meeting of the school board will be November 10 and the meeting time will change from 8 p.m. to 7 p.m.

* Heineman discusses his time in office during Friday visit

(Posted 11 a.m. Oct. 10)

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman joined KBRB's Graig Kinzie Friday to discuss his time in office, his recent appointment of Lt. Gov. John Nelson, and the issues still facing state government.
To hear the complete report with Nebraska's governor, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/Gov Dave Heineman 10-10 - end of term & prison issues.mp3

audio clips/Gov Dave Heineman 10-10 - state accomplisments & water.mp3

* City Council approves permit for Daniels Manufacturing expansion

(Posted 7 a.m. Oct. 9)

The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday approved a conditional-use permit to allow Daniels Manufacturing to construct a new building on the north side of Highway 20 in the eastern portion of the city.

City Administrator Kristi Thornburg said the company plans to construct a 65x120 building to serve as a welding shop.

Zoned as an M-2 heavy industrial area, the conditional-use permit was recommended for approval by the Ainsworth Planning Commission.

The Daniels Manufacturing building permit application indicated the new structure, which will be 30-feet tall, carries an estimated price tag of $435,000.

In other business during Wednesday’s light agenda, the council gave the go-ahead to Ainsworth Electric to construct a 6-foot privacy fence on the south and east sides of the business, located on the east end of Highway 20.

Ainsworth Electric representative Dustin Barthel said the business was considering a fence as one option to help keep spools and other equipment out of view. He said there are Daniels barriers currently placed on the property line, and he asked the council if the company could keep those barriers in place and construct the fence 1 foot onto city right of way.

“We would like to keep those barriers in place so our vehicles and equipment don’t damage the fence,” Barthel said.

After discussing any potential traffic sight issues at the intersection of Plainsman and Richardson drives, the council gave Barthel the go-ahead to construct a fence.

The company would first have to submit a building permit for the fence. Barthel said he just wanted to see, at this point, if a fence was going to be an option for the business before ultimately deciding how to proceed.

The council approved the purchase of a utility line locator from Ditch Witch of Park City, Kan., at a cost of $3,059. The bid included a company representative traveling to Ainsworth to train city employees on how to operate the locater, which is used to locate curb stops, water and sewer lines.

The city also received a bid of $2,683 for a Rycom locator from Municipal Supply Inc.

New cemetery assessment fees will be implemented by the city Dec. 1. The cost for a grave space will increase to $250 for residents and $300 for non-residents.

Opening a grave will cost $250 during regular business hours, and $350 after hours, and on weekends and holidays.

The council tabled a request to provide $4,000 in ABC funds to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension office to provide weekend meals to Ainsworth Elementary students.

In its third year, the program was started after teachers became aware that some students appeared not to be getting enough to eat at home during weekends. Ainsworth FCCLA students have filled and delivered backpacks of food each week for the past two years.

Sixteen students received the backpacks in the first year of the program, and backpacks were sent home with 18 students during the program’s second year.

The backpacks include items such as peanut butter, Hamburger Helper, cereal, spaghetti, fruit snacks and vouchers for meat, bread and milk.

With no representatives for the program or from the ABC Committee available during Wednesday’s meeting, the council tabled the request until its November meeting.

The consent agenda Wednesday included the approval of an Ainsworth Women’s Club request to close Main Street from First Street to Highway 20 from 4:30 until 6 p.m. on Halloween, the reappointment of Evan Evans and Rosemary Saner to the Ainsworth Betterment Committee for three-year terms, and the approval of a special designated liquor license for the Sandhills Lounge to serve alcohol in the Ainsworth Conference Center during the annual Pheasants Forever Banquet Nov. 8.

During her report, Thornburg said the sprinklers on the south softball field have been installed.

She said the city will look at abandoning an old city well on Pine Street that has not been used in several years. The council discussed capping the well, removing the well house, and putting the property up for sale.

Thornburg said the city’s initial quote for its health insurance policy from Coventry indicated a premium increase of 24 percent for the next year. She said she was looking into quotes from other insurance companies.

She reported there was strong participation in the city’s recent tree branch, furniture and metal cleanup days.

The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 12.

* Commissioners open to working with stakeholders to replace box culvert

(Posted 2 p.m. Oct. 7)

Representatives from JEO Consulting and the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District met with the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday to discuss plans for replacing the box culvert under Meadville Avenue at Sand Draw Creek.

The group encouraged the commissioners to submitted an application for hazard mitigation funding for the project to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The details of the box culvert project were discussed Tuesday on KBRB as part of the public meeting with stakeholders regarding the entire Pine Creek Watershed project, and can be found on the KBRB news page online at www.kbrbradio.com.

The commissioners did not take any official action on the item Tuesday, but agreed to continue working with the other stakeholders to target the replacement of the box culvert.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, Central Nebraska Economic Development District Executive Director Judy Petersen asked the county to become a member of CNEDD for economic development assistance.

Petersen said she realized the commissioners utilized the services of the North Central Development Center for its economic development undertakings, but she said CNEDD could work in partnership with the NCDC.

“Kristin Olson is a strong advocate for your county, and her office does some of the same things we do,” Petersen said. “However, sometimes there are activities they don’t have the time to take on, and we can fill any gaps.”

Petersen said CNEDD can write federal and state grant applications, and can also administer Community Development Block Grants.

“Your membership dollars are also matched by federal money,” Petersen said of joining CNEDD.

The annual fee for the county to become a member of the Central Nebraska Economic Development District would be $1.50 for every resident living inside Brown County but outside the cities of Ainsworth and Long Pine, which amounts to $1,572.

Commissioner Buddy Small said he preferred to address the issue when Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus, who was absent from Tuesday’s meeting and who serves as the county’s representative on the NCDC Board of Directors, could be in attendance.

“I personally don’t believe Brown County has a need to be a member of CNEDD,” Small said. “We are very satisfied with the service we receive from Kristin and the NCDC.”

Petersen admitted CNEDD was in a rebuilding mode after several years of struggles.

“We have a new staff, a new board, and a new view on how we can serve the district,” Petersen said.

In action items, the board approved a change in date beginning in 2015 when salaried employees are paid to comply with the provisions of LB 560 adopted by the Nebraska Legislature.

The change would move the payroll dates to pay salaried employees after the hours have all been worked, as opposed to the current twice monthly payrolls that pay salaried employees ahead of time for a portion of the pay period.

Small said he did not want to inconvenience any employees financially, but the county did need to approve the change to comply with the law.

County Attorney David Streich, after sitting in on a Nebraska Association of County Officials teleconference relating to the change in payroll periods, provided the board with options on catch up the payroll periods over time to make them compliant with the state statute.

He said 10 counties had made the changeover on their pay periods, and he provided examples of how some of those counties changed the pay periods over a lengthened time frame.

After discussion with elected officials, the board approved making the conversion over a six-month period, and allowing affected employees to utilize a vacation day in addition to working their full allotment of weekly hours to keep from having smaller paychecks at the end of the shortened pay periods.

The commissioners approved a five-year contract with Paulsen Lawn Service to provide lawn care service for the courthouse grounds.

Paulsen Lawn Service is completing a two-year contract with the county. Jerry Paulsen said he would provide the service for the same $7,500 annually that he bid for the previous contract.
Small said. “Jerry has done a good job. Anytime we have called on him for something he has been right there.”

The board approved the $7,500 annual contract for a five-year period.

The commissioners acknowledged a delinquent tax report and a distress warrant report as submitted by County Treasurer Deb Vonheeder. Vonheeder said there were only three uncollected distress warrants in the county, and all three were in some stage of bankruptcy.

In roads items, the board approved a program agreement between the county and the Nebraska Department of Roads for the Norden Bridge replacement project.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin discussed making repairs to a bridge off of the Bar 25 Road on a road leading to Jay Wagoner’s property.

The board agreed to have the roads department replace planks on the bridge.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Oct. 21.

* Engineers say box culvert replacement on Sand Draw Creek critical

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Oct. 7)

Engineers from JEO Consultants presented their final recommendations for improvements to the Long Pine Creek Watershed during a public meeting Monday in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

If every recommendation for improvements to the watershed was followed, more than $34 million would be invested to better the water quality and prevent bank erosion.

While engineers Lalit Jha and Adam Rupe with JEO Consulting acknowledged the plan would need to be implemented over a period of decades, they said it provided stakeholders with a roadmap of how to improve the watershed over time.

“What we have recommended here are best-management practices for the watershed,” Rupe told the more than 30 stakeholders in attendance. “We have looked at ways to stabilize these streams to control the erosion we are seeing.”

Rupe said the first phase of the project focuses on the lower stretch of Pine Creek, the lower stretch of Bone Creek, the middle stretch of Bone Creek and, most importantly, on the Sand Draw Creek below Meadville Avenue.

“Our goal with the study is to address erosion issues, develop a watershed plan, identify improvements to be made, and identify funding assistance for those improvements,” Rupe said.

Over time, the engineers estimated implementing every item on the plan, which includes riparian fencing, stream restoration, filter strips, fertilizer and nutrient management, irrigation water management, cover crops and water control structures would carry a price tag of $34 million to $42 million.

Audience member Rod Imm, the Ainsworth Irrigation District manager, said, “That looks like a terrible amount of money. I don’t know how this area would ever come up with anywhere close to that kind of cost-share.”

Jha said JEO Consulting was not advocating for the area to undertake all the plan recommendations in the short term.

“The Department of Environmental Quality’s goal in funding this study was to come up with best-management practices to remove the pollutants from the watershed, and improve the erosion and water quality issues,” Jha said. “This plan simply gives you options for projects to consider. You will need to prioritize. It could be a 30-year implementation plan. This gives you an overall picture of the watershed, and a comprehensive plan for projects to consider.”

He said adequate funding to provide a competitive cost-share would be key to getting many of the best-management practices implemented by landowners along the streams.

Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Manager Mike Murphy said the total costs did not matter much at this point.

“It comes down to what we are able to get done,” Murphy said.

Jha said the immediate focus, in his opinion, needed to be on the Sand Draw Creek from Meadville Avenue east.

“There are serious concerns with the lower Sand Draw Creek,” Jha said. “The box culvert on Highway 7 is the No. 1 priority. We have worked to come up with a conceptual plan to address that area.”

The study recommends a new control structure at the current box culvert site under Meadville Avenue, and the straightening of the streambed immediately below the box culvert.

“The box culvert currently is providing grade control for the entire upper stretch of the Sand Draw,” Jha said. “If the current Highway 7 box culvert is compromised, the erosion will quickly move upstream from Highway 7, and you will see major head-cutting like you are now below Highway 7.”

The recommended structure replacement carries a more than $700,000 price tag estimate. It calls for the placement of a pipe above Meadville Avenue that would drop the water 12 feet, followed by a control structure that would provide a gentle grade drop through a channel outlet.

A rip-rap channel would then reroute the stream, straightening it immediately below Meadville Avenue.

The study also recommended 11 sites for grade-control structures to help slow the flow of water and combat the large elevation drop that is currently responsible for the major streambed erosion and head-cutting.

Jha said the engineered rock riffles would aid in stopping the current head-cutting and would reduce the energy of the water flowing below Meadville Avenue.

“If this is not fixed, the problem on the Sand Draw will continue to get worse,” Jha said. “The head cutting right now is moving 20 to 30 feet per year. This is one of the most dynamic streams I have seen in the way it is head cutting.”

Rupe said the Sand Draw Creek is still a young stream, ecologically speaking.

“It has only been carrying water consistently for 30 to 40 years,” Rupe said.

Murphy said the next step was for the stakeholders to work with Brown County to obtain funding through the Department of Environmental Quality and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s hazard mitigation program to build the new control structure for Meadville Avenue.

“We have tried to keep the DEQ and the Nebraska Environmental Trust involved in each step of this process,” Murphy said.

He said the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District has applied for additional grant funding through the DEQ and the Environmental Trust that would allow for the design work and implementation of control structures on the Sand Draw Creek to be completed.

“We want to keep everyone engaged and working on these projects,” Murphy said. “We need Brown County to initiate a FEMA hazard mitigation application. We need to start somewhere and begin to get things done.”

Jha said the Environmental Protection Agency would likely approve the final watershed plan in December, and the partners could then look for federal cost-share funding in the spring.

“The Highway 7 culvert is critical, and needs to be resolved,” Jha said. “If that area fails, there will be major consequences.”

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* Region 24 emergency manager discusses damage in Brown, Rock counties

(Posted 7 p.m. June 3)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox, who serves Brown, Rock, Keya Paha, Cherry and Boyd counties, provided an update Tuesday evening on the damage he viewed from the afternoon severe thunderstorms that moved through the area.
Fox said six irrigation systems were overturned in Rock County, two grain bins were flattened, and an outbuilding near Newport was destroyed.
In addition, substantial damage to trees and public power lines occurred, especially in Rock County.
To hear the complete report with the Region 24 emergency manager and KBRB's Graig Kinzie, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Region 24 damage report from June 3 storm.mp3

* Substantial storm causes widespread damage in KBRB listening area


(Photo by Jake and Shea Olberding)

A large tree in Stuart Tuesday was uprooted in its entirety and came to rest on the Parkside Manor building. A Stuart Volunteer firefighter surveys the damage from the rooftop. The National Weather Service received a report that all the west-facing windows at Parkside Manor were damaged by hail. Tuesday's storm damaged power lines and caused extensive tree, building and vehicle damage in Keya Paha, Brown, Rock and Holt counties. Straight line winds of between 80 mph and 100 mph were reported in eastern Rock and western Holt counties. Hail up to golf ball size in diameter was reported in Keya Paha, Brown, Rock and Holt counties, and a storm chaser and trained spotter reported the brief touch-down of a tornado between 1 and 1-1/2 miles northwest of Bassett.


(Photo by Rachel Kaup)

Following the storm, all the west-facing windows at Parkside Manor had to be boarded up. The tree that fell on the building was removed by late Tuesday afternoon.


(Photo by Rod Stolcpart)

Tuesday's storm caused extensive damage in portions of Keya Paha, Rock and Holt counties. This photo was taken of a shop owned by Kurt Micheel that was destroyed in Rock County near Newport. Straight line winds of up to 100 mph were reported in the Newport area, and a storm chaser and a trained storm spotter reported the brief touchdown of a tornado between 12:15 and 12:30 p.m. one mile northwest of Bassett. Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox reported six irrigation systems were overturned in Rock County, and two grain bins were completely destroyed in addition to the outbuilding owned by Micheel.


(Photo by Jake and Shea Olberding)

A large tree landed on a camper at Stuart Tuesday afternoon when a severe thunderstorm swept into the area from the northwest. The camper was reportedly unoccupied at the time. The Stuart Fire Chief reported to the National Weather Service that numerous trees were knocked down at Stuart Park.


(Photo by Jake and Shea Olberding)

An entire row of trees were toppled at Stuart in a domino effect from the winds that exceeded 80 mph in some locations. Trees at Stuart were twisted and broken Tuesday afternoon, damaging the campers parked beneath. As of late Tuesday afternoon, no reports of injuries from the storm had surfaced.


(Photo by Matt Kaup)

Numerous long-standing trees at Stuart Park were leveled by Tuesday's severe storm. Cleanup efforts in Stuart began soon after the storm passed through the area.


(Photo by Rod Stolcpart)

A center pivot irrigation system in Rock County was overturned by the strong winds, one of six that was damaged in Rock County alone.


(Photo by Jake and Shea Olberding)

This photo shows the size of the hail that fell in Stuart Tuesday afternoon. Hail up to golf ball size, 1-3/4 inches, in diameter fell along a line from eight miles west of Springview to Meadville and northern Brown County, to 2 miles south of Springview, to three miles north of Bassett, and then continued into Newport, Stuart and Atkinson and points east.


(Photo by Jake and Shea Olberding)

An intimidating storm front moved into western Holt County Tuesday afternoon. The strongest portion of the cell moved southeast from northeastern Cherry County into western and central Keya Paha County, then from southern Keya Paha County and northern Brown County into northern and central Rock County, and from eastern Rock County into western and central Holt County, leaving substantial damage in its wake.


(Photo by Steve Camp)

Steve Camp captured this image of unique cloud formations near Bassett during Tuesday afternoon's severe storm. Severe storms pounded eastern Nebraska Tuesday evening after causing widespread damage in Rock and Holt counties during the early afternoon hours.

* Substantial storm causes widespread damage in KBRB listening area

(Posted 2 p.m. June 3, updated 4:30 p.m. June 3)

From just after noon Tuesday through 1:30 p.m., a large storm cell moved through parts of four counties, causing widespread damage from hail and straight line winds.
The first hail reports came in just after noon Tuesday west of Springview. Hail up to golf ball size in diameter was reported at 12:05 p.m. eight miles west of Springview.
Also at 12:05 p.m. trained spotters reported hail more than three-quarters of an inch in diameter 10 miles north of Ainsworth in Brown County. At 12:18 p.m., hail 1-3/4 inches in diameter was reported by fire and rescue personnel 11 miles north of Ainsworth. Golf ball size hail was reported at the same time in Meadville, and two miles south of Springview.
From 12:15 to 12:30 p.m., a storm chaser and a trained spotter reported the brief touchdown of a tornado 1-1/2 miles northwest of Bassett. The National Weather Service has not yet confirmed whether a tornado did indeed touch down, but information was forwarded from two sources with training.
The cell continued to move in an east-southeast direction, and dropped golf ball size hail three miles north of Bassett. By 12:30 p.m., the heaviest portion of the cell had reached Bassett. Hail 1-3/4 inches in diameter was reported by a trained spotter 7 miles north of Bassett.
As the storm continued to travel to the southeast, straight-line winds picked up. Straight line winds up to 100 mph were reported in the Newport area at 12:46 p.m. At least one building was destroyed, trees were uprooted, power lines were damaged and irrigation equipment was overturned. In addition to the wind, fire personnel reported hail 1-3/4 inches in diameter in the village of Newport and four miles north of Newport.
Winds caused power lines to come down two miles west of Stuart, and a semi and trailer were overturned on Highway 20 west of Stuart, and the vehicle's windows were broken out by hail.
Tree damage in Stuart was extensive, as was hail damage to buildings and vehicles.
The Stuart fire chief reported to the National Weather Service that numerous trees were knocked down in Stuart. One large tree landed on the Parkside Manor building on the north end of Main Street, and numerous trees fell at Stuart Park, one of which landed on an unoccupied camper.
Large hail fell in Stuart around 1 p.m., as well as southeast of Stuart. By 1:10 p.m., the large, 1-3.4 inch-diameter hail had reached Atkinson, causing widespread damage.
The storm continued to track east-southeast, depositing large hail north of Emmett and northeast of Page before moving into the O'Neill area.
Residents of the Bassett, Newport and Stuart area remain without power Tuesday afternoon. KBR Rural Public Power General Manager Bob Beatty said power was restored to Keya Paha County customers Tuesday afternoon after power was rerouted around damaged areas.
Information from area emergency management officials will be provided when the officials have had a chance to survey the area and gather additional information from residents and spotters.
Anyone with photos from Tuesday's storm may submit them by email to kbrb@sscg.net. Please include the photographer and a description of the location where the photo was taken. Some of the photos will be posted on the KBRB web site.

* Sasse advances; Ricketts wins by tiny margin in Republican governor race

(Posted midnight May 14, updated 5:45 a.m. and 10 a.m. May 14)

Nebraska's Republican race for governor was extremely close Tuesday, but Pete Ricketts held off Jon Bruning by 1 percentage point, 26.5 percent to 25.5 percent. Ricketts received 57,922 votes to 55,751 for Bruning. Beau McCoy received 21 percent of the Republican vote for governor, 45,804 votes, with Mike Foley earning better than 19 percent of the ballots cast, 42,029. Democrat Chuck Hassebrook ran unopposed and advanced to the General Election.
Ben Sasse will be the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, as Sasse received more than 49 percent of the vote. Sid Dinsdale finished a distant second and Shane Osborn ran third in the Republican Senate race. Sasse will face Democrat Dave Domina in the General Election.
3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith had no trouble in his Republican Primary match-up with Tom Brewer. Smith received 68 percent of the vote to 32 percent for the retired military officer. Smith will face Democrat Mark Sullivan in the General Election.
2nd District Rep. Lee Terry survived his primary against Republican Dan Frei. Terry earned just under 53 percent of the vote to more than 47 percent for Frei. Terry faces State Sen. Brad Ashford in the General Election.
In District 1, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry cruised in the Republican Primary with 86 percent of the vote. He faces Democrat Dennis Crawford in November.
Doug Peterson emerged from a tight, four-way race for the Republican attorney general nomination. Peterson received more than 35 percent of the Republican vote, 10 points better than second-place finisher Brian Buescher. Mike Hilgers received almost 23 percent of the Republican vote, and Pete Pirsch finished fourth in the race with 16 percent of the primary vote.
Peterson will square off with Democrat Janet Stewart in November. Stewart earned 72 percent of the Democratic Party Primary votes compared to 28 percent for Allen Eurek.
Charlie Janssen bested Larry Anderson in the Republican bid for state auditor of public accounts. Janssen picked up 56.5 percent of the Republican vote, and will face fellow State Sen. Amanda McGill, who ran unopposed for the Democratic state auditor nomination.
State Treasurer Don Stenberg received 85 percent of the Republican vote in his bid for re-election, and will face Democrat Michael O'Hara in the General Election.
In the 40th District state legislative race, incumbent Tyson Larson secured 68.5 percent of the vote. Both Larson and Keith Kube advanced to the General Election in the non-partisan race, as Kube finished with 31.5 percent of the vote.
A total of 316,117 voters cast a ballot during the Primary Election cycle statewide. That accounts for fewer than 28 percent of the 1.15 million registered voters in Nebraska.
Brown, Rock and Keya Paha County each had more than double the percentage of voters cast ballots during the Primary than the statewide average.

* Wiebelhaus, Waits re-elected as Brown County Commissioners; Hobbs edges Huggins

(Posted 11:45 p.m. May 13)

Both Republican incumbent Brown County Commissioners were re-elected during Tuesday’s Primary Election.

Just as he did four years ago in his first race, Reagan Wiebelhaus was the leading vote-getter with 763 Republican ballots cast in his favor. Les Waits will rejoin Wiebelhaus for four more years on the Board of Commissioners, as Waits edged challenger Will Williams by 35 votes, 554 to 519. Joe Nelson finished fourth in the race with 212 votes.

In a four-way race for Brown County Clerk, Republican challenger Travis Hobbs edged longtime incumbent Janet Huggins by 26 votes. Hobbs collected 438 Republican votes to 412 for Huggins. Hobbs received just under 40 percent of the overall vote in the clerk's race, while Huggins received 37.5 percent of the vote. Amber Happold finished third in the race with 141 votes, and Denise Dougherty collected 112 votes in the race for county clerk.

Larry Rice was the overwhelming choice for Ainsworth mayor. Rice received 464 votes to advance to the November General Election. Joining Rice in November will be Myrna Jakob, who tallied 91 votes from Ainsworth voters in the non-partisan race to advance to the November Election. Cynthia Castor finished third with 28 votes.

Long Pine voters selected Dian Dodds and Beverly Newport to advance to the General Election from the three-way race in Tuesday’s Primary for mayor of Long Pine.

Dodds scored a vast majority of the vote in Long Pine with 73 ballots cast in her favor. Newport received 24 votes to advance. Steven Swett received 16 votes.

Close to 58 percent of registered Brown County voters cast ballots in the Primary Election, with 1,252 ballots cast from among the 2,170 registered county voters.

In the state and federal races, Brown County Republicans chose Ben Sasse for U.S. Senate with 433 votes. Shane Osborn received 284 votes, with Sid Dinsdale picking up 266 votes, Bart McLeay 48 and Clifton Johnson 17.

On the Democratic ticket, Larry Marvin edged Dave Domina for U.S. Senate by a 38-36 margin in Brown County.

In the Republican Primary race for Nebraska governor, Brown County chose Jon Bruning with 358 votes to 325 for Beau McCoy, 209 for Pete Ricketts, 105 for Mike Foley, 38 for Tom Carlson and 21 for Bryan Slone.

In the four-way Republican battle for attorney general, Brown County voters sided with Brian Buescher. Buescher received 368 votes. Mike Hilgers picked up 231 votes, followed by Doug Peterson with 201 votes and Pete Pirsch with 123. On the Democratic Party ticket, Brown County chose Janet Stewart for attorney general by a 56-19 margin over Allen Eurek.

Republican 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith carried Brown County with ease in his bid for another two-year term. Smith received 723 votes to 322 for challenger Tom Brewer.

Incumbent State Treasurer Don Stenberg received 847 votes in his re-election bid from Brown County Republicans, compared to 105 votes for challenger Christopher Costello.

Republican voters in Brown County chose Charlie Janssen for state auditor by a 418-312 margin over Larry Anderson.

Brown County voters picked incumbent Molly O’Holleran over challenger Robin Stevens by a 491-348 margin in the race for the State Board of Education District 7 seat.

Brown County Republicans selected Bradley Wilkins and Wendy Wilkins to represent the county as delegates to the Republican Convention.

Brad Wilkins received 377 votes. Wendy Wilkins picked up 335 votes, and Rodney Palmer finished third in the race with 196 votes.

* Rock County incumbent commissioners advance; Davis tops Devall for treasurer

(Posted 10:30 p.m. May 13)

In a close race to replace retiring Rock County Treasurer Linda May, Mona Davis defeated Janice Devall by 77 votes in Tuesday's Republican Primary.
 Davis finished with 302 votes to 225 for Devall. With no Democratic Party candidate running, Davis will become the next Rock County treasurer.
 It appears both Republican incumbents will hold on to their seats on the Rock County Board of Commissioners.
 Incumbent Jim Stout led the three-candidate countywide race for two seats on the Board of Commissioners with 401 votes. The second seat was a tight finish between incumbent Stan Larson and challenger Dustin Craven.
 While the results at this point are still unofficial, Larson received 270 votes to 266 for Craven, which is less than a 1 percent margin of victory.
 A total of 58 percent of the registered voters in Rock County cast ballots in the Primary Election. Of the 1,036 registered voters, 601 filled out a ballot.

In the U.S. Senate race, Rock County Republicans picked Ben Sasse. Sasse received 204 votes to 162 for Sid Dinsdale, 103 for Shane Osborn, 28 for Bart McLeay and eight for Clifton Johnson.

Rock County Democrats chose Dave Domina over Larry Marvin by a 32-14 margin.

For Nebraska governor, Rock County voters opted for Jon Bruning with 188 votes to 169 for Beau McCoy, 87 for Pete Ricketts, 50 for Mike Foley, 15 for Bryan Slone and 11 for Tom Carlson.

Brian Buescher strongly carried Rock County Republican voters for attorney general, scoring 367 votes to 60 for Doug Peterson, 35 for Mike Hilgers and 15 for Pete Pirsch. Rock County Democrats chose Janet Stewart by a 30-11 margin over Allen Eurek.

Rock County Republicans cast 418 votes for incumbent State Treasurer Don Stenberg to just 52 for challenger Christopher Costello.

For state auditor, Rock County chose Charlie Janssen by a 188 to 137 margin over Larry Anderson.

In the 3rd District Congressional race, Republicans in Rock County were solidly behind incumbent Adrian Smith. Smith earned 470 votes to 146 for challenger Tom Brewer.

Incumbent 40th District State Sen. Tyson Larson was the overwhelming choice of Rock County voters in his bid for a second term in the Nebraska Legislature.

Larson received 403 votes to 111 for Keith Kube.

Incumbent Molly O’Holleran picked up 213 votes in Rock County in her bid for re-election to the State Board of Education in District 7 to 174 for challenger Robin Stevens.

* Nilson, Ritterbush hold onto Keya Paha County Commissioner seats

(Posted 9:30 p.m. May 13)

Both incumbent candidates for Keya Paha County Commissioner will keep their seats for another four years, as Keya Paha County Republican voters elected Cory Nilson to the Center District Commissioner seat in a close race over challenger David Lewis, and Bruce Ritterbush received better than 80 percent of the Republican votes in the East District Commissioner race.

Nilson received 65 Republican votes in the Center District to 49 for Lewis. Ritterbush garnered 64 votes in the East District race to 15 for challenger Bryan Kienke.

Keya Paha County Republicans chose Ben Sasse in the race for U.S. Senate. Sasse received 117 votes in Keya Paha County to lead the Republican field. Shane Osborn picked up 80 votes in Keya Paha County, Sid Dinsdale received 63 votes, Bart McLeay 12 and Clifton Johnson four.

Just 18 Democrats voted in the U.S. Senate race in Keya Paha County, and chose Larry Marvin by a 10-8 margin over Dave Domina.

Keya Paha County Republicans gave the most votes Tuesday to Beau McCoy in the race for Nebraska governor. McCoy received 85 votes, four better than Jon Bruning. Pete Ricketts earned 57 votes in Keya Paha County, followed by 31 for Mike Foley, 17 for Tom Carlson and 13 for Bryan Slone.

Democratic candidate Chuck Hassebrook received 16 votes for governor in Keya Paha County.

In the Republican race for Nebraska Attorney General, 125 Keya Paha County voters gave the not to Brian Buescher. Doug Peterson received 58 votes, followed by 31 for Mike Hilgers and 26 for Pete Pirsch.

Democratic voters selected Janet Stewart by a 13-4 margin over Allan Eurek for Attorney General.

In the other contested state race, Republican voters in Keya Paha County gave incumbent State Treasurer Don Stenberg 215 votes to 30 for challenger Christopher Costello.

Incumbent Republican 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith had no trouble in Keya Paha County, receiving 216 votes to 63 for challenger Tom Brewer.

For District 7 State Board of Education, Keya Paha County voters chose incumbent Molly O’Holleran by a 119-84 margin over challenger Robin Stevens.

For Nebraska Public Power District Board of Directors in Subdivision 2, Dan Scheer received 107 votes to 53 for Barry DeKay and 44 for Ross Knott.

Keya Paha County Clerk Suzy Wentworth reported 392 of the 638 registered voters in Keya Paha County cast ballots for the Primary Election, a 61 percent turnout.

* Agricultural land again fuels large valuation increases across Nebraska

(Posted 11 a.m. April 15)

The Nebraska Department of Revenue, Property Assessment Division, has processed the 2014 Real Property Abstracts of Assessment filed by the 93 Nebraska county assessors. Preliminary analysis indicates that real property valuations have increased 12.45 percent statewide from 2013 to 2014, resulting in an increase in valuation of approximately $20.93 billion.

Of that total, $1.99 billion ( 9.5 percent) is attributable to newly-constructed real property, and $18.94 billion (90.5 percent) is attributable to existing property valuation increases.

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

In looking at area counties, Brown County experienced an overall valuation increase of 10.58 percent. Excluding new growth, the increase is 9.26 percent in Brown County. Residential property value increased by 3.36 percent overall, but only by 1.15 percent when excluding new growth. Commercial property values increased by 7.41 percent overall, but that was virtually all attributed to new growth. Existing commercial values were flat compared to 2012.

Agricultural land in Brown County again saw strong increases, up 12.82 percent from 2012.

Rock County experienced a 14.65 percent overall valuation increased in 2013. New growth accounted for a minor increase, as 14.39 percent of the change was due to increased value of existing property. Rock County’s residential value was nearly static from 2012. Commercial valuation was up 15.74 percent, and 12.78 percent of that increase came from existing commercial property. Agricultural land values in Rock County rose in 2013 to the tune of 16.58 percent.

Keya Paha County had a 14.29 percent increase in overall value, with 13.2 percent of the change coming from existing property. Residential property value increased by 1.27 percent, but, excluding new growth, residential values on existing residential property dropped by 8.65 percent. Commercial property was static, but excluding new growth, commercial property values in Keya Paha County declined by 28.94 percent in 2013. Agricultural land values in Keya Paha County rose in 2013 by 15.28 percent.

Cherry County saw slight valuation increases in residential and commercial properties, but that was due to new growth. Existing residential property in Cherry County was up by 0.58 percent from 2012, and existing commercial property decreased in value by 0.45 percent. Agricultural land in Cherry County increased by 7 percent, fueling the 6.13 percent overall valuation increase in Cherry County in 2013.

Holt County saw an overall increase of more than 21 percent, and less than 1 percent of the valuation increase was attributed to new construction. While existing residential and commercial values saw less than a 1 percent increase, agricultural land values in Holt County jumped by 26 percent.

Only 15 of Nebraska’s 93 counties saw overall valuations increase by less than 10 percent from 2012, and 37 counties saw overall valuations increase by at least 20 percent. The state’s most populated counties saw the smallest valuation percentage increases. Douglas County’s overall valuation increased by just 1.78 percent, and Lancaster County’s overall valuation was up by just 1.7 percent.
On the reverse side, Chase County in southwestern Nebraska saw an overall valuation increase of an astounding 44.27 percent. That was due to a one-year, 58.48 percent, increase in agricultural land value. Another 17 counties experienced value increases of between 30 percent and 40 percent between 2012-13. The increases in those counties - Antelope, Clay, Franklin, Gosper, Greeley, Harlan, Hitchcock, Kearney, Nuckolls, Perkins, Pierce, Sherman, Stanton, Thayer, Thurston, Valley, Wayne, Webster and Wheeler - was due almost exclusively to a rise in agricultural values.

Excluding new construction, residential property statewide increased just 1.48 percent in 2013. Commercial property, excluding new construction, was up by just 0.53 percent. Agricultural land values statewide skyrocketed another 29.12 percent, and have now doubled in value since just 2009, a four-year stretch.

Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said, “This increase ensures the statewide valuation of agricultural land for tax purposes will have doubled since 2009, as our estimates suggest nearly a 120 percent increase in valuation since that time. Our estimates also suggest that due to the increase, the statewide property taxes paid by farm and ranch families on agricultural land will near $1 billion in 2015.

“As we have pointed out on many occasions the unprecedented growth in valuation on agricultural land and the associated increases in property taxes are carried by farm and ranch families who make up less than 3 percent of our population, but pay more than 25 percent of the property taxes collected statewide. While the Legislature placing more monies into the property tax credit program in the vein of property tax relief is appreciated, the fact remains that Nebraska farmers and ranchers pay the third highest property taxes in the U.S. and will continue to do so until something is done to address this issue.”

Overall valuations statewide have increased by around 5 percent each year since 2009. The overall increase for 2013 was the highest of the group at 8.76 percent, with the majority of that spike fueled by the increase in agricultural land values.

Excluding new construction, the overall increase statewide has been between 3 percent and 5 percent annually, with the exception of 2013, which increased 7.65 percent.

Real property valuations are set by the county assessors and are subject to review during the statewide equalization proceedings before the Tax Equalization and Review Commission. Real property valuation change notices will be mailed on or before June 1, 2014 to real property owners who had real property values that increased or decreased from 2013 to 2014.

Increases to real property valuations may result in an increase of tax revenue for local governmental subdivisions. If the tax rates from the previous year remain unchanged, additional property taxes would be generated. Local property taxes are the product of spending and budgeting decisions made by local governments, based on their fiscal needs.
Brown County, for example, left the amount of tax dollars it asked from property owners the same for the 2013-14 budget as the county did in 2012-13. The tax rate, overall, decreased substantially due to the commissioners keeping the asking the same, but the burden continued to shift toward the agricultural side due to the state formula. The rate was decreased for all property owners, so residential and commercial property owners will pay fewer taxes in 2013, while agricultural property owners will pay more despite the lowering of the levy rate.

The final budgets must be approved by Sept. 20 of each year. Tax rates must be determined by Oct. 15 of each year.

* Brown County Sheriff's Department 2013 summary

 

2013 Year End Totals

 

Accidents Investigated – 91                                 Fire Calls Ainsworth

 

Ainsworth Calls Responded to – 689                  Accidents with Injuries - 6

 

Animal Cases – 16                                               One (1) Fatality

 

Board Of Health – 0                                            Accidents w/o Injuries - 5

 

Brown County Arrests – 74                                Assist other Agencies - 3

 

Burglaries – 3                                                     Burn Permits Issued - 123

 

Citations – 200                                                  Canyon Fires - 1

 

County Calls Responded to – 381                    Controlled burns (bldgs) - 2

 

Court Commitments – 13                                 Fire Alarms - 2

 

Crime Stopper Calls – 25                                 Garage Fires - 2

 

Criminal Cases – 41                                        Gas Meters & Leaks - 8

 

Dog Complaints –132                                     Grass Fires - 0

 

Domestic Assault Cases – 9                            Hay Bales - 2

 

Drug Cases – 11                                              House Fires - 5

 

Fix it tickets – 103                                           KBR Solid Waste out of control - 2

 

Handgun Permits – 77                                     Motor Fires/Irrigation & Sump - 2

 

Incident Reports – 1,213                                 Reports of Smoke - 1

 

Incoming Phone Calls – 8,617                        Storm Spotting - 5

 

Information Files – 33                                     Tree Fires - 3

 

Inmates Housed in Brown County – 104       Vehicle Fires - 3

 

Inmates Housed for other agencies – 3

 

Inmates Housed for NSP arrests – 14

 

Inmates – Females - 20

 

Inmates – Males – 84

 

Johnstown Calls Responded to - 10

 

Juvenile Cases – 14

 

Long Pine Calls Responded to - 133

 

Mental Health Cases – 11

 

MIP’s - 14

 

911 Calls – 516

 

Papers Served – 288

 

Sex Crimes – 4

 

Thefts – 23

 

Titles Inspected – 257

 

Total Traffic Stops – 805

 

Traffic cases – 56

 

Vandalism Cases –18

 

Written Warnings - 502

 

Information from the 2012 Wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley

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

(Posted 7 a.m. Oct. 5)

Just like in Brown County, Keya Paha County voters Thursday overwhelmingly approved additional property tax dollars for the Keya Paha County Rural Fire District.
With just under 70 voters needed to make the town hall meeting official, more than double that amount cast a ballot Thursday in the Springview Grade School multipurpose room.
Ninety-one percent of the 155 voters supported the 8 cents in additional property tax levy for the rural fire district in response to the costs incurred in fighting the Region 24 Complex fires in July.
A total of 141 votes were counted in favor of the additional funding. Just 14 cast ballots against the measure.
By approving the additional 8-cent levy, voters allowed the Keya Paha County Rural Fire District to collect an additional $223,984 to help pay for the extensive costs incurred fighting wildfires during the summer and begin to repair or replace damaged equipment.
Had the additional levy not been approved, the fire district would have had a budget of $41,667 from the 1.5 cents in levy given by the Keya Paha County Commissioners as part of their 2012-13 fiscal year budget. County boards can award up to 4 cents in general levy to fire districts. Anything above that amount must be approved by county voters using either the town hall or special election format.
By using the town hall format Thursday, the additional 8 cents in property tax levy will be collected for one year only.
With the levy passing, residential and commercial property owners in Keya Paha County will pay an additional $80 in property taxes for every $100,000 worth of property value. Agricultural property owners will pay an additional $60 per $100,000 in value.
The 91 percent approval rating in Keya Paha County's town hall vote was even higher than the 85 percent approval rating for Brown County's town hall meeting Sept. 24.

* Nelson praises firefighters and volunteers in weekly column

(Posted 10:15 a.m. July 30)

By Sen. Ben Nelson

In large rural states like Nebraska, we depend heavily on volunteer firefighters to protect our homes and property. These are very special people who deserve our gratitude and respect because of their selfless devotion to a part time job that requires extensive training and doesn’t pay anything.

Their courage and bravery have never been more apparent than during the raging wildfires that have swept across parts of Nebraska this summer. In the face of unknown dangers, hundreds of volunteer firefighters answered the call. They left their paying jobs, their homes and their families to try to quell the dangerous fires.

Heroic Effort

Several hundred volunteers joined forces with federal firefighters and National Guard troops on the front lines of the wildfires. They came from more than 30 communities from all over Nebraska; some traveling hundreds of miles to help out.

They are our heroes. They do what they do out of a sense of duty to their communities and now their state. It is a calling that reaps them no financial rewards. They ask nothing in return for risking their lives, giving of their time and talents to fight the fires and the hours and hours of intense schooling required before they can do what they do. They cannot just get on a truck and put out a fire, especially fires as sprawling and fast moving as these.

It’s difficult to find just the right words to describe Nebraska’s volunteer firefighters, especially those who rose to this occasion. There are times when the actions of some are so heroic and extraordinary that a simple thank you doesn’t seem to be enough even though it’s about all we have to offer other than the food and water that so many generous Nebraskans donated.

Natural Disasters Require Help

When natural disasters like wildfires and drought strike we pull together as Americans and put political differences aside but we also need a little help from Washington.

That’s where the Farm Bill comes in. On a strong bipartisan vote, the Senate passed the Farm Bill that includes a number of provisions for financial relief for those suffering from drought and wildfires. Relief provisions include an authorization of direct and guaranteed loans for recovery from wildfires and drought.  Funding for the construction and rehabilitation of fire breaks, and other pre-suppression efforts. Compensation for ag producers that have incurred livestock and livestock feed losses resulting from wildfires and much more.

But, while Nebraska burns the House plays politics and refuses to bring the bill modernizing farm programs for the next five years to a vote. There’s talk of just extending the last farm bill for a year, which would be another half-hearted move by this Kick the Can Down the Road Congress and wouldn’t provide the certainty our producers need or all drought and fire assistance needed after this summer’s disaster.

I have called on the Speaker of the House to put politics aside. Think of the agriculture producers who are in need of help. Show the same courage as all the volunteers who pitched in to fight the fires. There was no political gamesmanship there. Just a common goal to do the right thing. Now, it’s Washington’s turn to do the same.

* Incident Management Team transitioning out of the area Monday

(Posted 9 a.m. July 30)

According to the daily update from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency on Sunday, fire crews made good progress on the Wentworth and Hall Fires. Both are now at 90 percent containment. The Fairfield Creek Fire is at 100 percent containment and remains in patrol status.
Hot and dry is the forecast for tomorrow and for the immediate future. Fuels will continue to be very receptive to fire and the potential for new starts remains elevated. Residents can expect to see smoke within the interior especially in the afternoon when temperatures are at their highest and relative humidity is at its lowest.
Operations have shifted to demobilizing resources.  On Monday, the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team will transition the incident back to local authorities. The members of the incident management team thank the area communities and the amazing volunteers for their hospitality and cooperation.
No road closures are in place. However, expect heavy emergency vehicle traffic as engines and other resources are released from the fire in route to their home units. 

* Fire containment proceeding, crews heading out of the area

(Posted 8 a.m. July 30)

Many of the state and federal resources in the area to combat the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires began leaving the area during the weekend. While some of the federal officials remain to finish mop-up duties, many of the crews were headed out.
Thank you to everyone who has assisted in any way with the recent fires, from the firefighters on the front lines to the volunteers in the fire halls to the hundreds of people who have donated supplies or funds to assist the effort. North central Nebraska has represented its people well, as have the people who no longer reside here but who have ties to the area.
Those who donated coolers to the fire halls can pick those coolers up, and those who donated air mattresses or cots to the Red Cross for use at the community shelter can pick those items up from Ainsworth Community Schools.
Unfortunately, some people still don't realize the extreme danger of fire in the area. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was called out at 7:35 a.m. Monday to a report of a grass fire in the ditch south of Ainsworth on the Cemetery Road.
According to Fire Chief Brad Fiala, someone threw a lit cigarette from the window of a vehicle, igniting the ditch just north of the Ainsworth South Cemetery.
"If the wind would have been up, that fire would have probably gotten into a grove of trees before we could have got there to put it out," Fiala said.
Though he has not yet taken that step, Fiala said he has received permission from the Nebraska Fire Marshal's Office to ban smoking in Brown County. If a smoking ban is implemented, smoking will be restricted to inside the home and in a vehicle with the windows up.
Fiala encouraged people to be aware of the extreme dry conditions in the area. If fires continue to be sparked from smoking materials, he won't hesitate to issue the ban. If a ban on smoking materials is issued, anyone smoking outside of their homes or their enclosed vehicles can be issued a fine.
Fiala said he does not want to implement a ban, so he warned people not to throw lit cigarettes from their vehicle.
An open fire ban is already in place, yet the Brown County Sheriff's Department and volunteer firefighters have had to respond to several calls of campfires being started in the Long Pine State Park area. Fines can be issued for anyone who is caught with an open fire.

* Fischer commends responders and volunteers Saturday during stops in area

(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 28)

Seeing first-hand the effects of the fires in Keya Paha, Brown and Cherry counties on Saturday, 43rd District State Sen. Deb Fischer said it was a relief to see the progress that has been made on controlling the fires, and she is amazed at the response from the people in the area.
"You see the outpouring of support from all across Nebraska, but especially from the communities here who have been affected by this horrible event," Fischer told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Saturday afternoon.
Fischer said the 43rd District has experienced some major fires during her time in the Legislature, from the Valentine area in 2006 to the Thedford fire a couple years ago and now the fires in this area and in Dawes County, which is now also in the 43rd District.
"I am trying to see how we can get some additional state and private resources to the area to help meet the huge expenses you've incurred," Fischer, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, said.
She said the stories she has heard regarding the volunteer effort and the sacrifices made by so many make her proud to be a Nebraskan.
"It's the fire departments, the ranchers, the volunteers, the wives of the firefighters," Fischer said. "Everyone comes together in a time like this."
To hear the complete report with State Sen. Deb Fischer from Saturday, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Deb Fischer Saturday report.mp3

* Region 24 manager reporting containment efforts progressing

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 28)

Region 24 Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Saturday afternoon substantial progress has been made on the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires in Keya Paha County despite south winds gusting to 25 mph.
Things are starting to look really good," Fox said.
Though there will still be some areas inside the fire lines burning and causing some smoke, work on the edges of the three fires has progressed substantially.
Fox said he took an aerial tour of the site with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, and he anticipated many of the state and federal resources would be departing the area by Monday.
To hear the complete report with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Saturday Afternoon Update.mp3

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency update on containment progress

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

On Friday, the Wentworth Fire remained in southeastern Keya Paha County remained active with medium to high rates of spread, group tree torching, crown runs and medium range spotting. Crews completed line around the largest of the three fires, the Fairfield Creek Fire, bringing it into 100 percent containment. Progress was made on both the Wentworth and Hall fire containment lines.

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

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

Hall - Crews will hold and improve lines.

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

Structure protection will continue on all three fires.

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

No evacuations are in place at this time.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 73 percent , estimated full containment by Monday

Cause: Lightning

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

Personnel: 423, plus approximately 40 Rural Fire Department personnel

Crews: 8 crews on the fire line

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

Engines: 27, plus 20 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 14 residences, 17 associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 152

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

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

Area firefighters, with support from the National Guard and federal hot-shot crews, continued work into the night with the Wentworth Fire burning in southeastern Keya Paha County.
With the Fairfield Creek and Hall fires both under control, the Wentworth Fire has been the focus of the responders' attention since it broke through a fire line Thursday afternoon.
Reports indicate southeastern Keya Paha County picked up one-quarter of an inch of rain or so from a small line of thunderstorms that moved through the area early Saturday morning. Roger Wentworth in southeastern Keya Paha County reported .20 of an inch of rain from the overnight storm. Wentworth's property absorbed the lightning strike that officials believe started the middle of the three fires - thus the namesake.
There was some lightning with the line of storms, so responders will keep their fingers crossed that no new fires crop up from those strikes.
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala asked area farmers and ranchers to keep all their stock tanks filled. Firefighters can fill their smaller tanks those water sources if necessary.
Preliminary reports indicate 98 different volunteer fire departments have assisted with the Niobrara River valley fires during some portion of the now nine-day response.
Officials are cautiously optimistic that they are in the home stretch of the major firefighting effort.
Preliminary reports show 14 residences have been lost, some of which were occupied full time while others were cabins, and a total of 47 other structures reportedly burned.
Monetary donations continue to be needed to help the fire departments deal with the monumental costs associated with nine days of fighting fire. Information on how to help is located at the top of this page.
Thank you to those who have already donated, as thousands of dollars are coming in to the relief fund to assist the fire departments and those who have lost homes. Additional support in the way of hay, fence posts and trucking have also been donated, not to mention the hundreds of hours of volunteered labor and equipment use from private contractors on the fire lines. There are so many stories of personal sacrifice and heroism, it is impossible to try and mention them individually. Just know all of the communities in this area are so appreciative of everything being done to assist them in this trying time.

* Kerrey proposes expanding drought program, streamlining disaster process

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

After completing a tour of the fire-affected Niobrara River Valley Thursday, former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey said expanding the crop insurance program and streamlining the disaster declaration process would help the people dealing with the drought and the fires.
Kerrey’s comments came as he returned from a tour of drought and fire-affected areas of north central Nebraska. While there, Kerrey met with fire victims, National Guard personnel, first responders, Forest Service officials and volunteers to learn more about the fire and its impact.
“The response of the volunteer community and the pressure this puts on county and city budgets reminded me of the aftermath of the tornado of 1975 that destroyed hundreds of businesses (including mine), thousands of homes and much more besides,” Kerrey said. “The storm put tremendous pressure on Omaha and Douglas County’s budget. The good news for us was that the area was declared a federal disaster two days later.
“This fire is part of a larger disaster occurring as a consequence of drought conditions. The impact on local governments is substantial. For example, the city of Ainsworth’s Fire Department budget was exhausted in just two hours of fighting this fire. I can’t tell you how impressed I am at the courage, tenacity and effectiveness of everyone involved in this effort. These folks are heroes and I want to do whatever I can to support them. Unfortunately, we may be facing a very long fire season.”  
Based on the information he gathered from the tour, Kerrey offered the following proposals for aiding farmers and ranchers affected by the drought:
“First the House must pass the five-year Farm Bill and renew the disaster programs to deliver relief to our struggling farmers and ranchers,” Kerrey said. “The bill’s enactment would also allow the Department of Agriculture to deliver assistance for livestock feed lost due to the drought and to provide compensation for livestock losses. Finally, the bill provides critical assistance to communities by funding fire prevention and firefighting resources.
“Second, the USDA should press forward with, and Congress should support, its efforts to streamline disaster declarations and speed up the turnaround time for low-interest loans to farmers and ranchers impacted by the drought.
“Third, Congress should consider expanding the crop insurance program for grazing land. The bill generates $23 billion in savings and expands the crop insurance program. I think we should look at rolling some of that savings into expanding the program allowing ranchers to purchase insurance for their pastures and grassland.”
Kerrey's opponent in the U.S. Senate race, State Sen. Deb Fischer, is visiting north central Nebraska today (Saturday).

* Springview fire chief said work continues on Wentworth Fire Friday

(Posted 2:35 p.m. July 27)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock told KBRB just after noon on Friday work continues to solidify the fire line after a breakout of the Wentworth Fire on Thursday afternoon.
Hallock said substantial progress was made overnight and this morning after firefighters were able to stop the breakout before it jumped the Niobrara River into Rock County approximately 2-1/2 miles west of the Carnes Bridge.
According to Deputy Commander Mark Hatcher with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Bravo Team, Thursday's breakout of the Wentworth Fire burned an additional 2,500 acres in southeastern Keya Paha County.
To hear the complete report with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Friday Noon Report.mp3

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


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

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


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

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


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

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


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

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

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

(Posted noon July 27)

Appearing on KBRB's Open Line program Friday morning, Rocky Mountain Incident Management Response Team Bravo Deputy Commander Mark Hatcher, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency representative Mike White, Region 24 Emergency Management Agency Director Doug Fox and Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala discussed the continued fire response effort, the toll fighting the fires has taken on firefighters and volunteers, the major assistance provided by landowners and volunteer contractors helping to save property in the river valley, and the work that still needs to be done to help the departments pay for the monumental expenses associated with eight straight days of fighting the wildfires in the Niobrara River valley.
Media outlets, there is a bundle of information from these responders on the following audio links from the 40-minute live program. Feel free to use any of the information to help your newscasts. Please credit KBRB Radio as the source of the information.
Thank you to everyone who has played a role in assisting the firefighting effort and helping to spread the word about the serious needs of the area fire departments and those who have lost homes and property in these fires. Information on how to make donations to support the area fire departments and those who have lost homes and property can be found at the top of this page.
Click on the following four links for the complete audio of KBRB's Friday morning Open Line report with the fire officials.

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

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

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

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

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

(Posted Noon July 27)

Fighting Fires

By Gov. Dave Heineman

July 27, 2012

 

Dear Fellow Nebraskans:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* July could join June as one of driest in history

(Posted 7:15 a.m. July 27)

Through the first 26 days of July, the KBRB rain gauge has picked up a total of .32 of an inch of moisture. That .32 total in July follows the third driest June in Ainsworth's history. Just .73 of an inch fell in June, more than 2.5 inches below the average for the month.
July's average rainfall in Ainsworth is 3.95 inches, according to Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborne.
Through 26 days of July, the temperature has climbed above the century mark 12 times, including a high of 109 degrees on Saturday, July 21, one of the worst days firefighters had trying to fight the Fairfield Creek Fire.
An additional 10 days in July have been above 90 degrees, including three readings of 99 degrees. That is 15 of the 26 days in July with temperatures of 99 degrees or above, with what could be the least amount of precipitation for July in Ainsworth's history.
Anyone with step by step directions on a tried and true rain dance, feel free to pass them along to KBRB and we will hold a community training session.

* Niobrara River opening to Rock Barn today for float trips

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 27)

The Niobrara River is for float trips beginning today from the launch are at Fort Niobrara to Rock Barn. Before today, the river had been closed east of Smith Falls State Park.
Firefighters continue to use River Road to access the fire line and continue mop-up operations on the Fairfield Creek Fire. Visitors and those traveling in the fire area are urged to use extreme caution as emergency vehicles and firefighters will continue to be working in the River Road area.
The public is also reminded that there are still hazards to be cautious of in the fire area. Smoke may continue to be visible during the next few days as unburned fuels and smoldering logs located inside the perimeter continue to burn. Also, trees that may have been weakened by the fire could fall without warning. Please use caution near the fire area, and while traveling on roads adjacent to the fire area.

* New concerns as the Wentworth fire flares up and heads toward Carnes

(Posted 5:30 p.m. July 26)

Just when it looked like progress was being made, winds picked up out of the northwest this afternoon in Keya Paha County and the Wentworth Fire jumped a fire line sending flames toward the Carnes Bridge area between Keya Paha and Rock counties. Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB fire officials are trying to get as many units into that area as possible. He said they have fire crews from Bassett, Naper, Tripp County, S.D., in addition to the federal firemen. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was also sending trucks to the area. Fox said the south moving fire line was near Walker Creek, which is just a half-mile west of Carnes. 

8:30 p.m. July 26 UPDATE: Doug Fox reports that the fire crews working on the Wentworth Fire flare-up in southeast Keya Paha County Thursday afternoon and evening were able to stop the fire before it reached the Niobrara River and the Carnes Bridge area. Listen for more complete information when fire officials appear on the KBRB Open Line program Friday morning.

* Updated NEMA map shows progress made on all 3 Niobrara Valley fires

(Posted 3:30 p.m. July 26)
 images/20120726_Region24Complex_NE_NES_120791_PIOThreeFire_MapCompressed_11x17.JPG
(Image courtesy of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency)

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

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

(Posted 3 p.m. July 26)

Former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey visited Ainsworth and Springview Thursday afternoon, touring the command center in the Ainsworth Conference Center and visiting with firefighters and volunteers in the fire halls on the front lines of the response.
"You start with the volunteer effort," Kerrey said. "The federal communications officer said she has been working on fires for 25 years and she has never seen a better community response."
He said he heard story after story of individual heroism while talking with firefighters.
"There are some great, heroic stories coming out of these fires," Kerrey said. "You have stories of firefighters turning at once, holding the line together and stopping the flames. They did it. They stopped the fire. It didn't have to be that way."
Kerrey said the main assistance that can be provided at the federal level is passing a Farm Bill and allowing the president to have the authority to declare these areas a federal disaster and unlock funding assistance.
Kerrey is the Democratic Party candidate for U.S. Senate. His Republican opponent in the General Election race, 43rd District State Sen. Deb Fischer, has said she plans to be in Ainsworth on Saturday.
To hear the complete report from former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Bob Kerrey Thursday visit.mp3

* Springview fire chief reports substantial progress, mounting expenses

(Posted 1:30 p.m. July 26)

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

audio clips/Scott Hallock Thursday Noon Report.mp3

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

(Posted noon July 26)

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

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

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

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

Volunteer evacuations have been lifted for Meadville and Norden.

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

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 50 percent, estimate containment by July 29

Cause: Lightning

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

Personnel: 480, plus approximately 80 Rural Fire Department personnel

Crews: 7 crews on the fire line

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

Engines: 38, plus 40 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 152

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

(Posted 10 a.m. July 26)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said fuel costs for the Springview Fire Department have surpassed $60,000, and fuel costs alone for the Ainsworth Fire Department are estimated at $150,000. Both of those totals surpass the entire annual budget for both departments.
Fox told KBRB's Grag Kinzie Thursday funds will be needed to pay for the costs associated with fighting the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires, as those bills will be due long before any state or federal grant funds are received.
The Region 24 emergency manager said the Fairfield Creek Fire is contained, while work continues on the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County.
"There will be more air drops there today," Fox said. "Hot shot crews are being sent into the fire's perimeter to down trees and create fire lines within the hot areas of the fire.
"The members of those crews are from all over the country," Fox said. "They have done a lot of work taking down trees inside the fire areas. Those guys have been a great asset."
Fox said, within the next couple days, he hopes to report that all three fires are completely contained.
To hear the complete report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox from Thursday morning, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Thursday AM Update.mp3

* Heineman says entire state focused on north central Nebraska efforts

(Posted 9 a.m. July 26)

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman joined KBRB's Graig Kinzie Thursday morning to discuss the effort statewide to support the firefighters and volunteers in the area.
To hear the complete report with Gov. Heineman, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Gov Dave Heineman Thursday Report.mp3

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

(Posted 6:50 a.m. July 26)

North central Nebraska livestock producers have been hit with a one-two punch -- drought and now fire. The extremely dry conditions, coupled with a fire that is burning tens of thousands of acres of pasture land, have caused a disaster of major proportions.
The fire has consumed hundreds of miles of permanent fence, along with what little summer grass was left for several thousand cows and calves to feed on. The fences that have been destroyed will have to be rebuilt before grazing can resume next year, if weather conditions permit a good growing season.
The North Central Development Center in Ainsworth has set up a fund to take monetary donations to help with the cost of the fire. Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210.
Donations of wire and post may be delivered to the Farmers and Ranchers Co-op in Ainsworth, 224 S. Main St. The contact person is Plant Manager Rocky Sheehan at 402-387-2810.
Individuals who want to specify their donations to help with fencing materials and hay may send checks to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension office in Ainsworth. The mailing address is BKR Extension Office, 148 W. Fourth St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Donations will be deposited into the NCDC Fire Relief Fund.
All funds collected will go to help those who have been affected by the fire. All needs will be taken from the fund, whether it is fencing, hay, feed for animals, personal needs of those impacted by the fire and help for fire departments that have responded to the distress.
For more information, contact the UN-L Extension Office in Ainsworth 1-800-634-8951 or e-mail dbauer1@unl.edu. The NCDC can be contacted at 402-387-2740 for more information.

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

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

Additional volunteers are supporting the relief efforts in north central Nebraska. A total of 21 Red Cross volunteers and staff have been supporting residents and the fire departments who are responding, including four additional volunteers who deployed late Tuesday from northeast Nebraska. Three emergency response vehicles have been on scene providing mobile feeding.
As responders continue to battle the blaze, the Red Cross is reaching out to those whose homes were affected. Case work volunteers are meeting with affected residents to provide food, shelter, comfort and care as needed. Residents affected by the wildfires are urged to call (888) 382-3790 to talk with one of the trained Red Cross volunteers.
Red Cross volunteers will continue to deliver prepared meals to seven fixed sites where responders can escape the intensity of the sun and flames to rehydrate and refuel. There are cots and volunteers there to assist those who are working to contain the fires. So far the Red Cross has served more than 4,000 meals and snacks both in the shelter and to the emergency responders on the front lines.
The Red Cross shelter remains open in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. in Ainsworth. More than 70 residents, responders and volunteers have stayed at the shelter where they find comfort and care from trained Red Cross Volunteers. Disaster workers in emergency response vehicles are circulating in and near affected areas, delivering water and food, supplies and comfort items.  The Red Cross is working with community partners to provide support.
You can help people affected by disasters such as floods, tornadoes, fires and hurricanes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. To make a donation, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767); people can also text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

* Ainsworth fire chief close to declaring Fairfield Creek Fire contained

(Posted 7:15 p.m. July 25)

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, after six straight days of battling wildfires, told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Wednesday evening he was close to declaring the nearly 100,000-acre Fairfield Creek Fire contained.
"Everything on the south side of the Fairfield Creek Fire has been cold for more than 24 hours, so that is good," Fiala said. "We still have some hot spots west of Norden, but the Valentine crews are doing an excellent job getting that area mopped up."
Fiala said, even if fire officials declare the Fairfield Creek Fire closed soon, there will still be some hot spots along the entire corridor for days to come.
"Don't be too alarmed if you see some smoke for a few days," the Ainsworth fire chief said. "Even if something starts back up, it shouldn't go far. We are still going to be monitoring the area, so if you do see flames let us know."
Fiala said there was an all-out aerial assault today on the Wentworth and Hall fires in southeastern Keya Paha County.
"When I went out and visited the Wentworth Fire today, I didn't see any smoke to the east with the Hall Fire," Fiala said. "They really knocked that one down today."
Fiala said, after six straight days of fighting fire on little rest in demanding weather conditions and terrain, the volunteers are looking forward to getting back to their regular jobs.
"This is our sixth day, and it is still kind of a blur to me," the Plains Equipment employee said. "We need to get back to work and get back to our jobs. It will be nice to get back to our jobs just to get our mind on something different."
He said the costs incurred battling the fires by the area departments are going to be staggering.
"When you get 70, 80, 90 trucks going full bore all day and all night long, that fuel bill is going to be tremendous," Fiala said.
Fuel costs alone could reach the neighborhood of $150,000, and the fire chief said that might be a low estimate. He said the support from the communities, the entire state of Nebraska, and nationwide, is unbelievable, and the volunteers have a hard time putting it into words.
"We have said for years, this is why we live in the place we do," the Ainsworth fire chief said of the area's response. "The overwhelming support we have received has been remarkable."
The North Central Development Center has set up a fund to assist all the area fire departments fighting the Niobrara River valley fires and to assist those who have lost their homes. Checks can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Mention the fire relief effort in the check's memo line. Donations will go to all of the area fire departments. All donations are tax deductible, as the North Central Development Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization.
To hear the complete Wednesday evening report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Fire Chief Brad Fiala Wednesday Evening.mp3

* Communications infrastructure one of the key elements of firefighting efforts

(Posted 7 p.m. July 25)

With the massive effort of more than 40 local fire departments, state of Nebraska resources, the Nebraska Army National Guard and federal officials in the area combating the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires, communications infrastructure was just one of the vital pieces needed to coordinate the response.
Brian Delimont with Three River Communications discusses with KBRB's Graig Kinzie the communications needs of the various agencies. Click on the audio link below to hear the complete report:

audio clips/Communications Report w Brian Delimont.mp3


(Photo courtesy of Cody Croghan)

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


(Photo courtesy of Cody Croghan)

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

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

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

With the KBRB one-man news team chasing down the latest information on the progress being made to combat the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires burning in Keya Paha, Brown and Cherry counties, former one-man news team Larry Rice is beginning a series highlighting just a few of the stories from the thousands of volunteers who have had an impact on the fire-fighting effort. The following audio report with a 7-year-old Pender boy is the first of that series.

audio clips/Larry Rice Report on Volunteer Effort.mp3

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

(Posted noon July 25)

The Ainsworth, Springview and Bassett Fire halls are reporting they have a substantial supply of water, food and sports drinks. With the area departments racking up extremely expensive fuel bills, cash donations are needed to help the area departments pay for those massive fuel costs. Fuel bills for each department are in the tens of thousands of dollars. At last report, the Springview Fire Department's fuel bill alone was more than $60,000.
Cash donations can be made to the fire halls in Brown, Rock, Keya Paha and Cherry counties. The North Central Development Center has set up a fund to assist all the area fire departments fighting the Niobrara River valley fires and to assist those who have lost their homes.
Checks can be mailed to the North Central Development Center at 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Mention the fire relief effort in the check's memo line. Donations will go to all of the area fire departments. All donations are cash deductible, as the North Central Development Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization.
The volunteers working in all of the area fire halls thank all those who have made a donation and volunteered to help. The support has been phenomenal. From the firefighters on the front lines to the volunteers in the fire halls and those helping the Red Cross purchase and prepare meals, thank you to everyone who has helped provide support.
Your help will continue to be needed when the fires are extinguished, as the costs to these small departments will otherwise be monumental.

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Update

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 25)

Effective at 6 a.m. Wednesday the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires were combined and renamed the Region 24 Complex. The incident will continue to be managed by local units with the Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team B providing assistance and coordination.

On Tuesday, Gov. Dave Heineman visited the fire and affected communities.  “I’m very impressed with the interagency coordination,” he said. “I’d like to express my personal gratitude to the firefighters and especially all the volunteers working the incident.”

In spite of the extreme fire weather yesterday, good progress was made on all three fires. Crews were successful in constructing and securing line along several sections of the fires. 

With the projected cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity expected today Todd Pechota, the commander for the Rocky Mountain team, said he is optimistic that they might have turned the corner on this incident.  “However, it’s not over yet - one shift of the wind and we could be off to the races again,” Pechota said. 

According to Doug Fox, Region 24 Emergency Management Director, “We currently have sufficient resources on the incident. If additional resources are needed local fire chiefs will put out a call for assistance.”

A cold front moved through the area last night bringing cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity. Combined with winds out of the north-northwest, this will help moderate fire behavior. 

Additional air resources are expected on the fire today.  They include six heavy-lift helicopters (three Black Hawks, a K-max, a Sky Crane, and a Boeing Vertol) for a total of eight helicopters.  Another K-Max is en route to the complex today.  Break-out by division:

  • Division A (Fairfield Fire): Continue to improve and hold fire line.

  • Division C (Fairfield Fire): Continue to hold and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division E (Fairfield Fire): Continue to hold and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division H (Fairfield Fire): Continue to hold and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division O (Wentworth Fire): Secure line and provide structure protection.

  • Division M (Wentworth Fire): Construct and improve line along Hwy 7.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division X (Hall Fire): Hold and and improve line.  Provide structure protection.

  • Division Z (Hall Fire): Hold and improve line.

Volunteer evacuations are still in place for Meadville.

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

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 25 percent

Cause: Lightning

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

Personnel: 321, plus approximately 80 Rural Fire Department personnel

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

Engines: 30, plus 40 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 128

* Firefighters making progress in difficult terrain

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

Anyone who claims Nebraska is nothing but flat land needs to spend a day in the shoes of the firefighters who have been fighting raging wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley since Friday.
The steep, wooded terrain in the canyons on both sides of the Niobrara River have proved to be a difficult opponent for the fire crews. Heavy equipment from the Nebraska Department of Roads and private contractors who have volunteered to assist the effort have been working to knock down trees and clear paths into areas otherwise not accessible. That equipment is also being used to create the fire lines, which have helped stall the fires' progress in several areas.
Ainsworth Firefighter Nate Rau said he has been working west end of Fairfield Creek and west of Norden, an area where on Tuesday fire officials concentrated their efforts to keep the Fairfield Creek Fire from breaking a fire line and burning unabated to the west.
"We have been doing our best to make sure it doesn't get any farther west," Rau told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Wednesday morning at the Ainsworth Fire Hall while awaiting orders on where he would be deployed. "It is rough. There is no way to get two-wheel trucks in there."
Rau said, though not working frequently in areas where aerial drops have been made, he has seen their impact.
"They have been helping," Rau said. "We had one Saturday morning drop about right on me, and that cooled me off quite a bit."
To hear the complete report with Ainsworth Firefighter Nate Rau, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Firefighter Nate Rau.mp3

* Wednesday efforts to focus on Wentworth, Hall fires

(Posted 10 a.m. July 25)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said progress continues to be made in containing the Fairfield Creek Fire burning in southwest Keya Paha, northwestern Brown and eastern Cherry counties.
Fire officials are focusing their efforts Wednesday on the Wentworth and Hall fires burning in southeastern Keya Paha County.
"Additional ground units are being moved east to assist with the Hall and Wentworth fires," Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Wednesday morning. "There is a concern that both of those fires could jump the Niobrara River to the south, but the federal officials are confident the aerial drops can keep the fire contained to north of the river."
Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said firefighters on the front lines of the Wentworth and Hall fires had another exhausting night, first keeping the fire from jumping out of the canyons to the north, then watching as the wind shifted to the north and fires began blazing a new path to the south.
"There is just no way for the ground forces to get in front of it to the south," Hallock said. "The Wentworth Fire is in some very deep canyons. We don't have a way to contain it after the wind shifted."
Hallock said the Niobrara River will be used as the southern containment line for the fires, and additional crews are massing to create fire breaks to try and keep the fires from moving east and threatening additional homes.
Fox said at least nine aircraft will be focused on dropping water and fire retardant on the Hall and Wentworth fires.
As for the Fairfield Creek Fire, Fox reported containment continues to progress, and firefighters made significant progress on the fire's southwest, northwest and southeast boundaries.
"With the resources going to the east today, I am fairly optimistic that in the next few days we can get these fires to the point of being mop-up situations and we can get the job finished," Fox said.
To hear the complete Wednesday morning reports with Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox and Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio links below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Wednesday AM Report.mp3

audio clips/Springview Chief Scott Hallock Wednesday.mp3


(Photo courtesy of Emily Estes of Stuart)

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


(Photo courtesy of Emily Estes of Stuart)

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


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

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


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

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


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

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


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

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

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

* Fiala reports major progress Tuesday on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted 9 p.m. July 24)

Sounding optimistic for the first time since the Fairfield Creek Fire ignited Friday morning, Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala reported major progress was made on all fronts Tuesday despite another day of extreme heat and south winds.
Fiala said substantial progress was made on the south side of the Niobrara River in the Plum Creek and Meadville areas.
"A large effort was focused on knocking down the flames there because of concerns with the wind possible shifting to the north later tonight," Fiala told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday evening.
The fire chief said there are still several hotspots north of Norden, southeast of the community of Sparks. On Monday night, fire officials were concerned that Sparks could be in the path of the fire if it continued to progress to the northwest Tuesday.
"We had some large flare-ups there, but we had two Blackhawk helicopters and one Huey dumping from the air," Fiala said. "We made a lot of progress in that area today."
Fiala said, with the number of volunteer crews who have responded to the area to help with the three fires burning in the Niobrara River valley, the Ainsworth crew was going to be pulled off the fire for a night of rest and to allow the department's equipment to be checked and serviced if needed.
"Some other departments have had some equipment problems, so we are pulling everyone off the fire tonight and giving them a night of rest," Fiala said. "We'll get our trucks checked out and hit it hard again tomorrow.
To hear the complete report Tuesday evening with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Brad Fiala Tuesday Night Report.mp3

* Heineman hopeful containment of the fires is progressing

(Posted 7 p.m. July 24)

After visiting Ainsworth, Springview and Norden Tuesday and hearing a briefing from Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team officials, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said he is hopeful meaningful progress is being made in combating the three major fires burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties.
"My sense is we are on the verge of making some significant progress to contain the fires, and that would certainly be very good news for all of us," Heineman told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday evening. "I am pleased to see all the federal, state and local forces working together."
Heineman said the volunteer spirit and effort being displayed in north central Nebraska makes him proud.
"We are in a much stronger position today trying to contain the fires," Heineman said. "I can see we are making progress, but the weather still makes you nervous."
Heineman said the state's focus will remain on assisting the volunteer fire departments in the area until the fires are completely under control.
To hear the complete report with Gov. Dave Heineman from his Tuesday evening conversation with KBRB, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Gov Heineman Tuesday Evening Report.mp3

* North central Nebraska not the only area dealing with fires

(Posted 6 p.m. July 24)

Hot, dry weather and stronger western winds helped Ash Creek Fire jump a line and grow to approximately 1,000 acres and 20 percent containment, compared to this morning’s 300 acres and 25 percent containment.

Steve Lenzo, deputy forest supervisor, said, “We ordered a Type 2 Incident Management Team that is expected to arrive tomorrow by mid-afternoon.  At this time there have been no evacuations or structures lost. There was one injury.”

Most of the fire growth is attributed to weather, especially shifting western winds. Additionally, fire crews’ efforts are hindered by steep ravines and rugged terrain.

The Ash Creek fire started from a Saturday late night lightning storm in the Pine Ridge National Recreation Area approximately 20 miles southwest of Chadron.

* Hallock reports Wentworth, Hall fires flaring, but firefighters keeping up

(Posted 5:30 p.m. July 24)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock told KBRB Radio late Tuesday afternoon the Wentworth and Hall fires burning in southeastern Keya Paha County are again trying to climb out of the Niobrara River Canyons, jump fire lines and move north, but firefighters have been able to get the fires put out before they gain much steam north of the fire lines that have been built.
Hallock said additional manpower and equipment is on scene at the Wentworth and Hall fires today, helping to keep both fires from gaining momentum.
Federal officials are anticipating a wind change Tuesday night, with winds expected to move from southerly to northerly. While Hallock said crews are prepared to combat them if the flames move south, having the fire move back onto ground that has already burned may help firefighters gain even more grounds.
For the complete report from 5 p.m. Tuesday with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock Tuesday 5 PM update.mp3

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency provides map of fires

(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 24)


Map provided by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency

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

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

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

Mindy Mangus, the disaster services manager with the Central Plains Chapter of the American Red Cross, said volunteers with the Red Cross are cooking and serving as many as 1,800 meals daily to assist the firefighters and volunteers working in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties.
Mangus told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday the Red Cross is delivering meals to 10 staging areas near the front line of the fires, and volunteers are preparing as many as 600 meals per meal from their location at Ainsworth Community Schools.
Mangus said the communities have been very welcoming and appreciative of the Red Cross, and the volunteer support has been tremendous.
She said, in addition to cash donations to help support the 100 percent volunteer effort, the Red Cross can use bananas, Chex Mix, peanuts, and snack items such as beef jerky that are sent out with the prepared meals. Those items can be delivered to Ainsworth Community Schools.
The work of the Red Cross is completely voluntary, and free of charge for those receiving its services. Red Cross operations are paid for through the generosity of the American public.
For the complete report with Mindy Mangus, click on the audio report below:

audio clips/Mindy Mangus w the Red Cross.mp3

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

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

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

Andrew Lee of North Platte is one of the 17 volunteers from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team assisting the American Red Cross by cooking meals at Ainsworth Community Schools for the firefighters battling the fires burning in the area and the volunteers working to help support the firefighting effort.
Lee said the Southern Baptist team volunteers have been welcomed warmly to the area, and are working hard to provide the firefighters and volunteers with the energy they need to sustain their effort.
For the complete report with Andrew Lee from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team Report.mp3

* Johanns says he will pursue additional federal resources if needed

(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 24)

U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns said on Tuesday he is monitoring the fires burning in the Niobrara River Valley, and will pursue additional federal resources for the area if needed.
“This summer’s drought has adversely affected nearly every Nebraskan and is now exacerbating the wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley,” Johanns said. “My thoughts are with those who have been displaced, who have lost homes, or whose livelihoods are being threatened. I also want to join every Nebraskan in thanking the firefighters, National Guard and other emergency responders for their dedicated, tireless service as they work to extinguish this blaze.
“I am closely monitoring the situation and in contact with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and county officials. If additional federal assistance is required, I’m ready to ensure that aid is delivered quickly and efficiently.”

* Officials provide Gov. Heineman with an update on fire progress

(Posted 2:30 p.m. July 24)

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

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Tuesday fire report, statistics

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

“We will coordinate and integrate efforts with local, state and federal resources to be effective as possible,said Incident Commander Todd Pechota at this morning’s briefing. “The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team 2B is interagency, comprised of state and local resources, as well as federal. Our role is to assist and coordinate state and local fire management.”

Hot, dry conditions are expected for another day at the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth fire and Hall fires in north central Nebraska close to the Niobrara River. A total of approximately 65,580 acres have burned.

The Fairfield fire is approximately 58,560 acres and straddles the river. The Wentworth fire is 20 miles east of the Fairfield Creek fire and 3 miles north of the river. It is estimated at 2,595 acres.

A new fire started yesterday approximately 6 miles east of the current Wentworth fire and 3 miles north of the river.  It has been labeled the Hall Fire and was estimated at 1,425 in size. Both the Wentworth and Hall fires are east of Springview.

For most of Tuesday hot and dry weather is expected.  A heat advisory is in effect until 9 p.m. on Tuesday and a Red Flag Warning is in effect for winds and low relative humidity. Late afternoon severe weather with high winds is forecast with the potential to affect fire behavior.

Work continues on the four divisions of the Fairfield Creek fire:

Division A (southwest) Cherry County Fire District—continue to establish and hold line.

Division C (northwest): Springview Fire District, Keya Paha County--hold line and burn-out where possible to bring defensible line down to the river.

Division E (northeast): Springview Fire District, Keya Paha County—anchor line at the river, hold, improve and secure spot that crossed Highway 12.

Division H (southeast): Ainsworth Fire District, Brown County—construct a direct hand line toward the southwest.

Air Operations

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

Fire retardant drops may be available.

Road Closures

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

Evacuations: 

Volunteer evacuations are still in place for Meadville.

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

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 15%

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 65,580 total

Personnel: 239

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

Engines: 30

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 80

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

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 24)

The North Central Development Center has established an online Pay Pal account that allows those who would like to donate funds to support the firefighters fighting the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires.
Go to Facebook and like the North Central Development Center. A link to the Pay Pal account can be found on the NCDC Facebook page.
For those not on Facebook, make checks payable to the North Central Development Center, 335 N. Main St., Ainsworth, NE 69210. Write fire relief on the check.
All donations are tax deductible, and 100 percent of the money donated will be used to support the firefighting efforts and support the victims who have lost their homes.

* Springview fire chief says Wentworth, Hall fires pushed back into Niobrara River canyons, 1 home lost west of Springview when fire jumped Highway 12

(Posted 11:15 a.m. July 24)

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

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

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

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

audio clips/Susan Ford incident management Tuesday report.mp3

* Firefighters describe conditions at the front line of the fires

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

Ainsworth Volunteer Firefighter Brandon Evans said he has never seen anything like the fire burning in the Niobrara River valley.
It is unbelievable," Evans told KBRB's Graig Kinzie Tuesday morning as his crew was getting its marching orders and preparing to head back out for another day on the fire lines. "I never imagined something like this could happen. I hope we never see anything like it again."
Evans said the crews are basically trying to surround the Niobrara River valley and put out fires as they jump out of the canyons.
"We have seen fire moving at more than 60 mph," Evans said.
Ainsworth Firefighter Jeff Keezer said his crew was out 32 hours straight from the time the Fairfield Creek Fire ignited Friday morning north of Johnstown until they grabbed a break Saturday morning.
"After we got a little break, we went back out for another 24 hours," Keezer said.
Keezer said trying to get ahead of the flames when they break out of the canyons is not an easy task for the crews on the front line.
"When it breaks out, you are moving fast and driving hard over some very rough terrain," Keezer said.
To hear the complete report with the firefighters, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Report w firefighters Evans & Keezer.mp3

* Region 24 manager says crews made progress overnight, another tough day ahead today

(Posted 9:15 a.m. July 24)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Tuesday morning progress was made overnight to push the numerous fires burning in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry counties back into the Niobrara River basin after gusting south winds Monday caused the fire to break out at several locations.
Fox said the Wentworth Fire exploded Monday, but crews there pushed it back south into the canyons and are now working on fire lines in anticipation of strong south winds again today.
Fires continue to burn in several locations. He said the western edge of the Fairfield Creek fire was still burning west of Norden in the Rocky Ford area, and fires were still burning on both the north and south sides of the Niobrara River.
The hear the complete report Tuesday with the Region 24 emergency manager, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Tuesday AM report.mp3

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

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

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala says the 300 to 400 fire personnel are doing their best to knock down fires that are flaring to the north out of the Niobrara River valley at numerous locations, pushed by gusting south winds and extreme heat on Monday.
Fiala said the Fairfield Creek Fire's western edge is burning rapidly, and the small community of Sparks should be on notice that an evacuation may be necessary on Tuesday if the fire continues on its current path.
"Today, the aerial units were giving the ground forces their only chance to keep up," Fiala said. "If we can keep the wind down on Tuesday, we might be able to get on top of it a little."
During the late afternoon hours Monday, a portion of the Fairfield Creek Fire broke the northern containment line on Highway 12 approximately 3 miles west of Cub Creek.
"It burned about 150 acres north of Highway 12, but the fire resources in that area got it knocked down," Fiala said. "It would have been a huge fire in that terrain if had kept burning north, and there would have been no place to stop it."
Fiala also commended the work of the crews that battled the Wentworth and Hall fires in southeastern Keya Paha County on Monday afternoon.
"The Wentworth Fire blew up in the early afternoon hours," the Ainsworth fire chief said. "Those guys were working really hard to slow that fire down."
For the complete Monday night report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Fire Chief Brad Fiala Monday Night.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire reportedly crosses Highway 12 west of Springview

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

KBRB has received reports that a portion of the Fairfield Creek Fire has moved across Highway 12 west of Springview, which had been the northern boundary of the fire that has been burning since Friday morning.
The fire reportedly jumped the highway approximately three miles west of Cub Creek.
Firefighters are continuing to battle extreme weather conditions in addition to the fires, and are working to try and keep the flames from breaking free to the north of the river valley in several areas.
KBRB will try and bring listeners an evening update on the status of the Fairfield Creek, Wentworth and Hall fires.

* Area departments trying to head off fires in southeastern Keya Paha County

(Posted 5 p.m. July 23)

Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said crews in southeastern Keya Paha County are struggling to slow down the Wentworth Fire and the Hall Fire that have jumped out of the Niobrara River valley and are being pushed northwest by the wind.
Hallock said the Wentworth Fire is now eight miles southeast of Springview, moving to the northeast, and the Hall Fire is located farther east in southeastern Keya Paha County.
Hallock said getting enough water to the fire crews is a big issue at this point, as tankers are doing their best to keep up with demand. Firefighters on the ground are also trying to coordinate with one of the Blackhawk helicopters being used to drop water from the air.
For the complete report with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

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

* Firefighter and EMT Ann Fiala discusses the volunteer effort

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

Ann Fiala, a firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician who is helping to coordinate the volunteers assisting the front lines with food and water, told KBRB Monday afternoon she continues to be overwhelmed by the way the communities have come together to support the firefighting effort.
For the full report with Fiala, including how to assist the volunteer effort, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Ann Fiala report on volunteer effort.mp3

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

(Posted 4 p.m. July 23)

In addition to the Wentworth Fire in southeastern Keya Paha County that has jumped out of the Niobrara River basin and is moving northeast, Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said a new fire, being referred to as the Hall Fire, is now burning in southeastern Keya Paha County east of the Wentworth Fire, and a third fire has jumped out of the river canyons in western Keya Paha County. These flare-ups are in addition to the large Fairfield Creek Fire that continues to burn in the river canyons in northwestern Brown and southwestern Keya Paha counties.
To listen to the full report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Monday Afternoon Report.mp3

* Wentworth Fire southeast of Springview breaks containment, heading northeast

(Posted 2:15 p.m. July 23)

During the late morning and early afternoon hours on Monday, the fire burning in southeastern Keya Paha County known as the Wentworth Fire broke containment in the Niobrara River basin canyon area and is now moving over open ground to the northeast.
Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock said the fire is moving quickly, and personnel from several departments are en route to try and get ahead of the fire as it moves to the northeast.
Hallock said, if its present direction holds, the fire should miss Burton, but it could move close to that community if the departments cannot get it slowed down.
Residents potentially in the fire's path have been notified. Temperatures at 2 p.m. were already 104 degrees and climbing, with south winds at 16 gusting to 25 mph.
To hear the full report with Springview Fire Chief Scott Hallock, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Scott Hallock - Wentworth Fire.mp3

* Federal team coordinating firefighting efforts from conference center

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 23)

The Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team 2 Bravo has set up in the Ainsworth Conference Center to help coordinate firefighting efforts on the Fairfield Creek Fire. This is the third wildland fire to which the team has been deployed during 2012.
KBRB's Graig Kinzie spoke with Susan Ford, the team's public information officer, Monday in the conference center.
Ford said aerial infrared data shows the southwestern and southeastern edges of the Fairfield Creek Fire are continuing to burn at a very high temperature. She said their aerial surveillance of the fire showed it had burned approximately 50,000 acres. Estimates have ranged from 50,000 to 100,000 acres that have burned since the fire started Friday morning in the Fairfield Creek area.
To hear the complete report with Ford, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Rocky Mountain Incident Management.mp3

* Meadville Avenue, Norden Road, Highway 12 remain closed

(Posted 10 a.m. July 23)

Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein reported Monday morning to KBRB that the Norden Road and Meadville Avenue in both Brown and Keya Paha counties, and Highway 12 in Keya Paha County remain closed to traffic.
Papstein said, with fire equipment traveling the narrow roads, other vehicle traffic is prohibited. He warned people to stay away from the area. Law enforcement officials have had to warn several motorists to turn around who were trying to make their way toward the Niobrara River for a closer look at the fire.
To hear the complete report with Sheriff Papstein, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Sheriff Papstein Road Closure Report.mp3

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

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

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

audio clips/Doug Fox Monday Report.mp3

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

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

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman told KBRB Monday morning state and federal resources have been brought in to assist with the effort to contain the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Heineman said a federal incident management team has taken control of the coordination of the firefighting efforts. He said the federal team has extensive experience in fighting wildland fires.
To hear the full report with Gov. Heineman, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Gov Heineman Monday Report.mp3

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

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

In a report with KBRB's Graig Kinzie Sunday evening, Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox estimated the Fairfield Creek Fire was 50 percent contained, though that figure could easily change Monday as southwest winds are forecast at 10-20 and gusting to 30 mph.
Fox said six homes have been destroyed by the fire since it started Friday morning north of Johnstown from a lightning strike. The fire tore through the Norden area Friday, but Fox said some homes have been saved in that area.
As of Sunday evening, the western edge of the fire was the most aggressive, burning rapidly west of Norden and potentially endangering three homes. Fire breaks burned Sunday west of Meadville have helped slow the eastern movement of the fire and protect the Meadville area for another day. The northern edge of the zone remains at Highway 12, and the southern edge of the fire continues to jump south of the Niobrara River.
Fox said the fire that started in southeastern Keya Paha County Saturday evening due to a lightning strike has been contained to the river canyons. No homes have been lost in that fire.
For the complete report Sunday with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox, click on the link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Sunday Evening Report.mp3

* Updated information from the American Red Cross

(Posted July 22)

KBRB's Graig Kinzie spoke with Red Cross volunteer Susan Epps Sunday on the activities of the organization, which has set up a shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools to aid firefighters and those who have been displaced by the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Also, Ainsworth Fire Hall volunteers reported they now have a sufficient number of coolers to transport water to the front lines of the fire. They again thank everyone who has made donations to the firefighting effort.
To hear the full report with Susan Epps of the Red Cross, click on the link below:

audio clips/Red Cross Sunday update.mp3

* NCDC setting up online avenue to assist firefighting effort

(Posted July 22)

The North Central Development Center is in the process of setting up an online shopping cart for all of the local departments and those who have been impacted by the fire.
All donations will be tax-deductible. Anyone who would like to help with the effort can go online to donate to the departments. As soon as everything is set up, more information will be posted. Items the departments have requested include an ice truck, supplies and items for the families who have lost their home. The North Central Development Center thanks everyone who is supporting the effort to control the Fairfield Creek Fire.

* Fiala reports fire still threatening Meadville area, impossible to control

(Posted July 22)

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

audio clips/Brad Fiala Sunday Fire Report.mp3

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

(Posted July 22)

Gov. Dave Heineman has activated the State Emergency Operations Plan in response to the fire emergency in Brown and Keya Paha Counties. Saturday, Heineman surveyed firsthand the affected areas in north central Nebraska and met with local responders in Ainsworth, Long Pine and Norden.

“I am continually impressed with the hard work of Nebraskans in difficult situations,” Heineman said. “The local communities are working very hard and are supportive of the efforts of local responders and firefighters, including providing aid in the forms of food and water. We will continue to work closely together as we fight these fires.”

The Nebraska National Guard continues to mobilize available resources as the response grows. This includes the mobilization of three Nebraska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with “Bambi buckets” and approximately 28 personnel to provide support to local firefighters fighting a wildfire in Keya Paha and Brown Counties at the request of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. The helicopters are equipped with “Bambi buckets” which can scoop water from local sources and place the water where needed by ground firefighters.

The Nebraska National Guard is also preparing to send up to 35 additional ground, red-card certified Nebraska National Guardsmen to support local firefighters if needed.

Resources from the Nebraska State Patrol, Nebraska Department of Roads, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are also responding to the emergency.

At the beginning of this month, Heineman authorized an emergency declaration for statewide drought and fires that allows state personnel and resources to assist with emergency situations and prevention, and allows maximum flexibility to the state to deploy Nebraska National Guard and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency assets and resources as needed.

The governor and the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency will continue to monitor the situation throughout the state, as the drought continues.

* Gov. Heineman reports additional state resources on the way to battle fire

(Posted July 21)

Calling in Saturday evening to KBRB, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said two additional Blackhawk helicopters and members of the Nebraska National Guard would be in the area Sunday to help combat the Fairfield Creek Fire, which as of Saturday evening had burned to within four miles west of Meadville.
Heineman said the state of Nebraska has declared a state of emergency to allow for the use of additional state and federal resources to combat wild fires in the state.
The complete audio report with Gov. Heineman can be accessed by clicking the link below.

audio clips/Gov Heineman Report Saturday.mp3

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

(Posted July 21)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said the Fairfield Creek Fire was now burning out of control on Saturday evening. Despite massive efforts from fire departments representing almost one-third of Nebraska, the fire is burning faster than allows for fire lines to be established.
Fox said firefighters were beginning to experience major fatigue and heat-related problems, and a few firefighters have been injured in non-fire incidents relating to digging fire suppression lines.
The fire, at last report, was located four to five miles west of Meadville, which has been evacuated. The fire on Friday devastated the small community of Norden on the north side of the Niobrara River in Keya Paha County.
Additional fires have sparked southeast of Springview Saturday evening from another round of lightning strikes, and some of the firefighting resources from the Fairfield Creek Fire were moved to suppress those fires before they spread.
The complete report with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox is located below. Click on the link for the audio report.

audio clips/Doug Fox Saturday Update.mp3
 

* Brown County Ambulance Service requests towels, ice packs

(Posted July 21)

Anyone with towels and ice packs to spare, please drop them off at the Brown County Ambulance Service. The towels and ice packs will be used to help aid in cooling down firefighters battling the Fairfield Creek Fire.

Some area retailers are running low on water and ice. Deliveries are expected again tomorrow. Stay tuned to KBRB for reports on inventory supply.

* Report with Red Cross organizer Susan Epps

(Posted July 21)
(Click on the link below for the audio report)

audio clips/Red Cross Report.mp3

* Red Cross volunteers have arrived at Ainsworth Community Schools

(Posted July 21)

The American Red Cross has opened a shelter for people displaced by the Niobrara River Canyon Fire in north central Nebraska.  The shelter is located in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. Anyone displaced by the fire is urged to come to the shelter for a safe place to sleep, a meal, minor first aid, referrals and a shoulder to lean on. Volunteer teams will continue to provide food and hydration to the firefighters from 16 departments battling the wildfire.
As soon as conditions are deemed safe by local authorities, additional Red Cross volunteers will arrive to assess damage to area homes and conduct interviews with affected families. Food, clothing, shelter, comfort and care will be provided based on need. Snacks and drinks will be provided to area residents as well.

* Red Cross setting up emergency shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools

(Posted July 21)

Two teams of Red Cross volunteers from Grand Island and North Platte are setting up an emergency shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools for residents evacuated from the path of the Fairfield Creek Fire.
The Red Cross will also help provide meals and hydration to firefighters from the now more than 16 departments trying to battle the fire in the Niobrara River Valley.
More Red Cross volunteers are standing by. The Red Cross will work with local agencies and community organizations to ensure that the needs of first responders and those who have been evacuated are met.
To make a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief, call 1-800-REDCROSS or visit the web at www.redcross.org.

* Emergency personnel evacuating area east of the Norden Bridge to Highway 183

(Posted July 21)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox has issued an evacuation notice for all residents of the Niobrara Valley from the Norden Bridge east to Highway 183. This evacuation notice includes Meadville and the surrounding area.
The Fairfield Creek Fire is moving quickly to the east today, and with the dry and hot conditions and the steep terrain.
Those people east of the Norden Bridge to Highway 183 need to evacuate to the south, not to the north. Those evacuees are asked to report to the Ainsworth Community Schools, where the Red Cross has set up a temporary shelter.
The Brown County Ambulance Service is asking for donations of ice packs and towels to help cool down firefighters who have been battling the fire since it started before 10 a.m. Friday.
Stay tuned to KBRB for the latest information on the Fairfield Creek Fire.

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

(Posted at 8 a.m. Saturday)

(click on the link below)

audio clips/Doug Fox Fire Update.mp3

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

* Audio report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala Friday evening

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

(Posted 8 p.m. July 20)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox is reporting the leading edge of the Fairfield Creek Fire is between 6 and 7 miles wide as it moves through Keya Paha County north of Highway 12.
"The wind is starting to switch a little, so we may be able to start slowing this thing down," Fox said.
The fire has burned several thousand acres in northern Brown County and southern and central Keya Paha County, including extensive damage in the community of Norden. Numerous homes and structures in the Norden area have been damaged, though Fox said the exact number of homes damaged won't be known until the area can be surveyed.
Fox said more firefighting assets continue to move into the area, as units from the six-county North Platte Mutual Aid District are making their way to the area from as far south as Curtis. Fox said those firefighters will concentrate on mopping up hot spots Saturday in both Brown and Keya Paha counties.
A large air tanker from Rapid City, S.D. will also be in the area Saturday, as will a water-carrying helicopter from Lincoln.
No injuries have been reported from the fires, though Fox said some firefighters were being treated for symptoms relating to heat stress. A Long Pine Volunteer Fire Department truck was destroyed by the Fairfield Creek Fire, and a second truck belonging to the South Brown County Fire Department was damaged fighting a second fire south of Long Pine Friday afternoon, though Fox said that truck will be salvageable but will require new wiring.
Fox will again appear on KBRB Saturday morning to provide an update on the firefighting activities and the extent of the damage.

* Fire does severe damage to Norden area, jumps Highway 12 containment line

(Posted July 20 at 6:30 p.m.)

The small community of Norden has been severely damaged by a fast-moving fire that began at 9:45 a.m. Friday north of Johnstown, jumped the Niobrara River and broke through a containment line on Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Recapping the events since the fire was first reported 13 to 14 miles north of Johnstown, the flames moved quickly through the Fairfield Creek area and jumped across the Niobrara River. The fire began moving north through Keya Paha County. Residents of Norden and the surrounding area were evacuated ahead of the fire reaching the community.
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Friday evening most of the Norden area has sustained extensive damage. No injuries have been reported due to the fire, but the Long Pine Rural Volunteer Fire Department did lose a fire truck to the blaze, and another truck belonging to the South Brown County Fire Department was damaged fighting another Friday afternoon fire south of Long Pine. Fox said that truck is salvageable with new wiring.
"We haven't had any injuries," Fox said. "People were evacuated ahead of time. Some of our firefighters are experiencing some symptoms of heat stress."
Temperatures Friday again soared to near 105 degrees, and south winds gusting to 25 mph led to the fire moving quickly through the area already dealing with severe drought.
As of 6 p.m. Friday, the fire had burned an area more than 10 miles long and reportedly up to four miles wide in some areas near Norden.
"The fire is moving faster than we can keep up with," Fox said after the blaze jumped a containment line set up on Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Some residents living north of Highway 12 in northern Keya Paha County and into southern Tripp County, S.D., are being evacuated. Highway 12 has been closed to traffic west of Springview.
Firefighters from the Ainsworth, Johnstown, Wood Lake, Long Pine, Bassett, Springview, Calamus, Raven and South Brown County departments battled what is being referred to as the Fairfield Creek Fire, while the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Bassett and Stuart fire departments fought the fire south of Long Pine. That fire was brought under control by 5 p.m. Friday. Damage from the fire south of Long Pine was limited to pasture ground and the loss of the South Brown County Fire Department truck.
Fox reported additional fires were burning north of Merriman in Cherry County on both sides of the Niobrara River, and east of the Spencer Dam in Boyd County. All of the fires in the area Thursday night and Friday morning were sparked by lightning from a storm that carried extensive lightning but little rain.
Aerial support was utilized, but Fox said the numerous buckets of water dropped from the plane were not effective in slowing down the fire in Keya Paha County.
The extent of the damage is not yet known, but thousands of acres and numerous structures, including homes, have now been burned by the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Brown County Board of Commissioners Chairman Buddy Small on Friday signed a declaration asking for disaster assistance for the county stemming from the wildfires burning in northern and southern Brown County.
Dozens of volunteers flooded the Ainsworth Fire Hall with bottled water, sports drinks, ice and coolers to send to the front lines of the fires. Organizer Heather Walnofer said the outpouring of support from the area has been overwhelming.
Stay tuned to KBRB for additional information.

* Fire crosses Niobrara River, Norden area evacuated

(Posted July 20 as of 4:50 p.m.)

The fire burning north of Johnstown has crossed the Niobrara River, pushed by strong south winds. The Keya Paha County Sheriff's Department confirmed at 4:45 p.m. firefighters are attempting to contain the fire to an area south of Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Norden residents and those in Keya Paha County between the Niobrara River and Highway 12 in the Norden area have been evacuated from their residences.
Traffic is prohibited in the area until the fire has been contained.
The Keya Paha County Sheriff's Department is asking for anyone with a large disc to call the sheriff's department at 402-497-3201, as firefighters are trying to utilize that type of equipment to create a containment area and keep the fire from crossing Highway 12.
The Brown County Sheriff's Department reported just before 5 p.m. Friday the fire burning south of Long Pine had been brought under control by the Long Pine, Ainsworth, Stuart and Bassett departments. A Brown County Rural Fire Department truck was damaged fighting the fire south of Long Pine, though no injuries were reported.
No structure damage has been reported with either fire, though that could change as the fire moves its way from the Niobrara River north into the Norden area in Keya Paha County.
Brown County Board of Commissioners Chairman Buddy Small on Friday signed a declaration asking for disaster assistance for the county stemming from the wildfires burning in northern and southern Brown County. Aerial resources continue to be sought to battle the fire burning north of Johnstown that has now crossed into Keya Paha County.

* Another large fire burning south of Long Pine

(Posted July 20)

Area fire resources continue to be taxed to the limit as another large fire has been reported south of Long Pine.
According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, just before 1 p.m. Friday a fire was reported 15 miles south of Long Pine on property owned by Glenna Abbott. Resources from the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Bassett and Stuart volunteer fire departments responded to fight that fire while numerous area departments continue to fight a large fire north of Johnstown.
According to Papstein, a South Brown County fire truck was damaged by the fire south of Long Pine, but no injuries have been reported.
Area residents continue to volunteer at the Ainsworth Fire Hall, filling coolers with donated water, sports drinks and ice to get to the firefighters as they work in the 100-plus degree heat. Dozens of volunteers were working in the fire hall early Friday afternoon to get coolers of cold drinks headed to the front lines of the fires.
Volunteer organizer Heather Walnofer thanked the community for its support in answering the call for supplies.
"The response has been overwhelming," Walnofer said.
Papstein said the fire north of Johnstown continues to be pushed north by strong south winds, and firefighters are having a difficult time containing the blaze.
"It is a real bear," Papstein said. "It is just really tough for them to keep up with it right now. Thankfully, there has not been any structure damage."
Papstein said the fire has approached the Niobrara River, and there have been conflicting reports on whether it had possibly jumped the river. There has, as of yet, been no confirmation of the fire burning north of the river.
Stay tuned to KBRB for more information throughout the day.

* Firefighters battling large fire north of Johnstown

(Posted July 20)

Numerous area fire departments are battling a 1,000-acre fire that started Friday morning north of Johnstown due to a lightning strike.
According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, the fire was reported at approximately 9:45 a.m. 13 to 14 miles north of Johnstown.
Firefighters from the Ainsworth, Johnstown, Wood Lake, Long Pine, Bassett, Springview, Calamus, Raven and South Brown County departments are on the scene trying to keep the fire from spreading.
Papstein said a plane is also on its way to drop water on the fire. He said residents in the area have been contacted and provided information. He said one residence was in jeopardy from the fire, which he estimated at between 800 and 1,000 acres.
Papstein urged people to stay away from the area and let the fire departments have room to work and try and contain the fire.
Stay tuned to KBRB for additional updates.

* Lightning sparks 500-acre fire northwest of Ainsworth Thursday

(Posted July 20)

A lightning strike Thursday night sparked a fire northwest of Ainsworth that burned more than 500 acres and prompted the mutual aid response of four fire departments to get the blaze under control.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, a lightning strike sparked the fire at 8:45 p.m. approximately 5 miles west and 4 miles north of Ainsworth on property owned by Pat Schumacher.

Fiala said winds with the thunderstorm pushed the fire to the southwest onto ground owned by Taylor Johnson.

He said the fire remained on pasture ground but did work its way into a tree grove.

“It burned through the tree grove fast enough that it didn’t do much damage,” Fiala said. “It only burned the bottom of the trees.”

Fiala said firefighters were able to get the fire under control by using a county road and two cornfields to help block its advance.

Fiala said the fire was under control by 11:30 p.m., and firefighters returned to the fire hall by 12:30 a.m. Friday.

The Johnstown, Long Pine and Wood Lake fire departments provided mutual aid to the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.

“We are just waiting now to see if any more fires start up today from those lightning strikes last night,” the Ainsworth fire chief said.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department Weekly Summary

Feb. 23

* Received a report of suspicious activity in rural Brown County.

* Responded to a report of a dog running at large on South Maple St Ainsworth. The dog was transported to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic, where its owner claimed it.

* Provided traffic control for 300 head of cattle crossing Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of a loud vehicle running stop signs and tearing around Long Pine.

* The Brown County Ambulance Service transported an individual from the Conference Center to the Brown County Hospital.

* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a vehicle on fire East of Ainsworth.

 

Feb. 24 

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

* The Brown County Ambulance Service transported an individual from a residence on East 4th St to the Brown County Hospital.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual North & West of Ainsworth.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual South & East of Ainsworth.

* The Johnstown Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual at the Ainsworth Golf Course.

 

Feb. 25

* Provided a welfare check on an Ainsworth resident.

* Responded to a report of a dog running at large in the Big John’s & Dollar General parking lot. The dog was transported to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic, where its owner claimed it.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual West of Ainsworth.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual North and West of Ainsworth.

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual North of the old Drive In Theater. 

 

Feb. 26

* Assisted a business with a report of suspicious activity in Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of an underage driver, driving around the Ainsworth Schools.

* Responded to a report of a vicious dog running at large in Long Pine.

* Provided a welfare check on residents of rural Brown County.

* Responded to a report of a vehicle speeding up and down Walnut St. in Ainsworth.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual for North of Ainsworth.

 

Feb. 27

* Provided traffic control for 250 head of cattle crossing Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth.

* Assisted an individual with a report of possible animal neglect in Ainsworth.

* Provided traffic control for crossing Hwy 20 West of Ainsworth. The NE State Patrol assisted with this request.

* Assisted an individual with a report of damage to a residence on North Osborne St Ainsworth.

* The Brwn County Ambulance Service transported an individual from a residence in Long Pine to the Brown County Hospital.

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual North of Long Pine.

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual West of Long Pine.

 

 

Feb. 28

* Assisted an individual with a report of threats being made in Long Pine.

* Assisted an individual with a custody issue in Long Pine.

* Received a dog complaint in Long Pine. A verbal warning was issued.

* Responded to a report of a dog running at large at Big John’s parking area.

* Provided traffic control for 500 head of cattle crossing hwy 20 East of Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of a juvenile disturbance on Main St. Long Pine.

* Arrested a subject and booked them into the Brown County Jail on charges of “Felon in Possession of a firearm”. The subject was released on bond.

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual North & East of Long Pine.

 

March 1 

* Responded to a report of a vehicle horn honking continuously on 1st St Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of a vehicle tearing around Long Pine and sliding around corners.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit to an individual North & West of Ainsworth.

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual West of Long Pine.

* The Johnstown Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual North of Wood Lake.

* The Wood Lake Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual on Main St Wood Lake.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual Southwest of Ainsworth.

* The Raven Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual South of Ainsworth.

* The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual North of Long Pine.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept. issued a burn permit to an individual East & South of Ainsworth.

 

Weekly Summary

0 – Citations Issued

3 - Crime Stopper call received.

1 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

2 - Handgun permits were applied for.

24 - Incidents Reports

6 - 911 emergency calls received.

8 - Paper Service was served. (includes: 1 Search Warrant, 1 Writ of Assist, 6 Summons)

178 - Phone calls were received.

1 - Titles were inspected.

9 - Warnings were issued.  (These include written and verbal.)

 

2013 Year End Totals

 

Accidents Investigated – 91                                 Fire Calls Ainsworth

 

Ainsworth Calls Responded to – 689                  Accidents with Injuries - 6

 

Animal Cases – 16                                               One (1) Fatality

 

Board Of Health – 0                                            Accidents w/o Injuries - 5

 

Brown County Arrests – 74                                Assist other Agencies - 3

 

Burglaries – 3                                                     Burn Permits Issued - 123

 

Citations – 200                                                  Canyon Fires - 1

 

County Calls Responded to – 381                    Controlled burns (bldgs) - 2

 

Court Commitments – 13                                 Fire Alarms - 2

 

Crime Stopper Calls – 25                                 Garage Fires - 2

 

Criminal Cases – 41                                        Gas Meters & Leaks - 8

 

Dog Complaints –132                                     Grass Fires - 0

 

Domestic Assault Cases – 9                            Hay Bales - 2

 

Drug Cases – 11                                              House Fires - 5

 

Fix it tickets – 103                                           KBR Solid Waste out of control - 2

 

Handgun Permits – 77                                     Motor Fires/Irrigation & Sump - 2

 

Incident Reports – 1,213                                 Reports of Smoke - 1

 

Incoming Phone Calls – 8,617                        Storm Spotting - 5

 

Information Files – 33                                     Tree Fires - 3

 

Inmates Housed in Brown County – 104       Vehicle Fires - 3

 

Inmates Housed for other agencies – 3

 

Inmates Housed for NSP arrests – 14

 

Inmates – Females - 20

 

Inmates – Males – 84

 

Johnstown Calls Responded to - 10

 

Juvenile Cases – 14

 

Long Pine Calls Responded to - 133

 

Mental Health Cases – 11

 

MIP’s - 14

 

911 Calls – 516

 

Papers Served – 288

 

Sex Crimes – 4

 

Thefts – 23

 

Titles Inspected – 257

 

Total Traffic Stops – 805

 

Traffic cases – 56

 

Vandalism Cases –18

 

Written Warnings - 502

 
   

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