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* Funeral Service notes: (see more on the obituaries page)
* Ronnie E. Young, 73, of Hurley, S.D. formerly of Newport 1 p.m. Aug. 24
* Wanda A. Lingenfelter, 91, of Bassett formerly of Long Pine 2 p.m. Aug. 21
* Meeting reports located below for:
Aug. 14 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education
Aug. 14 Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors
Aug. 6 Brown County Commissioners
July 26 Ainsworth City Council special meeting
July 17 Brown County Commissioners
* Brown County Hospital participating in disaster training exercise
(Posted 11 a.m. Aug. 19)
Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska is
facilitating disaster preparedness training with local residents in Ainsworth
and Kearney Aug. 20 – 22. Local law enforcement, community leadership, medical
staff and others are participating as patients in the full-scale simulation.
* Wilson Street closed while bridge is replaced with culverts
(Posted 7:30 a.m. Aug. 19)
Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin
reported Wilson Street just northwest of Ainsworth is closed until further
notice while the county roads department replaces a bridge across Bone Creek
with culverts. Traffic is asked to divert to either 429th Avenue or
Meadville Avenue until the work is done, which could take approximately 10 days.
* Johnson graduates from UN-L Saturday
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug.
Susan Fritz told the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s summer graduates to follow their dreams, live their values and keep an open mind.
Fritz, who recently became interim president of the University of Nebraska — the first woman to serve in the position — delivered the commencement address “This Place, These People, These Opportunities” Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
A Nebraska native and first-generation college student, Fritz recalled how she originally planned to be an accountant but changed her mind two weeks before she was supposed to take the CPA exam. She said she woke up and realized it wasn’t what she wanted to do with her life.
“I will never know what would have happened if I would have silenced that voice inside me and taken that exam,” she said. “Maybe I would have had a perfectly pleasant career as an accountant. But 30-some years later, I get to wake up every day and come to a job that I love, doing work that I’m passionate about, with more adventures still on the way. I know I made that right choice for me.”
From the area, Aaron Mark Johnson of Atkinson received a Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Arts and Sciences on Saturday.
* May taxable sales decline for most area counties
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 16)
Nebraska Department of Revenue
Nebraska Department of Revenue
* School Board approves replacement of McAndrew Gymnasium roof
(Posted 8:52 a.m. Aug. 14)
The Board of Education approved several projects; replacing
the gymnasium roof; school phone; intercom and bell system plus construction and
concrete work around the new Ag/Tech Facility. The board reviewed three bids for
replacement of the gym roof. Guarantee Roofing of Norfolk bid of $79,421,
Chappell Roofing of Fairbury bid of $128,000, and Weathercraft Roofing of Broken
Bow bid of $146,680. The board voted to accept the low bid of $79,421 from
* Sandhills Care Center Board approves purchase of 3 additional computers
(Posted 8:50 a.m. Aug. 14)
Sandhills Care Center Board members heard a report from
Matt Moody on the need to replace the air conditioning unit located in the attic
above the kitchen plus additional heat and air units throughout the center.
* Highway 12 reopens west of Niobrara after temporary bridge completed
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Aug. 12)
The Highway 12
bridge over the Niobrara River west of Niobrara is now open to traffic.
“Nebraska’s road to recovery continues to move forward and today marks another great milestone in our state’s efforts to rebuild after the March 2019 floods,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said. “The opening of Highway 12 over the Niobrara River is another key link in establishing connectivity for local residents, the community, travelers, and commerce in the area, which have all been so profoundly impacted by the flood damage. NDOT’s work with Benesch and Hawkins Construction on this project has been incredible and our collective efforts are the reason why today’s announcement is possible,”
Reconstruction of Highway 12 was the most complex and expensive transportation flood recovery project in the state. On June 5, the Department of Transportation awarded a $44.1 million contract to Hawkins Construction to begin immediate work to repair the Niobrara River Bridge and install a 24-foot wide, single lane temporary bridge to provide access over the Mormon Canal, while a new permanent bridge is being built.
Chris Hawkins, Chief Operating Officer of Hawkins Construction, said, “As a proud Nebraska company, Hawkins is honored to work alongside NDOT in reconnecting our communities. Highway 12 presented a unique challenge due to the pace and complexity of the project. That, combined with the amount of flood recovery work we were already performing, required us to bring in a team from multiple states – whom we thank for their rapid response and commitment to opening the bridge early. Hawkins, our dedicated workforce, and our project partners are grateful for the opportunity to prove once again that our state is Nebraska Strong.”
of Transportation also worked closely with Alfred Benesch & Company to expedite
the design of the reconstruction and set an aggressive schedule to have the
temporary roadway in service by Aug.
installation; Ames Construction Inc., of Burnsville, Minnesota, grading contractor; Contractor
Services, Inc., of North Platte, traffic control; D-K Contracting Corporation, of Beatrice, concrete pavement patching; Gross Seed Company, of Johnstown, erosion control and seeding; Iron Works, Inc. of Nebraska City, reinforcing steel installation; JMN Construction, LLC, of Valley, bridge repair; Longfellow Foundations, Inc., of Hutchinson, Kansas, installation of shaft foundations; Midwest Fence Company – Guardrail Systems, of Ralston, guardrail.
Prior reconstruction efforts in the area included repair work to damaged sections of Highway 12
east of Niobrara where K. Porter Construction was able to rebuild approximately one-fourth of a
mile of pavement in just 24 days.
12 reopened has been a tremendous challenge and I’m so proud of the District 3
staff and our industry partners who put in the sweat and long hours to make this
NDOT thanks the community and all involved in the reconstruction for their patience, partnership, effort, and dedication on completing repairs in an expedited time-period.
* Rock County Commissioners approve holding public hearing for road vacation
(Posted 3 p.m. Aug. 7)
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Rock County Commissioners, the board voted to hold a public hearing for the possible vacation of two portions of a road in the Swanson Subdivision. The commissioners had previously addressed vacating a portion of the road in the subdivision, located in the west half of the northeast quarter of Section 15, Township 30 North, Range 19 West.
The commissioners also approved an interlocal agreement between Rock, Brown and Keya Paha counties to have Brown County Veterans Services Officer Judy Walters also provide services to veterans in Rock and Keya Paha counties. Rock County will pay a portion of the overall cost of the veterans service office based on the number of veterans in the county.
The commissioners conducted their quarterly inspection of the Rock County Jail, and received information from the Nebraska Crime Commission that the jail was in compliance with state standards.
Several residents were on hand to discuss plans for repairing the approaches to the Carnes Bridge across the Niobrara River damaged during the March flooding. The bridge remains inaccessible, and the road leading to it in Rock County and in Keya Paha County remain closed.
The commissioners approved the purchase of a laptop computer for Weed Superintendent Mitch Dean.
In roads items Tuesday, the board approved an agreement with the Nebraska Department of Transportation to have the state perform fracture critical bridge inspections in the county.
The board voted to waive bidding requirements from the county purchasing act when awarding a contract to replace culverts due to the emergency need for the culverts to protect life and property in the county.
The board tabled action on a resolution from True Nebraska asking the county to participate in a petition drive. The board will await advice from the Nebraska Association of County Officials before taking action.
The commissioners approved allowing TJ Ellermeier to proceed with aerial photos of properties in the county. Ellermeier also discussed with the board steps in front of the courthouse that were deteriorating.
In a final action item Tuesday, the board appointed Commissioner Dustin Craven to the Rock County Senior Center Executive Board.
* Highway 11 bridge work will commence next week
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 7)
Weather permitting, work will
resume the week of August 12 on
Highway 11, approximately 18 miles south of Atkinson, according to the Nebraska
Department of Transportation.
* Commissioners approve initial agreements for Sand Draw box culvert replacement
(Posted 11:30 p.m. Aug. 6)
The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday approved agreements for engineering and environmental services as part of the replacement of the Sand Draw Creek box culvert on Meadville Avenue.
The commissioners approved a $105,000 contract with Miller and Associates of Kearney to conduct the preliminary engineering for the project, and the board approved a contract with Felsburg, Holt and Ullevig of Lincoln in the amount of $50,569 for environmental study work on the project.
Gary Steele with Miller and Associates said the box culvert replacement has qualified for federal funding, since Meadville Avenue is a federal route. The county will only be responsible for 20 percent of the cost of replacing the box culvert, which has had issues for several years but was damaged beyond repair during the March flooding.
Steele said, since the county was receiving federal funds, there was a specific process that had to be followed.
“We have to make four separate submittals to the Nebraska Department of Transportation,” Steele said. “We have the total project programmed for $1 million, but I think that is high. It should come in at around $600,000 to $700,000.”
Steele said it will likely be next spring before the project is ready to go out for bids because of all the steps that must be followed.
“NDOT will bid the project, not the county,” Steele said. “We will do everything we can to keep it moving, but a lot of it is out of our hands.
Several residents expressed frustration about the timeline for the box culvert to be replaced and Meadville Avenue to reopen to traffic, saying the detour route would be difficult to navigate if Meadville Avenue remained closed through the harvest and winter seasons.
Audience member Rod Palmer said next year was not an acceptable time frame for the project to be bid and completed.
“It needs to move faster,” Palmer said. “I have made calls to the Department of Transportation, and was told Miller and Associates was not up to speed on the project and didn’t have things submitted properly.”
Palmer said the early portions of the project were not getting done in a timely fashion, and he believed residents who rely on Meadville Avenue were being let down in a lot of areas.
Audience member Tammy Painter told the board she had 10 to 15 people per day traveling Meadville Avenue to reach her hair salon, and she worried not only for her livelihood but for the safety of her customers.
“My livelihood in the winter is going to be in jeopardy,” Painter told the commissioners.
Commissioner Denny Bauer said, if the county wanted the federal dollars for the project, it had to follow the process.
Steele told those in the audience that his firm would pursue the project as hard as it could to keep things moving.
In other roads items Tuesday, the commissioners approved an agreement with the Nebraska Department of Transportation to perform fracture critical bridge inspections in the county, though Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin told the board this was the final year the state would agree to perform the inspections.
Turpin said Brown County has only one fracture critical bridge that requires annual inspection – the McCullough Bridge located in eastern Brown County across Pine Creek.
Turpin reported the roads department has made repairs to Moon Lake Avenue, and had installed a pipe to help drain water in the Hidden Paradise area.
“We regraded the Bar 25 Road, and raised it up in areas where we had water issues,” Turpin said.
The highway superintendent said the county also has been hauling armor coat gravel, as that work would begin next week on Meadville Avenue and several other paved roads in the county.
“We have also scheduled the Wilson Street Bridge replacement,” Turpin said. “The culverts have been made. That project will start Aug. 19, and we will use a jack hammer and the excavator to tear out the old bridge.”
Turpin said that project would take seven to 10 days to complete, and Wilson Street traffic would be routed to Meadville Avenue to the east or 429th Avenue to the west.
He said the county also planned to work on a stretch of Richardson Road to raise the road and add a second culvert to help drain water.
Audience member Heather Painter said she had spoken to the county for several years regarding the condition of Richardson Road.
“There are several road areas that need to be addressed,” Painter said. “It is time that road gets fixed. I know you declare it minimum maintenance, but there are a lot of vehicles that use it.”
Turpin said the stretch of road in question is not a mail route, and no one lives on it.
“It is minimum maintenance, but we have spent thousands of dollars on that road,” he said. “We have to prioritize.”
Bauer told Painter Turpin indicated he was planning to add another culvert and raise the road.
“We will get it addressed,” Bauer said.
Turpin also reported there was still water 15 to 16 inches deep across portions of the Elsmere Road, though the water level has started to go down.
“We have had engineers look at that area,” Turpin said.
In other business Tuesday, representatives of the Brown County Agricultural Society asked the commissioners to provide $55,000 in funding to support the fairgrounds and an additional $20,000 in property tax funds to pay back the inheritance tax fund for money borrowed to complete improvements to the arena.
Dave Sherman with the Agricultural Society said the group received a $20,000 donation recently, and also received a three-year commitment for $5,000 annually from the Brown County Foundation, which it planned to utilize to replace the restrooms at the fairgrounds.
“After the fair we plan to tear down the existing bathrooms,” Sherman said. “We hope to get the dirt work done before winter, so we will be ready for construction in the spring.”
He asked the commissioners if they would support the project, which all three indicated they would.
The commissioners will make final decisions on funding for the Agricultural Society and the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District during its Aug. 20 meeting.
Zoning Administrator Tom Jones told the board the Planning Commission met with representatives from Hannah Keelan regarding updating the county’s zoning regulations and comprehensive plan. He said the Planning Commission was satisfied that Hannah Keelan would be able to complete the project for the county at a cost of $16,000.
Jones said the company will start on the plan Sept. 1, and will hold three public meetings as part of updating the comprehensive plan.
The commissioners approved the purchase of a John Deere lawn tractor for removing snow from the courthouse parking lot and sidewalks. The cost of the lawn tractor is $10,600.
Bauer reported the Ainsworth Senior Center earned all of the incentive funding it was eligible to receive, and had achieved all the benchmarks required to receive the $9,141.
“A lot of senior centers didn’t receive anything,” Bauer said. “Our senior center served 9,931 meals, which was down about 70 meals from the year before. A lot of centers were down much farther.”
The commissioners approved a subdivision for the Salzman Family Ranch for a small tract which John Salzman said was a land exchange with the Gambill Ranch.
“My dad just had a handshake agreement with Bill Gudgel for this years ago,” Salzman said. “It is a small acreage. This is just cleaning up the paperwork.”
In a final action item Tuesday, the commissioners approved a $100,000 transfer from the inheritance tax fund to the county’s disaster recovery fund.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Aug. 20.
* Residents of Rock, Holt and Blaine counties eligible for scrap tire event
(Posted 2:15 p.m. Aug. 6)
The Lower Loup Natural Resources District was awarded a
scrap tire cleanup grant from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy.
The grant will fund a scrap tire collection for residents within the Loup Basin
RC&D, which includes residents of Rock, Holt and Blaine counties among several
* July fails to reach anticipated moisture level
(Posted 1:15 p.m. Aug. 6)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported 17 days
had measurable precipitation in July, though on 12 of those 17 occasions the
rainfall amount to .05 of an inch or less.
* Area students named to Deans' List at Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture
(Posted 9:45 a.m. Aug. 6)
Seventeen students at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture at Curtis had perfect 4.0 grade point averages for the spring semester, including two from the area.
“We are proud of the academic achievements of our students at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture,” NCTA Dean Ron Rosati said. “It takes dedication, maturity and hard work to achieve a 4.0 GPA in college.”
In addition to the 17 students on the Deans’ List, 63 students were named to the NCTA Honor Roll for a GPA of 3.5-3.99.
Students must be fulltime enrollees, with at least 12 credit hours for the semester to be eligible for the designation by NCTA which is the sole two-year degree program of the University of Nebraska system.
Among the 17 students achieving perfect 4.0 grade point averages during the spring semester were Luke Peters of Ainsworth and Lindse Painter of Valentine.
Students on the honor roll included Cole Sundquist of Ainsworth and Ashley Connell of Newport.
* Agenda for Tuesday's Brown County Commissioners meeting
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Aug. 6)
Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Issues
Review and Sign Consultant Work Order between Brown County and Miller & Associates
Review and Sign Consultant Work Order between Brown County and Felsburg, Holt & Ullevig
Approve & Sign agreement & resolution
for 2019 Fracture Critical Bridge Inspection between
Approve & sign agreement & resolution for Preliminary Engineering Services between Brown County & Miller & Associates for Sand Draw Box Culvert replacement
Approve & sign agreement & resolution for Environmental Services between Brown County & Felsburg Holt & Ullevig for Sand Draw Box Culvert replacement
County Annual Certification of Program Compliance To Nebraska Board of Public Roads Classifications And Standards 2019
Resolution Signing of the County Annual Certification Of Programming Compliance Form 2019
5:30 Dan Zwiebel RE: Box Culvert on Old Hwy 7
6:15 Brown County Ag Society – 2019/2020 Budget request
Brown County Rural Fire District 2019/2020 Budget request
Consider Brown County Historical Society Funding request
Approve resolutions setting levy allocations for the Brown County Ag Society & Brown County Rural Fire District
6:30 Subdivision Approval for Salzman Family Ranch LLC, a tract in the NE1/4NE1/4 of Sec 8 Twp 28 Range 23
6:45 Brown County Zoning Administrator – Tom Jones – Updating the comprehensive plan
Replacement of lawn tractor used for cleaning courthouse sidewalks
Repair basement wall in courthouse vault
Devise plan to rid courthouse of bats and birds
Resolution to hire Ritterbush & Piotrowski, L.L.P. as County Auditor for fiscal years ending June 30, 2019, 2020 & 2021
TrueNebraska - Resolution regarding real estate taxes
Acknowledge Jail Standards Report
Dennis Bauer – update on Senior Center
Resolution to Transfer $100,000.00 from Inheritance Tax Fund to Disaster Recovery Fund
* Hodge wins Dennis Roggasch Memorial Horseshoe Tournament Saturday
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Aug. 6)
Malinda Hodge of Rose pitched her way to the title
during the 14th annual Dennis Roggasch Memorial Horseshoe Tournament Saturday at
the Rock County Fairgrounds.
* Safe Routes to School project work to begin Wednesday in Springview
(Posted 2 p.m. Aug. 5)
Weather permitting, work is scheduled to begin
Wednesday, Aug. 7, on the Springview Community Safe Routes to School in the
Village of Springview, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
VETERANS MEMORIAL ERECTED - Allen Monument placed the Brown County Veterans Memorial stone segments Monday on the courthouse lawn. The monument stands as a tribute to all Brown County veterans.
* Two arrested after vehicle stolen Saturday recovered in South Dakota
(Posted noon Aug. 5)
Two vehicles reported stolen Saturday morning in Brown County led to the arrest of two Kansas residents in South Dakota.
According to Sheriff Bruce Papstein, the sheriff’s department received two calls Saturday morning within 15 minutes of each other reporting stolen vehicles.
The first call came at 10:23 a.m. Saturday, as a 1990 Ford pickup, owned by Mark and Cris Johnson of rural Ainsworth, was reported stolen from northwest of Ainsworth.
At 10:37 a.m., the sheriff’s department received a report of a 1989 Dodge pickup, owned by Lenny Fernau of Ainsworth, that was stolen from the northeast side of Ainsworth.
Upon investigation, the sheriff’s department located the Dodge pickup at the site northwest of Ainsworth where the Ford pickup was stolen.
The sheriff’s department engaged the public for assistance in finding the stolen Ford, and Papstein said a former Ainsworth resident saw a post on social media and reported spotting the vehicle Saturday afternoon in Sturgis, S.D.
South Dakota law enforcement officers located the pickup and took two people into custody. A 26-year-old Kansas man and 30-year-old Kansas woman are being held in South Dakota. Papstein said they will be extradited to Brown County, where they will face charges related to the vehicle thefts.
* Agenda for Tuesday Rock County Commissioners meeting
(Posted 8 a.m. Aug. 5)
Rock County Commissioners
Resolution on possible road vacation between Blk. 3 & 4; Blk 4 & 5, Swanson
Critical Bridge inspections Resolution with NDOT
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 2)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
vehicle-deer accident that occurred July 22.
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 2:30 p.m. Aug. 1)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Manuel A. Lozano-Rivas, age 42, of Milbank, S.D., charged with driving left of center, fined $25; also charged with no operator’s license, $75.
Donald R. Morrison, 40, of Omaha, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Bailey J. Kinnick, 17, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Hannah L. Grapevine, 21, of Brandon, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
John M. Kirk, 32, of Denver, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Allen R. Privett, 20, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Debra S. Barr, 56, of Lafayette, Calif., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Adam J. Sawyer, 30, of Valenitne, violating a stop or yield sign, $75.
Richard S. Mulholland, 54, of Spearfish, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
David W. Goger, 65, of Mariposa, Calif. speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Roberta W. Zima, 56, of Antigo, Wis., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Michael L. Schneider, 54, of Tell City, Ind., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Gregory C. Irwin, 37, of Ainsworth, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.
Benjamin L. Beard, 19, of Norfolk, first offense driving under the influence, $500 and also sentenced to seven days in jail, driver’s license revoked for six months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Devon L. Jefferis, 43, of Pierre, S.D., third-degree assault, $300.
Casey B. Hughbanks, 34, of Ainsworth, third-degree assault, $300.
George R. Matucha, 42, of Pierre, S.D., third-degree assault, $300.
Tanner L. White, 22, of Long Pine, third-degree assault, $300.
Dallas G. Hughbanks, 37, of Ainsworth, third-degree assault, $300.
Kenneth B. Sisson, 26, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500 and sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Ursulita P. Touchstone, 26, of Grandforks, N.D., attempting a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.
James E. Worden, 23, of Ainsworth, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50.
Oren M. Pozehl, 18, of Long Pine, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.
Steven J. Santara, 62, of Lincoln, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Jerry L. Johnson, 51, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
James L. Lind, 20, of Ainsworth, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Cade L. Hibdon, 24, of Manhattan, Kan., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Derrek J. Dodd, 22, of Johnstown, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.
Lawrence, R. Dwyer, 37, of Pine Ridge, S.D., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.
Joshua L. Shald, 34, of Denver, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
* Nolles completes Washington, D.C., internship
(Posted 10 a.m. Aug. 1)
Katie Nolles of Bassett recently wrapped up a summer in Washington D.C. as the most recent recipient of the Keith R. Olsen Agricultural Policy Internship Award.
Nolles is a member of the Rock County Farm Bureau and is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in Agricultural Education. The Olsen Internship Award enabled her to intern in Congressman Adrian Smith’s office in Washington, D.C., this summer. The monetary award helped cover Nolles’ living and housing expenses.
“I was truly able to observe and be involved with all aspects of working on Capitol Hill,” Nolles said. “I loved learning about all of the moving pieces that go into making policy happen, applying what I learned in all of my coursework, and connecting with fellow constituents.”
Noells described her experience in Washington D.C. as a dream internship since her early teenage years. Admittedly, life in D.C. and working on Capitol Hill was an adjustment since she comes from a town of 600 people. But she said everyone was helpful.
“Visiting with interns from offices across the country, I quickly found out how fortunate I was to have interned in an office where I got to visit with Congressman Smith regularly, where the staff trusted me with projects, and where my values aligned,” Nolles said.
Nolles said her internship has given her valuable insight and understanding of the federal legislative process that she will utilize in her future teaching career. She is minoring in Leadership-Entrepreneurship through the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program and Nebraska Beef Industry Scholars.
She said, “A question that I have been asked frequently since accepting the internship is, ‘Wait, if you want to be a teacher, why are you working in politics?’ I am fortunate that global awareness and understanding of government and democracy was instilled in me from a young age, but many youth don’t understand these concepts. As a future teacher, I am excited to share my experiences with students while teaching them to analyze issues and how policy affects agriculture.”
Nolles said she is thankful for the Nebraska Farm Bureau’s support and recommends that any student members who are interested in agriculture policy to apply for the Keith R. Olsen Agricultural Policy Internship Award and experience Capitol Hill first-hand.
“Last fall, when I took AECN 345, an agriculture policy course, with Dr. Brad Lubben,” Nolles said. “I enthusiastically absorbed any information that was shared in his class, and met all of the guest speakers who shared their careers relating to ag policy. When Jordan Dux spoke to our class, I knew that I wanted to receive the Olsen Award. Finding a paid internship in D.C. is a challenge in itself. While I did receive payment for my internship, it was incredibly helpful to receive this award to help fund housing and living expenses. Especially as I student teach this semester and cannot work, I am so grateful to have Nebraska Farm Bureau supporting my growth and alleviating some financial burden, so that I can focus on doing my best work.”
The Keith R. Olsen Agricultural Policy Internship Award was established in 2011 by the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation to honor Olsen, who served as Farm Bureau president from 2002-11 and on the board of directors for nearly 20 years. Olsen had emphasized creating opportunities in agriculture for young people during his years with the organization.
The award provides up to $3,000 to a UNL College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources junior or senior to work as an intern in a Nebraska Congressional office, a Congressional Committee or approved agricultural organization.
* Signup opens for Market Facilitation Program
(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 30)
Signup is open for the Market Facilitation Program, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to assist farmers who continue to suffer from damages because of tariffs from foreign nations. Through MFP, USDA will provide up to $14.5 billion in direct payments to impacted producers, part of a broader trade relief package announced in late July. The sign-up period runs through Dec. 6.
“Our team at USDA reflected on what worked well and gathered feedback on last year’s program to make this one even stronger and more effective for farmers. Our farmers work hard, are the most productive in the world, and we aim to match their enthusiasm and patriotism as we support them,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
MFP payments will be made to producers of certain non-specialty and specialty crops, as well as dairy and hog producers.
MFP payments will be made to producers of alfalfa hay, barley, corn, flaxseed, lentils, millet, oats, sorghum, soybeans, sunflower seed, wheat and other crops.
MFP assistance for 2019 crops is based on a single county payment rate multiplied by a farm’s total plantings to the MFP-eligible crops in aggregate in 2019. Those per acre payments are not dependent on which of those crops are planted in 2019. A producer’s total payment-eligible plantings cannot exceed total 2018 plantings.
Dairy producers who were in business as of June 1 will receive a per hundredweight payment on production history, and hog producers will receive a payment based on the number of live hogs owned on a day selected by the producer between April 1 and May 15.
Payments will be made in up to three tranches, with the second and third tranches evaluated as market conditions and trade opportunities dictate. If conditions warrant, the second and third tranches will be made in November and early January.
MFP payments are limited to a combined $250,000 for non-specialty crops per person or legal entity. MFP payments also are limited to a combined $250,000 for dairy and hog producers and a combined $250,000 for specialty crop producers. However, no applicant can receive more than $500,000. Eligible applicants also must have an average adjusted gross income (AGI) for tax years 2015, 2016, and 2017 of less than $900,000, or 75 percent of the person’s or legal entity’s average AGI for those tax years must have been derived from farming and ranching. Applicants also must comply with the provisions of the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation regulations.
More information can be found on farmers.gov/mfp, including payment information and a program application.
* Independent team to investigate the failure of the Spencer Dam
(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 29)
The Association of State Dam Safety Officials, a national non-profit organization focused on the safety of dams, will conduct an independent investigation to identify the likely causes that contributed to the breach of the Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River March 14. The investigation is being conducted upon request of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, the regulating authority over the Spencer Dam.
The independent investigation will compile information and lessons to be learned from the event with the goal of advancing the dam safety engineering profession.
The Spencer Dam experienced a breach after a storm brought heavy rain to frozen ground in Nebraska, creating additional snowmelt and thawing large sections of ice in and around the Niobrara River.
There was extensive flood damage in the area, including downstream of the dam and one person was swept away by the flood and is presumed deceased. The dam, originally constructed in 1927 as a hydroelectric plant, is owned by the Nebraska Public Power District.
The team compiled by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials has decades of dam safety engineering experience with specific expertise in dam safety failure investigations, hydrology, hydraulics, ice and debris flow, and hydraulic structures.
Selected to conduct the independent investigation are Mark E. Baker of Dam Crest Consulting, Dr. Robert Ettema of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering with Colorado State University, Martin Teal of WEST Consultants, and John Trojanowski of Trojanowski Dam Engineering.
The investigation is now underway and will proceed in three phases: data collection, analyses and completion of a publicly-available written report. The investigation is expected to take six months, although the team will receive the necessary time needed and the patience of all stakeholders to do a thorough investigation.
“It is our goal that, through this investigation, we will be able to further industry knowledge to improve the dam safety industry best practices,” said team member Mark Baker.
* NPPD plans to upgrade electric meters next week in Boyd County
(Posted 10:30 a.m. July 29)
Nebraska Public Power District will upgrade electric meters for residences and businesses in Bristow, Lynch, Butte and Anoka beginning on Monday, Aug. 5. It is expected that work will be completed by late August. The meter replacement in those four Boyd County communities is part of a program that will replace 24,500 meters in 40 communities as part of a three-year project by NPPD.
Prior to installation, NPPD’s customer service organization will contact retail customers in those communities via telephone to alert them to the installation of the meters. A District employee will switch out the meter at the residence or business and will remove the old one from the premises. A resident or business owner does not need to be there when the switch out occurs and there will be a short interruption of electric service.
The new meters are equipped with two-way communication known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure, a digital metering technology used around the world for more than a decade and will include the latest technology in this type of equipment. The new meters display the reading in a digital LCD format. The meters will have an electronic circuit board module installed that will receive and securely transmit the data back to NPPD on the total amount of kilowatt hours used by a residence, business or industry.
“In addition to what we will do this year, in 2018 we successfully replaced 43,000 meters and more will be replaced in 2020. The installation of the AMI systems helps maintain competitive electric rates for our customers by reducing operating expenses,” said NPPD Retail General Manager Tim Arlt.
Arlt said NPPD’s retail customers have not had a rate increase over the past six years.
“With AMI equipment we can also pinpoint the exact location of outages quicker, meaning a faster response time in restoring power,” Arlt said.
The new AMI meters installed will continue to be a key in providing reliable electric service for its customers and will provide an additional level of safety for NPPD employees when troubleshooting or handling routine maintenance. The new AMI equipment cannot control any appliances or electronics within a residence or business.
In addition to the new meters, NPPD will also have numerous routers placed strategically in the community to relay the information to NPPD’s operations.
The remaining schedule for retail communities runs through the end of 2019 although weather conditions could create some delays.
* Highway 281 temporary bridge now open south of Spencer
(Posted noon July 26)
The Nebraska Department of Transportation announced Friday that Highway 281 over the Niobrara River south of Spencer is open to traffic. The highway has been closed since March 13 due to flooding that caused significant damage and washed out a segment of the highway just south of the bridge.
partnered with contractors and subcontractors to open the temporary bridge and
restore mobility within months of the historic 2019 flooding. Olsson, of
Lincoln, worked alongside the NDOT on the design work of the project and on May
22, Hawkins Construction of Omaha was awarded the $25.4 million contract, which
covers the temporary bridge and roadway as well as a permanent 1,050-foot bridge
over the Niobrara River channel. Hawkins mobilized within hours and with the
help of subcontractors Acrow Corporation of America, of New Jersey, temporary
bridge construction; Kirkham Michael of Omaha, construction engineering;
“Today is about
partnerships and community,” NDOT Director Kyle Schneweis said. “The 2019
The temporary bridge will be open to one-lane traffic controlled by a traffic signal, with a 12-foot-wide width restriction. Motorists with legal loads are permitted to cross the bridge, but no overweight or over dimensional vehicles will be allowed. The traffic restriction will be in place until the permanent bridge is completed, currently scheduled for November 2020.
Completion of the entire project is anticipated to be spring of 2021. Motorists are reminded to use caution when driving through the construction zone and to wear seatbelts.
The NDOT thanks the community and all involved in the reconstruction for their patience, partnership, effort, and dedication on completing repairs in an expedited time period.
To celebrate, Gov. Pete Ricketts and the NDOT will partner with the local community and KBRX radio station to host a Bridging the Gap Community Celebration on Monday, July 29, at 3:30 p.m. recognizing those who helped make the project a reality.
* Council reviews 2 bids for streets building expansion project
(Posted 7 a.m. July 26)
During a special meeting Thursday, the Ainsworth City Council opened two bids for a planned expansion of the city streets building on First Street. The council opted to table taking action until its August meeting to allow council members time to review both bids.
Brahmer Construction of Ainsworth submitted a bid of $185,000 for the expansion, and Green Gable Contracting Corp. of Fort Calhoun supplied a bid of $242,184. Green Gable representative Kelly Cobb said the company was currently in the area working on projects for the Nature Conservancy and a local business.
Both Cobb and Brahmer Construction owner Cory Griebel indicated the timeline for the project would likely be in the spring, though both said they could make fall construction work if the city preferred.
Councilman Greg Soles said, realistically, the project would likely not start until spring, so he said he would like to have some time to review both proposals.
Councilman Brad Fiala agreed, saying he would like to look at the two bids to see where the dollar difference lies.
The council will take action on the proposals during its August meeting, which was moved back a week to Aug. 21 due to conflicts with two councilmen on the normal second Wednesday meeting date.
In other business Thursday, the council approved a pair of grants from the LB 840 fund. The first provided a $5,000 grant to an applicant to assist with housing demolition.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the applicant had already handled the asbestos removal on the property, and the remaining cost to have the house burned and the property leveled was $7,350.
Schroedl said the application requested $5,000, but the LB 840 loan committee recommended the council approve $6,500 to assist with the demolition.
Soles said all past grants from the LB 840 fund for housing demolition in the city have been for $5,000.
“Are we planning to increase the lid?” Soles asked. “That is my only concern.”
With Councilwoman Deb Hurless absent Thursday, the council voted to award $5,000 to the applicant to assist in the demolition.
The council also approved a $10,000 grant from the LB 840 fund to an applicant for a business revitalization project.
Schroedl said the applicant asked for $30,000 in assistance for the $50,000 total project. She said the LB 840 loan committee recommended the council approve a $5,000 grant and advise the applicant to apply for a loan from the LB 840 fund for an additional amount.
Schroedl said the project was a large building with a lot of square footage.
Soles said the council had previously awarded up to $10,000 in grant funds for business revitalization projects.
“In the past, it has been a 50-50 match up to a total of $10,000,” Soles said. “I just want to be consistent.”
The council voted to deny the initial request of $30,000 and then awarded the applicant $10,000 in LB 840 grant funds for the façade improvements to the business.
The council approved a proposal from the Brown County Community Foundation youth committee to place three disc golf holes at the East City Park.
Schroedl said the youth committee was allotted $2,000 by the foundation for a project, and identified starting a disc golf course at the East City Park.
“There would be no cost to the city,” the city administrator said. “They want to start by installing three disc golf targets, with the potential for further expansion if it is popular.”
She said the youth committee would handle the installation work. She said the city’s park board had also in the past talked about starting a Frisbee golf course at the park.
The council approved purchasing the equipment and then having the Brown County Foundation youth committee reimburse the city for the cost of the equipment.
Schroedl said the youth committee would also like to revive the sand volleyball court at East City Park by hauling in new sand and then placing a protective cover at the site when the court was not in use.
In a final action item Thursday, the council approved allowing Allen Monument Company to close the westbound lane of Highway 20 for a period of three hours sometime between Aug. 2 and Aug. 6 to allow for the installation of the Brown County Veterans Memorial on the courthouse lawn.
Schroedl said she believed they could get the monument placed without having to close the entire highway.
Fiala said it would be much easier to just have one lane of Highway 20 closed and use flaggers to let traffic through instead of going through the process of setting up a detour.
In one other agenda item, Mandy McCoy with Dana F. Cole & Co. presented the council with information on the city audit completed in September of 2018.
McCoy said the city had actual expenditures of $2.58 million on its more than $5 million budget, and entered the 2018-19 year with more than $3.9 million in cash on hand throughout all of its funds. She said receipts for the fiscal year exceeded expenditures by a little more than $100,000.
McCoy said one finding from the audit was a lack of segregation of duties with city finances, but she said that was a common finding for smaller entities.
Schroedl said the city staff has done cross training of job responsibilities, and the mayor reviews and initials all claims.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council was pushed back a week to 5 p.m. Aug. 21.
* Scammers spoof NPPD number in attempt to fool Nebraskans
(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 25)
A series of robocalls have been going out to Nebraskans
throughout the state this week. The round of calls that were made Wednesday show
a caller ID number for the Nebraska Public Power District’s Beatrice Power
Station. Many Nebraskans are then calling the Beatrice station back to question
the call. NPPD believes the scammers are ‘spoofing’ this caller ID in an effort
to make the scam call appear more legitimate.
* Ainsworth City Council Thursday special meeting agenda
(Posted 11 a.m. July 24)
Council special meeting
I. ROUTINE BUSINESS
a. Announcement of Open Meetings Act
b. Roll Call
c. Pledge of Allegiance
II. REGULAR BUSINESS
a. Presentation of City of Ainsworth financial statements for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2018 – Dana F. Cole & Company, LLC
b. Open, discuss and consider bids for the street shop building expansion project
c. Discuss and consider a project at East City Park proposed by Brown County Community Foundation Youth Committee
d. Discuss and consider the recommendations for approval by the LB840 Loan Committee for the following:
i. Application 2019-01: $6,500 grant for housing demolition assistance;
ii. Application 2019-02: $5,000 grant for business revitalization assistance
e. Consider authorizing Allen Monument Company to close Hwy 20 (4th Street) from Main Street to Court Street for approximately three (3) hours on a date and time to be determined between August 2nd and August 6, 2019 for the purpose of installation of a veteran’s memorial in the Courthouse Park. Also, the City of Ainsworth acknowledges the acceptance of all duties set out in subsection (2) of LB 589/N.R.S. §39-1359, and that if a claim is made against the state, it shall indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the state from all claims, demands, actions, damages, and liability, including reasonable attorney’s fees, that may arise as a result of the special event.
* Grand Theater committee members provide update on theater opening
(Posted 7:45 a.m. July 24)
Grand Theater committee representatives Kathy Klammer and
Bryan Doke announced the theater would be opening to the public soon, with The
Lion King slated to be shown Aug. 9-11. The theater will show movies weekly
Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., with a 4 p.m. Sunday matinee.
* Most area counties see taxable sales increases in April
(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 23)
Nebraska Department of Revenue
* Area students scheduled to graduate Friday from UNK
(Posted 8 a.m. July 22)
The University of Nebraska at Kearney will confer degrees for 182 graduate and undergraduate students during commencement exercises 10 a.m. Friday, July 26, in the Health and Sports Center on campus.
Longtime music educator and choral director David Bauer will deliver the commencement address.
Scheduled to graduate from this area include:
Sarah Connell, with a Master of Science degree in clinical mental health counseling.
Kelli Gibson, with a Master of Education degree in curriculum and instruction – instructional effectiveness.
Lindsey Christman with a Bachelor’s degree in general studies
Leah Pickering with a Bachelor’s degree in recreation, park and tourism management
Carolyn Petersen with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration
Kandi Young with a Master of Science degree in secondary school counseling
Derek Camp with a Master of Education degree in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school principalship
* Grafs win #ZakStrong fund-raising Corn Hole Tournament Saturday
(Posted 7 a.m. July 22)
Trey and Troy Graf were the winning team during the Corn
Hole Tournament fund-raiser for Zak Palmer Saturday at the Bassett Country Club.
More than 40 teams entered the tournament, which was held to support the Zak
Strong effort as the Springview youth battles leukemia.
Dolan Pospichal and Ryan Painter won the youth division of the Corn Hole Tournament Saturday.
Also Saturday, the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department drew raffle winners, with Tim Hinkhouse winning the shotgun. Dwain Grunke won a pellet grill. Tony Buckles and Jorge Ruiz Margies won coolers, with Roger Magary winning a $100 beef draft and Angie Vonheeder winning a $100 gift certificate to the Elks Club. The firefighters thank everyone who purchased raffle tickets for their fund-raiser.
* Governor appoints 2 from Valentine to state boards
(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 19)
Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Thursday recent
appointments he has made to fill Nebraska’s boards and commissions.
Among the appointees were two from this area. Carolyn Petersen of Valentine was appointed by the governor to the Enhanced Wireless 911 Advisory Board, and Kyle Arganbright of Valentine was appointed to the Nebraska Workforce Development Board.
The appointments are unpaid, and do not require approval from the Legislature.
* Lions Club installs new officers Monday during annual family picnic
(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 18)
The Ainsworth Lions Club installed new officers during
its annual family picnic Monday at East City Park. Officers installed included
President Vergil Heyer, Past President Connie Lentz, Vice President Vance Heyer,
Secretary Connie Lentz, Assistant Secretary Jerry Ehlers, Treasurer Phil Fuchs,
Lion Tamer Steve Salzman, Tail Twister Dwain Grunke, Membership Director Bill
Lentz, and Board members Bob Beatty, Pat Jones, Rita Paddock and Larry Rice.
Outgoing President Connie Lentz thanked the outgoing officers and directors for their service, and thanked the spouses of members who volunteered for several events throughout the year.
Several members received awards for years of service to the Lions Club. They included Richard Albrecht, Jerry Ehlers and Gary Kinzie for 45 years of service to the club; David Spann for 40 years; Vergil Heyer, Jim Hoch and Roger Lechtenberg for 30 years; Harlin Welch for 20 years; Doug Weiss for 15 years; and Sarah Williams, Brenda Syfie-Mundhenke and Graig Kinzie for 10 years with the Lions Club.
New members Steve and Amy Dike were also initiated Monday.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club is scheduled for noon Aug. 19 in Canyon Creek.
* Rock County Commissioners approve ag society, fire district levies
(Posted 12:45 p.m. July 17)
The Rock County Commissioners on Tuesday approved levies for 2019-20 for the Rock County Agricultural Society and the rural fire districts.
The commissioners approved the Rock County Agricultural Society’s request of $29,070 for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The agricultural society receives property tax to operate and maintain the Rock County Fairgrounds.
The commissioners set the levy for the Gracy, Rock and Newport rural fire districts at 1.8 cents in levy per $100 in property value.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved leasing a drone from the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District for Rock County Weed Superintendent Mitch Dean at a cost of $50.
The commissioners received the 2019-20 budget for the Rock County Hospital from Administrator Stacey Knox.
The board voted to hire Daniele Becker to a part-time custodial position at a wage of $15 per hour.
The commissioners also set a Board of Equalization meeting for 9 a.m. July 23 to hear one property valuation protest and 25 destroyed real property applications.
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox discussed a second disaster declaration for the county from flooding in May. A special recovery scoping meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. Aug. 1 in the Rock County Courthouse.
* Commissioners discuss whether to allow volunteer work on county roads
(Posted 7 a.m. July 17)
The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday discussed whether to allow non-county employees to perform any kind of maintenance on county roads.
With some in the county currently using a county-owned drag on roads near their property, and the fact that some currently remove snow from county roadways near their property, the commissioners discussed formalizing an agreement prior to allowing any non-county employee to perform any kind of work on a county roadway.
County Attorney Andy Taylor said he prepared an agreement for the board to consider. He said the draft agreement was very specific as to what would and would not be allowed, and any volunteer would have to meet several guidelines and notify Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin to get permission to perform any kind of maintenance or snow removal work.
Commissioner Denny Bauer said he would like to have the agreement be as generic as possible.
“A lot of other counties are doing this,” Bauer said. “NIRMA covers volunteers. If there is a claim against the county, it would be covered but our rates would go up.”
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said the agreement scared him.
“I know the intent, but without the training and supervision that our employees receive, this scares me. If a mistake is made, even a million dollars in liability coverage might not be enough if there is a death.”
Wiebelhaus said the biggest detriment to the county was not the possibility of a liability claim, it was the chance that someone would be hurt or lose their life due to the county allowing a volunteer to work on a road.
Taylor said the county could include in the agreement that anyone who wants to drag a road or remove snow has to have experience running the equipment.
Wiebelhaus said, if the agreement was limited to volunteers running a drag or removing snow, he would have fewer hesitations.
“I don’t want them out there doing any other maintenance,” Wiebelhaus said.
Bauer said he believed most of the people who would be interested in signing an agreement with the county are those who are already out there dragging a road or removing snow.
“I think it is worth the risk,” Bauer said.
Taylor said he would limit the agreement to allow volunteers to use a county-owned drag or remove snow.
No official action was taken.
In other roads matters Tuesday, the commissioners discussed the potential placement of a culvert on 432nd Avenue south of Richardson Road.
Turpin said the roads department’s work building up the road has kept some water from flowing. He said the road was built up about 18 inches from its previous elevation.
“I can’t find an existing culvert,” Turpin said. “We are probably going to make someone happy and someone mad if we do anything.”
Bauer suggested the county wait until the fall and the completion of any agricultural work in the area before placing a culvert at the site. Wiebelhaus agreed, urging Turpin to wait until all agricultural operations are complete in the area before placing a culvert.
Turpin said, if the roads department places a culvert at the site, he would place it at the existing grade and not dig the ditch down in an effort to keep the flow in a natural state.
“It won’t drain it all, but it will take it down some,” Turpin said of the current water level at the site.
Bauer agreed the culvert should be kept at natural elevation.
“They will both have to share the water,” Bauer said.
Bauer said cleaning and inspecting the culverts in the county should be a priority for the roads department this fall.
“If we repaired or replaced the culverts that have had the most problems, that would solve some of our problems if we have high water again,” Bauer said.
Turpin said the roads department would try and look at culverts this fall. He said, if culverts need to be replaced, he would need to call in and have lines located as in several cases there are lines running just inches below the culverts.
Providing the board with an update on other roads department activities, Turpin said the county continues to have to repair washouts on Moon Lake Avenue along the Enders Overflow. The highway superintendent said, any time the wind blows, the water levels are so high at that location that it causes waves to wash out the road.
“We keep fixing it, but it is going to be a problem until the water level goes down,” Turpin said.
Turpin said the roads department has been hauling sand onto South Pine Avenue and the Raven Road, and has been fixing washouts on Norden Avenue and Moon Lake Avenue.
“We are also cleaning silt out of a ditch on Road 876,” Turpin said. “Part of that road will be closed.”
Turpin reported he has been working on the damage inventory from the March flooding, and would have everything uploaded to the FEMA site by Friday.
“We had a total of 123 sites identified that were damaged,” Turpin said. “That included six bridges and nine culverts. The total estimated cost of the damage is $578,300 on non-federal routes.”
If approved by FEMA, the county would receive reimbursement for 75 percent of the cost of the damage.
In a final roads matter, Turpin presented the commissioners with three applications for the full-time roads department employee the county advertised. The commissioners directed Turpin to conduct two interviews and make a recommendation to the board.
Sandhills Care Center Board Chairman Phil Fuchs presented the commissioners with the 2019-20 budget for the facility.
He reported there are currently 25 residents in the facility. He told the commissioners the expenses for the facility were pretty fixed if it maintains between 15 and 25 residents. The income is the variable, as each resident gained or lost makes a $6,000 monthly change in revenue.
Fuchs asked the commissioners to budget for the full $80,000 in support the county had previously agreed to provide, but the care center only planned to ask the county for $40,000 in funding.
“We are making progress,” Fuchs said. “If we can keep the resident numbers where they are now, we would likely ask for even less next year.”
He reported the facility has been replacing outdated computers, and just approved a bid to replace the concrete on half of the circle drive at the nursing home.
Wiebelhaus thanked Fuchs for the board’s efforts, saying the budget was good news.
“It would be nice to see the city and county work together on a contract to help pay the cost of schooling for a nurse who then agrees to come back and work there for five years,” Wiebelhaus said.
Bauer encouraged Fuchs and the board not to hesitate to ask the county for assistance if upgrades to the nursing home are needed.
The only action taken by the commissioners Tuesday with Commissioner Buddy Small absent was to approve a $50 monthly payment to Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum to cover half the cost of his cellular phone bill, as Erthum uses his personal phone for county weed business.
Following the regular meeting Tuesday, the commissioners reconvened as the Board of Equalization to hear property valuation protests.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Aug. 6.
* School Board approves software to provide easy access to meeting info, policies
(Posted 7 a.m. July 16)
Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Dale Hafer talked to the Board of Education Monday about a program through the Nebraska Association of School Boards that will make the district’s meeting agendas and policies more accessible and user-friendly for the public.
Hafer said about half of the school districts in Nebraska use the Sparq Meeting software on their web sites, as well numerous organizations in Nebraska and several other states.
Nicole Covess with the NASB presented a tutorial to the board on how the system operates. Sparq allows for paperless meetings, with all content for meetings provided through the software, and also allows the board to upload all of its policies for immediate access.
Board member Brad Wilkins said he uses the Sparq program as part of being on the NASB Board, and said it was very user-friendly.
“If I can use it, anyone can,” Wilkins said. “We would be able to go back and search to see who had bids on previous projects. The alternatives cost around $10,000. This is a great system that is being used in other states.”
Hafer said the district could try itself to add content to its web site, but would not be able to duplicate this level of convenience for public use.
“We can make something work either way,” Hafer said.
Board President Jim Arens said having the school’s policies on the system and searchable would be an excellent feature.
With Wilkins abstaining and Scott Erthum absent, the board approved purchasing the software at a cost of $2,500 with an additional $500 setup fee.
The board also discussed working with the NASB or the district’s law firm to review and revise all of the district’s policies.
Arens said a review of all the district’s policies was recommended by Darrell Peterson prior to his retirement as superintendent.
Wilkins said a lot of the district’s policies have not been looked at since around 2000.
Hafer presented the board with options, which included using the district’s law firm to review and revise the policies with the board at a cost of $9,500. The NASB provided the district with an option to simply have access to its policies for school boards at a cost of around $700 with an annual fee of $495 for updates following any legislation passed.
Hafer said it would be around an additional $2,000 to have NASB representatives meet with the board to review current policies.
Wilkins said the district has not faced much in the way of litigation related to its policies, and he believed using the NASB service was adequate.
Hafer said it was certainly more cost effective if the board was happy with the policies the NASB has created. It would be more expensive to customize them to the district.
The board ultimately voted to table action until its August meeting.
In other action items Monday, the board approved option enrollment requests to allow Caylee Kenyon to option into Rock County Public Schools, and to allow Hardin and Thomas Voss to attend Rock County Public Schools after receiving requests from parents.
The board approved the final invoice of approximately $23,000 for the agriculture and industrial technology building addition project, and approved several items to replace Peterson with Hafer on documentation related to the Ainsworth Educational Facilities Leasing Corporation as well as corporate banking documents.
The board approved the first reading of a purchasing policy for the district, and second readings of policies relating to tobacco use prohibition, substance abuse and activity suspensions, offenses and penalties, school food authority procurement plan, admission requirements, wage information, military recruiters, curriculum assessment, and standing and temporary committees.
During his initial report to the board, Hafer said he believed he was getting off to a good start on the superintendent transition.
He said he has been busy identifying potential facilities issues that may need to be addressed, including the gym roof and the district’s phone system.
Hafer said the district’s building and grounds committee met with a representative from Weathercraft regarding the roof, which he said has been leaking.
“We need to get that done before we can get to some other projects,” Hafer said. “We advertised for bids, and will open bids on the Wednesday before the August board meeting.”
Hafer said he reviewed options for the district’s phone system, as the system needed to be expanded into the new addition.
“The system we have is obsolete,” Hafer said. “We did have Applied Connective and Three River take a look, and we think we can get wiring into the addition and get it done without replacing the entire system.”
Hafer said the buildings and grounds committee would look at options and provide a recommendation to the board about what makes the most sense moving forward with the phone system.
Hafer reported he was working with the NASB to hold a strategic planning session for the community, which he said is fairly common when a district hires a new superintendent.
“The NASB provides this service when they assist a district with a superintendent search,” Hafer said. “Be thinking about a strategic planning committee, which will include board members, staff, students and community members.”
Hafer said it would be a good opportunity to engage with the public, staff and students and see the direction people want to go.
Hafer also reported the district has hired one full time and one part time custodian to fill vacancies, and has started the search to replace administrative assistant Danielle Palmer, who resigned from her position.
“We have received several applications already,” Hafer said.
He said he hoped to get interviews complete and a new assistant hired as Palmer was willing to help provide training to the new employee.
The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 12.
* Agenda for Tuesday Brown County Commissioners meeting
(Posted 6:15 a.m. July 16)
Brown County Commissioners
Meeting 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 16
Brown County Courthouse
5:15 - 5:20 Roll Call;
Acknowledge posting of Open Meetings Law;
Pledge of Allegiance;
Approve minutes of the June 18, 2019 Commissioner meeting;
Kenneth Turpin – Road Department Issues
Replacing or cleaning culvert on 432nd Avenue South of Richardson road T29N R22W Sect 36
Reviewing job applications for road department
Allow Non-County employees to maintain or repair County roads
5:45 Phil Fuchs – Present the Sandhills Care Center 2019-2020 Budget
6:00 David Boschult – Nebraska Department of Ag, meet with the Board
Reimbursement on phone/internet for weed superintendent as previously discussed at June 4, 2019 meeting
* Poker Tube nets more than $3,000 for Long Pine Fire Department
(Posted 2 p.m. July 11)
More than 140 tubers turned out for the Hidden Paradise
Poker Tube Saturday to support the Long Pine Fire Department. More than doubling
the inaugural year’s total, the Poker Tube netted more than $3000 for the fire
Only a few months after the spring floods damaged many Hidden Paradise cabins and created chaos in the creek, tubers from California, Colorado, Mexico, Texas, and across Nebraska enjoyed sunshine and a clear creek for the event.
The Poker Tube featured six host cabins, including the Hochs, Sladeks, Thiemans, Grahams and Touchtones, Hedlunds and Kremlaceks, and ended at Bronson’s Hidden Paradise Motel. Designed to connect the Hidden Paradise community, tubers enjoyed gourmet sliders, pulled pork and a variety of craft cocktails along the Poker Tube, all generously donated by the host cabins. Winners received tubes and cash prizes.
* Council votes to maintain ownership of property acquired for potential street
(Posted 7 a.m. July 11)
The Ainsworth City Council Wednesday opted to maintain ownership of a parcel of property on the west side of the city after hearing a request from a neighboring property owner to relinquish the parcel.
Don and Janet Schuyler approached the council about purchasing a parcel on the west side of the South Wilson Street and West Dawes Street intersection.
Janet Schuyler said the couple wanted to purchase the parcel for sentimental reasons, as it had belonged to their family prior to the city obtaining it.
“We own the property next to it, and we would like that property to give us better access,” Janet Schuyler said. “The city was going to put a road in at one time, but nothing has been done since the 1970s.”
Don Schuyler told the council he believed the agreement was initially set up that the property would revert back to the previous owner if a street was not built. He told the council he and his wife should have the right of first refusal to obtain the property if the city is not going to use it.
City Councilmen Brad Fiala and Greg Soles both expressed concerns about relinquishing ownership of the parcel.
“I do have hesitation,” Fiala said. “If we give up ownership, we have a portion of land that is dead. This would put up a roadblock we can’t get back.”
Soles said the city owns property to the northwest of the site, and vacating that parcel would land lock the rest of the ground the city owns in that area.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said, under the city’s comprehensive plan, that area is targeted for potential residential development.
“If we were to add another residential area, there aren’t any other through streets in that area,” Schroedl said. “If you were ever to expand there, you would potentially want to connect that area to Dawes Street.”
Schroedl told the council, if it did decide to move forward with relinquishing the property, a resolution would have to be created to vacate the parcel and it would be advertised for sale.
By a 3-0 vote with Councilman Schyler Schenk absent, the council voted to maintain ownership of the parcel.
In another street item, the council discussed vacating an approximately 150-foot portion of North Elm Street south of East Seventh Street.
Mayor Jeremiah Sullivan said the parcel in question sat between the Wilkins and Arens residences on the north side of the city.
Schroedl said a house was built in that area that would prevent that portion of North Elm Street from connecting to the rest.
“The neighboring property owners have informed us that the city doesn’t take care of it very well,” Schroedl said. “The city really has no use for it.”
The city administrator said, if the council agreed, she would send a certified letter to the neighboring property owners and have a resolution drafted to vacate that portion of North Elm Street. She said her recommendation was to vacate the street so the city did not have to maintain it.
City Attorney Rod Palmer said, if the council chooses to vacate the parcel as a street, the ground can either go back to the adjoining property owners or the city can maintain ownership.
The council authorized Schroedl to move forward with the process of vacating the street.
In other business Wednesday, Sandhills Care Center Board Chairman Phil Fuchs presented the council with the 2019-20 care center budget.
Fuchs reported there are 25 current residents in the Sandhills Care Center, and if the facility can continue to maintain a census of 23 to 25 residents, the facility should be able to ask the city and county for less support moving forward.
Fuchs said the care center board put together a conservative budget, and he requested the city to budget for the full $80,000 in support it had previously agreed to provide. However, with $177,000 in current cash reserves, Fuchs said the facility would only initially request $40,000 in support from both the city and the county.
“Our expenses are pretty well fixed if we have between 15 and 25 residents,” Fuchs said. “We feel like we have a handle on our expenses. The income is the variable, and we can have a big swing there depending on the number of residents.”
Fiala said he was glad to see the care center census up to 25 residents.
No action was taken, as the council will address the funding request as part of its 2019-20 budget preparation.
The council voted to reappoint Jason Nelson to a three-year term on the city’s Committee on Housing as recommended by the mayor.
The council also approved a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to provide funding to the Ainsworth Golf Course to assist in the cost of the annual Fourth of July fireworks display.
Schroedl said the ABC Committee recommended the council award funding to cover the gap between the donations the fire department and golf course took in and the total cost of the fireworks up to a maximum contribution of $3,000.
Schroedl reported the fire department and golf course raised $2,022 in donations for the display, which cost a total of $3,517. That left a gap of $1,495, which the council approved providing from the ABC fund.
The council briefly discussed an agreement with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department to provide law enforcement for the city. Schroedl said a new three-year agreement has not yet been completed, and the current contract expired July 1.
She recommended the council agree to extend the current agreement until the new draft is completed.
“This gives us something formalized for the interim,” Schroedl said.
Fiala said this was probably an issue that should have been addressed sooner so the council had more time to research it.
The council approved extending the previous agreement until a new one is created. The council held an executive session prior to adjourning Wednesday to discuss the contract.
Prior to entering executive session, Schroedl reported the city is continuing to work on FEMA documentation for aid from the damage to the streets during the March flooding. She said she was working with the FEMA project coordinator to group projects and bid work on repairs the city crews can’t handle themselves.
She also reported the request for proposals has been completed by the Nebraska Public Power District for a community solar project. The site for the proposed solar panels is located south of the south baseball diamond.
She reported the part-time employee who operated the city’s street sweeper resigned from the position.
Soles asked about an area under the alley behind Ranchland Western Store and the Grand Theater after contractors spotted a void under the alley.
“We need to determine who is responsible for fixing that problem,” Soles said. “They have been patient, but they can’t continue to wait.”
Palmer said it appeared the void was in the alley, and therefore the city’s responsibility to fix. The council directed Schroedl to have the city’s streets superintendent survey the site.
Schroedl also reported the city received the initial $200,000 bond from Ameritas to replenish the sewer fund for money spent in preparation for the sewer improvement projects approved by the council. The city will pay 1.8 percent interest on the initial bond funds received for the project.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. Aug. 14.
* Area students named to UNMC spring semester dean's list
(Posted 1:15 p.m. July 9)
The University of Nebraska Medical Center
announced its spring dean’s list for students enrolled in nursing, dentistry,
pharmacy and the allied health professions of magnetic resonance imaging,
medical laboratory science and radiography.
To qualify for the dean’s list, nursing and the allied health students must be enrolled for 12 or more hours during the semester and have a grade point average of 3.75 or above.
Area students named to the spring semester dean’s list at UNMC include:
College of Nursing Lincoln Division
Ainsworth -- Shea Sinsel
Dunning -- Cassidy Hafer
College of Nursing Northern Division (Norfolk)
Atkinson -- Kenady Stanton
* Care Center Board approves 2019-20 budget
(Posted 7 a.m. July 9)
The Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors on Monday approved the 2019-20 budget for the facility.
Though realizing a profit the last several months as the census has built, Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said the board was conservative in its budget preparation, and budgeted on the chance the resident population dips back down below its current level.
“We have $177,000 in our cash reserves to start the fiscal year,” Fuchs said. “If we stay in the 22 to 25 range in our resident numbers, it makes things much easier.”
Board member Leanne Maxwell said, other than with the food budget, the facility’s expenses don’t change much if there are 20 residents or if there are 25.
“Being on the conservative side is good,” Maxwell said of the budget forecast.
Fuchs said the board would ask the Ainsworth City Council and the Brown County Commissioners to budget for the full $80,000 in support each entity pledged to the care center for the upcoming year, but he said he would likely only request half that much initially from each.
“We would have them budget for the full $80,000 in case we would need it later,” Fuchs said.
The board unanimously approved the 2019-20 budget as presented.
Administrator Stephanie Rucker reported there were currently 25 residents in the Sandhills Care Center. The facility admitted three new residents during June, and one resident passed away. She said 12 of the residents pay privately, 12 receive Medicaid assistance, and one was on hospice care.
Rucker reported the facility received $56,736 in Medicaid intergovernmental transfer funds in June, which helped boost June revenue to $209,839.
The Medicaid reimbursement is money provided for the cost of care a facility experiences over the initial Medicaid payment. A year ago, the facility’s Medicaid resident day rate was just shy of the 40 percent threshold required to qualify for the intergovernmental transfer funds. This year, the facility was above the 40 percent Medicaid day threshold and received the funding.
With revenue in June of $209,839 thanks in part to the reimbursement, and expenses for the month of $115,535, the care center realized a June profit of $94,304.
Fuchs said the $56,736 would be placed in the interlocal account instead of in the operating account for the time being.
Rucker reported the care center is still using agency nursing services to staff two CNA positions and one LPN.
“Our nursing pool costs are not as high as they were, but they are still high enough,” Rucker said.
The agency nursing positions resulted in $11,258 in expenses for June.
In action items Monday, the board approved the low bid of $6,648 from Ben Burdick to replace the concrete on the north half of the care center’s circle drive and the concrete near the facility’s entry.
Rucker reported three local contractors were contacted about providing a bid. Two responded, with Walton Concrete bidding $7,400 for the work.
Matt Moody, who handles maintenance for the facility, agreed to tear out the old concrete using his equipment, and will be paid separately for that work. The quotes from the contractors, therefore, did not include removing the current concrete.
Board member Chuck Osborn said the bids were well below what he had anticipated.
Fuchs said he believed the board could handle the cost of the work with its operations money.
The board approved the low bid for the work from Ben Burdick.
Board member Buddy Small asked Rucker to inform him or County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin when Moody was planning to tear out the old concrete, as the county roads department would haul it away from the site.
The board also approved a recommendation from Rucker to replace three desktop computers in the facility as part of the computer replacement schedule the board previously discussed.
After approving the purchase of three desktops and one laptop computer during June, the board Monday approved replacing the desktop computers for the dietary department, the activities department, and the social services department at a total cost of $2,348 from Simple Solutions of Long Pine.
In a final action item Monday, Rucker told the board she went with a little different model lift than the board originally approved in June. She said the lift she purchased was around $500 more expensive than the lift initially proposed, but would better accommodate the facility’s residents.
The board approved the change, and Rucker reported she would fill out an application to the Ainsworth Betterment Committee for the potential purchase of a third lift to give each wing of the facility a lift.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. August 12.
* Troy graduates from Air Force basic training
(Posted 12:30 p.m. July 8)
U.S. Air Force Airman Naomi M. Troy graduated from basic
military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.
The airman completed an intensive, eight-week program that included training in military discipline and studies, Air Force core values, physical fitness, and basic warfare principles and skills.
Airmen who complete basic training also earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.
Troy is a 2019 graduate of West Holt High School, and is the daughter of Brenda Kobobel-Troy of Atkinson.
* Atkinson receives scrap tire cleanup grant
(Posted 8 a.m. July 8)
Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy Director
Jim Macy announced the state is awarding nearly $968,000 to support 63 tire
recycling and cleanup projects across the state. The department received over
$1.4 million in eligible requests.
“The agency received many outstanding applications from across the state,” Macy said. “These funds will provide needed support to local efforts that effectively deal with scrap tires in Nebraska.”
Among the recipients is the city of Atkinson, which will receive $23,662 to host a 200-ton scrap tire cleanup. O’Neill St. Mary’s School will receive $17,183 as reimbursement for half of the cost of purchasing 122,835 pounds of rubber mulch for the school’s playground.
The funded grant projects include 21 awards to political subdivisions across Nebraska to hold scrap tire cleanup events; many in counties affected by the flooding events in 2019. The funding provided is sufficient to clean up over 400,000 passenger tire equivalents.
The scrap tire grants are part of the department’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Grants program, and are funded by a $1 fee on new tires purchased in Nebraska.
* Paddock residence selected for Yard of the Week
(Posted 6:30 a.m. July 8)
Roland and Rita Paddock were the latest winners in the
Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Yard of the Week promotion. The Paddock
residence at 218 N. Merten St. was selected as the Week 5 winner by the chamber
To nominate someone for Yard of the Week, contact the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce.
* Three River phone service down due to floodwater damaging fiber line
(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 5)
Due to floodwater that washed out a fiber optic line, Three River telephone customers are currently unable to place calls. Three River crews are working to restore the fiber line and will notify KBRB when the repairs are complete and service is restored.
* June slightly warmer, slightly drier than normal in Ainsworth
(Posted 7:45 a.m. July 3)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported June was
slightly below normal in precipitation, though Ainsworth was still more than 5
inches above normal for the year thanks to the extremely wet months of March and
To hear the complete June summary, click on the audio link below.
* Road issues again dominate discussion during Brown County Commissioner meeting
(Posted 7 a.m. July 3)
Roads were again the main topic of discussion during Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin told the board the roads department put millings on the Elsmere Road, building it up to the point that motorists are not having to travel through water anymore.
Turpin said the roads department also fixed Road 876 between 432nd and 434th avenues.
“Next we are planning to repair 423rd Avenue south of Highway 20 that has washed out,” Turpin said.
He said the department also plans to fix some washouts south of Long Pine west of the South Pine Avenue Y.
Jeep Cozad addressed the board regarding the condition of the road west of the South Pine Avenue Y, telling the commissioners the work done to clean out the ditches and culverts on state-owned ground allowed water to flow onto his and neighboring properties.
“That work has flooded me out,” Cozad said. “I know it is the natural flow of the water, but cleaning out the ditches caused a lot of ground to be flooded. We have lost a considerable amount of workable ground.”
Cozad said he understood it has been a catastrophic year, but he said the culverts in that area had been ignored for 20 years, and cleaning them out now created a wall of water that has damaged a lot of property.
“I don’t understand the lack of regular maintenance on culverts,” Cozad said.
Turpin said cleaning culverts is on the county’s list of maintenance projects.
“But, when the weather is right for us to blade and grade roads, we need to do that or we have other people in complaining,” the highway superintendent said. “It isn’t easy. There are a lot of things we need to be doing.”
Turpin said there was very little traffic on the road in question, and the roads department has been working to get more traveled routes repaired first.
“I agree we need to have a culvert program and try to stick to it, but it is hard to do,” Turpin said. “There are all kinds of things that happen that you don’t expect and can’t plan for.”
Glenna Abbott, who also owns property in that area south of Long Pine, said the two worst spots on her property used to have culverts years ago, but at some point they were torn out and never replaced.
“I have had 3 feet of water in my basement,” Abbott said, telling the commissioners the water has been backing up into her yard.
Commissioner Buddy Small said Turpin gives a lot of thought to coming up with solutions to fix problems that arise in the county.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, if it is foreseeable that road work might affect neighboring property owners, he would like to see it brought to the board before the work starts so the board can be informed and make a decision.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners, with Denny Bauer absent, approved an interlocal agreement to have the Brown County veterans services officer provide service to veterans in both Keya Paha and Rock counties.
County Attorney Andy Taylor said the county had separate agreements with both counties. Those counties were interested in creating one interlocal agreement.
Under the agreement, Brown County will cover 58 percent of the overall veterans service budget, with Rock County providing 28 percent and Keya Paha County 14 percent of the budget. Taylor said the percentages reflect the number of veterans in each county.
The commissioners also approved the 2019-20 BKR Extension budget as presented during the board’s previous meeting. Small said both the Rock County and Keya Paha County commissioners had approved their portions of the Extension budget.
The board approved a three-year agreement with Ritterbush and Piotrowski LLP of Omaha to conduct the county audit. Clerk Travee Hobbs said the only other bid the county received came from the state auditor’s office, which quoted a maximum cost of $15,000.
The quote from Ritterbush and Piotrowski included a first-year cost of $8,900, with the cost of the audit increasing by $300 in each of the two subsequent years of the three-year agreement. The company also provided a one-year audit quote of $9,250.
The commissioners approved the three-year option.
The board acknowledged the budget request submitted by the Ainsworth Public Library for the 2019-20 fiscal year. Small said the library was asking the county for $11,000 in funding to support the library, which is the same amount it has requested in previous years.
The commissioners also acknowledged the receipt of the annual jail standards report. Wiebelhaus said there were no deficiencies found in the annual inspection of the Brown County Jail.
Following the regular meeting Tuesday, the commissioners convened as the Board of Equalization to hear property valuation protests.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. July 16.
* Dillon residence selected for Yard of the Week by Ainsworth Chamber
(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 1)
The residence of Brad and Connie Dillon at 546 N. Wilson
St. in Ainsworth received the Week 4 Yard of the Week award from the Ainsworth
Area Chamber of Commerce.
To nominate someone for Yard of the Week, contact the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce.
* North Platte man dies Saturday in one-vehicle accident south of Valentine
(Posted 7 a.m. July 1)
A 33-year-old North Platte man died in a one-vehicle
accident south of Valentine Saturday.
According to the Nebraska State Patrol, which investigated the accident, at approximately 10 p.m. Saturday, a vehicle driven by Tyler Golden of North Platte was traveling north on Highway 97 approximately 18 miles south of Valentine when the vehicle left the roadway and rolled in the ditch.
Golden, who the State Patrol indicated was not wearing a seat belt, was pronounced dead at the scene.
* Fire department awards bicycles to 4 alumni parade riders
(Posted 7 a.m. July 1)
Four children who rode their bicycles during the alumni
parade Saturday won new bikes courtesy of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire
Bicycle winners drawn Saturday were Logan Johnson, Ty Ruhter, Karis Meister and Matthew Morris. The fire department annually provides bicycles to children who enter their bikes and ride in the alumni parade.
* Highway 11 bridge repair project south of Butte underway
(Posted 5:45 p.m. June 29)
In conjunction with recent flood recovery update
meetings at Norfolk, O’Neill and Niobrara, the Nebraska Department of
Transportation announced updates to projects on Highway 11 south of Butte,
Highway 57 south of Stanton, and Highway 94 east of Pender.
Kiewit Infrastructure Co. of Omaha has been awarded the contract to repair the bridge across the Niobrara River on Highway 11 south of Butte and began work June 24 with completion expected by Dec. 31. The project was originally designed and advertised for letting on May 28, but no bids were received. Bridge engineers have continued to evaluate the situation and damage to the bridge. In order to provide a safe, reliable and sustainable solution, the NDOT has altered the design to replace the bridge deck and repair all the damaged steel girders now to avoid future traffic disruptions for additional work in the coming years. Additional considerations to the decision include the timeline of an August opening of the temporary bridge on Highway 281 across the Niobrara River south of Spencer.
* Alumni invited to visit the community calendar page for a list of class activities
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 28)
KBRB welcomes all alumni back to Ainsworth. Individual class plans can be found on the community events page at www.kbrbradio.com.
All class members are invited to the Ainsworth Elks for their car show and cruise night tonight.
classes are asked to meet at East City Park by 9 a.m. for class photos ahead of
the 10 a.m. parade. Temperatures are expected to be extremely hot and humid for
the weekend, so plan accordingly for all outdoor activities.
Tours of Ainsworth Community Schools will be held beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, followed by the alumni banquet at 6:30 p.m. in McAndrew Gymnasium with the meal prepared and served by the Ainsworth Lions Club.
The annual alumni four-person scramble golf tournament begins at 9 a.m. Sunday at the Ainsworth Golf Course.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 3 p.m. June 27)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
vehicle-deer accident that occurred Wednesday, June 26, on Highway 20.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 8:26 a.m. Wednesday on Highway 20 approximately 5 miles west of Johnstown, a 2013 Dodge, driven by Kacie Kursave, 18, of Cody, was traveling east when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Dodge was estimated at $2,500.
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 2:15 p.m. June 27)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Janeen L. Hintze, age 43, of Eagle Mountain, Utah, charged with speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, fined $25.
Christina L. Fetter, 46, of Springview, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Luis A. Rodriguez, 36, of Ainsworth, no operator’s license, $75.
Amanda L. Johnson, 29, of Mitchell, S.D., violation of a stop or yield sign, $75.
Debra A. Glaser, 61, of Ulen, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Robert L. Schilling, 27, of Hastings, commercial vehicle marking violation, $50; commercial vehicle invalid operator authorization, $100.
Nicole L. Fankhauser, 34, of Canton, Ohio, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Spencer R. Jeu, 32, of Jonesboro, Ark., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Mara L. Adams, 57, of Kansas City, Mo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Hannah E. Holloway, 28, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Landon J. Welke, 23, of Johnstown, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Grace M. Otis, 19, of Omaha, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.
James T. Lindahl, 65, of Golden Valley, Minn., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Casey L. McMahon, 28, of Colome, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Josef Z. Abbo, 51, of Las Vegas, Nev., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Manuel A. Lozano Rivas, 42, of Millbank, S.D., driving left of center, $25.
Kelly A. Winburn, 19, of Ord, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Steven R. Chance, 60, of Chippewa Falls, Wis., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Aaron D. Jones, 36, of Houston, Texas, three counts of attempting a Class IV felony, fined $1,000 on each count and also ordered to pay a total of $2,501 restitution.
Dallas L. Choat, 41, of Albion, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Ashley C. Martins, 35, of Gordon, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Brent A. Goeken, 38, of Long Pine, second offense driving under the influence of alcohol, $500, also sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for 17 days served, driver’s license revoked for 18 months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Jeff Keezer, 48, of Neligh, disturbing the peace, $100 and one day in jail with credit for one day served.
Bobbi J. Matkin, 40, of Boise, Idaho, attempt of a Class IV felony, $1,000; possession or discharge of illegal fireworks, $300.
Bret V. Kynaston, 37, of Boise, Idaho, attempt of a Class IV felony, $1,000; possession or discharge of illegal fireworks, $300.
Sabrina N. Aguilar, 25, of Fargo, N.D., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Jacob R. Ost, 25, of Reynolds, N.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Trenton D. Kinney, 38, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Ryan L. Farris, 27, of Johnstown, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75; no operator’s license, $50.
Mickal A. Crisman, 54, of Long Pine, leaving the scene of an accident or failing to furnish information, $50.
Katherine H. Wood, 54, of Lancaster, Calif., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.
* Fans available in Ainsworth and Valentine for those who qualify
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 26)
With summer upon us and with temperatures on the rise, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is again distributing free fans, and offering other cooling assistance programs, through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
DHHS has partnered with 28 organizations in 42 Nebraska counties to distribute fans purchased with federal funds to Nebraskans in need.
In this area, fans are available from Bright Horizons at 938 E. Zero St. in Ainsworth, from the Northwest Community Action Partnership at 312 E. Third St. in Valentine, and two locations in O’Neill at Bright Horizons and the Central Nebraska Community Action Partnership.
Eligibility is determined by the organizations that hand out the fans.
Last year, partner organizations distributed 3,321 fans across the state.
DHHS also has other programs to help those who struggle to keep cool during the summer months.
The Cooling Assistance Program provides bill payment aid, the Crisis Program assists with emergency energy payments, Deposit Assistance helps with energy deposits and reconnections, the Window Air Conditioning Unit Assistance program pays for window air conditioners and the Repair/Replacement Program benefits homeowners who need central air system repairs.
The programs are available to Nebraskans who qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, but each also has other eligibility requirements. Qualification guidelines and more information about each of the programs can be found online at ACCESSNebraska.gov, call Access Nebraska at 800-383-4278, or visit a local DHHS office.
* March taxable sales show decline for most counties amid flooding
(Posted 9 a.m. June 25)
* North Central RC&D continues electronics waste recycling events
(Posted 9 a.m. June 24)
The North Central RC&D is exploring expanding its
electronics collection to include Spencer. Because of the bridge challenges, the
topic will be brought up again in the fall once routes are determined. O’Neill
reported its electronic waste collection gathered 853 pounds. That is a
significant drop in volume but the collection was during the flooding. The
collection will not be dropped from the schedule. Springview, Bassett and
Valentine collected 5,586 pounds in June.
The community of Bassett is exploring ways to begin offering recycling of some of the basic items. This is just in the discovery stage so no announcements have been made.
Kim Burge will explore putting together a tire amnesty grant through the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. She will confer with Bassett and Atkinson to discuss possible collaboration.
The RC&D reminds area residents they can dispose of tires when new tires are purchased. The RC&D encourages people to take advantage of that opportunity, as stockpiling with no disposal plan creates an unsightly mess and a mosquito hatchery every year. If a grant is awarded to offer a tire amnesty day, it will be with the goal of getting rid of old stockpiles. Due to the extremely high cost of offering such events, there will be fees passed to the owners of the tires.
* Fuchs' residence selected as chamber Yard of the Week
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 24)
The residence of Phil and Marsha Fuchs on the south side
of Ainsworth was selected as the Week 3 winner of the Ainsworth Area Chamber of
Commerce Yard of the Week promotion.
The Fuchs’ home at 87697 Highway 7 becomes the third location selected for the Yard of the Week designation.
Nominations are still being accepted for Yard of the Week. Contact the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce to nominate someone to receive the Yard of the Week award.
* Ainsworth Lions Club welcomes 2 new members
(Posted 7:30 a.m. June 21)
The Ainsworth Lions Club welcomed new members Steve and Amy Dike by approving their applications Monday.
Club President Connie Lentz provided a report on the Bike Ride Across Nebraska event, with the riders staying overnight in Ainsworth June 4. The Lions Club served 116 meals, with a number of positive comments received regarding the menu. Nineteen Lions Club members assisted with the project, along with five volunteers.
Roland Paddock reminded the membership the Ainsworth High School Alumni Banquet will be held June 29. He has been working with the various committee chairs in preparation for the event. A worksheet was reviewed, which will be updated and e-mailed to the membership.
Lentz scheduled the Highway 20 cleanup east of Ainsworth for 4 p.m. Sunday, June 23.
Evan Evans told the board he had not heard back from the firm he has been working with regarding the borders around the playground equipment in the city parks.
A thank you note was received from TeamMates for the Lions Club contribution last month.
The District 38-I Cabinet meeting was held at Norfolk June 1, with information from the meeting shared with the club. The club reviewed the financial status of the Ainsworth Lions Club 2019-20 Community Service Project Plan. District Governor Delan Reed has advised that additional grant funds may be available to expand the club’s Disaster Relief Project. The club discussed the possible use of additional relief funds, with a decision pending based on the availability of additional information.
The Ainsworth Lions Club is giving consideration to awarding a Melvin Jones Fellowship in the name of a club member who has made significant contributions of time and energy to the Lions Club. Melvin Jones was the founder of the Lions Club in 1917 in Chicago. Previous Melvin Jones Fellowship recipients include Jerry Allen, Don Anderson, Wayne Bauer, Everette Copes, Warren Wulf, and Scott Ritter. After a discussion, it was decided the Board of Directors should meet to consider the identification of a club recipient, with action to be taken during the August Lions Club meeting.
* Burkinshaw pleads no contest to second degree assault charge Tuesday
(Posted 6:30 a.m. June 20)
During District Court proceedings Tuesday, Scott
Burkinshaw, 33, of Ainsworth, entered a plea of no contest to a second degree
assault charge stemming from an incident that occurred last year.
Burkinshaw was charged with the Class IIA felony after John Clark, 28, of Ainsworth was assaulted June 10, 2018. Clark suffered severe injuries and was hospitalized for an extended period.
Burkinshaw entered the no contest plea Tuesday in District Court at Ord. He will be sentenced at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 4 in Brown County District Court.
* Area students named to spring semester Deans' List at UN-L
(Posted 6:30 a.m. June 20)
More than 5,100 University of Nebraska–Lincoln students have been named to the Deans' List of Distinguished Students for the spring semester of the 2018-19 academic year.
Qualification for the Deans' List students varies among the eight undergraduate colleges.
Area students named to the spring Deans’ List at UN-L include:
Jack Arens, junior, College of Engineering, computer engineering.
Colin Dike, junior, College of Education and Human Sciences, special education (7-12) and speech (7-12).
Austin Harthoorn, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural economics.
Jacob Wilkins, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural education.
Buck Cronk, senior, College of Arts and Sciences, computer science.
Peyton Alder, freshman, College of Arts and Sciences, biological sciences and psychology.
Alison Stracke, junior, College of Arts and Sciences, biochemistry.
Alex Fritz, senior, College of Engineering, electrical engineering.
Jake Judge, junior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, mechanized systems management.
Macey Mathis, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, communication sciences and disorders.
* Second degree murder charge filed Tuesday against rural Long Pine man
(Posted 2:45 p.m. June 19)
A second-degree murder charge was filed Tuesday in Brown County Court against a 26-year-old rural Long Pine man accused in the killing of an 18-year-old man.
Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor reported Nathan Yankowski was charged with committing murder in the second degree, with a second charge of making terroristic threats in the death of Logan Maring, 18, of Merna.
The charges stem from an incident that occurred May 22 at 88503 U.S. Highway 183 northwest of Long Pine. Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein reported the sheriff’s department received a call at 4:56 p.m. May 22 of a subject suffering a gunshot wound at that location.
Upon arrival, the sheriff’s department and Brown County Ambulance Association found Maring had suffered a gunshot wound to the head. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Yankowski was arrested at the scene and initially faced charges of involuntary manslaughter and second-degree assault. Those charges were replaced in Brown County Court Tuesday with the second degree murder and terroristic threats charges. Second degree murder is a Class 1B felony with a minimum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum life sentence. The terrorist threats charge is a Class 3A felony with a maximum penalty three years in prison.
Yankowski was arraigned Wednesday in Brown County Court. A preliminary hearing has been set for 1 p.m. July 17. Yankowski is free after posting bond.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 2:15 p.m. June 19)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
vehicle-deer accident that occurred Sunday, June 9, west of Johnstown.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 10 p.m. Sunday on Highway 20 approximately 5 miles west of Johnstown, a 2001 Ford pickup, driven by Monte Goshorn, 61, of Ainsworth, was traveling east when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. The Ford was considered a total loss.
* Brewer talks successes and failures of legislative session
(Posted 7:30 a.m. June 19)
Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer visited with
KBRB's Graig Kinze, providing his thoughts on the recently completed session of
the Nebraska Legislature. Brewer discussed his vote against the mainline budget
bill, as well as the failure to change the state aid to education formula and
the inability of the Legislature to agree on a structure to reduce property tax
He also talked about some of the 14 bills he authored that were approved during the session.
To hear the report, click on the audio links below.
* Commissioners rescind previous vote to provide 3-cent rural fire levy for 3 years
(Posted 7 a.m. June 19)
The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday rescinded a previous vote to set the Brown County Rural Fire District levy at 3 cents per $100 in valuation for the next three years, opting instead to set the 3-cent levy for the 2019-20 year only and cap the maximum levy over the next three years at 3 cents.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said it was the fire chiefs’ understanding that the levy had to be set for a three-year period to receive MFO funds from the state.
“I don’t believe that is the case,” Wiebelhaus said.
Brown County Attorney Andy Taylor said the new law passed by the Legislature requires counties to set a maximum levy over a three-year period, but that maximum amount only has to be levied once during that three-year time frame.
Wiebelhaus said he planned to keep the levy at 3 cents for the upcoming year, but wanted the option to revisit the levy the next two years.
By a 2-0 vote with Commissioner Buddy Small absent during that portion of Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved rescinding its previous action to set the rural fire district levy at 3 cents for the next three years.
The board then voted to set the levy at 3 cents for the 2019-20 fiscal year, and set a maximum levy of 3 cents for the two subsequent years, giving the county the option to decrease the levy if the board chooses. The board also approved an interlocal agreement with the city of Ainsworth for the next three years for MFO funding.
In other business Tuesday, Zoning Administrator Tom Jones provided the commissioners with a recommendation from the Planning Commission to place an 18-month moratorium on the development of wind towers producing more than 100 kilowatts of electricity in the county.
Jones said there were no public comments during a June 13 Planning Commission hearing. By a 6-0 vote, Jones said the commission voted to recommend the 18-month moratorium due to a lack of zoning regulations relating to wind towers.
The commissioners will now schedule a public hearing before voting on the recommended moratorium.
Jones said the company that originally crafted the county’s comprehensive plan, Hanna Keelan of Lincoln, would be willing to assist the county in updating the plan at a reduced cost of $16,000.
“I told him there were some larger issues we wanted to address in the plan, and he said it wouldn’t be a problem,” Jones said. “They have done plans for 38 of the 93 counties, and they are giving us a price break since they did our initial plan.”
Jones said a Hanna Keelan representative would meet with the Planning Commission in July.
County Clerk Travee Hobbs reported she is still trying to get quotes from companies to conduct the annual county audit.
Hobbs said Dana F. Cole was not interested in conducting the county audit, but firms out of Omaha and Grand Island were looking at the county’s request and would decide whether to submit a proposal.
The board approved an appraisal contract with Stanard Appraisal of Lincoln to conduct appraisals on feed lots in the county and cabins at Clear Lake. Assessor Terri Van Houten said her staff would reappraise Long Pine and Johnstown residences as well as rural residences in the county this year. She said cabins at Hidden Paradise will be reappraised next year instead of this year due to the recent flooding in that area.
In roads items Tuesday, the commissioners discussed whether to allow non-county employees to repair and maintain county roads. The issue relates to people in the county using county-owned drags on roads near their properties as well as some non-county employees who clear snow on portions of county roads near their property.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said Tim Baxter with NIRMA recommended an agreement for general maintenance and snow removal that would need to be signed by anyone who drags a road or removes snow.
Commissioner Denny Bauer said it was his understanding that those volunteers would be covered by the county’s liability insurance if they are working on county roads.
“If we have a claim against us for negligence, our insurance will cover us but then our rates will go up,” Bauer said.
Taylor said NIRMA frowns on counties allowing volunteers to work on roads, and the insurance rates would definitely go up if there was an accident.
Small, who had been out working with a contractor on a potential bridge project in the county, arrived for the second half of Tuesday’s meeting and said any volunteer working on a county road would need to be recognized by the highway superintendent and the commissioners first.
Bauer said those volunteers would be required to sign the agreement recommended by Baxter and would work under Turpin’s supervision. He said they would lose the ability to work on the roads if they violate any of the eight items laid out in the agreement.
Bauer said it might take another meeting or two to get the agreement finalized.
“I want to get it ironed out and get it right,” Bauer said. “I don’t want to cost the county a million dollars in a lawsuit. If the volunteers sign the agreement and are covered by insurance, then I am agreeable to it.”
The board agreed to finalize the agreement through a resolution during its July 16 meeting.
In other roads items, Turpin reported Moon Lake Avenue is now able to be traveled again.
“It is all out of the water,” Turpin said.
He said Raven Road was also out of the water. Turpin reported county crews have worked on the Meadville Avenue detour road, fixing a water line and hauling in rock.
“That will continue to be a work in progress,” Turpin said.
The highway superintendent said crews fixed a culvert on a road from Richardson Road to Seidels, and are now working on 427th Avenue, which he said remains under water.
Audience member Tyler Johnson asked Turpin about a stretch of Rauscher Avenue that has washed due to flooding. Turpin said it was on the county’s one- and six-year road improvement plan to add a culvert in that location.
“That was a project we had planned to get to this spring before the flooding hit,” Turpin said. “There is a fiber optic line there that will be a chore to work around.”
The commissioners discussed the water running across the Elsmere Road, and the possibility of raising the road in the two low spots where water is currently over the road.
Turpin said the water continues to rise at that location, and was now 18 inches deep over the Elsmere Road.
“If the dyke there washes out, there will probably be 6 feet of water over the road,” he said. “Buddy visited with Paul Keiper with NDOT since that is a federal route. They are going to come look at it.”
Turpin said Small had also visited with neighboring property owners, who appeared willing to work with the roads department to get the road raised.
Wiebelhaus asked if that would be a project for after the water recedes. Turpin said the roads crew could work on it while the water is high.
“I think we would also add a culvert there to equalize the water,” the highway superintendent said. “It is going to be quite a project. It might take three or four weeks to get it done, but then we won’t have this issue again.”
Bauer said, if the county can receive federal aid money, it should move forward and get the road raised. The Elsmere Road is currently closed in that location.
North Central Development Center executive committee members Kim Buckley and Graig Kinzie provided the commissioners with an update on the NCDC.
Buckley, chairman of the NCDC Board, told the commissioners the board updated its job description and is now advertising for an executive director. Buckley said the NCDC building on Main Street was under contract to be sold, and the NCDC would rent office space going forward.
Kinzie told the commissioners, part of the job description the NCDC Board created included having the executive director provide quarterly updates on NCDC activities to all contributing partners.
All three commissioners indicated they would be willing to continue support for the NCDC at some level during the 2019-20 budget.
In final action items Tuesday, the commissioners reappointed Brent Johnson to another five-year term on the Brown County Veterans Service Committee.
The board also discussed entering into an interlocal agreement with Rock County to have the Brown County veterans service officer provide services to Rock County. Taylor said the current contract with Rock County was only for three months and would expire soon.
“They are interested in joining the year-to-year contract like we have with Keya Paha County,” Taylor said.
Taylor will provide the commissioners with an agreement to consider during the board’s next meeting.
Treasurer Deb Vonheeder presented the board with her annual public tax sale report. Vonheeder reported the delinquent property taxes on 31 parcels were purchased, with the county collecting $59,662. Those purchasing the delinquent taxes either receive 14 percent interest when the property owner pays the tax, or may eventually file a lien against the property if the taxes are not paid.
The commissioners approved a budgeted transfer of $250,000 from the miscellaneous general fund to the county highway fund, and approved a $400 transfer from the miscellaneous general fund to the county commissioner budget.
During a Board of Equalization meeting prior to Tuesday’s regular meeting, the commissioners set property valuation protest hearings for 7 p.m. July 2 and July 16, and 9 a.m. July 15 and July 22.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. July 2.
* Rock County Commissioners approve study to potentially vacate street
(Posted 2:45 p.m. June 18)
The Rock County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a resolution to conduct a study on the possible vacation of a street between block three and block four, and between block four and block five of the Swanson Subdivision, which is part of the west half of the northeast quarter of Section 15, Township 30 North, Range 19 West.
Following the study and recommendation from the highway superintendent, the commissioners will hold a public hearing and make a decision on vacating the street.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved Rock County’s portion of the 2019-20 BKR Extension budget as presented by Extension Educator Chandra Giles. Rock County’s portion of the budget amounts to $25,740.
The board approved a disaster declaration for the county for both May and June as presented by Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox. The commissioners discussed water issues in southeastern Rock County with Highway Superintendent Lloyd Smith and Roads Foreman Darrell Olson. Prior to Tuesday’s regular meeting, the commissioners also convened at the county roads shop to discuss roads issues with Olson and roads department employees.
In a final action item Tuesday, the board approved a special designated liquor license application for the Rock County Agricultural Society to serve alcohol during the Rock County Fair Aug. 2-3.
The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 28.
* Schilousky residence chosen as Yard of the Week winner
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 17)
The yard of Don and Dianna Schilousky at 449 N. Maple
St. was selected as the Week 2 winner of the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce
Yard of the Week contest.
Weekly during the summer months, the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes residents and businesses who put work into their yards to help beautify the area.
To nominate someone for consideration for Yard of the Week, contact the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce.
* Area students selected to participate in Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute
(Posted 6:45 a.m. June 14)
More than 200 high school juniors and seniors, sharing an interest in agriculture, will gather at Lincoln in July to develop leadership skills, explore career opportunities and learn more about the state’s number one industry.
The Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute is the longest running program of its kind in the nation. Sponsored in part by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, the institute will be held July 8-12 at Lincoln on the University of Nebraska’s East Campus.
Among the students selected to participate are Sam Wilkins of Ainsworth, Trey Schlueter of Wood Lake, Brody Benson of Valentine and Kenna Rogers of Dunning.
“The Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute is one of the best ways for students to learn more about Nebraska’s diverse agriculture and the hard-working people who help make our ag industry great,” NDA Director Steve Wellman said.
During the institute’s five-day program, delegates participate in agriculture policy and group discussions, farm management activities, and a variety of networking opportunities with peers and industry leaders. Learning about various career options is another important part of NAYI as a quarter of the jobs in Nebraska are related to agriculture.
“Career development at the institute helps students realize that there are many ag-related jobs available including those in science, finance, marketing and sales, technology and equipment repair,” Wellman said. “Agriculture is expanding, and Nebraska needs new and talented people to step up and be a part of the ag industry’s next generation of workers.”
Since its start, the institute has shared the importance of agriculture with nearly 6,400 youth from across the state. Delegates apply for and are selected to attend free of charge due to numerous donations from agricultural businesses, commodity groups and industry organizations.
“Generous contributions from sponsors help make NAYI a strong foundation for the youth of Nebraska and the future of our farming, ranching and ag-related industries,” Wellman said.
Events and additional youth learning opportunities throughout the year are organized by the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council. The 21 college students who serve on the council are chosen by the Department of Agriculture to share their passion and knowledge about agriculture with young people across Nebraska.
During the institute, youth council members provide valuable insight and advice about agriculture, college coursework and career building.
* Sheriff's department issues 18 citations during 'Click It or Ticket' campaign
(Posted 1 p.m. June 13)
Through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, the Brown County Sheriff’s Department participated in the “Click It or Ticket” nationwide enforcement May 20 through June 2. The campaign is designed to increase public awareness and make roadways safer by encouraging the use of seat belts.
The sheriff’s department joined law enforcement officers nationwide in strongly enforcing all seat belt laws. The sheriff’s department used regular enforcement, saturation patrols and an enforcement zone during the campaign.
Two deputies worked a total of 18.5 hours of overtime. During the enforcement, the sheriff’s department issued 12 citations on speeding charges and arrested two motorists on charges of driving under the influence. One motorist was arrested on a possession of a controlled substance charge, and one was arrested on a charge of driving under suspension. A total of 18 citations and 22 warnings were issued during the enforcement period.
Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein thanks everyone for doing their part to make roadways safer by always wearing a seat belt and making sure everyone under the age of 18 is buckled up at all times.
* Ricketts discusses continued disaster relief efforts, legislative session
(Posted 2:30 p.m. June 12)
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts Wednesday visited with KBRB's
Graig Kinzie on the state's ongoing efforts to recover from the March and
subsequent flooding, including the Nebraska Department of Transportation's
efforts to quicken the bid-letting process to get projects completed on a faster
timeline. He also discussed $25 million in funding the state is making available
to counties to assist in immediate road and bridge repair efforts.
Ricketts also discussed the recently completed legislative session, including additional funds being added to the property tax credit relief fund. He also touched on the inability of the Legislature to make structural changes to the school aid formula or the way agricultural land is valued.
To hear the complete report with the governor, click on the audio links below.
* Care Center Board approves purchase of second lift and 3 new computers
(Posted 9 a.m. June 11)
The Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors Monday approved the purchase of a second lift for the nursing department, and the replacement of three computers for the nursing department and business office.
Administrator Stephanie Rucker presented the board with quotes from Three River and from Simple Solutions of Long Pine to replace the facility’s aging computers. She said Phil Brown with Simple Solutions offered to sell the facility the computers at cost.
Rucker said there were nine desktop computers and four laptops in the facility that would eventually need to be upgraded. She said the board didn’t need to replace the computers all at once, and recommended replacing two desktops for the nursing station and one laptop for the business office to start, as those were the facility’s most critical.
The board approved replacing two nursing station desktop computers at a cost of $801 each, and purchasing a laptop for the business office at a cost of $739, with the computers coming from Simple Solutions.
The board also approved the purchase of a second lift for the nursing department.
Rucker thanked the board for previously purchasing one new lift, which she said was working well. She said the second lift would replace one that could fail at any time. She said she would fill out an application to the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to fund a third lift, giving each wing of the nursing home a lift to use to help residents who need assistance.
The board approved the $2,217 purchase.
The care center’s May financials showed revenue of $151,764, with expenses of $121,578 for a monthly profit of $30,185.
Rucker reported agency nursing costs for May were down, but unfortunately, those costs would likely rise in June.
“We admitted two residents today, so we are going to need additional CNAs,” Rucker told the board. “We hired one a month ago, but that person was a no-show all weekend when they were scheduled to work so we had to let them go.”
Board member Leanne Maxwell asked if the board needed to look at the wages for CNAs to attract new applicants. Rucker said the facility increased CNA wages six months ago to $14 per hour to start. She said she believed some of the issues were due simply to a lack of work ethic, and she wished those people realized how crucial their roles were to the residents when they are hired.
She said one current care center employee was taking a class to become a CNA, and there were four other students taking the class being held at Bassett. She said she wasn’t sure the care center would be able to entice those students to become CNAs in the Sandhills Care Center, as the Rock County Long Term Care is actively recruiting those students as well.
Rucker said Sun Wong, the new international nurse, was doing a fantastic job and was taking extra shifts. She said the international nurse was doing so well that she would like to work with the company to see if there was the potential to place a second international nurse in the facility.
Rucker reported the Sandhills Care Center discharged one resident home in May and had no admissions during the month, but the two new residents on Monday brought the facility to 25 residents. Twelve of those residents pay privately, 12 receive Medicaid assistance, and one is receiving hospice care.
Rucker told the board the facility’s Medicaid reimbursement rate for 2019-20 was increasing by 5 percent, which was welcome news.
The board again discussed replacing the concrete on the east side of the facility.
Board member Chuck Osborn said he measured the driveway following the May board meeting, and it would likely cost around $20,000 to replace the entire driveway.
“Matt Moody would potentially be willing to use his backhoe to remove the current driveway,” Osborn said.
Board member Buddy Small said the county roads department would remove the concrete from the site after it is dug out.
“It is a pretty big expense,” Small said of replacing the entire driveway.
Rucker said the driveway potentially posed a big liability issue for the facility if someone were to fall.
Small agreed, saying, “That is a good point. If someone takes a dive, it will be a big liability.”
Board member Henry Beel said his biggest concern was the uneven concrete in front of the facility’s main entryway.
Osborn recommended replacing the north half of the driveway and the entry way first, then replacing the eastern portion of the semi-circle drive at a later date as that portion wasn’t in as bad a shape as the north part of the driveway.
Osborn agreed to put together specs to have the north half of the driveway and the entryway replaced, with Rucker then using that information to solicit bids from local contractors.
Rucker reported the fence on the northwest side of the facility had been removed, and she had already received compliments about how removing the fence opened up the area.
Maxwell said the facilities and grounds look very nice.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. July 8.
* Peterson attends final School Board meeting as ACS superintendent
(Posted 7 a.m. June 11)
Longtime Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Darrell Peterson participated in his final meeting with the Board of Education Monday, thanking the board members he worked with over the years for their dedication to the school and to the community.
“Thanks to all of you,” the retiring superintendent said. “I appreciate all you have done for me. Often, school boards drive superintendents away. You have always let me do my job, but you have had the oversight to take a look at things when they needed to be.”
Incoming Superintendent Dale Hafer said Peterson has been very accommodating in this transition period.
“Darrell has been very helpful as we make the transition,” Hafer said. “It has been very positive, and I am appreciative.”
The board thanked Peterson for his years of service leading Ainsworth Community Schools.
In business items Monday, the board approved a contract with Educational Service Unit 17 for special education and school nursing services. Peterson said the $644,479 contract is about $12,000 lower than the 2018-19 school year, and the contract for health services is $23,215, which is $8,635 lower than the previous year.
Board member Brad Wilkins asked if the school was receiving the same services in the past since the rate was lower. Peterson said the services were the same, the decrease was due to staffing costs for the ESU being a little lower for the 2019-20 year.
The board also approved a contract with Educational Service Unit 10 for deaf education services. Peterson said the school’s previous deaf education service provider came from the Neligh area, so approving a contract with ESU 10 will have the provider coming from the Sandhills-Thedford area, which should save the district some money. The contract is paid on an hourly basis when services are needed.
The board held public hearings Monday on the district’s student fee policy and its parent involvement policy. There were no public comments during either hearing.
Peterson said 154 students were provided waivers from paying any student fees during the 2018-19 school year.
Those fees cover participating in extra-curricular activities, admission for extra-curricular activities, the breakfast and lunch programs, and other items.
The 2018-19 student fee report showed 220 Ainsworth Community Schools students paying full price for lunch, with 37 students receiving a reduced-price rate and 145 students receiving free meals based off family income.
The board performed its annual review of the school’s bomb threat policy, and its anti-bullying policy. No changes were recommended for either policy.
The board approved the first reading of numerous school policies Monday. One updates the school’s tobacco prohibition policy to include language approved by the Legislature to add the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems to the prohibited forms of tobacco products.
That language was also included in policies approved relating to the district’s substance abuse and activity suspension policy, and its offenses and penalties policy.
The board approved the first reading of a policy relating to a procurement plan for school food authorities. Peterson said the policy was updated to meet federal government requirements. He said Lunchtime Solutions, the company contracted by the district to prepare and serve the school’s meals, is responsible for ensuring the guidelines are followed.
The board approved the first readings of policies relating to admission requirements, wage information, military recruiters, and standing and temporary committees.
The board also approved the first reading of a policy regarding the district’s curriculum assessment. Peterson said the state testing materials will change from the previous NeSA tests to the Nebraska Student Centered Assessment System for the 2019-20 year.
The board tabled action on a policy regarding the district’s purchasing policies to allow language to be updated.
During his report, Peterson told the board the district was in need of custodians, so if board members knew anyone who might be interested to please let them know there were positions available.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education was pushed to the third Monday of July, the 15th, at 8 p.m.
* Hospital receives first Yard of the Week recognition from the Chamber of Commerce
(Posted 3 p.m. June 10)
The Brown County Hospital was the recipient of the first Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Yard of the Week promotion of the summer. The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce is accepting nominations for Yard of the Week. Anyone may nominate someone in Brown County for Yard of the Week consideration.
* Northeast Community College names honor students for spring semester
(Posted 1:45 p.m. June 7)
Northeast Community College announced the President's Honor List and Deans' Honor List for both full-time and part-time students for the spring semester.
To be named to the President’s Honor List, students must earn a perfect grade point average of 4.0 and be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours. Students named to the Deans’ Honor List must have earned a grade point average of 3.75 or above and be enrolled for at least 12 credit hours.
Students named to the President’s Part-Time list attained a 4.0 grade point average while taking at least six credit hours, and students named to the Deans’ Part-Time list earned a grade point average of 3.75 or above while taking at least six credit hours.
From this area, students recognized include:
President’s Full-time Student Honor List
Ainsworth - Lisa Ludemann
Newport - Brook Doke
Atkinson - Miranda Bendig, Preston Dickau, Jeffrey Mathis, Jason Seger
Spencer - Joseph Hiatt
Deans’ Full-time Student Honor List
Ainsworth - Breanna Schwindt
Long Pine - Sabrina Hempel
Bassett - Alicia DeBolt
Newport - Whitten Giles
Stuart - Taylor Kubik, Cassie Miksch
Naper - Blake Ahlers
Valentine - Caven Belville
President’s Part-time Student Honor List
Ainsworth - Megan Appelt, Amy Dike, Rhion Irwin, Rebecca Taylor, Jenna Williams
Johnstown - Henry Beel
Long Pine - Byron Pfister
Bassett - Trace Ebert
Newport - Jayden Stewart
Naper - Austin Koenig
Butte - Sydney Atkinson, Jacey Hilkemann, Cory Lechtenberg, Evan Reiman, Melissa Sextro
Spencer - Carmalita Bentz, Jared Koenig, Elsie Magwire, Shay Nelson, Kody Roth, Emma Stahlecker
Deans’ Part-time Student Honor List
Ainsworth - Sonya Shurter
Wood Lake - Trevyin Schlueter
Bassett - Brodee Fleming
Atkinson - Casey Coburn, Linda Shaw
Spencer - Amanda Horn
* County assessor discusses Ainsworth residential valuations, flood-damaged property
(Posted 3:15 p.m. June 6)
Brown County Assessor Terri Van Houten discussed the
property valuation change notices that were recently mailed to property owners
in the county. She explained the substantial increase some Ainsworth homeowners
experienced in their 2019 valuation, and also discussed a procedure for
reporting flood-damaged property following the passage of a property tax relief
bill by the Nebraska Legislature for property owners impacted by flooding.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 3:15 p.m. June 6)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
two-vehicle accident that occurred May 31 in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 5:45 p.m. May 31 at the Bomgaar’s parking lot, a 1997 Ford F-250 pickup, driven by Russell Eggleston, 57, of Ainsworth, was pulling a trailer when the trailer struck a parked 2007 Chevy pickup, owned by Dale Painter of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the trailer was estimated at $1,000. The Chevy sustained approximately $1,000 damage.
* City working to patch holes on streets, document damage for FEMA reimbursement
(Posted 7 a.m. June 6)
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl told the Ainsworth City Council Wednesday streets crews have been patching small holes with cold mix, and hoped to begin tackling larger repair projects beginning next week.
Schroedl said FEMA will not send a site inspector to Ainsworth, so it was critical for the city to have all its documentation in order before beginning projects.
“We have been working on dimensions and GPS coordinates,” Schroedl said. “We are hoping to get all that completed this week.”
City Councilman Brad Fiala asked Schroedl if she had any idea how much total street damage the city sustained. Schroedl said Streets Superintendent Lloyd Smith was working to compile a total damage estimate.
“We are trying to make progress,” Schroedl said. “We just want to make sure we get the 75 percent reimbursement from FEMA.”
Councilman Greg Soles said there are six locations the streets department has to maintain on a weekly basis.
Schroedl said some smaller holes have been patched, but the Herrington Street project and a stretch on Third Street near the Oak Street intersection will likely have to be contracted projects.
She said she recently attended training on FEMA procurement requirements to make sure the city has all the proper documentation needed to secure the reimbursement dollars.
In other business Wednesday, the council revisited a nuisance abatement issue on a property in Ainsworth issued in August that was granted an extension by the council in October.
Schroedl said extensive cleanup had been completed on the property at 355 S. Woodward St., but there were still a lot of items at the site.
Soles said, driving by the property, it looked like the city was right back in the same position.
“I think we need to issue another notice,” Soles said.
Schroedl said the issue regarding the vehicle discussed in October had been cleaned up.
“He has made an effort,” Schroedl said. “He hauled out six loads to the dump.”
Fiala said there were now additional vehicles and a trailer on the property that don’t appear to be licensed.
Schroedl said the nuisance abatement process would have to start over if additional items not addressed in October were found.
“This is how nuisance abatement goes,” the city administrator said. “It is a constant process.”
Soles said the sheriff’s department needed to continue to monitor the city and issue notices to clear observed nuisances.
Schroedl said the sheriff’s department keeps an eye on things, and also investigates any complaints that come in from the public.
By a 3-0 vote with Councilman Schuyler Schenk absent, the council approved clearing the 355 S. Woodward St. property from the nuisances discussed during October. The council also indicated it would encourage the city’s Board of Health to meet and inspect properties for potential nuisance violations.
Schroedl also reported the city had posted 26 notices to mow. If the properties are not mowed within five days of the notice being posted, it is referred to the sheriff’s department for a citation to be issued.
The council discussed proposals regarding an expansion to the city streets shop on First Street. Schroedl said she had received a third proposal, but the price quotes varied substantially.
Soles questioned whether the proposed expansion was sufficient to handle the streets department’s space needs.
“I don’t want to short us,” Soles said. “If we are going to spend the money, let’s get this done the way we want it done.”
Fiala said the city needed to move forward and get something done.
“We have some expensive equipment,” Fiala said. “If we decide we want to add even another 25 feet to this, it would be cheaper to do it now. We need to get this done before winter.”
Soles and Fiala agreed to meet with Streets Foreman Monte Goshorn to discuss the design aspects of the streets shop addition, and work to get a new set of project specifications designed so all bidders would be submitting quotes on the same project.
The council approved $200,000 in interim financing related to the approved sewer improvement project.
Schroedl said the city had paid about $150,000 in expenses so far.
“We have been floating all the engineering bills,” the city administrator said. “The sewer fund is pretty cash poor. This is all part of the total project, and allows us to pay ourselves back for what has been spent.”
Schroedl said she hoped to go out for bids this fall and begin construction next spring. The project includes cure-in-place pipe for several sewer lines in the city, as well as the replacement of all water meters in the city.
During a public hearing Wednesday, the council received the six-month report from the LB 840 Citizens Advisory Review Committee.
Review committee member Chris Raymond said it had been a volatile year for the LB 840 program, but things were getting back on the right track.
“There is only one active loan right now,” Raymond said. “There is a new contract with the NCDC in place.”
He said the review committee amended the LB 840 plan based on recommendations from attorney Rick Ediger, and was still working on a few items.
“We will work to make sure we don’t have any future audit issues,” Raymond said.
Following a second public hearing, the council approved an application for a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $19,717 to complete an update to the city’s comprehensive plan and housing study.
Schroedl said Miller and Associates of Kearney is assisting the city to update the comprehensive plan. She said the city was awarded CDBG funding for part of the cost, and received NIFA funds for the remaining portion so the cost to the city to update the plan was virtually nothing.
“The updated plan will go to the Planning Commission for review, and then to the council,” Schroedl said.
The council also discussed an amendment to an interlocal agreement between the city and the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District regarding a Mutual Finance Organization agreement.
Schroedl said the city and rural fire district have an interlocal agreement for Mutual Finance Organization funds, which are awarded to fire departments by the state. She said funds are awarded based on the rural fire district’s levy.
She said the interlocal agreement has been based on the rural fire district receiving a 3-1/2 cent county property tax levy.
“The county set the levy for the rural fire district at 2-1/2 cents last year, and that put the agreement submitted to the state out of compliance,” Schroedl said.
She said the amended agreement reflects a 3-cent levy instead of 3-1/2 cents. That would result in about $1,500 less in MFO money coming from the state.
Fiala said the MFO money used to be much more substantial, but the payments to fire departments from the fund have dropped over the years. Fiala said the law changed, so the levy has to be locked in for three years instead of approving the levy every year.
The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday approved a 3-cent levy for the rural fire district for the next three years, and the council approved an amended interlocal agreement that reflected the 3-cent county levy.
In a final action item Wednesday, the council approved Mayor Jeremiah Sullivan’s recommendation to reappoint Phil Fuchs, Chuck Osborn and Leanne Maxwell to additional one-year terms on the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors.
Sullivan also praised the community for its support of the BRAN riders who stayed in Ainsworth Tuesday.
“The riders said it was a great stop,” Sullivan said. “I thank everyone for their assistance.”
Fiala said JC Clopton, who takes care of East City Park, did an excellent job getting the park ready for the riders and helping people when they arrived.
The consent agenda approved on Wednesday included allowing the Ainsworth American Legion Auxiliary to close Main Street from Second Street to the Courthouse Park from 1 until 3 p.m. Sept. 21 for a parade to dedicate the Brown County Veterans Memorial, and allowing the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department to close Third Street between Main and Walnut streets from noon July 20 to 1 a.m. July 21 for an event.
The consent agenda also included recommended approval of special designated liquor licenses for the Elks Lodge for an event July 20, and for the Silver Circle for an event Aug. 24.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 5 p.m. July 10.
* Sheriff's department seeking information regarding recent theft
(Posted 6 a.m. June 6)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking
information regarding a recent theft in Ainsworth.
Sometime between March 25 and March 30, someone stole two ground-level window awnings from a residence in the 200 block of East Fifth Street. On Jan. 4, the upstairs level window awning had also gone missing from the residence.
Anyone with information on who may be responsible for the theft is asked to call the Brown County Sheriff’s Department at 402-387-1440 or call Crime Stoppers at 402-382-3121. All callers remain anonymous, and information leading to an arrest and conviction related to this, or any, crime, could result in a cash reward.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 3:30 p.m. June 5)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Monday, June 3, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 11:03 a.m. Monday at the Ainsworth Conference Center north parking lot, a 2001 Mercury sedan, driven by Shirley M. Lentz, 83, of Ainsworth, was pulling up to park near the conference center when the vehicle surged forward and struck a railing near the building.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Mercury was estimated at $1,000. The hand railing, owned by the city of Ainsworth, sustained approximately $500 damage.
* Commissioners opt to close the Elsmere Road due to water running across
(Posted 7 a.m. June 5)
The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday opted to close the Elsmere Road due to liability concerns with a stretch of the road covered by water.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported there was approximately 4 inches of water over the Elsmere Road in one stretch, and if a water control structure fails there could be 4 to 6 feet of water that inundates the Elsmere Road.
“We are monitoring that stretch daily,” Turpin told the commissioners. “We have barricades there now so people are warned.”
County Attorney Andy Taylor said the county opens itself up to liability issues by keeping a road open with water running across it.
“The statute says you may close the road, but it doesn’t say you have to,” Taylor said. “You accept liability if you keep it open. If you close it and people drive it anyway, then you are not liable.”
Turpin said, if the road is closed, some people don’t have a feasible way out, as there are also stretches of Moon Lake Avenue with 18 inches of water over the road, and Moon Lake Avenue is closed through that area.
Commissioner Denny Bauer said the state of Nebraska has signs up for areas where there is water over the highway but the state allows people to drive through.
Commissioner Buddy Small asked Turpin how long it would take to get something done on Moon Lake Avenue, with Turpin responding it would likely take at least a couple weeks.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said he would like to see the board close the road and put up light barricades.
“If someone would get injured, we will get hit,” Wiebelhaus said.
The board agreed to have Turpin close the Elsmere Road to traffic until the water subsides.
In other roads items Tuesday, Turpin reported he believed it was safe enough to reopen Meadville Avenue on the hill south of the Niobrara River.
“The hill is still moving, but not much,” the highway superintendent said. “It is narrow through there, but we have flags up.”
Turpin said the roads department was able to get Southwest Road passable so people in that area are now able to get in and out of their properties again.
He said the department did some digging on South Pine Avenue east of the Y and cleaned out some culverts, which is allowing water in that area to drain.
Turpin said 427th Avenue is now open as well.
Turpin said the roads department plans to begin patching holes on Meadville Avenue one mile at a time, and will work on a water line on 430th Avenue, which is on the Meadville Avenue detour route around the closed Sand Draw Creek box culvert.
Regarding the Sand Draw Creek box culvert, the board on Tuesday approved having Small sign a program agreement between the county and the Nebraska Department of Transportation to replace the box culvert.
In reviewing the agreement, Taylor said federal funds will pay for 80 percent of the cost of replacing the box culvert.
“The state will serve as the intermediary for the federal funds,” Taylor said.
The box culvert site has been closed to traffic since the March flooding.
The commissioners approved advertising for an additional full-time roads department worker. Small said the board has talked about getting the department some extra help, and Turpin indicated he would like someone primarily to drive a truck and haul material.
“Kenny has been out running equipment, and that takes him away from his other duties,” Small said.
Wiebelhaus said he believed it was a good idea to hire another full-time employee.
“Two or three years down the road, if we have someone leave, we might not have to replace them,” Wiebelhaus said.
Hidden Paradise property owners Bill and Diane McNutt approached the commissioners regarding a drainage issue. There was a tube built in the past to help move water, but Bill McNutt told the board a neighboring property owner is now threatening to sue, claiming they were causing water to run into his shed.
“We dug a trench so the water could get to a tube that was already there,” Bill McNutt said. “Kenny told us to just have the water run across the road, but we just want it documented that the commissioners are OK with that.”
Turpin said he had previously spoken with the neighboring property owner about installing a tube to carry the water to the creek.
“I don’t have the supplies to fix it right now,” Turpin said. “I would have to order the pipe. If the neighbor will let us, I can order and install the pipe.”
Turpin said the tube would run between the two cabins, but the trench would have to be dug by hand as there is not enough room to get equipment to the site.
Taylor told the McNutts, if the water is flowing out of the hills and onto their property, they are not liable for the water running onto the neighbor’s property if they were to fill in the trench that redirected the water.
“If you have a trench to redirect it, then that could be an issue,” the county attorney said.
McNutt said the trench just directed the water to the tube that was already there.
Wiebelhaus asked if the county should get involved since it has so many other road and water issues to deal with at this time.
With the flow also affecting the road at the site, Taylor said the county does have a legitimate reason to get involved.
Small and Bauer advised Turpin to contact the neighboring property owner to see if he would allow the county to install a tube to carry the water to Pine Creek.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners met with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala and Brown County Rural Fire Chief Doug Rau to discuss the rural fire district’s levy.
Fiala told the board, with the new MFO regulations, levies are to be set for three years, and he didn’t believe the departments could go three consecutive years at a proposed 2-1/2-cent levy.
“That would put us in a bad spot,” Fiala said. “The rural board has put us in better equipment since the 2012 fires, but if we have a major fire season, 2-1/2 cents won’t work.”
He said, while the MFO funds more drastically impact the city’s budget for fire suppression, those funds are paid based on the rural fire district’s levy.
Rau told the board, with the previous 2-cent levy, the fire district went backward.
“Volunteers won’t run junk equipment,” Rau said. “You will end up having to have a paid fire department.”
Fiala said the condition of the fire department’s equipment also affects the insurance rates people in Brown County pay.
“Our ISO rating is good right now,” Fiala said. “If the ISO rating rises, it would cost property owners more for their insurance.”
Wiebelhaus asked, if the county were to agree to a 3-cent levy for the next three years, would that allow the fire departments the ability to put their vehicles on a rotation schedule so older, more unreliable equipment could be replaced.
Rau said that would allow the departments to maintain what they needed to maintain.
The board agreed to provide a 3-cent property tax levy to the rural fire district for the next three years.
The commissioners also heard a budget request from Chandra Giles with the BKR Extension office. She requested a total budget of $82,000, which was an increase from $79,000 the previous year. Giles said the reason for the increase was adding Extension employee Mary Jo McCall’s benefits package to the Extension budget instead of it running through a different portion of the county budget.
She said she was not asking for anything additional in this year’s budget. Brown County’s share of the $82,000 budget is $34,440, but Giles said the county approves the entire budget and is then reimbursed by Rock County and Keya Paha County for their portions.
The commissioners won’t officially set the Extension budget until the overall 2019-20 county budget is finalized.
Weed Superintendent Scott Erthum asked the commissioners for permission to use a drone to scout for possible noxious weed infestations in the county.
“The Middle Niobrara Weed Awareness Group is willing to buy each of its four counties a drone,” Erthum said. “It is hard to get to a lot of places this year. Instead of driving and leaving a footprint, I could fly over it and see it.”
Erthum said the cost of the drone with the accompanying equipment is $2,000, and he believed it would be a valuable tool for the weed department.
“It would really be a help with this much water and road damage,” Erthum said.
The board agreed to allow Erthum to use a drone, but asked that he notify property owners when he planned to fly it over their property.
Erthum said he would never go near a home with the drone, and he would also get a drone license. The superintendent said he also applied for a $4,000 grant for purple loose strife control. If awarded, Erthum said the grant would allow him to bring in a helicopter to spray for purple loose strife on five or six properties in the county where it is present.
Erthum also reported Douglas County granted Brown County a sprayer. He said it was about a $1,000 piece of equipment, and he thanked the Douglas County Weed Department for the donation.
In a final action item Tuesday, the commissioners reappointed Small and Henry Beel to serve as the county’s representatives on the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors.
During the Board of Equalization meeting prior to Tuesday’s commissioner meeting, Assessor Terri Van Houten said notices for valuation changes have been mailed to property owners who will see a change in their valuation.
She said her office was playing catchup with valuations of homes in Ainsworth after they were recently reappraised.
“I wish the values would have gone up incrementally over the past few years, but that hasn’t been the case,” Van Houten said. “House sales in Ainsworth have gone up.”
Bauer said he has already heard from several people about how much their valuations increased. Van Houten said she would work with the radio and newspaper to provide information regarding why some valuations increased drastically.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. June 18.
* City using Oak Street for carnival route detour instead of Pine Street this year
(Posted 2:30 p.m. June 4)
The detour route for Highway 7 during the annual Middle of Nowhere Carnival days June 7-9 is changing this year, and the city of Ainsworth reminds residents they are not to park vehicles on the detour route during those three days.
With Main Street closing for the carnival, Highway 7 traffic will be routed onto South Street and then Oak Street before reaching Highway 20. In the past, Pine Street has been used as the detour route.
The city has placed stop signs on First, Second and Third streets for all eastbound and westbound traffic to allow traffic on the detour route to proceed on Oak Street without stopping. The stop signs are located in the middle of First, Second and Third streets.
During the detour, no parking will be allowed on South Street or Oak Street.
Anyone with questions on the detour route may contact the city office.
* Rock County Commissioners approve $1.5 million in bonds for road repairs
(Posted 2:30 p.m. June 4)
In an effort to recover from the March flooding and damage to roads and bridges, the Rock County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a resolution to issue up to $1.5 million in bonds.
The bond funds will be repaid over time, and will allow the commissioners to make needed repairs to roads and bridges damaged during the March flooding.
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told the board FEMA does not yet have a program manager assigned for Rock County. While the repairs are funded by the county initially, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state of Nebraska will likely reimburse the county for up to 87.5 percent of the cost of the repairs since Rock County was included in the FEMA disaster declaration.
The Limited Tax Bonds, Series 2019 will be issued by DA Davidson on behalf of the county.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved the purchase of a John Deere lawn mower after discussion with TJ Ellermeier.
Following a public hearing Tuesday, the commissioners approved abandoning a portion of county roadway between Block 2 and Block 3 of the Swanson Subdivision.
The board also approved a request from Marty Moravec for a road crossing, approach, culvert and parallel occupancy permit on county road right of way located in the southeast quarter of Section 18-30N-19.
Leo Grim with Loup Valley Lighting discussed replacing the lighting in the county’s weed shed with LED lighting. The board approved the proposal.
The commissioners voted to hire Mitch Dean as the Rock County Weed Superintendent to replace the retiring Rod Stolcpart. Dean will work 40 hours per work, with his time split between weed superintendent duties and the roads department.
The next meeting of the Rock County Commissioners is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 18.
* May 2019 the second-wettest in Ainsworth history
(Posted 7:45 a.m. June 4)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn recorded 8.34
inches of moisture in May, making it the second-wettest in Ainsworth's history.
The 8.34 inches of moisture was second only to the 9.24 inches recorded in May
The May moisture brings Ainsworth's 2019 total to 13.39 inches, which is 5.30 inches above average through the first five months of the year.
Twenty-one of the 31 days in May had measurable moisture. May was also substantially cooler than the normal, by almost 5 degrees on average.
To hear the full summary, click on the audio link below.
* Cowboy Trail connection work in Valentine begins today
(Posted 9:30 a.m. June 3)
Weather permitting, construction work is scheduled to
begin today (Monday) on the Valentine Cowboy Trail Connection in the City of
Valentine, according to the Nebraska Department of Transportation.
Wickett Construction of Valentine has the $699,446 contract, which includes grading, concrete pavement and signing. The city of Valentine is the owner of the project and will maintain the trail. Anticipated completion is August.
Motorists are urged to drive cautiously through construction zones.
* Ainsworth Community Schools receives $1,500 from Ford test drive event
(Posted 7 a.m. June 3)
The Ainsworth Community Schools athletics program
received close to $1,500 Friday during the Ford Drive 4 Your School event at
For every person who took a test drive of a Ford vehicle and completed a survey, Ford donated $20 to the Ainsworth Community Schools athletics program.
The Ford Drive 4 Your School program has raised more than $40 million for schools nationwide.
* Breakdown of area county votes on regional, state and federal races
(Posted 9:45 a.m. Nov. 7)
Nebraska Statewide and Federal Races
Total votes cast plus vote breakdowns for area counties
Initiative 427 to expand Medicaid coverage
Votes For Against
Statewide 344,437 302,338
Brown 447 846
Keya Paha 101 250
Rock 210 407
Deb Fischer (R) Jane Raybould (D)
Statewide 393,536 259,626
Brown 1,149 188
Keya Paha 336 42
Rock 563 79
District 3 U.S. House of Representatives
Adrian Smith (R) Paul Theobald (D)
Statewide 162,757 49,363
Brown 1,194 159
Keya Paha 355 32
Rock 583 64
Pete Ricketts (R) Bob Krist (D)
Statewide 402,078 275,186
Brown 1,146 213
Keya Paha 347 43
Rock 566 93
Secretary of State
Bob Evnen (R) Spencer Danner (D)
Statewide 397,035 253,593
Brown 1,111 159
Keya Paha 321 34
Rock 532 68
Charlie Janssen (R) Jane Skinner (D)
Statewide 371,549 269,787
Brown 1,074 180
Keya Paha 305 35
Rock 504 77
John Murante (R)
Keya Paha 325
Nebraska Attorney General
Doug Peterson (R)
Keya Paha 321
Nebraska Legislature District 40
Tim Gragert Keith Kube
District-wide 7,181 6,738
Rock 314 261
Nebraska Public Power District Subdivision 5
Charlie Kennedy Thomas Hoff
District-wide 8,687 5,251
Brown 657 303
Lower Niobrara Natural Resources District
Linda Hoffman Paul Allen
District-wide 1,287 884
Keya Paha 109 81
Kevin Randa Bradley Mahon
District-wide 1,176 897
Keya Paha 74 88
Jeffery Uhlir Shaun Higgins
District-wide 1,082 999
Keya Paha 101 120
* Nebraskans vote to expand Medicaid coverage; Republicans sweep races
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 7)
By a 42,000-vote margin, Nebraskans voted Tuesday to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Nebraskans who now earn up to 138 percent of the median poverty level income will qualify for coverage under Medicaid. The federal government pays for 90 percent of the cost of the expanded Medicaid coverage, with the state responsible for 10 percent.
A total of 344,437 Nebraskans voted in favor of the expansion, which represented just over 53 percent of the vote. There were 302,338 votes against expansion, just under 47 percent.
Republicans dominated the state and federal races on the ballot Tuesday, as U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer was easily re-elected. Fischer received 58 percent of the votes cast, 393,536, while Democratic challenger Jane Raybould picked up 259,626 votes, 38.3 percent. Libertarian Jim Schultz received 24,456 votes, just over 3 percent.
Gov. Pete Ricketts earned re-election to another four-year term by an almost 20-point margin. Ricketts received 402,078 votes (59.37) percent, while Democratic challenger Bob Krist received 40.63 percent of the vote with 275,186 ballots cast in his favor.
Republicans swept the three Congressional seats in the state, with the closest race in the Second District. Incumbent Don Bacon edged Democratic challenger Kara Eastman by a 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent margin.
Adrian Smith cruised to re-election in the Third District, receiving almost 77 percent of the vote compared to just 23 percent for Democrat Paul Theobald.
Jeff Fortenberry was re-elected in District 1 by a 60-40 margin over Democratic challenger Jessica McClure.
Republican Bob Evnen will replace retiring Secretary of State John Gale. Evnen received 61 percent of the vote to 39 percent for Democrat Spencer Danner.
Charlie Janssen was re-elected as the State Auditor, receiving 58 percent of the vote to 42 percent for Democrat Jane Skinner.
Republican Doug Peterson ran unopposed for re-election as the Nebraska Attorney General, and Republican John Murante ran unopposed to replace Don Stenberg as State Treasurer.
Voter turnout in Nebraska was 56 percent in the General Election, with 685,320 Nebraskans casting ballots from the 1,219,644 who were registered to vote in the state.
* Gragert defeats Kube for 40th District Nebraska Legislature seat Tuesday
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Nov. 7)
Looking at some of the regional races during Tuesday’s General Election, Tim Gragert edged Keith Kube for the 40th District seat on the Nebraska Legislature. Gragert received 51.5 percent of the vote with 7,181 ballots cast his direction. Kube picked up 48.5 percent of the vote with 6,738 ballots cast.
Just over 400 votes separated the two candidates from the nearly 14,000 votes cast in the 40th District, which includes Rock, Holt and Boyd counties among others in north central and northeast Nebraska.
Gragert will replace Tyson Larson, who served two terms and could not run again due to term limits.
Charlie Kennedy ousted incumbent Thomas Hoff for the Subdivision 5 seat on the Nebraska Public Power District Board of Directors. Kennedy received more than 62 percent of the vote compared to 37.5 percent that went to Hoff. Subdivision 5 represents north central and northwest Nebraska.
Running unopposed, Cherryl Lovejoy in Subdistrict 4, Martin Graff in Subdistrict 6 and Dean Jochem in an at-large race won re-election to the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Board of Directors. Though not on the ballot, Justin Hammond received write-in votes to win election to the Subdistrict 2 seat on the Middle Niobrara NRD Board.
There were contested races for seats on the Lower Niobrara Natural Resources District Board of Directors.
Linda Hoffman defeated Paul Allen by a margin of 1,287 to 884 for the Subdistrict 3 seat on the Lower Niobrara NRD Board. Kevin Rand picked up 1,176 votes to win the Subdistrict 4 seat, with Bradley Mahon receiving 897 votes.
Jeffrey Uhlir edged Shaun Higgins for an at-large seat on the board, earning 52 percent of the vote, 1,082, compared to Shaun Higgins with 48 percent, 999 votes.
Thomas Higgins in Subdistrict 1, Marvin Leiwer in Subdistrict 2, Kent Pavlik in Subdistrict 5, Curt Morrow in Subdistrict 6, Dwain Marcellus in Subdistrict 7 and Larry Baumeister in Subdistrict 8 all ran unopposed and were elected to the Lower Niobrara NRD Board.
also ran unopposed for seats on the Educational Service Unit 17 Board of
Directors. Sue Weston in District 1, Lisa Chohon in District 3, Jean Pinney in
District 5 and Duane Gudgel in District 7 were all elected to the ESU 17 Board
Outgoing Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale was nearly spot-on on his prediction for voter turnout, as 685,320 Nebraskans cast ballots during the General Election. That represents 56.19 percent of the 1,219,644 voters registered in the state.
* Van Houten elected assessor, Taylor county attorney in close Brown County races
(Posted 9:45 p.m. Nov. 6)
There were several tight local races in Brown County Tuesday during the General Election, two at the county level and one in the race for Ainsworth mayor.
Three candidates, two of them write-in candidates, vied to replace the retiring Charleen Fox as Brown County Assessor.
Terri Van Houten, the lone candidate appearing on the ballot, received 538 votes. That was enough to defeat two write-in candidates for the position. There were a total of 810 write-in votes cast Tuesday. Amber Happold received 409 write-in votes, and Bill Carr picked up 398 write-in votes.
Van Houten will be seated as the next Brown County Assessor.
There was one successful write-in campaign Tuesday, as Andy Taylor defeated David Streich in the race for Brown County Attorney.
Taylor received 719 write-in votes. Streich, the long-time county attorney, received 505 votes Tuesday as the lone candidate appearing on the ballot. Taylor will be sworn in as the next Brown County Attorney.
In the race to replace outgoing Ainsworth Mayor Larry Rice, Jeremiah Sullivan edged Cody Goochey by 79 votes. Sullivan finished with 360 votes, 54 percent of the votes cast, while Goochey picked up 281 votes, 43 percent.
Brad Fiala and Schyler Schenk will be seated on the Ainsworth City Council as the only two candidates to run for the expiring seats held by Brian Williams and Chuck Osborn.
In a four-way race for two seats on the Long Pine City Council, Linda Alberts led the field with 78 votes. She will be seated on the council and will be joined by Katherine Papstein, who secured 63 votes. David Cheatum received 45 votes, and Cheri Painter garnered 32 votes in the council race.
Long Pine Mayor Ed Brown was unopposed, and received re-election for another four-year term.
Brown County Clerk Travee Hobbs, Sheriff Bruce Papstein and Treasurer Deb Vonheeder ran unopposed and were re-elected to additional four-year terms.
After surviving an eight-way Republican Primary in May, Dennis Bauer and Reagan Wiebelhaus were elected to the Brown County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.
Doug Pankowski and Robert Maxwell were elected to seats on the Brown County Airport Authority without challenge.
Frank Beel, Jessica Pozehl and Jim Arens were each elected to four-year terms on the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education. They were the only three candidates appearing on the ballot for the three seats on the School Board.
Pat Schumacher ran unopposed for another term as the Brown County representative on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors.
JoAnn Johnson Parker, Brenda Goeken and P. Lynn Clay were each elected to three seats on the Johnstown Village Board. They were the only three candidates appearing on the ballot.
Brown County had voter turnout of 65.5 percent, with 1,401 votes cast from among the 2,136 registered voters in the county.
* Rock County voters approve levy and restricted fund increase for hospital, ambulance
(Posted 9:15 p.m. Nov. 6)
Rock County voters overwhelmingly approved allowing the Rock County Hospital and Rock County Ambulance Association to continue to levy property tax for operations and equipment purchases, and increase the county’s restricted funds budget to allow for the collection of the tax.
The measure passed by a margin of 455 in favor to 179 against.
In contested local Rock County races, TJ Ellermeier won the write-in election for county assessor over Monica Turpin. With neither name appearing on the ballot, Ellermeier received 355 write-in votes. Turpin picked up 71 write-in votes.
Lana Arrowsmith and Mike LeZotte won a four-way race for two Bassett City Council seats. Arrowsmith received 186 votes to lead the way, with LeZotte a close second with 180 votes from Bassett residents. Bonnie Emerson finished third in the race with 65 votes, followed by Kathy Maloun with 43 votes.
It was a close race for the Rock County seat on the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors. Mike Kreitman received 200 votes to edge Dale Caskey, who finished with 187 votes.
The other local races in Rock County were uncontested, as Daunitta Buoy was elected as county clerk, Mona Davis as county treasurer, James Anderson was re-elected as county sheriff, and Avery Gurnsey was re-elected as county attorney.
Jim Stout and Glen May were the only two candidates for two seats on the Board of Commissioners and were elected.
Larry Ebert II, Tonya Larson and Kristy Beard were elected to the Rock County Board of Education, and James Nelson was re-elected to a six-year term on the Rock County Airport Authority.
Melissa Denny, Waylon Reynolds and Dan Judge were all elected to seats on the Newport Village Board.
Voter turnout in Rock County was 66 percent, with 671 votes cast from among the 1,012 registered to vote in the county.
* Prewitt, Cook and Hespe win seats on the Springview Village Board Tuesday
(Posted 10 p.m. Nov. 6)
The lone contested race locally in Keya Paha County was for the Springview Village Board, as six candidates ran for three spots on the Village Board.
Jesse Prewitt was the leading vote-getter with 115, followed by Troy Cook with 92 votes. The third candidate who will be seated on the Village Board is Larry Hespe. Hespe picked up 75 votes for the final seat.
Nathan Arends received 36 votes to finish fourth, followed by Robbie Painter with 30 votes and Joe Caulfield with 18 votes.
Mark Frick received 239 votes for Keya Paha County Public Schools Board of Education. He was the only candidate appearing on the ballot Tuesday. Two write-in candidates will be seated on the School Board, with Darcy Wiebelhaus picking up 88 write-in votes and Todd Painter receiving 86 write-in votes.
County Clerk/Assessor Suzy Wentworth, Treasurer Kaye Thiede and Sheriff Jeff Kirsch all ran unopposed and were elected to four-year terms.
Corey Nilson in the Center District and Bruce Ritterbush in the East District were each re-elected to the Keya Paha County Board of Commissioners after running unopposed Tuesday.
Randy Rowan ran unopposed and was elected to the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors representing Keya Paha County.
Voter turnout in Keya Paha County was 64 percent.
Mon-Sat - 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Sunday - 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.