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

* Meeting reports located below for:

Feb. 21 Brown County Commissioners

Feb. 14 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

Feb. 9 Ainsworth City Council

Feb. 7 Brown County Commissioners

Jan. 24 Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center special meeting

* North Central RC&D working to support recycling activities in the area

(Posted 3 p.m. Feb. 27)

The North Central RC&D has initiated a recycling pilot project, with an electronics recycling collection event scheduled from 9 a.m. until noon. April 29 at the O’Neill High School parking lot.

E-Stroyed of Grand Island will collect electronics for recycling. The items collected during the event will be taken to the E-Stroyed facility, sorted and dismantled for recycling. E-Stroyed will wipe any devices that have data on the hard drive.

For more information on the recycling event April 29, contact Lynn Sobotka at 402-340-2774.

During a recent meeting of the RC&D Board, Neil Wescott from NK Waste of Valentine said he would recycle all usable material with the exception of glass.

Wescott said Valentine residents can receive a one-time $10 rebate on their utility bills for recycling. He told the board he has room to stockpile items and bale all equipment. He then hauls the recyclable material to end users.

Wescott said he would also be willing to host an electronic recycling day if he a few volunteers agree to help sort and load the materials collected.

RC&D Board members agreed to work with Wescott to set up a second recycling event.

Board member Kim Burge said she has been working on a directory for area recycling, and handed out a sample of the directory. Additions were made by board members, and Burge said she would plan to have the directory ready to public prior to the Sandhills Ranch Expo.

The board members discussed additional potential recycling opportunities in the six-county area, which includes Brown, Rock, Keya Paha, Cherry, Holt and Boyd counties.

The next meeting of the North Central RC&D is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. March 8 in the Bassett City offices.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 1:15 p.m. Feb. 27)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident Monday, Feb. 20, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 4:32 p.m. Feb 20 on South Main Street, a collision occurred between a 2000 Buick sedan, driven by Sharon Carr, 81, of Springview, and a 2002 Buick sedan, driven by Ward Felton, 73, of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the 2000 Buick was estimated at $3,000. The 2002 Buick sustained $2,400 damage.

* Traffic Accident

(posted 12:10 p.m. Feb. 24)

The Brown County Sheriff's Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Friday, Feb. 24, in Ainsworth.
According to the Sheriffs department report, at 7:50 a.m. Friday at the First Class Auto parking lot, a 2000 Chevy van, driven by Joshua Reagan, 30, of Ainsworth, was attempting to park when the vehicle slid on ice and struck a parked 2002 Chevy pickup, owned by Ron Dodge of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chevy van was estimated at $500.  Damage to the Chevy pickup was estimated at $1,000.

* Wind ignites grass fire Wednesday from previous controlled burn

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Feb. 23)

A grass fire Wednesday afternoon northwest of Ainsworth burned 3 to 4 acres and prompted the response of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday northwest of Ainsworth on property owned by Gary Kelly, a controlled burn from Feb. 12 reignited in the wind and began to spread.

Fiala said the fire burned a pile of fence posts and some irrigation pipe located on a trailer, and started two older out-buildings on fire.

Firefighters extinguished the flames on the outbuildings upon arrival, and were on scene for approximately 1 hour bringing the grass fire under control. Approximately 3 to 4 acres burned along with the fence posts and irrigation pipe.

* UN-L names Dean's List students for fall semester

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 23)

More than 4,500 students have been named to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Deans' List/Explore Center List of Distinguished Students for the fall semester of the 2016-17 academic year.

Qualification for the Deans' List/List of Distinguished Students varies among the eight undergraduate colleges and the Explore Center. All qualifying grade-point averages are based on a four-point scale and a minimum of 12 or more graded semester hours.

Deans’ List students from the area are:

Ainsworth

Lydia Allen, sophomore, College of Arts and Sciences, English.

Devron Crawford, senior, College of Engineering, construction management.

Austin Harthoorn, freshman, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural economics.

Shea Sinsel, sophomore, Explore Center, pre-health.


Bassett

Victoria Davis, sophomore, College of Education and Human Sciences, pre-elementary education and early childhood education.

Kyle Jackman, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agronomy.

 

Springview

Buck Cronk, sophomore, College of Arts and Sciences, computer science.

 

Stuart

Dylan Laible, senior, College of Arts and Sciences, computer science.

 

Atkinson

Alex Fritz, sophomore, College of Engineering, electrical engineering.

Kyle Linders, freshman, Explore Center, pre-health.

Megan Wenner, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, elementary education and special education (K-6).

 

Newport

Thomas Ammon, senior, College of Engineering, mechanical engineering.

 

Wood Lake

Shawna Wheeler, senior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural education.

 

Brewster

Jacy Spencer, junior, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural economics.

 

Valentine

Macey Mathis, freshman, College of Education and Human Sciences, pre-speech-language pathology.

Jennifer Schubauer, senior, College of Education and Human Sciences, child, youth and family studies.

* Steinhauser talks AHS activities on Open Line

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 22)

Ainsworth Activities Director Scott Steinhauser appeared on KBRB's Open Line Tuesday to discuss the nearly complete winter activities season. To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Open Line-ACS Mr Steinhauser 2-21-17.mp3

* One-year roads plan includes 25 projects, more than $600,000 in improvements

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Feb. 21)

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin presented the one- and six-year roads plan to the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday, announcing 25 projects on the one-year plan.

Turpin said the county roads department completed eight projects with a price tag of $1.1 million in 2016, the largest of which was replacing the Norden Bridge on the Niobrara River at a cost of more than $800,000. Turpin said the county was only responsible for about $30,000 of the total cost of the Norden Bridge replacement.

Other projects completed in 2016 included the replacement of the canal bridge on 428th Avenue at a cost of $90,000. The county used federal bridge funds to complete that bridge replacement. The roads department also replaced a second bridge on the Norden Road with new culverts at a cost of $25,000, and replaced a wooden bridge with new culverts on 430th Avenue at $30,000.

A majority of the 25 projects on Turpin’s one-year plan are grading and rock resurfacing plans that carry smaller price tags.

One of the more expensive projects on the one-year plan is $127,000 in armor coating and asphalt repair on South Pine Avenue from the Long Pine city limits south 7.5 miles.

The county also plans to replace two bridges in 2017, one a canal bridge on 429th Avenue 1 mile west of Ainsworth at a cost of $86,000, and the other the Wilson Street bridge just north of the Ainsworth city limits. The roads department plans to replace that bridge with two metal culverts at a cost of $100,000.

The county also plans to replace a bridge 3 miles north of Johnstown on Norden Avenue with a metal culvert at a cost of $15,000.

The grading, aggregate and rock resurfacing projects on the one-year plan are scheduled for:

* Richardson Road 7 miles south and 4 miles east of Ainsworth, 1.5 miles ($30,000).

* Road 885 7 miles north of Ainsworth, one-tenth of a mile ($8,000).

* Road 879 1 mile north of Ainsworth, one-half mile of raising the road to alleviate drifting ($6,000).

* Norden Avenue 15.5 miles north of Johnstown, one-tenth of a mile ($8,000).

* Norden Avenue 10 miles north of Johnstown, one-half mile ($20,000).

* Road 888 2.5 miles west and 10 miles north of Long Pine, 1.5 miles ($18,000).

* Road 880 one-quarter mile west of the Ainsworth Airport, intersection work ($1,600).

* Meadville Avenue 8 miles north of Ainsworth, 2 miles ($18,800).

* Beel Lane 3 miles west and 2 miles south of Johnstown, 2 miles ($23,500).

* Beel Lane 1.5 miles west and 2 miles south of Johnstown, 1.5 miles ($18,000).

* Road 876 1.5 miles south and 3 miles west of Ainsworth ($8,500).

* Rauscher Avenue 4 miles east of Johnstown, ditch re-grading 1 mile ($5,500).

* Road 877 one-half mile south of Ainsworth, one-half mile ($2,500).

* 435th Avenue 3 miles west and 2 miles north of Long Pine, ditch cleaning one-half mile ($5,000).

* Moon Lake Avenue 16.5 miles south of Johnstown, seven-tenths of 1 mile ($10,000).

* Road 881 2 miles west and 5 miles north of Ainsworth, ditch cleaning one mile ($10,000).

* Road 879 northwest of Ainsworth, raising the road for 1 mile ($12,000).

* 431st Avenue 1 mile south of Ainsworth, 1 mile ($9,000).

* East Calamus Road 28 miles south of Long Pine, 4.5 miles ($54,000).

* Cattle Drive Road south of Johnstown, 1.5 miles ($22,500).

* 423rd Avenue 2 miles east and 1 south of Johnstown, 1 mile ($12,000).

Turpin said he added five new grading projects, mostly due to requests from the public. Otherwise, with the number of projects on the plan he did not add many new projects to this year’s report.

Four of the projects on the one-year plan were new projects, eight were moved up from the six-year plan, and the remaining 13 projects on the one-year plan were carried over from 2016.

“How much we get done will depend on how the year goes,” Turpin said. “If we get a lot of rain and we have to spend more time blading, we won’t get as many of these done.”

Turpin said he hoped to get to a lot of the smaller grading and resurfacing projects this year.

He said there was a total of $630,900 in roads projects on the one-year plan, and a total of $1.83 million for the 25 projects on the one-year plan and the 46 projects on the six-year plan.

The commissioners, with Buddy Small absent, approved the one- and six-year plan as presented.

Turpin also reported the county received $57,300 in federal STP program funds for this year, and an additional $34,916 in bridge funds.

“We are getting to the point with those STP funds where we can do a decent project,” Turpin said. “There is close to $200,000 in that fund now.”

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners gave the Brown County Ambulance Association the green light to work within the association’s current budget to replace the 2004 transfer ambulance with a 2016 Ford F-450 at a total cost of $164,900.

“Our transfer ambulance is failing,” Ambulance Association member Ann Fiala said. “We just spent $5,000 in repairs. The last problem we had with it happened with a patient on board. It is never a good thing to break down with a patient on board, and we found a unit that will work really well for us.”

Marlin Smith told the commissioners the 2016 Ford F-450 was just like the 2013 Ford the association purchased three years ago. With it being a demo model with 1,900 miles on it, the association will save $36,000 on the purchase, and the ambulance is available immediately as opposed to a nearly one-year wait if the association ordered an ambulance.

The $164,900 quote from Arrow Ambulances of Rock Rapids, Iowa, includes an $8,000 trade-in value for the 2004 ambulance.

Darlene Miller said if the association was allowed to move some money around within the line items of its current budget, it would have enough to pay off the remaining $18,000 owed on the 2013 ambulance.

“There are some line items in our budget that we haven’t touched,” Miller said.

County Attorney David Streich said the association could move unspent funds from one line item to another as long as it stayed within the boundaries of its overall budget.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus told the association, “If you can make it work within your budget, go for it.”

Streich recommended the association declare an emergency during its next meeting to approve the purchase, as having an immediate need would allow the association to forgo the formal bidding process.

The commissioners opened bids for armor coating work for 2017. Topkote of Yankton, S.D., submitted a bid of $11,141 per mile, and Sta-bilt of Harlan, Iowa, quoted a price of $10,700 per mile for armor coating work.

After agreeing the specifications for both bids were comparable, the board accepted the low bid from Sta-bilt. The county is additionally responsible for the cost of the gravel needed for the armor coating work.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. March 3.

* Lions Club will serve AHS All-Sports Tailgate Party meal April 25

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 21)

During its recent meeting, the Ainsworth Lions Club Board heard information on the Ainsworth High School All-Sports Tailgate Party, which has been set for April 25 in McAndrew Gymnasium.

The Lions will provide the meal for the event, and the club received a donation of hamburger to serve.

Evan Evans reported the swing set has been delivered, but parts to the benches did not arrive with the other equipment to be placed at East City Park. Evans assured the board the company will take care of sending the missing parts to the benches. Installation of the new equipment will likely take place in May.

Dave Spann presented information to the club regarding the 75th anniversary celebration for the Ainsworth Regional Airport. Activities are being planned for Saturday, July 29, at the airport, including a fly-in breakfast, hot air balloons and more. Spann asked if the Lions Club would consider running a concession stand from late morning until about 4 p.m.  The menu would be simple, including hamburgers and hotdogs, chips, and drinks.  Members were asked to consider the request and be ready to commit or decline during the club’s March meeting. 

The club received a thank-you note from Nebraska 38-L District Gov. Nancy Russell for the club’s $200 donation to the Lions Club Foundation Backpack Disaster Relief Fund to aid children in Nebraska, ages 4-10, who have been in a disaster, such as fire, flood, or tornado. The backpacks, filled with supplies, will be warehoused at Broken Bow, a central location for easy distribution across the state.  

Taylor Ficek, an optometry student originally from Lincoln, sent the club a thank-you note for providing funding to help him participate in the Student Volunteers in Optometric Service to Humanity program. The program annually provides free eye exams and eye glasses to the needy in Third World countries.  The club donated $100 to assist Ficek. Ficek agreed to provide a report back to the club regarding his experiences in the program.   

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club Board is scheduled for noon March 20. Members are asked to check in for the location of the next meeting.

* November taxable sales show mixed results for area counties

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

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of November 2016 and November 2015 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Boyd

963,517

901,829

6.8

52,993.54

49,600.72

Brown

2,677,069

2,724,740

(1.7)

147,238.99

149,860.88

Ainsworth

2,485,278

2,598,176

(4.3)

136,690.47

142,899.85

Cherry

4,756,022

5,613,309

(15.3)

261,581.55

308,732.40

Valentine

4,614,965

5,483,136

(15.8)

253,823.38

301,572.73

Custer

7,485,014

7,369,589

1.6

411,681.95

405,327.95

Broken Bow

6,119,345

5,900,265

3.7

336,569.95

324,514.91

Holt

8,300,203

8,418,444

(1.4)

456,511.70

463,015.06

Atkinson

1,376,785

1,323,823

4

75,723.31

72,810.42

O'Neill

6,005,295

6,181,465

(2.8)

330,291.53

339,980.89

Keya Paha

224,100

205,893

8.8

12,325.51

11,324.14

Loup

85,757

63,939

34.1

4,716.65

3,516.66

Rock

446,527

473,850

(5.8)

24,559.04

26,061.78

Valley

3,052,410

3,087,424

(1.1)

167,882.77

169,808.57

Ord

2,740,449

2,642,690

3.7

150,724.88

145,348.16

State Total

$2,377,281,270

$2,234,579,066

6.4

$131,359,692.39

$123,679,939.13

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of November 2016 and November 2015
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

55,234

148,251

(62.7)

2,973.12

8,123.29

Boyd

317,994

235,812

34.9

17,469.62

12,962.34

Brown

729,929

475,007

53.7

40,318.22

26,203.89

Cherry

1,313,920

1,399,701

(6.1)

72,603.72

77,297.81

Holt

2,193,535

2,328,157

(5.8)

121,278.43

128,574.88

Keya Paha

146,072

308,675

(52.7)

8,015.79

16,957.03

Loup

60,500

75,248

(19.6)

3,275.61

4,068.65

Rock

223,926

538,151

(58.4)

12,271.61

29,610.51

Valley

756,593

543,181

39.3

41,862.00

29,987.32

State Total

$306,814,233

$284,052,576

8

$17,012,205.16

$15,749,595.36

* Firefighters respond to a pair of Friday fire calls

(Posted 7:30 a.m. Feb. 20)

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department responded to a pair of fire calls Friday, and the current warm and breezy conditions have prompted Fire Chief Brad Fiala to suspend all burning permits until further notice.

Depending on the amount of moisture received later this week from forecasted snow, Fiala said he would make a determination on whether additional burn permits will be issued.

The first fire call Friday occurred at 10:15 a.m. A tractor that was being used to grind hay caught fire on property owned by Mark McNally approximately 7 miles northwest of Ainsworth.

Fiala said the tractor caught fire near the cab. The operator was able to exit the cab safely, but the tractor was considered a total loss. The grinder was saved. A small patch of grass around the tractor burned, but the fire did not spread further.

At 2:20 p.m. Friday, a fire was reported 4 miles north of the old Pineview Drive In intersection on Highway 20 northeast of Long Pine.

Fiala said three tree piles were being burned on property owned by Greg Gilg. Fiala said a total of 12 acres burned after the fire spread from the tree piles. The Ainsworth and Long Pine departments responded, and were on scene until after 8 p.m.

A tractor being operated by Sam Coulter to assist in keeping the fires from spreading tipped over on a hillside. Fiala said the tractor operator was not injured, and, after the tractor was set back into an upright position, it was able to be restarted with no apparent damage.

Fiala said Long Pine firefighters returned to the location Saturday and Sunday and poured more water onto the tree piles to keep the fire from reigniting in the warm and breezy conditions.

* Speech team places third in home invitational

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Feb. 20)

==AINSWORTH INVITATIONAL==

Varsity

1st:  Jack Arens—Informative Speaking

            Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

3rd:  Henry Beel—Informative Speaking

            Cassidy Gilliland--Poetry

Vemund Berg/Henrik Elgsaether/Jace Kremer/Korey Rathe/Miranda Raymond—OID

5th:  Sam Wilkins—Extemporaneous Speaking

Bo Painter & Bradi Scott—Duet Acting

6th:  Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

            Jace Kremer—Informative Speaking

            Jace Kremer—Persuasive Speaking

            Cassidy Gilliland—Humorous Prose

Superiors:  Bradi Scott—Serious Prose

Korey Rathe—Serious Prose

Bo Painter—Humorous Prose

Vemund Berg & Miranda Raymond—Duet Acting

Novice

1st:  Morgan Osborn & Jenna Williams—Duet Acting

2nd:  Henrik Elgsaether—Extemporaneous Speaking

            Coy Carson—Humorous Prose

Jodi Beach & Coy Carson—Duet Acting

 

Team:  3rd of 10

“We enjoy hosting a home tournament, especially when we see the many faces of the community members who come to watch and support our team,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. “It’s intimidating but fun to entertain a home crowd.

“As a team, we still have some work to do before Southwest Conference and Districts. Our seniors are excelling, and our other team members continue to improve and medal higher at each competition. We need to work really hard to polish our performances.”

Ainsworth’s last regular season tournament will be held at Centura High School on Saturday, with rounds beginning at 8 a.m.

* Grass fire Thursday burns approximately 3 acres in southern Brown County

(Posted 7:15 a.m. Feb. 17)

Three area fire departments responded Thursday, Feb. 16, to a grass fire in southern Brown County.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at 2:15 p.m. Thursday approximately 20 miles south and 5 miles east of Ainsworth, a grass fire was reported on property owned by Roger Brede.

Fiala said a cutting torch that was being used on metal created sparks that started the grass on fire. The property owner attempted to put out the fire, but a gust of wind caused it to spread.

The fire chief said approximately 3 acres burned. The Ainsworth, Calamus and Raven volunteer fire departments responded.

“The fire was just entering a tree grove and started one tree on fire when the Raven crew got to it,” Fiala said. “Raven had the fire under control when we got there.”

No property damage was reported.

* Recent cases from Brown County District Court

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 17)

During Brown County District Court Tuesday, Raige R. Fernau, age 19, of Ainsworth, was sentenced to two years of probation, ordered to pay a $500 fine and complete a chemical dependency evaluation after having been previously convicted of one count of criminal intent to possess marijuana more than 1 pound, a Class I misdemeanor.
Bo James Riley Burkel, 24, of Woonsocket, S.D., pleaded no contest in district court to charges of possession of marijuana more than 1 pound, a Class IV felony, and obstructing a police officer, a Class I misdemeanor. Burkel also pleaded guilty to a speeding charge. Burkel will be sentenced May 9.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Feb. 16)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Wednesday, Feb. 15, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Dollar General parking lot, a 2004 Chevy pickup, driven by Melody Martin, 22, of Ainsworth, was backing from a parking space and struck a parked 2015 Ford pickup, owned by Brock Hobbs of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $1,500. The Chevy did not sustain any damage.

* Rock County High School ag issues team presents topic on KBRB

(Posted 9:45 a.m. Feb. 16)

Members of the Rock County High School ag issues team appeared on KBRB to discuss this year's issue, neonicotinoids and their potential affect on bee populations.
To hear the team's report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Rock County Ag Issues Team.mp3

* Superintendent Peterson appears on Tuesday edition of KBRB Open Line

(Posted 10:15 a.m. Feb. 14)

Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Darrell Peterson appeared on Open Line Tuesday to discuss happenings at the school.
To hear the Open Line report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Open Line-ACS Mr Peterson 2-14-17.mp3

* Slight changes proposed for 2017-18 school calendar

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 14)

During a short meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education Monday, Superintendent Darrell Peterson presented the board with a draft of the 2017-18 school calendar.

The calendar shows Aug. 14 as the first day for students, with semester tests Dec. 21-22. The second semester will start Jan. 3, 2018, with graduation May 13 and semester tests May 16-17.

Peterson said the only substantial change from the current school calendar is there will be five fewer 2 p.m. dismissals. Instead of the early dismissals for teacher in-service sessions, the district will have two full days off for in-services.

Peterson said hours of attendance are counted for reporting to the state, not days of attendance, so the change will result in equal in-service time.

Students will be in class, barring snow days or other instances where school is not held, for 178 days during the 2017-18 school year, with teachers putting in a total of 185 days.

In other business Monday, the superintendent reported breakfast and lunch participation remains above-average.

Breakfast and lunch participation have been above the benchmark goal each month. The district thus far has a profit in its meal program of $6,623. Peterson said the goal of the meal program is to break even.

In action items Monday, the board approved annual membership to the Nebraska Association of School Boards. The annual membership fee of $4,600 includes a 2 percent discount for renewing early.

The board approved two foreign exchange students for the 2017-18 year, with Loren and Laurel Applemen hosting girls from The Netherlands and Sweden.

The board also approved an amended corporate banking resolution approved during January’s meeting that included additional language.

Elementary Principal Sarah Williams’ report included plans for summer school for kindergarten through sixth-grade students. The plan is two host two, three-week sessions of summer school beginning the week of June 12. The second three-week session begins July 10.

Summer school will run from 9 until 11:30 a.m. daily, with lunch served from 11:30 a.m. until noon as part of the Summer Food Program, which will be available to all children 18 years of age and younger free of charge.

Letters will be sent this month to parents of prospective kindergarten students for the 2017-18 year. Williams’ numbers indicate 31 students will be eligible for kindergarten in the fall.

Secondary Principal Bill Lentz reported senior Jack Arens has been named a finalist for a National Merit Scholar Award.

Lentz reported attendance during the second session of parent-teacher conferences was low. With parents having the ability to monitor a student’s progress and communicate with teachers, the second session of parent-teacher conferences may need to be changed.

Lentz reported there have been a substantial number of students sick during the past week. He commended the work of school nurse Leanne Maxwell going back and forth between the two school buildings tending to students.

During his report, Peterson said the district is beginning to interview candidates for open teaching positions for the 2017-18 year.

He said he will provide information for the board to consider for extending the district’s 1-to-1 laptop initiative. The current laptops are four years old and are nearing the end of their lifespan.

Peterson told the board, after missing six days of school due to inclement weather, he planned to have school Monday, April 17, the day following Easter Sunday, to make up a day.

The superintendent said the school is planning to host a program at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, commemorating Nebraska’s 150th birthday. The public will be invited to the program.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 13.

* Speech team competes at North Platte Invitational

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

==BLUE AND GOLD INVITATIONAL==

Varsity

2nd:  Jack Arens—Informative Speaking

6th:  Bradi Scott—Serious Prose

9th:  Cassidy Gilliland—Poetry

10th:  Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

            Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

Superiors:  Cassidy Gilliland—Humorous Prose

                        Bo Painter—Humorous Prose

                        Marley Murphy—Serious Prose

                        Bo Painter & Bradi Scott—Duet Acting

Novice

1st:  Henrik Elgsaether—Extemporaneous Speaking

 

 “North Platte was as tough as usual,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. “Twenty-five teams were in attendance, so competition was stiff.  Overall, North Platte, Gothenburg, and Ogallala dominated the day, but I was pleased with the number of Ainsworth speakers in the finals.  About half brought home medals.

“We’re in the home stretch now. We only have our home tournament and Centura left in the regular season, and then we’re into conference, district, and hopefully state.  This season seems to have flown by.”

The Ainsworth Speech Invitational is scheduled for Saturday at 9 a.m., with performances going on throughout the day in the high school. The tournament is free and open to the public.

* Governor provides details on major income, property tax reform legislation

(Posted 4 p.m. Feb. 9)

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts spoke at length Thursday with KBRB's Graig Kinzie on the bills his staff helped craft to reduce the state's top income tax rate over time and completely transform the way the agricultural property is assessed in the state.
To hear the conversation with Nebraska's governor, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/Gov Pete Ricketts 2-9-17 income & prop tax reform bills.mp3

audio clips/Gov Pete Ricketts 2-9-17 TEEOSA formula.mp3

* Council approves 1- and 6-year streets plan during Wednesday meeting

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 9)

Following a public hearing Wednesday, the Ainsworth City Council approved the city’s one- and six-year streets plan as presented by Streets Foreman Monte Goshorn.

Only one project is listed on the one-year plan, replacing the gravel on Elm Street between Fourth and Sixth streets with asphalt millings. That project is estimated to carry a $40,000 price tag.

Goshorn said the streets plan was similar to the plan submitted the previous year.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the city did not undertake many big streets projects in 2016 due to the uncertainty with the care center.

All of the projects on the six-year plan were carried over from 2016. Among those projects are asphalt overlays on East Second and East Third streets between Main and Walnut streets, and West Second and West Third streets between Main and Woodward streets.

Those four total blocks of new asphalt are estimated at a total of $164,000.

The six-year plan also includes new concrete surfaces for Oak Street between First and Second streets, Maple Street between First and Fourth streets, Elm Street between First and Fourth streets, First Street between Main and Pine streets, and Woodward Street between First and Third streets.

The other major projects on the six-year plan involve new concrete at the intersection of Meadville Avenue and Highway 20, and concrete on Meadville Avenue from Highway 20 north to the city limits.

In another streets item, the council accepted a bid of $1.08 per square yard for armor coat oil from Topkote. Goshorn said the price per yard was reasonable. He said the city did not undertake any armor coating work in 2016.

Goshorn also updated the council on recent snow removal efforts, telling the council a total of 325 truckloads of snow were hauled off city streets from the first 15-inch snowfall, including 285 truckloads off Main Street alone.

“Bruce Dannatt brought in a side dump and loader and cleared a block and a quarter for us,” Goshorn said. “He didn’t charge the city for that work. It was taking us about two hours per block to haul off snow.”

Mayor Larry Rice said he sent a letter to Frontier Diesel thanking Dannatt for the assistance.

Councilman Greg Soles asked how much it would help the streets department to have all vehicles off of Main Street anytime the city removes snow.

Goshorn said having vehicles off Main Street would cut down considerably on the time it takes the department to get the snow moved to the center of the street.

Rice said the city could announce the day prior that no overnight parking would be allowed on Main Street when snow was in the forecast.

Soles said it would also be easier for the streets department if all privately-contracted snow removal service for business sidewalks on Main Street was completed prior to the city moving snow on Main Street.

Goshorn said he had been trying for five years to get something done along those lines.

“We have talked about several scenarios,” Goshorn said. “It would be nice to have one or two contractors handle it all.”

Discussion included curb stops that have been damaged with snow removal contractors unfamiliar with where the stops are located, and the different times that snow is removed from the Main Street sidewalks, forcing the city to make return trips to get the snow pushed to the center of the street so it can be hauled away.

Rice said he had talked to all the businesses on Main Street the previous year.

“There is no easy solution,” Rice said. “There is more awareness now, but I don’t know how to get them all together.”

The council discussed having the city go out for bids from one or two contractors and paying for the cost of snow to be removed from Main Street sidewalks. The cost to the city would likely be recouped from the time the streets department would save not having to go back two or three times to move snow on Main Street.

The council took no action.

The council discussed updates at the Sandhills Care Center with Administrator Stephanie Rucker and Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board members Kent Taylor and Buddy Small.

Rice said the care center was starting to run fairly low on funds, but the facility is starting to see success.

Rucker said she believed there was a bright future for the nursing home if everyone stays together.

“Having the Medicaid certification is huge for us,” Rucker said. “We are getting back on our feet and changing around the bad reputation the facility had in the past. I am pleased with the way things are going. We project breaking even by July.”

Small said, after receiving an explanation from Schroedl and Rice during Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners, he understood the city’s situation relating to why it had not yet matched the county’s $340,000 contribution to the nursing home.

Schroedl said, following conference calls Wednesday, the two documents needed to accompany the application for the $265,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding for the nursing home should be available within the next few days.

“I am hopeful we can have a meeting next week with the loan committee,” Schroedl said. “Then, we can publish notice and have a special council meeting March 1.”

In another care center item, the council voted to discontinue sending the care center a bill for city water, sewer and garbage service.

Small said, with the city waiving fees for utilities, the county would gladly take on the responsibility of clearing snow from the care center driveway and parking lot.

Larry Steele with Miller and Associates presented the council with a quote of $27,150 for a new chlorinator for the swimming pool.

Steele said the regulations have changed on the amount of chlorine stabilizer that can be present in the swimming pool. If the pool has too much stabilizer, the chlorine will not kill bacteria.

Brad Miller said the swimming pool had to be emptied at least twice last year due to the levels.

Schroedl said keeping the levels within the regulations were an issue all year.

“We had some late openings and early closings as we fought the levels,” Schroedl said.

Steele said the cost of the project would be reduced by about $10,000 if the city handled the installation of the equipment.

After discussing with Miller, the council told Steele the city would handle the installation. Steele said he would submit a new quote removing the installation costs. The council will take action on the chlorinator purchase minus the installation costs during its March meeting.

The council again discussed the issue of nuisance abatement. Rice said, at some point, the city needed to decide whether to move forward with having another segment of the city inspected for nuisance code violations.

“I have mixed opinions about this,” Rice said. “It has raised awareness, but I have traveled with the Board of Health, and some parts of the city that have gone through nuisance abatement have now fallen back into their previous condition.”

Councilman Chuck Osborn said the Board of Health has not followed up on addressing some of the violations that were not corrected.

“If we aren’t going to follow through, it is not worth continuing,” Osborn said.

Councilwoman Deb Hurless proposed the city take a year off from inspecting a new segment of the city and instead use those funds to follow through with cleaning up the properties that were previously identified as nuisances.

The city would have to pay the up-front cost of abating the nuisances not voluntarily completed by property owners and then assess the cost back to the owner of the property.

In two final action items, the council approved a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to provide $2,000 in ABC sales tax funds to the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce for the annual Fourth of July fireworks display, and overruled a previous motion and approved having Dana F. Cole handle all of the city’s 2016 audit, including the LB 840 account.

Previously, the council had voted to conduct a separate audit of the LB 840 fund after City Attorney Rod Palmer cited state statute that he said called for an independent second firm to audit the fund.

Schroedl said she visited with the Nebraska League of Municipalities, and said the league indicated most cities in the state used one firm to handle the entirety of the audit.

“The estimate was high for a second audit, about $5,000,” Schroedl said. “Dana F. Cole charges us $8,000 for the entire audit. The audit report is due by the end of March, and the second auditor would not get here until May.”

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for March 8.

* Commissioners, city officials discuss Sandhills Care Center funding

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Feb. 7)

The Brown County Commissioners met with Ainsworth Mayor Larry Rice and City Administrator Lisa Schroedl during Tuesday’s meeting to discuss continued funding for the Sandhills Care Center.

Commissioner Buddy Small, who also serves on the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board, said there was concern about the continued financing of the nursing home.

“Brown County has contributed $340,000,” Small said. “The city has contributed much less than that. We wanted an update on how the city was meeting its obligation.”

Schroedl said the city planned to use $265,000 in a Community Development Block Grant re-use fund toward its remaining commitment to the nursing home.

“We have a signed application,” Schroedl said. “We just need a few more pieces of information before it goes to the loan committee. We hope to have the application to the loan committee by March 1.”

Schroedl said, if the loan committee recommends the funds be awarded, the city would publish notice and the City Council would decide following a public hearing whether to approve the application.

She said the application will be for all of the $265,000 in CDBG funds.

Small asked what the earliest date would be that the city could get the CDBG funding into the hands of the care center.

Schroedl said, if the application gets to the review committee by March 1, it could receive City Council approval March 8.

Small said he was concerned whether the care center would have enough funding to continue operations until the city funding is received.

Care Center Administrator Stephanie Rucker indicated the center may need additional funding to cover expenses as the resident population continues to build.

“That is why we are here today,” Small said. “We have a decent reputation now. I don’t want that to go bad.”

Rucker said the care center was projected to reach the break-even point by July of this year after the facility did recently receive its full Medicaid certification.

Rucker said the Medicaid certification received from the Department of Health and Human Services is effective as of Dec. 23, 2016, so the care center would receive Medicaid compensation for the Medicaid residents it began admitting in January.

“I have probably turned away 10 phone calls for Medicare skilled nursing beds because we were not yet certified,” Rucker said. “Now, we can accept those residents.”

She said there were currently 15 residents being cared for in the facility, with 10 paying for their care using private funds and five receiving Medicaid.

Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board Chair Kent Taylor said about $72,000 remained in the care center’s account from previous contributions made by the city and county coupled with the revenue now coming in for resident care.

Taylor said, if the $265,000 comes in from the CDBG fund, the city’s total contribution would be $400,000.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus asked if another $60,000 from the county combined with the funding from the city so that each entity put in a total of $400,000 would get the facility to the point where it would reach the break-even stage.

 “I don’t mind the county giving a little more if there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Wiebelhaus said. “But, we cannot just keep depleting the Inheritance Tax Fund. What happens if we go to $400,000 and then we are right back here in April and more money is needed?”

Both Taylor and Rucker said the facility should get to the stage of being self-sufficient if both entities made that contribution.

 “A lot of the big bills are now starting to slow down,” Rucker said.

Taylor said a total of about $54,000 was spent renovating the current building, which was well under the initial $150,000 that was projected.

“We can stay in this building for a while,” Taylor said. “But, we are still dealing with a building that was built in the 1960s.”

Wiebelaus said, “Before we even think about a new building, we need to be at least breaking even on a building that was given to us. I think we take a deep breath and see how this plays out. If it works, then we can look at new.”

The board agreed to discuss the topic of an additional $60,000 to the care center from the county’s inheritance tax fund during the board’s Feb. 21 meeting.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said he had traveled to view the 2011 International semi bid by Cornhusker International of Norfolk. He recommended the county complete the purchase of that semi for $52,000.

During its Jan. 17 meeting, the board opened bids for a used semi and authorized Turpin to travel to Norfolk to view the 2011 International and complete the purchase if the semi met his approval.

The commissioners met with Sheriff Bruce Papstein to discuss the recent heavy snow sliding from the metal roof of the sheriff’s department building and bending three gutters. The board discussed placing guards on the edge of the roof to keep snow from sliding off.

Wiebelhaus said any guards placed on the roof should be attached by adhesive only.

“I don’t want to see more holes screwed into the roof for the guards,” Wiebelhaus said.

In action items Tuesday, the commissioners approved updates to the Brown County Ambulance Association member roster, and approved an agreement to have Dr. Mel Campbell serve as the medical director for the ambulance association.

The board approved the 2017-18 NIRMA underwriting questionnaire, and acknowledged the 2017 annual report submitted by the BKR Extension office.

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

* Elementary Principal Sarah Williams updates on activities during Open Line

(Posted 12:30 p.m. Feb. 7)

Elementary Principal Sarah Williams was the Open Line guest from Ainsworth Community Schools Tuesday. To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Open Line-ACS Mrs. Williams 2-7-16.mp3

* Sundquist picks perfect score to win KBRB Big Game Contest

(Posted 1:15 p.m. Feb. 6)

This year’s KBRB Big Game Contest is in the books, and it took being within four points of the 34-28 Patriot victory to get into the prize package this year.

Cole Sundquist of Ainsworth picked a perfect score, as the Patriots roared back from a 25-point third quarter deficit to force the first overtime game in the Big Game.

The Patriots completed the rally with a touchdown in overtime, leading to the 34-28 final and a perfect prediction from Sundquist.

Brian Sisson of Ainsworth, Shelly McKimmey of Ainsworth and Adrianna Shaw of Bassett each missed the total score by a single point, picking the Patriots by identical 34-27 scores.

Jennifer Hodge missed the score by two points to finish fifth in the contest. Eugene Hodge, Kelby Rice and Jill Ganser of Ainsworth, Gage Herrington of Bassett and Dave Cheatum of Long Pine missed the total score by three points to tie for sixth, and there was a tie for 11th in the contest among five callers who picked the final score within four points. Those scores belonged to Ronda Theis, Heidi Lauer and Carol Woods of Ainsworth, Deb Hollenbeck of Long Pine, and Kurt Ammon of Bassett.

In the case of ties, the earliest call is the tie-breaker.

Winners receive gift certificates to this year’s Big Game Contest sponsors. Certificates may be picked up in the KBRB Studios beginning Tuesday morning.

Big Game Sponsors

Four Seasons Furniture – Valentine

Red and White Market – Ainsworth

First Class Auto – Ainsworth

The Elks Bar and Grill – Ainsworth

Huskerland Communications – Valentine

The L-Bow Room – Johnstown

Ainsworth Flowers and Gifts

Buckles Automotive – Ainsworth

The Whistle Stop – Bassett

Husker Meats – Ainsworth

Nelson Furniture – Valentine

Sandhills Lounge – Long Pine

Bassett Lodge and Range Café

Turp’s Automotive – Bassett

Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative Ampride – Ainsworth

McIntosh Jewelry – O’Neill

Ainsworth Motors

Brown’s Furniture – Ainsworth

J’s Keggers – Ainsworth

Century Lumber Center – Ainsworth

Plains Equipment Group – Ainsworth

Scott’s Place – Bassett

Simple Solutions – Long Pine

Print Express – Ainsworth

Last Chance Truck Stop – Newport

T’s Auto Detailing – Bassett

Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative Mr. Tire – Ainsworth

Rodeway Inn – Ainsworth

* Accident near Amherst results in the death of a 21-year-old Bassett woman

(Updated 11 a.m. Feb. 6)

A 21-year-old Bassett woman was one of two passengers killed in a one-vehicle rollover accident early Saturday near Amherst.
 According to the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Department, sometime early Saturday morning, a 2008 Ford F-350 pickup, driven by Kalen Pfeiffer, 23, of rural Amherst, was traveling north on Daykin Road near the 235 Road intersection northwest of Amherst when the vehicle left the roadway and rolled in the west ditch.

The exact time of the accident has not yet been determined. Emergency responders were first notified at 2:55 a.m. Saturday.
 Of the six people in the vehicle, four, including Pfeiffer, were transported to the CHI Good Samaritan Hospital at Kearney. Two - Amber Frerichs, 21, of Bassett, and Neal Maloley, 29, of Kearney - were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
Frerichs, a graduate of Rock County High School, was a junior at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

The university issued a statement, saying, “Amber was an active participant in student life and activities at UNK, particularly in Campus Recreation and our Wellness Center. Many knew her and will miss her. We’re offering counseling resources for our campus community. It’s devastating for us, but more so for her family and friends, who our hearts go out to.”

The Buffalo County Sheriff’s Department was assisted in the accident response by the Kearney Police Department, the Kearney/Buffalo County Fatality Accident Reconstruction Team, the Amherst Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, CHI Good Samaritan Hospital paramedics and the Buffalo County Highway Department.

The investigation into the cause of the accident is ongoing.

Funeral service for Frerichs is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the Rock County High School Gym at Bassett. Memorials have been directed to the family for a future scholarship to be named in her memory.

* Area students complete degree from Northeast Community College

(Posted 8 a.m. Feb. 6)

A total of 219 students completed their certificate, diploma or degree programs in the summer and fall from Northeast Community College.

The names of the students will be listed in the program during the college’s commencement ceremony in May.

Students who have completed their degree coursework from the area include:


Associate of Arts Degree

Ainsworth - Isabella Lohmeyer and Nicholas Runyan;

 

Associate of Science Degree

Atkinson - Jennifer Poessnecker;

 

Associate of Applied Science Degree in Automotive Technology

Ainsworth - Jonathan Ford.

* Traffic stop on Highway 183 leads to seizure of more than $40,000 cash

(Posted 7:15 a.m. Feb. 6)

A traffic stop on Highway 183 in January led to the seizure of more than $40,000 in cash.

At 2:15 p.m. Jan. 6, a trooper with the Nebraska State Patrol stopped a motor vehicle for speeding on Highway 183 near milepost 197.

According to Brown County Attorney David Streich, the trooper received permission to search the vehicle, and discovered $40,807 in cash, the majority of which was found in a bag.

Streich said both vehicle occupants denied to the trooper any knowledge of the cash located in the bag. The trooper, per state statute, then seized the currency.

Streich said the state of Nebraska has filed a complaint for forfeiture, and a hearing has been scheduled for March in Brown County District Court.

The county attorney said, if no one steps forward to claim the funds, 50 percent would be disbursed to schools in Brown County, and 50 percent would be placed into the county’s drug fund to be used for drug enforcement and education.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 6)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Friday, Feb. 3, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 5:35 p.m. Friday on North Main Street near the Sixth Street intersection, a 2002 Ford sport-utility vehicle, driven by Amber Thornton, 36, of Ainsworth, was turning from Sixth Street onto Main Street when the vehicle slid on ice and struck a parked 2013 Ford pickup, owned by AMI Leasing Inc. of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the sport-utility vehicle was estimated at $300. The Ford pickup sustained approximately $2,000 damage.

* Ainsworth Speech Team third at West Holt Invitational

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Feb. 6)

==WEST HOLT SPEECH INVITATIONAL==

Varsity

1st:  Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

            Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

2nd:  Jack Arens—Informative Speaking

3rd:  Sam Wilkins—Extemporaneous Speaking

6th:  Jace Kremer—Persuasive Speaking

7th:  Korey Rathe—Serious Prose

            Jace Kremer—Informative Speaking

8th:  Cassidy Gilliland—Poetry

            Henry Beel—Persuasive Speaking

Superiors:  Marley Murphy—Serious Prose

                        Bradi Scott—Serious Prose

                        Bradi Scott & Bo Painter—Duet Acting

Team:  3rd of 17

Novice

2nd:  Henrik Elgsaether—Extemporaneous Speaking

3rd:  Coy Carson—Humorous Prose

5th:  Morgan Osborn—Poetry

Jodi Beach & Coy Carson—Duet Acting

Team:  6th of 17

 

 “We’re getting a little healthier, but we still weren’t full strength for West Holt,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. “We fell just a bit short of being the runners-up in the varsity division.  It was a good day—Atkinson is close enough for our fans to travel and support us, and that makes the performance more fun.

 “Our presentations are progressing. We’re making the final changes in content so that we’re ready to memorize and polish. The next two weeks will be very important in terms of practice.”

The next competition for the Ainsworth Speech Team will be the Blue and Gold Tournament at North Platte Saturday, with rounds starting at 8:30 a.m.

* Flynn is the top speller Friday during Ainsworth Spelling Bee

(Posted 12 a.m. Feb. 4)

Ben Flynn outlasted 16 other spellers Friday to win the fifth through eighth grade Oral Spelling Bee.

Flynn advances to the 2017 Midwest Spelling Bee March 11 at Omaha.

Shawna Fernau finished second in the fifth through eighth-grade bee. Third was a tie between Caleb Allen and Allison Arens.

Logan Schroedl won the fourth grade bee, with Ryan Salzman second and third place a tie between Emma Kennedy and Kaitlyn Fernau.

Tatum Sorensen was the top speller in the third grade contest, with Alexis Bryant taking second and Violet Harris third.

The top speller in the second grade was David Cook. Cook finished ahead of runner-up Kiley Orton and Erick Hitchcock, who took third.

Bateson Raymond won the first grade bee, with Brandon Gilbert second and Annalena Nelson third.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 2:30 p.m. Feb. 2)

In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs

Edwin E. Bogue, age 58, of Columbus, charged with hunting/fishing/trapping without permission, fined $200 and ordered to pay $1,000 in liquidation damage.

Dalton J. Schmidt, 17, of Bassett, no fishing permit, $100.

Shi Ann James, 28, of Ainsworth, third-degree assault, ordered to pay $2,119 in restitution.

Keyla T. Roman, 34, of Morgan City, La., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Kylie M. Clay, 24, of Parker, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Clint L. Lewis, 41, of Arnold, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Anthony D. Stover, 27, of Elizabethtown, Pa., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Darin M. Priest, 30, of Newport, failure to use a child passenger restraint, $25.

Candra Glinsmann, 46, of Sargent, no registration, $25; failure to yield the right of way, $25; no operator’s license, $75.

Kendric W. Beck, 17, of Newport, minor in possession, sentenced to three months of probation and 20 hours of community service; misuse of a learner’s permit, driver’s license impounded for 30 days.

Maureen Jackman, 43, of Ainsworth, second-degree trespassing/defying an order to leave, sentenced to one year of probation.

Justin R. Nelson, 38, of Ainsworth, first offense reckless driving, $500, sentenced to six months of probation and driver’s license revoked for 60 days.

Wilian O. Orellana, 41, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Kody L. Dunn, 19, of Osmond, drug possession in a commercial vehicle, $500; possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Ashton C. Short, 27, of Dakota Dunes, S.D., procuring or selling alcohol to a minor, sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for one day served; careless driving, $100.

Elizabeth A. Nelson, 36, of Long Pine, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Timothy A. Bunch, 35, of Ainsworth, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $75.

Joan K. Johnson Dickau, 75, of Elgin, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Lelia D. Shoemaker, 29, of Lansing, Iowa, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Mark D. Hubbard, 56, of Phoenix, Ariz., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Janice M. McMurtrey, 68, of Box Elder, S.D., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Michael A. Mupo, 45, of Frisco, Texas, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Tyler W. Schmitz, 32, of Johnstown, second offense driving under the influence, $1,000, also sentenced to one year of probation, driver’s license revoked for one year, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Jamin A. Zeman, 23, of Bassett, first offense reckless driving, $500, also sentenced to six months of probation and driver’s license impounded for six months.

* January sees triple the normal snowfall

(Posted 12:30 p.m. Feb. 2)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn recorded 15-1/2 inches of snow in January, including 14 inches on Jan. 24-25. That is more than triple the traditional 5 inches of snow the month experiences.
The snowfall produced 1.15 inches of moisture, almost three times the average of .42.
To hear the January weather report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn January 2017 weather.mp3

* Malfunctioning blower unit causes smoke at Ainsworth Middle School

(Posted noon Feb. 1)

A smoke smell in the Ainsworth Middle School building Wednesday morning prompted administrators to activate a fire alarm and remove students from the school.

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said firefighters were called to the school at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday after school officials smelled smoke in a fifth-grade classroom.

Fiala said a blower unit above the classroom had wires that started to smoke when the unit kicked on. The fire chief said firefighters shut off the power to the affected unit, and students were then allowed to return to the building.

“There was some smoke, but it did not ever start a fire,” Fiala said.

The school planned to repair the unit right away on Wednesday.

* Smith nominates Arens and Gale for Air Force Academy

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 1)

Nebraska Third District Rep. Adrian Smith announced his nomination of 15 students to the U.S. Service Academies for the class entering in the fall of 2017.

Members of Congress have the privilege of nominating young people for admission to the U.S. Service Academies, which include the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. 

Among Smith’s nominees are Jack Arens of Ainsworth, who was nominated for the U.S. Air Force Academy; Jack Gale of Bassett, nominated to the U.S. Air Force Academy; and Zachary Wiese of O’Neill, who was also nominated to the Air Force Academy.

Arens and Gale were also previously nominated by U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer.

The service academies offer a unique opportunity for motivated students to serve their country while undergoing a rigorous academic and physical regimen.  In exchange for tuition, students agree to serve in the U.S. military after graduation.

“Each of these young Nebraskans has demonstrated a lasting commitment to serving his or her community and our country,” Smith said.  “I am honored to nominate these accomplished students to become the future leaders of our military, knowing they will represent Nebraska well in the U.S. Service Academies.”

Applicants met personally with Smith’s Academy Advisory Committee and were evaluated on academic achievement, extracurricular involvement, career motivation, personal traits, letters of recommendation, essays, and personal interviews.

* Osborn named Volunteer of the Year by Chamber of Commerce during annual banquet

(Posted noon Jan. 30)

Gerry Osborn was named the Volunteer of the Year by the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce during the annual chamber banquet Friday in the Elks Lodge.

Osborn recently received an award from the National Weather Service for 70 years of service as a cooperative weather observer.

Osborn has also volunteered for several local and state organizations, and has served in several elected positions in the community, including as Mayor and a member of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education.

Dr. Beatrice Taylor from the Brown County Hospital, Jamie Stutzman from Union Bank & Trust and Jennifer Hitchcock from Ainsworth Community Schools were elected to three-year terms on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, replacing outgoing members Chris Raymond, Mary Gambill and Erika Hasnohr,  

Taylor, Stutzman and Hitchcock will join John Pierce, Bret Younkin, Susan Zwiebel, Sherry Buoy, Betsy Saner and Stacey Dinklage on the Board of Directors.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6, in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

* Traffic Accidents

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Jan. 30)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of motor vehicle accidents that occurred Friday, Jan. 27.

At 2:44 p.m. on Plainsman Drive west of the Richardson Drive intersection, a New Holland skid loader, driven by Scott Burkinshaw, 31, of Ainsworth, was backing from a private drive while moving snow and collided with an eastbound 2009 GMC sport-utility vehicle, driven by Maureen Jackman, 43, of Ainsworth.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the GMC was estimated at $2,000. The New Holland did not sustain any damage.

The sheriff’s department also investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred on Highway 20 Friday.

At 6:51 p.m. on Highway 20 just west of Johnstown, a 2001 Buick sedan, driven by Lyndsay Watson, 31, of Valentine, was traveling east when the vehicle lost traction on an icy curve and entered the north ditch, where it struck a road reflector and a fence.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the Buick was estimated at $150. The fence, owned by Tom Theis of Johnstown, sustained approximately $500, and the reflector, owned by the Nebraska Department of Roads, will cost $200 to replace.

* Ainsworth speech team competes in Perkins County Invitational

(Posted 6:15 a.m. Jan. 30)

==PERKINS COUNTY INVITATIONAL==

1st:  Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

5th:  Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

Superiors:  Henrik Elgsaether—Extemporaneous Speaking

                        Henry Beel—Persuasive Speaking

                        Coy Carson—Humorous Prose

                        Cassidy Gilliland—Poetry

                        Marley Murphy—Serious Prose

Team:  10th of 21

 “We were hurt pretty badly by the flu bug this weekend, so we didn’t field the full team,” Ainsworth speech coach Mary Rau said. “Plus, speakers were limited to two events, and a few triple enter. And then throw in a couple of snow days and missing one practice day for travel, and it was tough for us.

 “By going to Perkins County, we see quite a few of the teams in our district.  It’s tough competition, but that’s what makes us better.”

The next speech competition is Saturday at West Holt, with rounds beginning at 8 am.

* Friday wind causes area travel conditions to deteriorate

(Posted 3:30 p.m. Jan. 27)

Gusting winds Friday caused travel conditions to deteriorate for area state highways and county roadways.
Brown County Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said the county roads department continued to work on opening roads Friday afternoon, but appeared to be fighting a losing battle with the wind blowing snow back across the roadways.
Wiebelhaus said, with winds of 20 to 30 mph in the forecast for Saturday, the county roads department would not plow roads that day, but would be back out trying to remove snow from county roadways on Sunday morning.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 3:45 p.m. Jan. 26)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Thursday, Jan. 26, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 10:42 a.m. Thursday on Main Street at the Third Street intersection, a collision occurred between a 2011 Ford pickup, driven by Vernon Wood, 69, of Bassett, and a 2003 Ford Taurus, driven by Sherri Turner, 28, of Ainsworth. The southbound pickup was turning east from Main Street onto Third Street when the collision occurred with the northbound Taurus.
Turner was transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital for injuries suffered during the accident.
Damage to the Ford pickup was estimated at $1,000. The Ford Taurus sustained approximately $1,500 damage.
The accident prompted the civil defense siren to sound in Ainsworth Thursday morning.

* Caution urged as children play on snow piles following 14-inch accumulation

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Jan. 26)

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department and Brown County Ambulance Service want people to be aware of the hazards related to the snow piled throughout the communities in the area.
Children will be out playing on the snow piles and building snow forts. Drivers are encouraged to use extra caution while traveling on icy streets, as sometimes children playing on snow piles slide off of them into the street or sled down the snow piles.
Parents are urged to watch for children attempting to build snow forts, as those tunnels can and do collapse, trapping children in the snow.
The fire department and ambulance service crews encourage everyone to do their part to prevent any snow-related injuries.

* Brewer discusses bills he introduced during first legislative session

(Posted 9:15 a.m. Jan. 26)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer spoke with KBRB's Graig Kinzie Thursday, discussing his first impressions of the Legislature and the bills he introduced in his inaugural session.
To hear the report, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/State Sen Tom Brewer 1-26 veterans bills.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Tom Brewer 1-26 concealed carry & wind moratorium.mp3

* Osborn reports on 1988 blizzard that overshadowed Tuesday's 14-inch snowfall

(Posted 9:15 a.m. Jan. 26)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn went back to the historical weather data to find a storm that made Tuesday's 14-inch snowfall pale in comparison.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Weather Observer Gerry Osborn snowfall report 1-26.mp3

* Frazier pleads no contest to first degree sexual assault charge

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Jan. 25)

Tuesday in Brown County District Court, Zachary W. Frazier, 23, pleaded no contest to one count of first degree sexual assault, a Class II felony, which is punishable by a minimum of one year imprisonment and a maximum of 50 years imprisonment.
Between Oct. 31, 2015, and June 13, 2016, Frazier engaged in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old victim. During the investigation, the defendant admitted to having multiple sexual encounters with the victim in Brown County.
Throughout the period when the abuse was occurring, Frazier was on probation for child abuse, a Class IIIA felony, arising out of unrelated sexual encounters with a separate victim in Rock County. 
Assistant Attorney Gen. George Welch prosecuted the case. The Nebraska State Patrol handled the investigation.
Frazier is scheduled to be sentenced in Brown County District Court April 11.

* Monday accident west of Johnstown injures Valentine man

(Posted 3:30 p.m. Jan. 24)

A Monday accident west of Johnstown injured a Valentine man and required emergency officials to extricate the trapped driver from the vehicle he was driving.
According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department report, at 12:12 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, on Highway 20 west of Johnstown, a 2001 Sterling Truck Tractor, driven by Martin Miller, 53, of Valentine, was traveling west hauling a load of hay bales when the trailer entered the north ditch. The trailer and semi overturned onto its passenger side and came to rest in the north ditch.
Miller was pinned in the vehicle. Personnel from the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department and Brown County Ambulance Association worked to extricate the driver, who was then transported to a medical facility for injuries suffered during the crash.
The semi was considered a total loss.
The accident prompted the civil defense siren to sound in Ainsworth.

* Retail sales, motor vehicle sales see improvement locally in October

(Posted 3:15 p.m. Jan. 24)

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of October 2016 and October 2015 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Boyd

984,382

1,026,062

(4.1)

54,141.09

56,433.55

Brown

2,833,726

2,742,134

3.3

155,855.11

150,817.57

Ainsworth

2,665,330

2,571,018

3.7

146,593.32

141,406.17

Cherry

4,910,980

5,492,609

(10.6)

270,104.24

302,093.83

Valentine

4,804,316

5,334,260

(9.9)

264,237.66

293,384.58

Holt

8,612,167

8,863,045

(2.8)

499,911.42

487,468.10

Atkinson

1,631,369

1,585,169

2.9

89,725.44

87,184.47

O'Neill

5,766,601

6,117,686

(5.7)

343,405.05

336,473.05

Keya Paha

205,602

246,985

(16.8)

11,308.14

13,584.19

Rock

446,791

533,667

(16.3)

24,573.59

29,351.72

Valley

3,393,458

3,518,236

(3.5)

186,640.47

193,503.21

Ord

3,003,653

2,874,679

4.5

165,201.14

158,107.54

State

$2,370,164,988

$2,352,179,437

0.8

$130,459,602.43

$129,430,311.84

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of October 2016 and October 2015
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

106,890

217,080

(50.8)

5,809.73

11,891.50

Boyd

411,833

444,684

(7.4)

22,685.90

24,422.70

Brown

774,813

670,924

15.5

42,795.26

37,064.49

Cherry

1,114,317

1,239,736

(10.1)

61,639.56

68,398.74

Holt

2,459,939

2,598,812

(5.3)

136,210.94

143,791.53

Keya Paha

185,353

114,747

61.5

10,205.79

6,274.93

Rock

467,110

373,830

25

25,709.36

20,615.78

Valley

714,844

777,823

(8.1)

39,533.29

43,065.29

State Total

$314,551,322

$333,505,292

(5.7)

$17,444,491.57

$18,446,549.72

* Principal Bill Lentz appears on ACS edition of Open Line

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Jan. 24)

Ainsworth Secondary Principal Bill Lentz was the guest on the Tuesday morning Ainsworth Community Schools edition of Open Line.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Open Line-ACS Mr. Lentz 1-24-17.mp3

* Care Center Board discusses options for new facility with USDA reps Monday

(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 24)

The Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board met with representatives from the USDA Monday to discuss the agency’s direct loan program and its potential use for the construction of a new nursing home in the community.

The conversation Monday centered on a market study recently completed that showed a need for 29 licensed beds in the 35-mile service area, not the 46 licensed beds owned by the community.

The preliminary architecture designs for a new facility included 42 private rooms and two double rooms.

Adam Strom with Eide Bailly, the firm that conducted the market study, said the study bears out that there is a need for increased beds in the market area.

“The question is how many beds are needed and how many beds the USDA is willing to loan the community,” Strom said. “We look at population trends and neighboring facility occupancy. After analyzing those factors, the number of beds needed came down from the 46 pictured to 29.”

Ken Shaw with USDA said there were three different methodologies used in the market study, and all came out with a similar number of beds needed.

Shaw said the USDA would likely not be willing to loan the community money for the construction of a 46-bed facility. He said the building could be constructed for 29 beds with the plan that it could be expanded should the demand be shown to exist.

Shaw said the community could also raise the remaining funding needed to build the 46-bed facility.

“The total beds needed for the entire market area is 131, and there are 119 beds currently available,” Shaw said. “When you add an open rate factor of 5 percent, that gets you to the 29 beds. You need to feel comfortable that you are going to be able to pull some residents from the Valentine area into your facility.”

Ron Ross with Rural Health Development, the Sandhills Care Center’s management company, said, in his opinion, a new facility would not work at a 30-bed capacity.

“You would not be able to service the mortgage with 30 residents,” Ross said. “You would not be able to spread out the mortgage payment among those 30 beds.”

Board Chairman Kent Taylor read a letter from a former admissions director in the Ainsworth Care Center, who stated the care center in the 1990s consistently had 36 residents in the facility. Mike Harris with RHD said the latest three-year average for residents was 29.

Capital campaign committee chair Rolland Paddock said he believed a nice new facility would draw residents from a larger area.

“I think our new facility would be the first option for people compared to the other facilities in the area that would be much older,” Paddock said.

He said if there was a need for 131 beds in the market area, a 46-bed facility in Ainsworth should have plenty of potential residents to draw from.

Board member Leanne Maxwell said a bond issue should be something for the group to consider, to gauge the community’s support for the project and its willingness to contribute through a property tax levy.

“I have a concern with the capital campaign committee trying to focus on getting all the dollars we need from a smaller number of contributors,” Maxwell said. “I know a bond and raising taxes is not popular, but it would be nice to see if the community supports this project. If they do, great. If not, then the voters will let us know.”

The board discussed the potential benefits and pitfalls to a bond issue, and discussed how much time remained on the two school bonds. Those voter-approved bonds will be completed within the next two or three years, and the Brown County Hospital addition bond, also approved by voters, has a little more than eight years remaining.

Taylor thanked the USDA representatives for making the trip.

“You folks have been more than accommodating,” Taylor said. “This will be a community decision.”

Taylor said he would have new building committee chair Todd Mundhenke visit with the architectural firm that designed the 46-bed facility that carried an estimated $9.5 million price tag to see if the firm could put together a cost estimate for a 29-bed facility.

Sandhills Care Center Administrator Stephanie Rucker reported Monday the fire marshal had returned to see if the initial issues he identified had been addressed. Rucker said the facility passed the fire marshal’s re-inspection. Once the fire marshal’s report is submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services, the facility should receive its Medicaid certification.

Rucker said there are currently 12 residents in the facility, with eight private-pay and four Medicaid residents. She said another resident would likely be admitted this week.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Jan. 23)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Saturday, Jan. 21, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 11:55 p.m. Saturday on Sixth Street west of the Ash Street intersection, a 2015 Chevy pickup, driven by Brian Arens, 40, of Ainsworth, was traveling west and struck a parked 2003 Dodge pickup, owned by Stan Pennington of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $5,500. The Dodge was considered a total loss.

* Ainsworth speakers bring home medals from competitive Broken Bow meet

(Posted 6:30 a.m. Jan. 23)

Broken Bow Speech Invitational

Ainsworth Results

Varsity

2nd:  Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

3rd:  Vemund Berg/Henrik Elgsaether/Jace Kremer/Korey Rathe/Miranda Raymond—OID

8th:  Jace Kremer—Persuasive Speaking

            Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

Superiors:  Jack Arens—Informative Speaking

                        Henry Beel—Informative Speaking

                        Jace Kremer—Informative Speaking

                        Henry Beel—Persuasive Speaking

                        Cassidy Gilliland—Poetry

                        Marley Murphy—Serious Prose

                        Bradi Scott & Bo Painter—Duet Acting

Novice

2nd:  Henrik Elgsaether—Extemporaneous Speaking

3rd:  Morgan Osborn & Jenna Williams—Duet Acting

5th:  Jodi Beach & Coy Carson—Duet Acting

8th:  Coy Carson—Humorous Prose

 

“Broken Bow just keeps getting bigger and tougher,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. “Each
event averaged around 30 entries, so medaling is difficult.  The novices had a great showing again, which is very encouraging.

“This tournament doesn’t keep team scores, but North Platte and Gothenburg obviously have competed in a few more tournaments than the rest of us.  We learn from others who are better
than we are, so Broken Bow is an excellent learning day for us.”

The speech team will make the long journey to the Perkins County Invitational at Grant on
Saturday, with rounds beginning at 8 a.m. MST.

* Northeast Community College names honor students for fall semester

(Posted 10:30 p.m. Jan. 20)

Northeast Community College has released the President’s Honor List and Deans’ Honor List for both full and part-time students for the Fall 2016 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.  Some 157 students made the President’s Full-time Honor List this fall semester. 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. Two hundred-fifteen students were named to the Deans’ Honor List.

 

PRESIDENT’S HONOR LIST - Full-Time

Ainsworth - Sydney Fling

Atkinson - Linda Shaw

Valentine - Walker Wolff

Butte - Vanessa Reiser

 

DEANS’ HONOR LIST-Full-time

Bassett - Hollie Morton

Atkinson - Sierra Welsh

Valentine - Nicholas Fisbeck

Butte - Lakeisha Wheeler

 

PRESIDENT’S HONOR LIST—Part-time

Ainsworth - Morgan Osborn

Bassett - Riley Bussinger, Bailey DeVall, John Gale, Katherine Osbon

Springview - Kristine Cronk

Atkinson - Megan Bilstein, Anna Meyer, Rachael Osborne, Will Thiele

 

DEAN’S HONOR LIST Part-Time

Ainsworth - Andrew Klatt

Atkinson - Chase Harrison, Zachary Thatcher

Newport - Braydon Caldwell

* Local Lions Club receives International Membership Award

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Jan. 19)

During its meeting Tuesday, the Ainsworth Lions Club learned it had received the Lions Club International Club Membership Award for 2015-16.

An effort will be made to secure a banner to display all awards presented to the club.

A “thank you” letter was received from the Nebraska Community Foundation for the $500 contribution to the Brown County Community Foundation Fund-Local Beef for School Account.   The club was informed the Lions Club District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund has increased its matching grant to $500, with an additional $1,000 available from the Nebraska Lions Club Foundation.

The annual Lions Club Family Christmas party was held on Dec. 15 in the United Methodist Church fellowship hall, with 13 members and six guests attending. 

Information was shared regarding the Lions Club Foundation Backpack Disaster Relief Fund Drive to aid children in Nebraska, ages 4-10, who had been in a disaster, such as fire, flood, or tornado. The backpacks, filled with supplies, will be warehoused at Broken Bow, a central location for easy distribution across the state.  The club approved a $200 contribution to the project. 

A request for financial assistance was received from an optometry student, originally from Lincoln, who is a participant in the Student Volunteers in Optometric Service to Humanity program. The program annually provides free eye exams and eye glasses to the needy in Third World countries.

The club, which has been contributing $100 annually for the past several years, will contribute $100 to assist Taylor Ficek as a participant in the program, with a request that Ficek provide a report back to the club regarding his experiences in the program.

Jerry Ehlers, as Lions Club Zone D1 chair, advised the club he is currently scheduling visitations to Zone D1 clubs at Valentine, Ainsworth, Atkinson, O’Neill and Bristow-Gross in lieu of scheduling a zone meeting, which in previous years have been poorly attended.

An attempt will be made to organize a “video” teleconference involving the officers of all the clubs in Zone D1, which would eliminate the need to travel.

Kelly Oberlechner has been accepted as the newest member of the Ainsworth Lions Club. She was previously a member of the Red Cloud Lions Club. The club will continue to provide four newspapers from the Norfolk Daily News to the Brown County Hospital.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club is scheduled for Feb. 20.      

* Middle Niobrara NRD receives $100,000 grant for wood chip trailer and spreader

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Jan. 19)

Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Director Jim Macy announced the awarding of $2.5 million in 57 grants for litter cleanup, recycling, and public education programs and activities. Funds for the Litter Reduction and Recycling Grant Program are generated from a fee charged to certain manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of products that commonly contribute to litter. The program has been providing grants annually since 1979.
“There were many outstanding applications submitted to NDEQ this year,” Macy said. “The grant awards will support many important local efforts to recycle and reduce litter across the state.”
The Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District received a $100,215 grant to purchase a trailer with a spreader to increase the amount of woody biomass chips that can be applied to fields and tree rows. Removing trees increases grazing and grassland, and reduces the risk of wildfire.
The Loup Basin RC&D and Keep Loup Basin Beautiful received a $79,146 grant to continue litter prevention and recycling education efforts for schools in a nine-county region.

* North central Nebraska counties see largest 2016 valuation increases

(Posted 2:30 p.m. Jan. 18)

Statewide, Nebraska property taxes will increase for the 2016 tax year by $123 million, from $3.78 billion to $3.90 billion. The Nebraska Department of Revenue recently certified the tax levy reports submitted by the state’s 93 county assessors.

The $123 million increase represents a 3.26 percent climb from the 2015 tax year. Of the increase, $17 million is attributed to voter-approved bonds, $44 million comes from new construction, and $62 million comes from tax increases to existing property.

Four of the seven counties with the highest percentage of increased tax levies are in the north central part of the state.

Boyd County will experience the second-highest property tax increase in the state, up 12 percent from $6 million to $6.75 million.

Blaine County property owners will see the fourth highest percentage increase, up 10.73 percent from $2.76 million in 2015 to $3.05 million in 2016.

Thomas County is fifth, with a 9.7 percent jump from $3.15 million to $3.43 million.

Brown County had the seventh largest percentage increase in the state, with property taxes up 8.79 percent from $10.2 million collected in 2015 to $11.12 million collected in 2016.

Arthur County in the Sandhills had the highest percentage increase in the state at 16.47 percent.

Eighteen counties in Nebraska will collect fewer property tax dollars than were collected in 2015.

Rock and Holt are among the 18 counties taking in fewer property tax dollars for 2016. Rock County had the 10th best drop in property tax, from $6.5 million collected in 2015 to $6.4 million that will be collected in 2016. That represents a 1.7 percent decline in property tax collections.

Holt County was the 13th best, with a drop of 1.36 percent from $36.3 million to $35.8 million.

Cherry County had a modest increase of 1.76 percent, from $21.8 million to $22.2 million, and Keya Paha County’s property tax asking increased by just 1.25 percent, from $3.47 million to $3.51 million.

The total property tax asking includes all the taxing entities within a county, such as school districts, county government, city government, natural resources districts, community colleges and rural fire districts.

The overall value of property statewide increased by 4.68 percent, from $227 billion to $238 billion.

North central Nebraska saw the largest overall property valuation gains in the state.

Blaine, Brown, Cherry, Loup and Boyd counties had the five largest property valuation increases in the state.

The value of property in Blaine County was up almost 29 percent, from $249 million to $321 million. That percentage was the highest in the state.

Brown County’s overall property value was up 23.4 percent for 2016, from an overall value of $668 million in 2015 to $824 million in 2016. That was the second largest increase in property value.

Cherry County’s valuation increased by 18.4 percent, from $1.63 billion to $1.93 billion, the third largest increase.

Loup County had the fourth highest increase in property value, up 17.35 percent from $288 million to $338 million.

Boyd County saw the fifth largest overall valuation increase in the state, up 16.4 percent from $498 million to $579 million.

Rock County was also among the top 10 counties in the state with the highest overall valuation increases. Total property in all classes – agricultural, residential and commercial – was up 14.5 percent for 2016 in Rock County, from $579 million to $664 million.

The value of all property in Keya Paha County was up by 10.1 percent, from $418 million to $461 million.

Holt County’s overall property value increased by 5 percent, from $3.11 billion to $3.27 billion.

The increases include both new construction and a jump in value for existing property.

Valuation, coupled with the levy rates set by all property taxing entities, account for the overall property tax dollars requested in each county.

While the actual property tax dollars requested by taxing entities in Brown County had the seventh highest increase in the state, the overall levy rate in Brown County actually dropped by 11.8 percent. The drop in the levy rate moved Brown County down the list a bit among the counties asking for the largest tax dollar increase year over year.

Some taxing entities in Brown County, such as the county government and school district, decreased their levy rates somewhat with the higher valuation. Others, such as the community college, kept the levy rate virtually the same as the previous year, which led to a substantial increase in tax dollars collected thanks to the 23.4 percent increase in the county’s valuation.

For the first time in several years, six counties actually saw the overall value of their real property decrease from the previous year.

The value of all classes of property for 2016 in Hitchcock, Franklin, Webster, Thurston, Stanton and Kimball counties was down from its 2015 valuation, with declining value in the sale of property in each county the factor for the decline.

County assessors use property sales data over a period of years to determine the valuation of agricultural, residential and commercial property in each county.

Even with six counties seeing their overall value decline for 2016, there were still 21 counties in the state that experienced double digit percentage increases in their overall property valuation.

Only 20 counties in the state saw overall levy rates that were above 2015 levels. In those counties, for properties that had the same value as the previous year, actual property tax collections will be higher.

For the other 73 counties, if a property’s value did not change, the owner’s tax bill will be lower.

The state of Nebraska offsets a portion of the actual property taxes levied by the county tax entities by providing $204 million in direct relief from the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund.

The state provides an additional $14 million in personal property tax relief spread out among those who have personal property that is taxed, and an additional $75 million in property tax is offset by the state through its homestead exemption program for those who qualify.

Property tax statements have been sent to all property owners by the treasurers in each county. The first half of 2016 property taxes become delinquent on May 1, and the second half of the property tax due becomes delinquent Sept. 1. If not timely paid, interest is charged on the outstanding property tax balance.

* Commissioners deny wage claim submitted by firm representing former BCH employee

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

The Brown County Commissioners voted Tuesday to deny a wage/contract claim submitted by a former Brown County Hospital employee.

The county received a letter from the law firm representing Elizabeth Nelson, a former Brown County Hospital provider, which included a wage/contract claim.

Brown County Attorney David Streich said he contacted the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Association, which handles the county’s liability insurance, after receiving the letter and claim from Koley Jessen, the firm representing Nelson.

“NIRMA sent recommendations to us on how to proceed, which I won’t discuss in a public meeting,” Streich said.

He said the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in Brothers vs. the Kimball County Hospital, from the past three years, that county hospitals were separate governmental subdivisions from the county governing bodies.

“Since Nelson was not an employee of the county, and the county did not have a contract with Nelson, my recommendation is the county deny the claim,” Streich said.

The commissioners unanimously voted to deny the claim.

In other business Tuesday, the board accepted the annual report from Weed Superintendent Doug Mulligan.

Mulligan, who is retiring in February, said the number of acres with noxious weeds in the county has decreased during the past 10 years.

According to the report, leafy spurge remains the most prevalent noxious weed in Brown County, with 18,800 acres showing some level of infestation. That represents about 2.5 percent of the 776,864 acres in the county.

There are 2,530 acres with a severe infestation level of leafy spurge, 6,120 acres with a moderate level of infestation, 1,560 acres with a light infestation, and 8,590 acres with a trace amount of leafy spurge.

Four other noxious weeds had a small presence in Brown County in 2016, including 1,150 acres of Canada thistle infestation, 221 acres with purple loosestrife, 142 acres observed with musk thistle, and 100 acres with the presence of knapweed.

The weed department budget was $51,270 for the past fiscal year.

The board thanked Mulligan for his years of service as the county’s weed superintendent and complimented his work ethic and job performance in reducing the number of acres with noxious weed infestations.

The commissioners voted to provide a 30-cents-per-hour cost of living wage increase to roads department workers and the courthouse custodian. That represents a roughly 2 percent cost of living increase for the county’s custodian and hourly employees in the roads department.

The board voted to transfer $90,000 from the Inheritance Tax Fund to the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board, completing the county’s $340,000 obligation to the joint effort to reopen a nursing home in the community.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, “We have now fulfilled our obligation. If we are asked again, I am more than likely going to vote no. At some point, the nursing home has to become self-sufficient.”

The board discussed the facility’s efforts to gain Medicaid and Medicare certification, and the likelihood that the Sandhills Care Center would need to operate in its current facility to show that it could cash flow before it pursued an effort to build a new facility.

In roads items Tuesday, the board appointed Kenny Turpin as the county’s highway superintendent for 2017, and held an executive session to discuss the performance evaluations of the county roads department employees.

Turpin discussed having asphalt millings the county received from the overlay of the runway at the Ainsworth Airport grinded, as the millings currently have large chunks that won’t work well to utilize for overlay work.

Turpin said it would likely cost between $7.50 and $8 per ton for the grinding work, and the county had approximately 2,000 tons of material it received free of charge from the airport runway overlay. The county was simply responsible for hauling the material from the site.

“If we can get the chunks taken out, we will likely use it for overlays,” Turpin said. “It really isn’t any good to us unless it is ground up.”

Turpin received permission to get a quote for the grinding work. He also received the go-ahead to advertise for bids for armor coating work for 2017. He said he planned to armor coat 12 to 15 miles of the county’s asphalt roads.

Turpin said, with fuel prices increasing, he would like to contract for fuel for 2017, and would get price quotes from Madison’s Great Western and the Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative.

The commissioners held a conference call with Kirk Bowers from the company Wellness Partners, who discussed a voluntary wellness program his company offers to county employees. He said there is no cost for the annual blood draw and comprehensive lab tests, as the company bills the employee’s insurance for the work. He said, for employees who do not have insurance but who want the tests conducted, the cost is $140.

He said the company currently serves between 20 and 25 counties in the state, and works with Blue Cross/Blue Shield Insurance on the wellness program designed to detect potential health issues early.

The board took no action on establishing the wellness program.

Opening bids for used trucks, the commissioners rejected four bids submitted by RDO Truck Center of Lincoln and one bid from Correct Truck and Trailer of Davenport, Iowa. The county received two bids from Cornhusker International of Norfolk, and will have Turpin view a 2011 International. After viewing the semi, Turpin will make a recommendation on whether to approve Cornhusker International's bid.

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

* KBRB school edition of Open Line

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Jan. 17)

Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Darrell Peterson was today's guest on the school day edition of Open Line.
To hear the conversation, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Open Line-ACS Mr. Peterson-1-17-17.mp3

* Dailey re-elected School Board President Monday

(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 17)

Dan Dailey was re-elected president of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education for 2017 Monday, with Mark Johnson re-elected vice president of the board and Jim Arens secretary-treasurer.

Johnson, Brad Wilkins and Scott Erthum took the oath of office after being elected to the board in November.

The board Monday spent time discussing survey questions sent by the Nebraska Association of School Boards for its Vision 20/20 project. The questions discussed included the expectations the board had for successful graduates, the barriers to reaching their goals for the district, how to better engage community partners, finding traditional and non-traditional partners at the state level, and ways the state association can help the district.

Board members said students needed to be properly trained by the time they graduate to pursue whatever career path they choose, and be able to make good decisions and live independently.

As far as barriers, the board discussed being able to replace quality teachers as they near retirement and the challenges to getting teachers interested in coming to a rural area to teach.

Brad Wilkins, who serves as the district’s representative on the Nebraska Association of School Boards, said the NASB is looking for solutions with a $900 million budget shortfall looming.

“There is a $900 million shortfall, and the governor wants to reduce property taxes,” Wilkins said. “The schools are the biggest beneficiary of property taxes, so we need to either find ways to replace revenue or reduce services.”

Wilkins said he believed investing in education was the best way to reduce the rising state allocations to Medicaid and the Department of Corrections.

“A good education can reduce poverty and reduce the need for corrections,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins recorded the answers provided by the board and will submit the survey to the NASB.

As part of its annual reorganization, the board approved the First National Bank, West Plains Bank and Union Bank and Trust as local depositories for district funds, as well as the Nebraska Liquid Asset Fund.

The board will continue to hold meetings on the second Monday of each month, at 7 p.m. between November and March and 8 p.m. from April through October.

The board approved the Ainsworth Star-Journal as its official newspaper for legal notices and KBRB radio for the airing of meeting notices.

Board members were assigned to several committees. Johnson, Erthum and Jim Arens will serve on the curriculum committee. Dailey, Arens and Johnson will sit on the transportation, building and grounds committee.

Erin Rathe, Wilkins and Dailey were placed on the activities committee. Wilkins, Johnson and Dailey will serve on the budget and finance committee.

Wilkins, Arens and Erthum volunteered for the personnel and negotiations committee. Erthum, Rathe and Arens were named to the policy committee.

Rathe will represent the district on the North Central Development Center Board of Directors, and Wilkins will continue to represent the district on the Nebraska Association of School Boards.

In other business Monday, the board accepted the resignation of longtime Title 1 and reading teacher Judy Hensley. Hensley’s letter to the board indicated she planned to retire following the current school year.

Peterson said he would begin to advertise for positions available for the 2017-18 year, which currently included the elementary principal position, Hensley’s position and a Spanish position. He said Susan Imm has also resigned effective at the end of the school year. Imm, a middle school special education teacher, was employed by the Educational Service Unit 17, but Peterson said the district would fill that position instead of the ESU.

Peterson and Secondary Principal Bill Lentz updated the board on the damage to the band and choir room following four coils freezing and flooding the room.

Lentz said he was impressed with how many teachers and students jumped in to move instruments and vacuum up the water.

“The band and choir room is back in order,” Lentz said. “We are still adding up everything that needs to be replaced. Much of the expensive equipment – the uniforms and the instruments – were spared. The guitar cases and the six keyboards were the most expensive items lost.”

Peterson said the insurance company was notified of the damage and a claim will be submitted.

The superintendent also reported that Jim Pinney and Al Steuter had made beef donations to the school lunch program. He thanked the two for the donations, and said the district is close to having enough local beef to finish out the year.

During her report, Elementary Principal Sarah Williams said the kindergarten through sixth grade students had made improvements in the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills assessments, but there was still more work to be done before the final benchmark was taken.

She reported at the beginning of the year, 34 percent of students were likely to need intensive support to meet the next benchmark. During the mid-year test, that dropped to 29 percent.

At the beginning of the year, Williams reported 43 percent of students were meeting the DIBELS benchmark goals. At mid-year, that percentage had increased to 45 percent.

Activities directors Scott Steinhauser and Jared Hansmeyer’s report congratulated several students for being named to the University of Nebraska-Kearney and Chadron State College Honor Bands and Choirs.

Jace Kremer, Emma Good and Brittani Beegle were named to the UNK Band. Luke Peters, Korey Rathe, Brittani Beegle and Jace Kremer were selected to the UNK Choir.

Jace Kremer and Emma Good qualified for the Chadron State Honor Band, and Brittani Beegle was named to the Chadron State Honor Choir.

In addition, 16 students qualified for the Wayne State College Honor Choir, and 30 middle school students were named to the Stanton Junior High Honor Band and Choir.

In a final action item Monday, the board approved the 2015-16 audit report as submitted by Dana F. Cole & Co.

Peterson said the audit showed no deficient findings, but did flag the usual lack of segregation of duties over financial processes. He said all smaller schools receive that finding.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 13.

* Ainsworth wins Valentine Icebreaker Speech Invitational

(Posted 9:30 p.m. Jan. 15)

Valentine Speech Invitational

Ainsworth Results

Varsity

1st:  Jack Arens—Informative Speaking

            Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

            Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

            Cassidy Gilliland—Poetry

            Bradi Scott & Bo Painter—Duet Acting

4th:  Jace Kremer—Informative Speaking

            Sam Wilkins—Extemporaneous Speaking

5th:  Henry Beel—Informative Speaking

            Vemund Berg/Henrik Elgsaether/Jace Kremer/Korey Rathe/Miranda Raymond—OID

6th:  Jace Kremer—Persuasive Speaking

            Vemund Berg & Miranda Raymond—Duet Acting

Superior:  Marley Murphy—Serious Prose

Novice

1st:  Coy Carson—Humorous Prose

            Henrik Elgsaether—Extemporaneous Speaking

2nd:  Coy Carson—Persuasive Speaking

            Coy Carson & Jodi Maxwell—Duet Acting

 

Team:  1st of 7

 

            “What a great way to start our season,” Ainsworth speech coach Mary Rau said. “Jack Arens led the way with three gold medals, and the rest of the seniors - Jace Kremer, Korey Rathe, Vemund Berg, Miranda Raymond, and Henrik Elgsaether - also medaled in all of their events.  They’re showing great leadership at practice and in competition.

“The underclassmen were very successful, too, and so we were able to bring home the championship trophy this year. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to come out ahead of West Holt’s team, so this was a sweet victory for us.”

The speech team’s next competition will be Saturday, Jan. 21, at Broken Bow, with rounds beginning at 8 a.m.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 8:30 p.m. Jan. 15)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred Wednesday, Jan. 11, on Highway 183 northeast of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 6:12 p.m. Wednesday on Highway 183 approximately 8 miles north of the Highway 20 intersection, a 2011 Dodge pickup, driven by Zachary Zeigler, 32, of Ainsworth, was traveling south when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Dodge was estimated at $1,200.

* Larson provides update from the Nebraska Legislature

(Posted 3:30 p.m. Jan. 13)

Nebraska 40th District State Sen. Tyson Larson provided his first update of the legislative session Friday.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Tyson Larson 1-13.mp3

* Stuart FFA chapter wins District 10 Leadership Skills Event Sweepstakes

(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 13)

District 10 FFA chapters competed in the Leadership Skills Event Wednesday at Valentine, with numerous area FFA members qualifying for the State Leadership Skills Event in April during the State FFA Convention.

The top two finishers in each category qualify for state, with the third-place finisher the alternate.

Stuart’s FFA chapter won the sweepstakes, with Rock County the runner-up, West Holt third, and Elgin fourth.

Stuart won the Parliamentary Procedure contest to qualify for state, as did the Ainsworth Parliamentary Procedure team by finishing second. O’Neill was third and West Holt fourth.

Jack Arens of Ainsworth was the champion extemporaneous speaker, with Chase Hoffschneider of Burwell second, Nikki Gotschall of O’Neill third, and Kennison Kunz of Stuart fourth.

Makenna Welke of O’Neill won the creed speaking contest, with Max Roberts of West Holt also qualifying for state in second. Adam Turpin of Rock County placed third, followed by Madison Stracke of Stuart in fourth.

Elizabeth Selting of Elgin won the cooperative speaking event, with Jace Stagemeyer of O’Neill second, Emma Hoffschneider of Burwell third and Britley Schlueter of Ainsworth fourth.

Kate Osbon of Rock County won the employment skills event, followed by Jake Judge of West Holt in second, Tejlor Strope of O’Neill in third and Emily Burke of West Holt fourth.

Sam Wilkins of Ainsworth was the top junior public speaker to qualify for state. Kira Widger of Elgin took second to qualify, followed by Allyson Wemhoff of Elgin in third and Elle Schmaderer of Stuart in fourth.

Kelly Mashino of Boyd County won the senior public speaking event, with Emma Good of Ainsworth taking second to qualify for state in April. Marie Meis of Elgin finished third and Kenny Bush of Elgin fourth.

Peyton Alder of Stuart won the natural resources speaking contest, with Nikki Payne of Elgin second, Allison Stracke of Stuart third and Lindee Wentworth of West Holt fourth.

West Boyd swept the top two spots in the agricultural demonstration event, with Elgin third and Rock County fourth.

Stuart had the top team in the conduct of chapter meetings event, with West Holt teams finishing second and fourth and Rock County third.

West Boyd won the junior high Quiz Bowl competition, with O’Neill second, Rock County third and Wheeler Central fourth.

Hannah Keller of Rock County was the top student in the discovery speaking contest, with Elizabeth Wilkins of Ainsworth also qualifying for state in second. Ben Klemesrud of Rock County was third and Rachel Dierks of Wheeler Central fourth.

Jenny Goesch of West Boyd won the ag literacy speaking event, with Jaya Nelson of Rock County second, Morgan Ramsey of Wheeler Central third and Fletcher Larson of Valentine fourth.

* Council approves separate auditing firm for LB 840 fund

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

Based on a recommendation from City Attorney Rod Palmer, the Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday approved having a second auditing firm conduct the audit of the city’s LB 840 fund.

In past years, the city had one firm handle the city’s audit. Palmer said state statute is clear that there should be a disconnect between the city and the LB 840 audit.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the general consensus among the accounting firms she spoke with is one auditor typically handles everything, with LB 840 being one piece of the overall audit.

“Other communities we talked to used one firm for both audits,” Schroedl said.

The city has always had the LB 840 audit conducted separately from the general fund audit, but it has been conducted by the same firm as the general audit and has been completed at the same time.

Councilman Chuck Osborn asked, other than some wording in the statute, has there ever been a problem with having one firm do both audits?

Palmer said, “Not necessarily, but sometimes it is good to have a different auditor come in and take a look. Each auditor looks at things differently.”

Councilman Brian Williams asked if it would be better to have Dana F. Cole take care of both audits for this year, and then revisit the issue next year and potentially bid the two audits separately.

Osborn said, since a question had been raised about following statute, he moved that the city solicit a second firm to handle the LB 840 audit. The council approved having Schroedl look for a second auditing firm for the LB 840 audit. The council, in its December meeting, had approved firm Dana F. Cole to again handle the annual audit of the city’s finances.

In other business during a light agenda Wednesday, the council approved signing a certificate of compliance for the Nebraska Department of Roads confirming the city had fulfilled its maintenance agreement to cover snow removal and street sweeping on Main Street from Highway 20 to the Cowboy Trail.

Osborn said the agreement has been the same for several years. The Department of Roads handles snow removal on Highway 20 inside the city limits, while the city removes snow from Main Street/Highway 7 for the first four blocks south of Highway 20.

Rod Worrell asked why the state doesn’t clear snow on Main Street since it drives down Main Street before dropping the blades south of the Cowboy Trail and continuing south on Highway 7.

Osborn said the city pays the state to remove the snow from Highway 20 inside the city limits. He said city officials could talk to DOR District Engineer Mark Kovar if the city wanted to amend the agreement. He said the state would only clear the driving lanes of Main Street and not the parking spaces if it did handle the snow removal for the first four blocks.

In the only other action item Wednesday, the council approved a $20,000 loan from its housing rehab fund for a home improvement project in the city.

Those who meet the income guidelines of the program can receive a zero percent loan from the fund to make improvements to their home. The applicants names are confidential, and the loaned funds are repaid over a period of years and the money is then recirculated to additional applicants. There are currently 19 homeowners in the city utilizing the loan funds.

During her report, Schroedl said a new warning siren was installed in December to cover the west side of the city. The city received grant funding from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency for the project. Schroedl said NEMA would inspect the project and close out the grant in February.

Schroedl said she was notified that Ainsworth had been selected as one of 40 cities in Nebraska to host a traveling children’s museum as part of the state’s 150th anniversary celebration. She said she would coordinate with the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce and other volunteers to make preparations to host the museum when she was informed of the dates the museum would be in the community.

Mayor Larry Rice reported 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of the construction of the Ainsworth Air Field. The runway was built by the U.S. Armed Forces in 1942.

Airport Manager Lance Schipporeit said he was planning to put together a celebration in July.

The consent agenda Wednesday included the appointments of Donita Painter and Harlin Welch to the city’s Board of Adjustment, Terri Gamble to the Ainsworth Park Board, and Alane Lentz to the Ainsworth Housing Authority to fill the term of the late Hazel Engle.

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

* Market study shows need for 29-bed nursing home, shy of the planned 46-bed facility

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Jan. 11)

The Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board reviewed a market study during Tuesday’s meeting that was completed to determine if a need existed for the construction of a new nursing home facility in the community.

A requirement of the USDA to utilize its direct loan program, the market study showed a need existed for a skilled nursing home in Ainsworth, but the number of beds needed did not reach the 46 bed-facility the group had planned to construct.

Board Chair Kent Taylor said the market study indicated the need for 29 licensed beds, not 46.

The board questioned some of the assumptions made in the market study, including adding the Pine View Good Samaritan Center’s beds at Valentine in the market area while the report states the area includes a 35-mile radius of the city of Ainsworth.

Taylor said, after speaking with the USDA personnel in charge of the direct loan program, the USDA indicated it would not be willing to provide a loan for a 46-bed facility, but would loan funds for a 29-bed nursing home that could be designed for future expansion.

After discussion, the board scheduled a special meeting for 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, in the Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative office to discuss the results of the market study with the USDA representatives.

Taylor indicated, after sending information to five firms, two had replied with proposals for a financial study for a new facility, which, along with an environmental study, would also be a requirement for the USDA direct loan program.

Taylor said it would be wise to hold off on the financial study until the group determines whether there is any flexibility from the USDA on the size of the facility it would be willing to support.

“We will find out from the USDA what our options might be, and move forward from there,” Taylor said.

Sandhills Care Center Administrator Stephanie Rucker told the board there are currently 10 residents in the facility, and another would be moving in on Thursday.

Of those 11 residents, eight are private pay residents and three are Medicaid residents. She said the facility is currently generating $54,000 in monthly revenue.

“We are now down to minimal expenses on fixing the facility,” Rucker said. “We have three more Medicaid residents on our waiting list, and four people in assisted living who are not quite ready to make the move.”

Rucker said there were four Medicare residents on the waiting list.

She said the facility has all the paperwork in for its Medicare certification, but it has to receive Medicaid certification before it can move forward with becoming Medicare certified.

She said the facility’s plan of correction has been accepted by the Department of Health and Human Services after its inspection of the facility found a deficiency in a cup of hot coffee in a resident’s room without a lid.

She said all the issues identified by a second fire marshal inspection have been corrected, and the facility is simply waiting on the fire marshal to return and sign off on the improvements.

Mike Harris with Rural Health Development said everything on the health side was ready to go for the facility’s Medicaid certification.

“If we can get the fire marshal here and get his approval, there should be nothing holding us back,” Harris said. “We have to have the Medicaid certification before we can get Medicare certification.”

Rucker reported staffing was adequate currently for the nursing home, but the facility was trying to find additional skilled nursing. She said, if they cannot find additional RNs and LPNs, they would likely have to utilize agency staffing.

Rucker told the board she was approached by representatives from a nursing home at Broken Bow that had recently closed, offering beds for $250 each.

“The beds are less than five years old, and they are in good shape,” Rucker said.

She said there were 12 beds in the nursing home that either needed repaired or replaced. She said repairing the beds would run about $300 each. New beds cost $1,500.

The board expressed concern about the funds available for the facility, but did approve the purchase of 12 beds at a total cost of $3,000.

Board member Buddy Small said the Brown County Commissioners agenda for its Jan. 17 meeting included an action item to transfer the remaining $90,000 pledged by the county to the care center.

Currently, the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center has received $250,000 in county funding and $150,000 in funding from the city of Ainsworth. Each entity pledged $340,000 in funds to acquire and operate the facility.

Ainsworth City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the city was still in the process of working through the use of its Community Development Block Grant re-use funds for the nursing home.

She said she hoped an agreement would be finalized within a week or two and an application submitted for those funds.

Taylor said about $54,000 was spent to renovate the current facility, which was well below the projections. He said RHD projected the community would need to have about $420,000 in cash to get the facility operational and to the point where it could build its census enough to cash flow.

“We are about to the midway point in those projections,” Taylor said.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board is set for 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 23, in the Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative office, with the only agenda item being a discussion with the USDA on the market study data for its direct loan program. The board will then hold a regular meeting in February.

* Rock, Holt students invited to participate in trap league

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Jan. 9)

Students in Rock, Holt, Boyd, Knox, Antelope and Wheeler counties are invited to participate in an informational meeting regarding the possible formation of a junior high and high school trap team.
The meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11, in the O’Neill Community Center.
The team would be open for any seventh through 12th-grade student in those six counties. The team would not be affiliated with 4-H Shooting Sports. 
Any students in the Holt, Boyd, Knox, Antelope, Wheeler or Rock County area who might be interested in shooting on the team but are unable to attend the Wednesday meeting may contact John Schindler at 402-340-2027, Tim Gray at 402-340-0527 or Scott Poese at 402-340-3582.

* Six shooters advance to District Hoop Shoot by winning local contest Sunday

(Posted 8:45 a.m. Jan. 9)

The Ainsworth Elks Lodge held its annual hoop shoot Sunday in McAndrew Gymnasium, with six shooters between the ages of 8 and 13 advancing to the District Shoot Jan. 22 at Ogallala.
In the girls 12-13 age division, Libby Wilkins was the top shooter, with Bria Delimont finishing second and Mady Goochey third.
On the boys side of the 12-13 age division, Gabe Allen was the winner, with Beau Wiebelhaus second and Ben Flynn third.
In the 10-11 age division, Dakota Stutzman was the top shooter on the girls side, finishing ahead of second-place Kendyl Delimont and third-place Cheyenne Temple. Quinton Nelson won the boys 10-11 division.
Gracyn Painter was the top girls shooter in the 8-9 bracket, with Willa Flynn second and Preselyn Goochey third. Tatum Sorensen was the top 8-9 boys shooter, with Witten Painter second and Kelby Rice third.

* Traffic Accidents

(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 9)

The Brown County Sheriff's Department investigated a pair of one-vehicle accidents that occurred late last week.
At 9:15 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5, at the Pump and Pantry parking lot in Ainsworth, a 2011 GMC sport-utility vehicle, driven by Jeffrey Swanson, 40, of Minden, slid on ice and snow and struck a light awning between the fuel pumps.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the GMC was estimated at $5,000. The pole, owned by Pump and Pantry, sustained approximately $100 damage.
At 8:40 a.m. Friday, Jan. 6, a 2012 Chevy sport-utility vehicle, driven by Robin Tuttle, 60, of Bassett, was traveling east on Highway 20 when the driver swerved to miss a deer, left the roadway, and struck two trees and a delineator post in the north ditch. No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $5,000. The post, owned by the Nebraska Department of Roads, sustained approximately $100 damage.

* Fischer nominates Ainsworth's Arens, Bassett's Gale to military academies

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Jan. 6)

U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced Friday her nominations of Nebraska students to military service academies for the class of 2021.
Among those high school students are Jack Arens of Ainsworth, who Fischer nominated to the Air Force Academy, and Jack Gale of Bassett, who Fischer nominated to the U.S. Naval Academy.
“Today, I am excited to announce nominees to our nation’s military service academies,” Fischer said. “There is a bright future ahead for these talented young men and women. I am so pleased they will continue Nebraska’s time-honored tradition of military service. These nominees exemplify our state’s fundamental values, and I thank them for their willingness to serve our great nation.”
Every year, U.S. senators are called upon to nominate a select group of eligible individuals from their states for enrollment at one of the five U.S. Military Service Academies: the United States Air Force Academy, the United States Merchant Marine Academy, the United States Coast Guard Academy, the United States Military Academy and the United States Naval Academy.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 8:45 a.m. Jan. 5)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Wednesday, Jan. 4, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 8:26 p.m. Wednesday on Woodward Street north of the Third Street intersection, a 2005 Ford sedan, driven by Jacob Sinsel, 16, of Ainsworth, was backing from a parking lot and struck a parked 2006 Chevy sedan, owned by Aaron Nilson of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at more than $1,000. The Chevy sustained more than $1,000 damage.

* Osborn provides December and 2016 Ainsworth weather summaries

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Jan. 4)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn provided the summaries for December and the entirety of 2016's weather for the city. Ainsworth finished with just over 25-1/2 inches of moisture during 2016, which is 2-1/2 inches above normal.
To hear the December and 2016 weather summaries, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn December 2016 weather.mp3

audio clips/Gerry Osborn 2016 Weather Summary.mp3

* Board in favor of interlocal agreement with Keya Paha County for vets' services

(Posted noon Jan. 3)

The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday green-lighted a proposal from Veterans Services Officer Judy Walters to enter into an interlocal agreement with Keya Paha County and have Walters also serve as that county’s service officer.

“I have already been serving some of their veterans,” Walters said of the request from the Keya Paha County Commissioners. “I think this would be a win-win. My biggest priority is to serve the veterans.”

Walters said Keya Paha County would pay 25 percent of her annual budget, saving Brown County.

“It would save Keya Paha County the cost of having to get someone accredited,” Walters said.

She said her office would remain in the Brown County Courthouse.

Commissioner Buddy Small asked if Walters would be able to handle the workload of taking on the duties of veterans services officer for Keya Paha County.

Walters said she could handle the work, as she was already serving many of Keya Paha County’s veterans. She said there were approximately 25 veterans in Keya Paha County receiving benefits from the VA, compared to 92 in Brown County.

Small said he was in favor of the request if Walters felt comfortable with the work, as it would save Brown County money in its budget.

Commissioners Reagan Wiebelhaus and Les Waits agreed. Walters said Keya Paha County Attorney Eric Scott would work with Brown County Attorney David Streich on the language in the interlocal agreement.

Wiebelhaus said to include in the agreement that mileage for any home visits Walters makes to Keya Paha County be billed directly to that county. Walters said she would keep mileage from serving Keya Paha County veterans separate from the mileage she submits to Brown County.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners opened bids for a dump trailer for the roads department.

The board accepted a bid of $55,650 for a 2017 Load King bottom dump trailer from Jim Hawks Truck Trailers Inc. of Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The board rejected a bid of $55,900 for the same model of trailer from Titan Machinery of Omaha, and rejected two bids submitted by RDO Truck Center of Lincoln – one for $47,015 and the other for $51,015 for R-Way tri-axle trailers.

In roads items, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said he would like to replace a box culvert on Norden Avenue near the Magary property with a metal culvert during 2017.

“That area doesn’t drain much water, but to be safe we should probably have a hydrology study completed for that project,” Turpin said. “I am not sure it needs one, but if it would ever wash out and someone wreck, the first question asked would be why we didn’t do a hydrology study. I just don’t want to expose the county to any liability.”

Turpin also talked about potentially removing the bridge on North Wilson Street just north of the Ainsworth city limits and replacing that bridge with metal culverts.

“Someone recently hit the guard rail on that bridge and bent it up pretty bad,” Turpin said. “I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to put in metal culverts and get away from the guard rail completely.”

Wiebelhaus asked if Lance Harter had completed his load study on the bridge and had made any recommendations.

Turpin said Harter was still working on a couple things before submitting a report.

Wiebelhaus said, “I hate to put any money into that bridge when it is still in good condition. Let’s wait until we hear back from Lance, then we can have some comparisons to look at.”

The commissioners held their annual reorganization, with Small reappointed as the board chairman and Wiebelhaus reappointed as the vice chair.

Small will continue to serve as the county’s representative on the Niobrara Council, the North Central Development Center Board, the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency Board, the KBR Solid Waste and Lexington Area Solid Waste committees, and the Region IV Behavioral Health Board.

Wiebelhaus will attend Brown County Hospital Board meetings on behalf of the commissioners, with Waits serving as the alternate. Waits will also serve as Wiebelhaus’ alternate on the North Central District Health Department Board.

Wiebelhaus will also serve as the board’s representative on the Revitalization Committee and the Countywide Law Enforcement Committee.

Waits will continue to serve on the Central Nebraska Community Services Board, the North Star Region IV Board and the Area Agency on Aging.

The commissioners will continue to meet on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, beginning at 8 a.m. as the Board of Equalization and continuing as the Board of Commissioners at 8:15 a.m.

The board approved 12 holidays for county employees, the same as the previous year. The commissioners also approved First National Bank, West Plains Bank, Union Bank & Trust and NPAIT as depositories for county funds, and the Ainsworth Star-Journal and KBRB Radio for official county publications and meeting notices.

The commissioners acknowledged the IRS mileage rate for 2017 as 53.5 cents per mile for county employees using their private vehicles for county business. That rate is down slightly from the 2016 mileage rate.

The board also approved renewing a Highway 20 law enforcement agreement with neighboring counties, and a resolution officially appointing John Gross and Jim Walz to six-year terms on the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees after voting on the appointments Dec. 20.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for Jan. 17.

* Open line with Ainsworth Community Schools

(Posted 10:15 a.m. Jan. 3)

Elementary Principal Sarah Williams appeared on KBRB's Open Line program Tuesday morning. For those unable to catch the conversation live, KBRB will attempt to post school Open Line interviews to the news page in the future. To listen to the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/ACS open line Mrs. Williams 1-3-17.mp3

* Sheriff's department arrests 2 on DUI charges during 'You Drink & Drive, You Lose'

(Posted 11:45 a.m. Jan. 2)

Through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, the Brown County Sheriff’s Department arrested two motorists on driving under the influence charges during the national “You Drink and Drive, You Lose” campaign.

Encompassing the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays, the sheriff’s department joined law enforcement officers nationwide in an effort to reduce the number of deaths and injuries from impaired driving during the holiday season.

Four deputies worked a total of 59 hours of overtime during the enforcement period Dec. 15 through Jan. 1.

In addition to the two arrested on driving under the influence charges, the sheriff’s department issued seven speeding citations, one on a charge of driving left of center, and two citations on charges of driving during revocation.

Two motorists were arrested on charges of possession of marijuana more than 1 pound and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

The sheriff’s department issued a total of 14 citations and 55 warnings during the enforcement period. Deputies used regular enforcement, saturation patrols and an enforcement zone during the campaign.

Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein thanks everyone for doing their part to make roadways safer by always designating a sober driver.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 11:30 a.m. Jan. 2)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred Friday, Dec. 30, just west of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 6:52 p.m. on Highway 20 approximately 1 mile west of Ainsworth, a 2005 GMC sport-utility vehicle, driven by Michael Christiansen, 55, of Hadar, was traveling west when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the GMC was estimated at more than $1,000.

* Suspect remains at large following Thursday night traffic stop, marijuana discovery

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 30)

A suspect wanted on a drug charge remains at large following a foot pursuit late Thursday night on the south side of Ainsworth.

According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, at 11 p.m. Thursday, a deputy stopped a vehicle on South Main Street near Daniels Manufacturing. Several individuals fled the vehicle.

Two people were apprehended and arrested on charges of possession of marijuana more than 1 pound with the intent to deliver.

A third suspect, described by the sheriff’s department as a Hispanic man, approximately 5-feet-8 and weighing between 180 and 200 pounds, remains at large after eluding deputies following a foot pursuit.

The man was wearing blue jeans, tennis shoes, a white shirt with gray markings and a gray sweatshirt. The suspect was reportedly bleeding from several barbed wire cuts incurred during the foot pursuit.

The suspect was last seen just southwest of Ainsworth. A canine unit has been brought in to assist.

Anyone who sees someone matching the suspect’s description is asked to call 911 immediately. Do not approach the suspect.

* Hospital Board unanimously renews administrator's contract for 2017

(Posted 9:15 a.m. Dec. 28)

Following an executive session during its recent meeting, the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees unanimously approved renewing the contract of Administrator Shannon Sorensen for 2017.

The trustees also approved moving forward with a remodeling project for the hospital’s pharmacy, and approved the purchase of hot water heaters from MMC Contractors. The improvements at the hospital will be funded through the facility’s operations budget, and will not require outside revenue sources.

The board approved the annual home health license renewal application as presented, and Sorensen and Chief Financial Officer Lisa Wood presented information on their work with the Nebraska Department of Licensure to include the specialty clinic address with the hospital’s license.

Sorensen discussed a resolution to promote and enhance area residents’ access to mental health services, with a goal to keep the cost of mental health service reasonable.

She said, historically, the hospital has charged Heartland Counseling and Bright Horizons a minimal monthly fee to rent space from the hospital.

The board approved removing that charge, and also to refrain from billing any technical fees for hospital services relating to mental health.

Wood shared hospital bank account balances with the trustees. The board requested Wood look into options for investing excess hospital funds and all banking options available to the hospital for placing its accounts. Wood will provide options to the board during its January meeting.

After reviewing applications, the board approved temporary medical staff credentials for APRN Ayla Gregg, Dr. Gregory Thomas, and Dr. Matthew Mendlick.

During the public input portion of the meeting, Mike Depko shared a letter written and signed by numerous hospital employees expressing support for the Board of Trustees.

Andrew Paddock asked the board about the time commitment required to be a member of the Board of Trustees. Sorensen outlined the board’s required duties, and board members discussed the amount of time they dedicate to the volunteer position.

The next meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees is scheduled for Jan. 16.

* Traffic Accidents

(Posted 8 a.m. Dec. 27)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a pair of single-vehicle accidents on Christmas day.
At 12:15 p.m. Sunday on Highway 20 approximately 1 mile west of Long Pine, a 2004 Ford pickup, driven by Tyler Miller, 23, of Burwell, was traveling west when the vehicle left the roadway due to slushy conditions and struck a guard rail.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $2,000. The guard rail, owned by the Nebraska Department of Roads, sustained approximately $500 damage.
At 3:05 p.m. Sunday on Road 877 at the 430th Avenue intersection, a 2010 GMC pickup, driven by Kieron Rice, 19, of Ainsworth, was turning west from Road 877 onto 430th Avenue when the vehicle slid off the roadway due to muddy and slushy conditions and entered the south ditch.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the GMC was estimated at $6,000.

* Chamber of Commerce awards final Christmas Bucks to local shoppers

(Posted 9:15 a.m. Dec. 26)

The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce awarded its final Christmas Bucks Monday to those who shopped locally during the holiday season. The chamber awarded a total of $1,000 to shoppers who frequented chamber businesses during the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Each winner receives $50 in chamber bucks, which may be redeemed from any Chamber of Commerce member business.
Week 4 drawing winners are Heidi Lauer, who made her winning purchase in the H&R Food Center, Marlene Quinn (Shopko), Tammy Stec (Red & White Market), Wyatt Croghan (Ranchland Western Store) and Amy Salzman (H&R Food Center).

They join Week 3 winners Lindsey Fernau, DeAnn Nilson, Dane Dailey, Sheri Gann, and the Ainsworth Food Pantry.

Week 2 winners were Bob Appleman, Jim Johnston, Roger Keisler, Alice Mitchell, and Bandy Daniels.

Week 1 winners were Julie Worden, Phillip Chamberlain, Joe Dodds, Holly Anderson and Edith Jefferis.
Winners may pick up their $50 in Christmas Bucks from the chamber office, located in Home Again on Main Street.
The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce thanks everyone who shopped locally during the Christmas season, helping keep our local community vibrant.

* Christmas night fire destroys 2 buildings just off Ainsworth's Main Street

(Posted 5:30 a.m. Dec. 26)

A Christmas night fire destroyed two buildings on West Second Street a half-block off Ainsworth’s Main Street, and caused smoke damage to at least three other businesses.

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department received a call at 10:15 p.m. Sunday reporting a fire in the former pet shop building in the 100 block of West Second Street, owned by Shawn Fernau Construction.

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said the fire started in the northwest corner of the former pet shop building. Upon the arrival of firefighters, both the former pet shop and the former dry cleaning building, also owned by Fernau, were completely engulfed.

Firefighters battled cold temperatures and brutal west winds, which spread the smoke into both the Educational Service Unit building and Ranchland Western Store on Main Street. Fiala said firefighters, working in shifts, were able to save the Goochey Plumbing building west of the two buildings owned by Fernau.

“The wind blew the smoke far enough east that it set off the fire alarms at the high school,” Fiala said. “The firefighters have been rotating to allow them to get in out of the cold and wind and warm up.”

Firefighters remained on scene Monday morning. The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department received mutual aid assistance from the Long Pine, Johnstown and Raven volunteer departments.

He said the roof caved in on the building where the fire started. He said both buildings owned by Fernau would be total losses. The Goochey Plumbing, ESU, and Ranchland Western Store buildings all sustained smoke damage.

Fiala said West Second Street and the alley west of Main Street would remain closed on Monday while firefighters continued to mop up the area. He cautioned motorists that the intersection of West Second and Main streets may be slick Monday morning from the mist off the fire hoses.

The cause of the fire is undetermined at this time. The Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office will investigate.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 10 a.m. Dec. 23)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Thursday, Dec. 22, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 8:35 a.m. Thursday on Elm Street near the Highway 20 intersection, a 2007 GMC pickup, driven by Gregory Wales, 63, of Ainsworth, was backing from a parking lot and struck a parked 2000 Chevy sedan, owned by Tony and Wendy Allen of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $1,000. The GMC did not sustain any damage.

* NPPD warns customers of scam phone calls demanding payment

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Dec. 23)

The Nebraska Public Power District is warning its customers of recent telephone scams, with callers threatening to shut off power to a home if money is not paid immediately.
Anyone contacted by phone and asked to pay up on an electric bill immediately, Nebraska Public Power District and its wholesale customers say do not pay.
Electric utilities do not phone customers if they are late on a monthly payment. Instead, they are contacted directly by mail if they have a late or outstanding payment. If contacted by phone to pay an electric bill, contact local law enforcement and the utility from which you receive a billing statement.
These types of calls occur throughout the state. There were scam calls reported in Kearney this past weekend. Beware of phone scammers looking to make some quick money this holiday season.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 9 p.m. Dec. 22)

In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs

Alec J. Savage, age 23, of Broken Arrow, Okla., charged with speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, fined $125.

Robyn L. Zeigler, 24, of Ainsworth, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.

Quinn N. Conzemus, 23, of Lincoln, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Lucy A. Klingenstein, 26, of Boulder, Colo., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Elijah C. Kalambokidis, 20, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Paul W. Visk, 56, of Belleville, Ill., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Matthew A. Bunchman, 36, of Center, Colo., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Makayla R. Schiele, 19, of Alesandria, Minn., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Bo D. Painter, 17, of Ainsworth, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Monte L. Osborn, 51, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500 fine, also sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

David J. Clark, 57, of Long Pine, second offense driving under the influence, $500 fine, also sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for one day served, driver’s license revoked for 18 months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Joshua T. Myers, 26, of Minneapolis, Minn., two counts of possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce, fined $500 for each count.

Patience Stopke-Huisentrui, 26, of Minneapolis, Minn., two counts of possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce, fined $500 for each count.

Irina Richter, 49, of Hackensack, N.J., speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.

Joshua J. Tholen, 26, of St. Cloud, Minn., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Clifford E. Kepler, 67, of Bassett, commercial vehicle 14-hour interstate violation, $100.

Phillip D. Herring, 73, of Ainsworth, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $75.

Jason R. Zuhl, 34, of Benton Harbor, Mich., violation of Nebraska Game and Parks regulations, $50.

Ashton L. Weber, 23, of Taylor, commercial vehicle brake violation, $50.

Alexis E. Juarez, 39, of Aurora, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Ashley Johnson-Thompson, 25, of Ainsworth, unlawful or fictitious display of plates, $50.

* Area counties realize taxable sales gain in September; Brown County the exception

(Posted 5 p.m. Dec. 21)

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of September 2016 and September 2015 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

60,186

52,832

13.9

3,310.24

2,905.77

Boyd

1,129,992

1,008,736

12

62,149.69

55,480.65

Brown

3,124,230

3,159,866

(1.1)

171,832.88

173,792.89

Ainsworth

2,830,047

2,911,417

(2.8)

155,652.79

160,128.16

Cherry

7,041,109

6,896,650

2.1

387,261.44

379,316.29

Valentine

6,545,978

6,663,569

(1.8)

360,029.15

366,496.69

Holt

10,136,898

9,346,024

8.5

557,530.26

514,032.16

Atkinson

1,926,384

1,590,669

21.1

105,951.38

87,487.04

O'Neill

6,497,315

6,469,027

0.4

357,352.78

355,796.90

Keya Paha

290,468

263,716

10.1

15,975.77

14,504.43

Rock

598,461

568,123

5.3

32,915.43

31,246.83

Valley

3,666,138

3,438,703

6.6

201,637.95

189,128.99

Ord

3,247,265

2,804,026

15.8

178,599.86

154,221.67

State Total

$2,495,555,874

$2,404,620,532

3.8

$137,343,457.69

$131,689,786.28

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of September 2016 and September 2015
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

101,686

194,088

(47.6)

5,531.32

10,663.90

Boyd

547,169

588,715

(7.1)

30,114.63

32,365.19

Brown

755,354

904,016

(16.4)

41,748.05

49,971.28

Cherry

1,391,709

1,673,297

(16.8)

76,956.27

92,378.14

Holt

2,497,856

2,311,112

8.1

138,226.30

127,876.59

Keya Paha

219,430

160,501

36.7

12,048.89

8,775.60

Rock

285,354

583,252

(51.1)

15,706.36

32,111.31

Valley

837,634

729,766

14.8

46,266.56

40,384.82

State Total

$358,498,673

$352,949,528

1.6

$19,878,566.60

$19,550,145.45

 * Ainsworth Public Library features Bill of Rights display

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 21)

The Ainsworth Public Library is currently hosting a pop-up exhibition from the National Archives, titled “The Bill of Rights and You,” commemorating the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the landmark document.
The Bill of Rights and You spotlights one of the most remarkable periods in American history, explores the origins of the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution (collectively known as the Bill of Rights), illustrates how each amendment protects U.S. citizens, and looks at how Americans exercise the rights outlined in the amendments.
The Bill of Rights and You invites visitors to connect directly with the people, places, and events that mark the document’s evolution. The exhibit will be in the Ainsworth Public Library until mid-March. 
The Bill of Rights and You is organized by the National Archives and Records Administration.

* Foundation's Endowment Fund reaches 72 percent of its $500,000 goal

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Dec. 21)

The Brown County Community Foundation Endowment Fund continues to grow. With the 1-to-2 Sherwood Foundation matching grant, the campaign began Jan. 1, 2015 and will end Dec. 31, 2018.

Considering all gifts and pledges received so far, the Endowment Fund has reached 72 percent of its $500,000 goal, with $359,892.12 received. With the Sherwood Foundation’s contribution to date of $125,000, a total of $408,042.12 has already been added to the Brown County Endowment. 

With the area’s help, the Foundation will reach its goal by the end of the campaign and $750,000 will have been added to the Endowment Fund.

The principal from the Endowment Fund remains in perpetuity. The interest earned from the Endowment Fund is used to support area projects.

The possibility of having $1.2 million in the Endowment Fund by Dec. 31, 2018 is within the Foundation’s reach through the support of the public.

Currently, gifts and pledges have been as follows:

 

Individual Gifts                        Individual Pledges (4 yr)

$10 - $499 → 97                        $100 - $4999  → 6

$500 - $4,999 → 21                    $5,000 - $9,999  → 1

$5,000.00- $9,999 → 8                    $10,000 - $49,999   → 3

$10,000 - $50,000 → 9                    $50,000 and up  → 3

                               

Every gift, regardless of its amount, brings the Foundation nearer to its goal. Everyone benefits from what the endowment can do for Brown County. Previous grants have been awarded to fire departments, the library, the fairgrounds, the care center, … the list goes on.

* Commissioners appoint Walz, reappoint Gross to Hospital Board of Trustees

(Posted 1:15 p.m. Dec. 20)

John Gross was reappointed Tuesday to a six-year term on the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees, and the Brown County Commissioners appointed Jim Walz to a six-year term on the Board of Trustees to replace Mike Schrad, who chose not to seek reappointment to another term.

Following a special meeting Dec. 14 in which hospital and clinic staff turnover was the main topic, the commissioners heard the management team at the Brown County Hospital encourage them to reappoint Gross to the Board of Trustees.

Gross said he was appreciative of the vote of confidence given him by the staff, and told the commissioners that was certainly not something he solicited or anticipated.

“We have the institution going in a direction that is favorable,” Gross said. “These people know their jobs. They are professionals.”

Commissioner Buddy Small thanked Gross for the work he has done on the board, and said he wishes the board the best as the two groups try to move past recent contention.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said he had received some calls against reappointing Gross to the trustees, but said the positive comments he received outweighed the negative.

“We all want to put this issue to rest,” Wiebelhaus said.

Small said he had spoken several times with Walz regarding an appointment to the Board of Trustees.

“I have worked with Jim on the nursing home interlocal board,” Small said. “He jumps right in and is not afraid to work.”

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners voted to begin maintaining a one-mile stretch of Road 145 southeast of Johnstown after hearing from Jeremy O’Hare that he planned to build a home on 60 acres of ground in the area.

“The first mile out there is maintained, but then it goes to a dirt trail,” O’Hare said. “I am hoping to get that next stretch maintained.”

O’Hare said he would like to begin constructing a home at the site in the spring.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the stretch of road O’Hare was referencing had been treated as a minimum maintenance route because no one lived out there.

“At one time, it was scheduled to be vacated,” Turpin said. “But, that was never completed. We can probably fix it up in the spring for $5,000 or less.”

Wiebelhaus said if the road was a dedicated county road, and if O’Hare planned to build a home at the site, the county would provide maintenance.

Turpin said the county did something similar in that area when Mark Sedlacek constructed a home at a site that had only a minimum maintenance trail.

Small said the county may wait until after all the heavy equipment moves out following construction to completely rehabilitate the stretch.

“If we fix it up too much ahead of time, the heavy equipment that will be in and out of there might just tear it all up again,” Small said. He encouraged O’Hare to coordinate with Turpin in the spring.

In another roads item, Turpin told the board he attended a recent session of the Nebraska Association of County Officials and learned NACO was talking about proposing that property owners be required to mow road ditches three times during the year instead of the current two.

“They talked about requiring that ditches be mowed once by July 10, once by Aug. 15, and again by Sept. 15,” Turpin said. “Most of the highway superintendents I talked to did not think that was necessary.”

Turpin said, instead of requiring three separate mowings, he believed it would be more effective to re-time the second mowing. Currently, property owners are required to mow once prior to July 10, and again sometime during the month of August. He said requiring two mowings, with one in September, would be a better option in his eyes.

Wiebelhaus said the biggest thing for the county was to have the ditches mowed so the grass cannot get high enough before it snows to the point where the grass catches the snow and causes drifts in the roadways.

In another agenda item Tuesday, Craig Bernbeck of Long Pine addressed the commissioners, asking them to grant him open access to the phone records of a deputy sheriff.

“I believe a crime was committed against me by a public employee,” Bernbeck said.

He said the phone records should be publically available since the deputies receive tax dollars for their cellular phones.

County Attorney David Streich said law enforcement officers have private cell phones that sometimes must be used as part of their enforcement responsibilities.

“Through funds we receive by holding a traffic diversion program, deputies receive $45 every quarter because sometimes they have to use their cell phones for the job,” Streich said. “The funds used are not tax dollars, and they certainly do not cover the full cost of the cell phone.”

Small said the commissioners have no authority over the sheriff’s department.

“Unless formal charges are brought, I am not sure what we could do,” Small said.

Streich said, for his office to open an investigation, there would have to be some basis to start the investigation.

“The commissioners have very little authority to address this,” Streich said. “If you believe there is a conflict with one law enforcement agency, you may contact the Attorney General’s office.”

Wiebelhaus said Sheriff Bruce Papstein is the most honest man with the most integrity he has ever worked with.

“I will visit with him about your concerns,” Wiebelhaus said. “It will be up to the sheriff’s department to handle it if there is an issue.”

Assessor Charleen Fox spoke with the commissioners about the heating and cooling system in her office.

She said, with the only temperature control located in the clerk’s office, the temperature fluctuations between the two offices have been major.

“We have had this problem forever,” Fox said. “We had it with the old system, and we have it with the new system.”

She said for the assessor’s office to be at a comfortable temperature, the clerk’s office was way too hot. For the clerk’s office to be at a comfortable temperature, the assessor’s office was extremely cold.

Small said he spoke with the owner of the company that installed the new system. The owner offered to drive up at no charge and work with the employees on finding a solution.

Treasurer Deb Vonheeder discussed the procedure for having the Brown County Agricultural Society repay funds borrowed from the Inheritance Tax Fund to make improvements to the rodeo arena at the fairgrounds.

The commissioners approved allowing the Ag Society to borrow funding from the Inheritance Tax Fund to complete all the improvements at the same time. The commissioners agreed to allocate $20,000 annually to the Ag Society for the improvements, with the Ag Society repaying the Inheritance Tax Fund over the following years with the money allocated by the commissioners.

Small said the Ag Society was able to purchase used chutes in excellent condition, saving about $12,000.

Vonheeder asked if she needed to set up a sinking fund

Wiebelhaus said he didn’t see a need to take the entire $40,000 from the Inheritance Tax Fund unless it was needed by the Ag Society.

“We can transfer the money from the Inheritance Tax Fund as they need it, and then withhold that amount spread out over the next two years to repay it,” Wiebelhaus said.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Jan. 3, 2017.

* Area students receive degrees from UN-L during Saturday commencement

(Posted 10:15 a.m. Dec. 19)

More than 1,400 degrees were awarded by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln during commencement exercises over the weekend.

Pinnacle Bank Arena hosted a ceremony for students earning graduate and professional degrees Friday and for those earning bachelor's degrees Saturday.

Sebastian Elbaum, Bessey Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Nebraska, delivered the address at the graduate and professional degrees ceremonies. Chuck Hagel, former U.S. senator and former secretary of defense, gave the address at the undergraduate commencement. Chancellor Ronnie Green presided over the ceremonies.

Area graduates include:

Ainsworth
Vance Heyer, College of Business Administration, bachelor of science in business management.

Bassett

Kyle James Jackman, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, bachelor of science in agronomy.

Stuart

Jess Arland Hipke, College of Engineering, bachelor of science in electrical engineering.

Atkinson

Danial Edward Rentschler, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, bachelor of science in agronomy.

Dunning

Melanie Marie Cadwallader, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, bachelor of science in horticulture.

Valentine

Skylar Dawn Mathis, College of Business Administration, bachelor of science in business administration.

James Kenneth Simmons, College of Engineering, bachelor of science in electrical engineering.

* Sandhills State Bank donates $50,000 to High School Rodeo Endowment

(Posted 9:45 a.m. Dec. 19)

Sandhills State Bank announced a $50,000 donation to the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association Endowment.
The $50,000 donation will be invested in the NEHSRA Endowment that was established to help fund the year-end awards and scholarships for the student membership. 
Tricia Schaffer, NEHSRA Director, said the donation was, “The largest gift in the history of the NEHSRA Endowment Fund. We are hoping this contribution will give exposure to our endowment fund that will continue to benefit the association and youth rodeo in Nebraska forever.”
Ted Klug, Jr., Sandhills State Bank President, said, “We are proud to be both associated with and sponsoring the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association. The families and students involved represent the thriving agricultural industry in Nebraska. The Nebraska State High School Rodeo Association is a long-standing tradition in the Sandhills. Youth rodeo provides an opportunity for youth to build life experiences while gaining a greater appreciation of our agricultural heritage.”

* Chamber of Commerce awards $250 in Holiday Bucks for third week

(Posted 9 a.m. Dec. 19)

The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce is once again rewarding those who shop locally by providing $250 in weekly drawings for its Christmas Bucks promotion.
Those shopping in Chamber of Commerce member businesses during the holiday season may fill out a green entry slip for their chance to win $50 in chamber bucks. The chamber will draw five winners weekly during the holiday shopping season.
Week 3 drawing winners are Lindsey Fernau, who made her winning purchase in Shopko; DeAnn Nilson (Red & White Market), Dane Dailey (J’s Keggers), Sheri Gann (Bomgaars) and the Ainsworth Food Pantry (Red & White Market).
Winners may pick up their $50 in Christmas Bucks from the chamber office, located in Home Again on Main Street. The Christmas Bucks may be redeemed from any chamber member business.
There is still one more week remaining in the annual Holiday Bucks promotion, so shop Chamber of Commerce member businesses this week for a chance to win.

* Sheriff's department participating in 'You Drink and Drive, You Lose' campaign

(Posted noon Dec. 16)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department will work overtime during the holiday season to keep impaired drivers off the roads.

Through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, the sheriff’s department is participating in the annual “You Drink and Drive, You Lose” campaign. The Office of Highway Safety provided a grant for overtime salaries to allow the sheriff’s department to have additional deputies on the lookout for impaired drivers through New Year’s Day.

Deputies will aggressively look for impaired drivers during the crackdown, and will enforce all traffic laws.

On average, there is one alcohol-impaired fatality on the nation’s roadways every 52 minutes. Impaired driving kills almost 10,000 people each year. The tragic loss of life can be reduced if impaired drivers are taken off the roads.

Anyone who sees a suspected drunk driver is asked to contact law enforcement immediately. Anyone who knows someone who is about to drive impaired should be a friend, take the keys, and arrange for a safe ride.

Anyone who plans on drinking during the holidays should always designate a sober driver first.

Research has shown that high-visibility enforcement, like the “You Drink and Drive, You Lose” campaign, reduces alcohol-impaired driving fatalities by as much as 20 percent.

By joining the nationwide effort, Sheriff Bruce Papstein said his department will help make Brown County’s roadways safer for everyone during the holiday season.

Those who drive impaired face jail time, the loss of their driver’s license, and steep financial consequences such as higher insurance rates, attorney fees, court costs, lost time at work, and the potential loss of a job.

Papstein said driving impaired is simply not worth the risks. Drive sober or get pulled over.

* Commissioners hold special meeting to address hospital personnel moves

(Posted noon Dec. 15)

Citing numerous concerned phone calls received, the Brown County Commissioners Wednesday conducted a special meeting in the Brown County Courtroom with the five members of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees. More than 50 members of the public were in attendance.

Commissioner Buddy Small opened the meeting saying the special meeting was not scheduled in response to any one hospital or clinic employee’s termination.

“We have noticed a high attrition rate,” Small said. “Attrition is a normal experience in any business, but many people have left the Brown County Hospital and the Ainsworth Family Clinic in the past few years.”

Small said he was told the number of employees who have left the hospital and clinic was between 40 and 60 during the past few years.

“I have received dozens of calls since the latest termination of a hospital employee, from the public, past employees and some current employees,” Small said. “I have received a few calls supporting the hospital board.”

Small said he did not enjoy becoming embroiled in controversy, but he felt a special meeting was necessary to address the concerns.

Commissioner Reagan Weibelhaus concurred that the special meeting was not called based on one specific individual, but due to general concerns regarding employee turnover.

“There are things the commissioners can do,” Wiebelhaus said. There are things the hospital board can do. They do not co-mingle.”

Wiebelhaus said he too had been contacted by many people regarding the employee turnover. He said he talked to many others who said they did not have enough information on the subject, and others who expressed a trust in the Hospital Board of Trustees to make necessary decisions.

“I believe the Hospital Board makes the best decisions they can with the information they have,” Wiebelhaus said.

Hospital Board Chairman John Gross said the trustees, who volunteer their time to serve, meet on the third Monday of each month, and there is a time allocated during those meetings for public comment.

“The community voted to improve the bricks and mortar at the hospital,” Gross said. “Now we are working on the infrastructure.”

Gross said comments from the public do not fall on deaf ears.

“We don’t answer to the rumor mill, but we do not operate in a vacuum,” Gross said. “This board is dedicated to the hospital and to the community.”

Numerous members of the audience spoke in support of practitioner Elizabeth Nelson, whose employment with the Brown County Hospital and Ainsworth Family Clinic recently ended.

Expressing that concern over her no longer being employed with the facility, Pam Hollenbeck of Long Pine said she has lived in the area for more than 20 years.

“When we moved here, Sue Buckley was our doctor as far as I was concerned,” Hollenbeck said. “Libs was the closest thing to Sue we have had since I have been here. I believe, if you don’t reinstate her, you will lose a pile of patients from the clinic and from the hospital.”

Former Hospital Trustee Mike Kreycik also expressed disappointment in the recent personnel move.

“When I was on the board, we couldn’t wait to get her on staff two-and-a-half years ago,” Kreycik said. “I don’t know all the details now, but I never heard a negative word about her when I was on the board.”

Directly addressing Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen, Kreycik told Sorensen she had done many great things for the hospital, but he sharply criticized her in the area of employee management.

“We have fired two people at the bank over 30 years,” Kreycik said. “When there are problems, we sit down with people and work it out. It feels like you are letting us down. A lot of people don’t love what is going on out there.”

Brown County Attorney David Streich said the county has a policy that asks employees to fill out an exit questionnaire when their employment with the county ends. He asked if the hospital has employees fill out an exit questionnaire when they leave the facility.

Hospital staff member Lisa Fischer said exit interviews are offered voluntarily to every employee who leaves the hospital and clinic.

“Some return them, some don’t,” Fischer said. “When we receive results that are negative, we do try to address them to improve our processes.”

Gross said the employee turnover rate for hospitals in Nebraska is 19 percent. For smaller, critical access hospitals, the turnover rate is 16 percent.

“Our turnover rate is 14.4 percent,” Gross said.

Terri Daniels also expressed her support for Nelson’s work at the hospital, saying Nelson had always treated her and her family with excellent care. She asked the commissioners what their involvement was with the hospital.

Small said the commissioners appoint members to the Board of Trustees.

“We have the authority to appoint whoever we want,” Small said. “We have the authority to fire trustees. It is distasteful to even think about that. We don’t know what goes on day to day at the hospital. That is the hospital board’s business. We cannot determine why any specific individual quit or was fired.”

Small said hospital staff members regularly brief the commissioners on the financial status at the hospital.

Wiebelhaus said all spending decisions less than 50 percent of the net worth of the hospital are left up to the hospital board.

“I do not want to micromanage the hospital,” Wiebelhaus said. “We try and put the best people we can in those positions, and trust they will make the best decisions they can. It doesn’t mean we always agree.”

Hospital employee Mike Depko encouraged everyone to take a step back and avoid knee-jerk reactions.

“We don’t know both sides to the story,” Depko said. “Most people are here because Libs got let go. We are not privy to anything on why that decision was made.”

Having been employed by the hospital for more than six years, Depko said he sees the work the volunteer board puts in. He said the hospital is a large employer, and of the 46 people who have left in the past few years, the difference between those who left voluntarily and those who were fired was huge.

Hospital nurse Connie Goochey agreed, saying the number of employees actually let go by the hospital was low.

“I have been employed at the Brown County Hospital since 1981,” Goochey said. “There are processes in place. They are in place for patient safety, and they have to be adhered to.”

Goochey said she believed the hospital board members have always done what they felt was in the best concerns for patients.

Audience member Lynn Cozad said she attended the meeting simply to try and gain some information.

“I know there are a lot of emotions,” Cozad said. “My understanding is this hospital is self-sufficient and is progressing. I did not know that until tonight.”

Jeep Cozad said he believed it seemed silly for the commissioners to try and make major changes to a business that is self-sustaining and not costing taxpayers money.

“I think the people up here on the board need to be commended,” Cozad said. “They are volunteers.

Following the public comments, Wiebelhaus and Small held an executive session with Gross and Hospital Board member Crystal Dailey.

Returning from the executive session, audience member Leanne Maxwell criticized the commissioners for allowing Kreycik to direct personal attacks at the hospital administrator after saying at the beginning of the meeting personal attacks would not be tolerated.

“I am disappointed,” Maxwell said. “Mike questioned the administrator’s moral fiber in an open meeting, and that should not have been allowed to continue. She is hospital personnel, and that was extremely unfair to her.”

Hospital employee Brandy Bussinger also expressed her disappointment with the way the commissioners conducted the meeting.

“I expected you to run a professional meeting,” Bussinger said. “The board and Shannon do not make decisions alone. You started this meeting saying people should conduct themselves in a professional way. I am very disappointed.”

Hospital Board member Ann Fiala said she attempted to have the commissioners put a stop to the personal attack on the administrator, but was ignored.

“We understood personal attacks would not be allowed,” Fiala said.

Small apologized for not fulfilling the promise made at the outset.

“I did not see that coming,” Small said. “I apologize for allowing it.”

Audience member Kathy Worrell asked the commissioners what the next step would be moving forward.

Small said the commissioners had no plans to take any action during Wednesday’s meeting.

“We have on next Tuesday’s agenda to appoint two members to the trustees,” Small said. “Mike Schrad is leaving, and someone will be appointed to replace him. John Gross’s term is expiring. We can either reappoint him, or not.”

Wiebelhaus said it was not easy finding people willing to serve on the Hospital Board.

“The last time we appointed a board member, I bet I talked to 12 people I believed were qualified to serve,” Wiebelhaus said. “It is tough to find someone willing. It takes a lot of time and devotion.”

The commissioners adjourned Wednesday’s meeting, taking no official action.

Those appointed by the commissioners to the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees serve a term of six years. The terms are staggered. Two, those belonging to Gross and Schrad, expire this month.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Dec. 20 in the lower level of the courthouse. The clerk’s office posts the agenda the day prior to the meeting, and KBRB airs the agenda ahead of each meeting.

* Council hears LB 840 six-month review, showing active usage of the development fund

(Posted 4 p.m. Dec. 14)

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson provided the Ainsworth City Council Wednesday with the LB 840 Citizen Advisory Review Committee’s six-month report, showing $465,000 in loans and grants from the LB 840 fund during 2016.

Two business loan projects were approved in the past six months, one in the amount of $90,000 and the other for $30,000.

The NCDC was an applicant for several grants from the fund, which will be used for various development projects from assisting with business improvements to recruiting workforce.

Olson reported the home constructed by the Housing Committee on North Osborne Street had sold, and another dilapidated house was burned on Oak Street with the empty corner lot listed for sale.

She said the Housing Committee had also worked with several property owners to remove dilapidated structures, providing some demolition assistance for the private cleaning of the lots.

Olson said the former Royal Theater building had sold to a private individual, which saved the city from having to demolish the building following the October 2014 fire. She said the former Depot building on Main Street was recently demolished, with the out-of-state property owner providing funding assistance for the cost of the demolition.

Councilman Chuck Osborn asked if the Housing Committee planned to construct another home in the city in the near future.

Councilman Greg Soles, who also serves on the Housing Committee, said the committee planned to continue focusing its efforts in the core area of the city. The major issue was having enough area to build a home by clearing a dilapidated structure located on just one lot.

Following the hearing on the six-month review, the council approved the LB 840 six-month report as submitted.

After a second public hearing, in which no objections were voiced, the council approved a Class C liquor license application for Blue Stem Brands LLC doing business as Local House 20. The location for the license is the former Golden Steer property.

Deb Hurless and Greg Soles were sworn-in to the City Council after being elected in November, and the council voted to re-elect Chuck Osborn as Council President.

The council discussed a letter of engagement for auditing services from accounting firm Dana F. Cole. City Attorney Rod Palmer said, after reviewing state statute, the council needed to have a separate audit conducted for the LB 840 account. In the past, one firm had conducted the entire audit for city funds, including the one-half cent sales tax approved by voters following the Legislature’s passage of LB 840. Palmer said statute dictates that a non-affiliated second firm be used to audit the LB 840 program funds.

The council approved having Dana F. Cole & Co. conduct the audit of city funds, removing the LB 840 portion from the scope of work. The council will vote in January to approve a firm for the LB 840 program audit.

The council discussed renewing an agreement with K Hay LLC to mow city property in the southwest portion of the city in exchange for being allowed to utilize the hay.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the agreement was the same as the previous year. She discussed extending it to a three year contract, but the council opted instead to keep it at a one-year agreement on the off-chance the city would have the opportunity to sell the property.

During her report, Schroedl thanked accountant Mandy McCoy with Dana F. Cole for assisting the city with software issues relating to reconciling city finances.

She said McCoy’s assistance has helped her take a big step forward in cleaning up the software issues.

She reported the new warning siren for the southwest portion of the city will be installed this week. The siren will be located near Front Street between Ulrich and South Hall streets.

Schroedl said the city’s free tree limb and yard waste pickup day, despite poor weather conditions, resulted in the city collecting 20 loads of limbs and 18 truckloads of yard waste.

She reported, for 2016, the city has issued 50 residential building permits, five commercial permits, two industrial permits and two agricultural building permits for a total value of $1.07 million.

Schroedl also reported the Conference Center had been rented 15 times in 2016 for a total income of $2,770.

The consent agenda approved Wednesday included a transfer of $30,000 in Ainsworth Betterment Committee funds to the new swimming pool fund, and included Mayor Larry Rice’s appointment recommendations of David Spann to the Ainsworth Airport Authority, Gerry Osborn to the Cemetery Board, Corvin Hinrichs and Harlin Welch to the City Planning Commission, and Rice, Chuck Osborn, Dr. Mel Campbell and Sheriff Bruce Papstein to the City Board of Health.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 11.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Dec. 13)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Saturday, Dec. 10, north of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 6:20 p.m. Saturday on North Wilson Street just north of Ainsworth, a 1999 Ford pickup, driven by Arthur McDaniel III, 18, of Ainsworth, was traveling north when the vehicle went into a skid and struck the guard rail of a bridge across Bone Creek.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $1,000. The bridge guard rail, owned by Brown County, sustained approximately $2,000 damage.

* School Board renews superintendent contract for 2017-18 year

(Posted 3:45 p.m. Dec. 12)

Following an executive session Monday morning, the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education renewed the contract of Superintendent Darrell Peterson for the 2017-18 school year.

The board also renewed a contract with the North Central Development Center to provide the school with grant-writing and career fair services at an annual partnership contribution of $10,000.

Board member Erin Rathe, who serves as the school’s representative on the NCDC Board of Directors, said she was pleased with what the NCDC does for the school and the community.

Peterson provided board members with a copy of the district’s 2015-16 audit report as submitted by accounting firm Dana F. Cole & Co. The board will review the report for approval during its January meeting.

The superintendent said there were no major deficiencies in the report, but the lack of segregation of duties over financial processes was again noted.

During his report to the board, Peterson said he attended a legislative session hosted by the Nebraska Community Schools Association focusing on the anticipated state budget deficit for the 2017-18 biennium. He reported there would be 17 new state senators for the 2017 session, to add to the 18 new senators who were sworn in last year.

He reported the Ainsworth Student Council would host its annual senior citizen day meal and tour of the school on Wednesday.

Peterson congratulated the Ainsworth Mock Trial team after watching the group participate during the Nebraska State Championships. He said the team represented the school very well.

Secondary Principal Bill Lentz reported he has conducted 50 informal classroom walk-throughs, and will have performed evaluations on seven teachers by the holiday break. He said the teachers seem to appreciate the feedback they receive following the walk-throughs.

Elementary Principal Sarah Williams’ report indicated the elementary would not have school on Monday, Jan. 16, to allow staff to attend a development event at York organized by the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.

The report from Activities Directors Jared Hansmeyer and Scott Steinhauser indicated Ainsworth’s NSAA 10th through 12th-grade enrollment for the 2017-18 season is 101 students, down from 106 from the 2016-17 enrollment.

The January meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education was pushed back to the third Monday of the month, and will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 16.

* Department of Roads suspends Highway 20 work east of Valentine due to weather

(Posted noon Dec. 12)

The majority of work has been completed on Highway 20 in Cherry County, from the city limits of Valentine to the south junction of Highway 83. However, a small amount of work will be completed in the spring of 2017 after the Nebraska Department of Roads suspended work due to weather conditions.
Werner Construction of Hastings has the $2.5 million contract for the 4.6-mile project, which included milling, asphaltic concrete overlay of the roadway, work on bridges and drainage structures.
The Department of Roads thanks motorists for their patience. While wait times were occasionally long due to the location of work within the Niobrara River corridor, no traffic accidents or personal injuries were reported, according to Darrell Lurz, the Department of Roads’ project manager.

* Week 2 Holiday Bucks winners drawn by Ainsworth Chamber of Commerce

(Posted 8:30 a.m. Dec. 12)

The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce is once again rewarding those who shop locally by providing $250 in weekly drawings for its Christmas Bucks promotion.
 Those shopping in Chamber of Commerce member businesses during the holiday season may fill out a green entry slip for their chance to win $50 in chamber bucks. The chamber will draw five winners weekly during the holiday shopping season.
 Week 2 drawing winners are Bob Appleman, who made his winning purchase in Bomgaars; Jim Johnston (Red & White Market), Roger Keisler (Bomgaars), Alice Mitchell (Red & White), and Bandy Daniels (Bomgaars).
 Winners may pick up their $50 in Christmas Bucks from the chamber office, located in Home Again on Main Street. The Christmas Bucks may be redeemed from any chamber member business.

* Ainsworth finishes sixth in Mock Trial State Championships

(Posted 7:45 a.m. Dec. 9)

Ainsworth finished sixth in the 2016 Nebraska Mock Trial State Championships from among the 12-team field.

The Ainsworth Blue team lost a close split decision to Columbus Scotus in opening round Tuesday. In the second round Tuesday, the Blue team won a unanimous decision against South Sioux City, and in Round 3, Ainsworth lost to eventual state champion Omaha Creighton Prep in a unanimous decision.

“I was very surprised by the outcome of that first trial,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. “It just goes to show that mock trial is a very subjective competition. You never really know what’s going to appeal to the judges. The South Sioux City trial was a marathon, lasting over 2 hours, and the Creighton Prep team was very impressive. Nebraska has claimed the championship and the runner-up titles in national competition in the last two years, and I expect that dominance to continue.

“I’m very proud of this team,” Rau said. “They’ve worked hard, and we again had an uphill battle since the Region 4 competition has dropped, leaving us with little actual trial experience. State is always challenging, but fun, as we’re able to see a variety of presentation styles from really good teams.”

Ainsworth Blue team members were Jack Arens, Emma Good, Jace Kremer, Korey Rathe, Vanessa Taylor, Cassidy Gilliland, Marley Murphy and Jacob Sinsel.

Brown County Attorney David Streich helps Rau coach the team.

* Unattended cooking pan causes Ainsworth home to fill with smoke

(Posted 7:15 a.m. Dec. 9)

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department was called Thursday, Dec. 8, to a report of smoke in an apartment at Park Homes.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at 6:55 p.m. Thursday, smoke was reported coming from Apartment No. 22 at Park Homes.

Fiala said a resident was cooking food in a pan, and left the pan unattended. The house filled with smoke, but the fire chief said the contents of the pan did not catch fire.

The resident of the apartment was checked by medical personal for smoke inhalation, but Fiala said medical transport was not required. He said firefighters opened windows and set up a large fan to vent the smoke.

The home sustained only light smoke damage.

* Ricketts discusses changes to the way agricultural property is assessed

(Posted noon Dec. 8)

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts discussed factors he wants to see county assessors take into account when valuing agricultural property in the state, including 1031 exchanges, premiums paid for purchasing adjacent land and premiums paid for the recreational opportunities on a property.
The governor also discussed the potential budget shortfall for the upcoming budget biennium, and the way the state plans to implement the death penalty following the referendum that was overwhelmingly approved by voters to restore capital punishment in the state.
To hear the report with Gov. Ricketts and KBRB's Graig Kinzie, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/Gov Ricketts 12-8-16 property tax reform.mp3

audio clips/Gov Ricketts 12-8-16 death penalty referendum.mp3

audio clips/Gov Ricketts 12-8-16 budget & trade.mp3

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 10 a.m. Dec. 8)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred Tuesday, Dec. 6, west of Johnstown.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 5:55 p.m. Tuesday on Highway 20 approximately 4 miles west of Johnstown, a 2017 Subaru Outback, driven by Marsha Giere, 70, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., was traveling west when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Subaru was estimated at $3,500.

* Mulligan announces retirement as Brown County Weed Superintendent

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 7)

Brown County Weed Superintendent Doug Mulligan announced his retirement during Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners.

Mulligan, the longtime weed superintendent for the county, said he appreciated the support of the commissioners during his tenure. He plans to retire effective Feb. 1, and said he would assist whoever the board hired as his replacement to learn the ropes of the position and the general layout of the noxious weed issues in the county.

Mulligan reported the Nebraska Department of Agriculture accepted the county’s request to place bull thistle on the county’s noxious weed list.

The board accepted Mulligan’s resignation, thanking him for his work. Commissioner Buddy Small said the weed superintendent position can be a difficult job, and Mulligan had served the county very well in that position.

The commissioners are accepting applications for the weed superintendent position. Applicants must be able to obtain a commercial applicator license. Applications, which are due Jan. 31, are available from the Brown County Clerk’s office.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners approved the Brown County Hospital’s annual license application and its home health license renewal.

Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen said the Board of Trustee seats held by Mike Schrad and Chairman John Gross expire this month. Gross, who was in attendance Tuesday, said he would be willing to serve another six-year term on the Board of Trustees. Sorensen indicated Schrad had opted not to seek another six-year term on the board. She told the board Schrad had done a phenomenal job on the board during his six years.

The commissioners scheduled a special meeting for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, to meet with the Hospital Board of Trustees.

In another hospital item, the commissioners approved payment of the December 2016 hospital bonds for the 2006 addition to the facility.

The board reappointed Linda O’Hare and Steve Bejot to the Brown County Planning Commission for three-year terms.

Zoning Administrator Dean Jochem said a correction was needed on the county’s Board of Adjustment member list. Jochem said Brian Arens is listed as a board member on the five-person board, but he needs to be listed as an alternate member.

Jochem said the Board of Adjustment has not had to meet in recent years. The commissioners approved listing Arens as an alternate member.

The board acknowledged the 2016 county audit report as submitted by CPA Michael Pommer. The only deficiencies listed on the audit report were again a lack of segregation of duties for handling the counties revenues. Virtually every smaller governmental organization receives that deficiency due to limited staff.

The commissioners approved a resolution for a foreclosure tax sale on a property located on Ash Street due to the lack of payment of property taxes over a more than three-year period.

The next regular meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Dec. 20.

* Sandhills Care Center to begin process of admitting Medicaid residents

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 6)

The Sandhills Care Center, while still awaiting official Medicaid certification from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, will soon begin admitting residents to the facility whose cost of care will be the responsibility of the state.

Care Center Administrator Stephanie Rucker told the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board Monday there is a list of 16 people waiting to be admitted to the facility whose cost of care would be covered by Medicaid.

“The Medicaid applicants have been waiting quite a while,” Rucker said. “We would only plan to admit about two per week.”

Rucker said there are currently five private-pay residents in the facility, and another two private-pay residents would likely be admitted this week.

Rural Health Development representative Walt Dye said only one minor deficiency was flagged during the facility’s Medicare-Medicaid certification visit from DHHS. He said a cup of coffee was placed on a nightstand in a resident’s room that the state said needed to be covered due to the risk of the resident being burned if the coffee spilled.

“That deficiency was fixed that day,” Dye said.

Rucker said she has the plan of correction for that deficiency ready to send to the state as soon as the state sent its official certification report to the care center.

Though both Rucker and Dye indicated the certification should arrive in short order, the board discussed the financial risks of admitting Medicaid residents without the certification in hand.

The risk to the care center is the facility does not receive payment from the state for providing care to Medicaid residents if the state has not certified the facility.

Board member Buddy Small said, “If it was our mother or father, or grandmother or grandfather, we would want them admitted.”

The board agreed, and gave Rucker the go-ahead to begin the process of admitting Medicaid residents to the facility.

Rucker also reported a second fire marshal recently inspected the facility, and found 14 different items that needed correction.

“This fire marshal flagged us for a lot of things the original fire marshal did not,” Rucker said. “Some of those have already been fixed. All of them should be completed by next Wednesday.”

Dye said none of the fixes, save for an item or two, would carry a significant cost.

Rucker reported the care center planned to host a Christmas party for residents on the Friday before Christmas, and she encouraged the public to stop by the facility, see the improvements and visit with the residents.

“The residents love having visitors,” Rucker said.

She requested the board change its regular meeting date from the first Monday of the month.

“As we admit more residents, it is difficult to have all the monthly financial information ready by the first Monday,” the administrator said.

Dye said the RHD business office representative would also begin attending board meetings as the number of residents increased, but that representative was not available on the first Monday of the month.

The board agreed to move the regular meetings to the second Tuesday of the month beginning in January.

In paying claims, the board approved a transfer of $18,000 into the facility’s payroll account and $3,000 into its operating account. Rucker said the current monthly payroll to operate the facility was about $25,000.

Board Chairman Kent Taylor provided an update on the market study for the USDA Direct Loan application, saying the study should be completed by the end of next week. He received a green light from the board to request proposals for the next requirement of the application, a financial study. He said he has a list of five companies who could provide the study, and would send proposals to each.

Capital campaign committee chair Roland Paddock reported $172,791 in cash has been raised toward a new facility, and a total of $242,000 has been pledged.

“Several have expressed they are waiting until the new building is finalized before donating,” Paddock said.

He said 8-1/2 percent of the funds raised thus far have come from outside Brown County, through outreach efforts made toward alumni and absentee property owners.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 10.

* Trump wins; Brewer unseats Davis in District 43 legislative race

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 9)

Donald Trump proved the pollsters and the pundits wrong and captured the U.S. Presidency.

Trump shocked the experts, winning the states he needed to win (Florida, Ohio and North Carolina) and winning unexpectedly in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Michigan and New Hampshire were still too close to call Wednesday morning, but Trump had already secured 289 electoral votes to 218 for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Republicans retained control of the U.S. Senate with 51 seats to 47 seats for the Democrats and two races still outstanding.

Trump looks to have won all five electoral votes in Nebraska, edging Clinton in the 2nd Congressional District by about 9,000 votes.

Republican Don Bacon appears to have won a narrow race to unseat Democrat Brad Ashford in the 2nd Congressional seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, scoring 134,291 votes (49 percent) to 128,739 votes (47 percent) for Ashford.

By a 3-2 margin, Nebraskans overwhelmingly repealed the Nebraska Legislature’s decision to abolish the death penalty in the state. Almost 61 percent of voters (482,236) cast ballots to repeal the Legislature’s decision, compared to 39 percent (310,139) who voted to retain the Legislature’s action.

Challenger Tom Brewer defeated incumbent Al Davis Tuesday in the race for the 43rd District seat in the Nebraska Legislature, capturing 52.5 percent of the vote to 47.5 percent for Davis. Brewer secured 9,096 votes to 8,253 for Davis in a district that spans from Chadron and Alliance, east to Ainsworth and Springview, and south to Hyannis.

Davis was one of several incumbents who were not able to secure another term in office, as Tommy Garrett was beaten in District 3, David Schnoor lost in District 15, Les Seiler was defeated in District 33, and Jerry Johnson lost in District 23.

Jeffrey Scherer won an at-large race for Northeast Community College Board of Governors, securing 25,501 votes (54 percent) to 21,429 votes (46 percent) for Ted Hillman.

In the contested races for the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District Board, Mark Carpenter defeated Isaac Wright in Subdistrict 5 by a total of 3,485 (59 percent) to 2,396 (41 percent), and Keith Heithoff won a close race over Mark Schrage in Subdistrict 7 by a vote count of 3,124 (52.5 percent) to 2,811 (47.5 percent).

Voter turnout statewide was 68.5 percent, with 831,438 votes cast from among the 1.21 million registered voters.

Blaine and Keya Paha counties were two of the five counties that saw voter turnout exceed 80 percent.

* Nebraskans vote overwhelmingly to reinstate death penalty, repeal legislative action

(Posted 6:15 a.m. Nov. 9)

By Vincent Peña, Nebraska News Service

Nebraska voters have made up their minds, and they want the death penalty back.

After nearly two years of campaigning for what has turned out to be the most controversial issue in the Nebraska election, voters in the state decided to repeal Legislative Bill 286 (LB 286) and reinstate the death penalty as the ultimate form of punishment, in what turned out to be a landslide decision.

The "repeal" side received 59.6 percent of the vote, compared to just 40.4 percent for the "retain" side.

The decision is a big win for Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, who invested a large amount of money and time into getting Referendum 426 on the ballot in order to repeal the death penalty decision that outlawed the practice last year.

Bob Evnen, co-founder of the group Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, which led the push to repeal LB 286, said the victory was expected.

"From the time in 2015 when the unicameral repealed the death penalty, there were a number of us who thought a strong majority, a substantial majority of Nebraskans were for the death penalty and believed that it ought to be on the books," Evnen said.

In May 2015, Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, getting much-needed help from Republican senators within the officially nonpartisan Legislature, was finally successful in repealing the death penalty by a vote of 30-19 after decades of unsuccessful attempts.

Chambers and many others in favor of eliminating the death penalty have argued was ineffective, costly and perhaps most importantly, hasn't been used in nearly two decades. He has spent the bulk of his career in government working on abolishing the death penalty in the state of Nebraska, which he says is rife with issues.

After the Legislature repealed the death penalty in LB286,  Ricketts promptly vetoed the bill. But within a few days the Legislature moved to override Ricketts' veto. Not long thereafter, a pro-death penalty group called Nebraskans for the Death Penalty and Ricketts launched a petition to put the issue on the ballot and give Nebraskans the opportunity to decide. They gathered more than 166,000 signatures.

"After the unicameral repealed we started a petition for a referendum," Evnen said, reiterating his earlier point. "We did that based on our belief that a substantial majority of Nebraskans believed that the death penalty ought to be utilized."

The referendum, known as the Nebraska Death Penalty Repeal Veto Referendum, or Referendum 426, was tinged with somewhat confusing language, in that people aren't voting whether to retain or repeal the death penalty itself, but rather the law that eliminated the death penalty in 2015.

The issue had split the state, both within the state's government and the populace. But the race didn't turn out to be as close as some expected. While the governor favored keeping the death penalty on the books, the unicameral wanted to eliminate capital punishment and use life without parole in its place.

One of the main issues for opponents of the death penalty is the drug protocol, which has been widely criticized as ineffective. Currently there are no drugs to carry out the executions. But Evnen said that with cooperation this issue too can be resolved.

"The hope is now that the unicameral will cooperate with the executive branch and work to establish a successful protocol," Evnen said. "Other states do it; we can do it too."

Chambers vowed in an interview with the Nebraska News Service in October to make death penalty a key issue once again his next term.

The "repeal" side had garnered support from various law enforcement agencies across the state, as well as  Ricketts himself, who had injected $300,000 into the campaign, and several other groups, while the "retain" side was supported by a number of politicians and organizations as well, including the ACLU of Nebraska, the Lincoln Journal Star and others.

It's unclear if and when Nebraska will be able to start executing the 10 men serving on death row.

* Robust turnout among area voters during 2016 General Election

(Posted 10:30 p.m. Nov. 8)

A total of 76 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in Brown County for the General Election, with 1,618 voters submitting a ballot from the 2,129 who were eligible.

The race between Al Davis and Tom Brewer for the District 43 seat in the Nebraska Legislature was extremely close in Brown County, with the incumbent Davis picking up 784 votes to 779 for Brewer. The margin was less than half of 1 percent in Brown County between the two legislative candidates.

Brown County was Donald Trump territory Tuesday, with 1,380 votes cast for the Republican presidential candidate compared to just 153 for Democrat Hillary Clinton, 39 for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and seven for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. There were also 17 write-in votes cast for president in Brown County.

In a local referendum, Long Pine voters chose to recall Mayor Beverly Newport by a 103-30 margin. Approximately 77 percent of Long Pine voters chose to recall the city’s mayor.

Teresa Lemunyan was the top vote-getter in a race for two seats on the Long Pine City Council. Lemunyan received 98 votes, and will be joined by Aaron Miller on the council. Miller picked up 91 votes. Joyce Micheel received 52 votes to finish in third place.

Brad Wilkins (1,181 votes), Mark Johnson (1,100 votes) and Scott Erthum (1,092 votes were elected to the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education. There were 44 write-in votes for the school board.

Deb Hurless was re-elected to the Ainsworth City Council with 596 votes. There were a total of 148 write-in votes for the second council seat, with Greg Soles receiving 80 write-in votes to secure the second council seat. Melissa Wenger picked up 25 write-in votes, and Schyler Schenk received 15 write-in votes for City Council.

Randy Welke (24 votes) and Daniel West (17 votes) were elected to the Johnstown Village Board.

Republican Buddy Small ran unopposed for another term as Brown County Commissioner.

Brown County voters by a wide margin voted to go against the Nebraska Legislature and restore the death penalty in the state. There were 1,156 votes (75.5 percent) cast in the county to repeal the Legislature’s action to remove the death penalty, with just 374 votes cast to retain the Legislature’s decision.

In the contested race for an at-large seat on the Northeast Community College Board of Governors, Jeffrey Scherer carried Brown County over Ted Hillman by a margin of 617-436.

Brown County voters were in favor of retaining all the judges on the General Election ballot.

 

Donald Trump was the heavy favorite for president amongst Rock County voters, with 687 ballots cast for the Republican candidate compared to just 70 for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Libertarian Gary Johnson received 32 Rock County votes and Jill Stein four.

Voters in Rock County agreed to allow the county to expand the use of the previously approved 1 cent additional levy for the ambulance association. A total of 624 voters cast ballots in favor of the expanded use of funds for equipment and training, while 140 voters opted to keep the 1 cent of additional levy to strictly fund the purchase and outfitting of an ambulance.

In the lone contested race in Rock County, Rod Stolcpart won a four-year term on the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors, securing 296 votes compared to 150 for Sam Coulter.

Rock County voters were vastly in favor of repealing the Nebraska Legislature’s decision to abolish the death penalty in the state. There were 605 votes cast to repeal the Legislature’s decision compared to 177 who voted to retain the abolishment of the death penalty.

Ted Hillman edged Jeffrey Scherer by a 250-233 margin in Rock County in a race for an at-large seat on the Northeast Community College Board of Directors.

A portion of Rock County voters had a contested race for the Subdistrict 5 seat on the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District Board, with those voters siding with Mark Carpenter over Isaac Wright by a 273-141 margin.

Others in Rock County had a decision between Mark Schrage and Keith Heithoff for the Subdistrict 7 seat on the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District Board, with Heithoff winning the county by a narrow 204-201 margin.

Tim Shaw (622 votes), Teresa Wiiest (571 votes) and Leah Hagan (555 votes) earned four-year seats on the Rock County Public Schools Board of Education.

Gary Williams was re-elected as Bassett’s mayor with 216 votes, and Reno Gordon (254 votes) and Michael Turpin (247 votes) were elected to the Bassett City Council.

After winning a Primary Election race, Republican Dustin Craven ran unopposed Tuesday for a term as Rock County Commissioner.

The judges up for retention all received strong support from Rock County voters.

Rock County had 79 percent of its registered voters cast a ballot in the General Election. There were 815 voters who participated in the Election of the 1,030 who are registered in the county.

 

In Keya Paha County, voters overwhelmingly chose Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton for president, with 458 votes cast in the county for Trump. Clinton received 39 votes and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson secured 17 votes in the county.

Voters in Keya Paha County overwhelmingly chose to repeal the Nebraska Legislature’s decision to abolish the death penalty in the state, with 424 voters opting to repeal the Legislature’s decision compared to only 64 who voted to retain the Legislature’s decision.

Keya Paha County voters sided with challenger Tom Brewer over incumbent Al Davis, 295-187, in the race for the Nebraska Legislature’s 43rd District seat.

In the only contested race in Keya Paha County, incumbent Meredith Worth won another term on the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors, defeating challenger Kirk Sharp by a 294-178 margin.

Running for an at-large seat on the Northeast Community College Board of Governors, Jeffrey Scherer earned 172 Keya Paha County votes compared to 118 for Ted Hillman.

Erik Johnson (398 votes), Tanya Hallock (391 votes) and Brian Munger (337 votes) each secured four-year seats on the Keya Paha County Public Schools Board of Education.

Ernest Hallock (125 votes) and David Lewis (109 votes) won terms on the Springview Village Board.

After winning a Primary Election challenge, Republican Mike Tuerk was re-elected to the Keya Paha County Board of Commissioners unopposed Tuesday.

All of the judges received a comfortable margin of votes to retain their seats on the bench from Keya Paha County residents who cast a ballot.

A robust 81 percent of registered voters cast a ballot for the General Election, with 164 voting early and 362 casting ballots on Tuesday. A total of 526 of the 652 registered voters in the county participated in the General Election.

* Friday fire destroys Ainsworth family's home

(Posted 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21)

A Friday morning fire resulted in the loss of a home for an Ainsworth family.

At approximately 10:30 a.m. Friday, a fire was reported at 1111 E. Plainsman Drive in a home owned by Brandon and Mandy Evans.

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said, upon firefighters’ arrival, smoke was billowing from the home. He said the fire started in a storage room in the basement of the house.

“We gained access through the front door, and one crew took a line downstairs,” Fiala said. “But, it was just too hot so they had to come back up.”

He said fire crews battled the fire from the main floor, and also applied water through a basement window. The Bassett Volunteer Fire Department provided mutual aid to the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department. Crews remained on the scene as of 7 p.m. Friday.

The fire chief said no one was in the home when the fire started. He said the house and its contents would likely be a total loss.

One cat was rescued from the inside of the home and taken to a veterinary clinic. A second cat’s whereabouts were initially unknown, but the cat was able to make it outside the home and was found Friday evening.

Fiala said an inspector from the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s office had been on scene, but due to the smoke and debris had not been able to make a determination as to the cause of the fire. Fiala said no neighboring structures were threatened.

Monetary donations for the Evans family are being collected by all three Ainsworth banks, and the Red Cross will also provide assistance to the family.

* City Council asks Ainsworth property owners for $282,250

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 15)

The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday asked property owners for $282,250 to support a 2016-17 general fund budget of $5.14 million.

During the annual budget hearing and property tax levy hearing, the council proposed a levy of 47 cents per $100 in value for all property located inside the city limits.

The overall valuation in the city increased by just over $2 million to $60 million. The city kept the levy at the same 47-cent per $100 in value level that it did during the 2015-16 year, which will allow the city to collect an additional $27,000 in taxes from property owners.

The city’s $5.14 million budget includes $278,797 in debt service on the remaining $687,810 in bonded debt. The city has bonds remaining from past street, water and wastewater projects.

The city will not likely spend the entire $5.14 million budgeted for the general fund. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the city actually spent $2.35 million, including $222,260 to pay down debt. City spending in 2015-16 was below the $2.78 million spent during the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Included in the budget is the city allocating all $884,000 in economic development funding for disbursement, though the likelihood of that occurring is slim.

The budget includes $3.4 million in operating expenses, $744,198 in capital improvements, $557,384 in other capital outlays, $278,797 to service city debt, and $162,542 in miscellaneous expenses.

In the 2015-16 year, the city actually spent $1.69 million in operating expenses, $110,910 in capital improvements, $148,520 in other capital outlays, $222,260 to service bonded debt, and $181,376 in other expenses.

No one spoke in opposition to any of the spending in the 2016-17 budget during Wednesday’s hearings, and the council unanimously approved the budget and property tax request.

In other business Wednesday, the council voted to abate five remaining nuisance violations on parcels inspected this year by the Central Nebraska Economic Development District.

CNEDD Director Judy Peterson said two of the seven properties that were declared nuisances were cleared after the property owners abated the violations.

She said, of the remaining five parcels, three have done some cleanup and have indicated they have a plan to remedy the remaining violations. She said two property owners have not responded.

“One of the property owners was given additional time after a show-cause hearing,” Peterson said. “One property owner plans to do some demolition and has been in for a permit. One property is changing ownership, and there is a plan for cleanup.”

The board approved moving forward with abatement, with the five property owners having until Oct. 11 to either clear the violation or provide a written plan to the Central Nebraska Economic Development District for addressing the violations.

Should the violations not be cleared or a plan presented, the council will act on abating the nuisance violations during its Oct. 12 meeting and levy the cost of the abatement onto the parcel’s property tax statement.

Councilman Chuck Osborn said, “I wonder if we are doing any good with this. I have gone back and looked at the areas that were inspected the first two years. A lot of them have gone right back to the way they were before.”

Councilman Brian Williams agreed, saying, “There are some from the other two areas that are back to being in pretty bad shape.”

City Attorney Rod Palmer said, in his experience, nuisance abatement will be an ongoing project, not a one-time venture.

The council discussed potentially placing a ballot measure for city voters relating to bringing Keno to the community.

Councilwoman Deb Hurless provided the group with data on the percentage breakdowns for Keno related to paying back prize money and paying other expenses. At the end, the information indicated there was a profit margin of around 9 percent from the gross dollars spent playing the game of chance.

Committee member Graig Kinzie said he wanted some guidance from the council on the percentage it was willing to share with any proprietors potentially interested in having the game in their business.

“That is the first question I will be asked,” Kinzie said. “Looking at these percentages, I am a lot more lukewarm about this than I was before.”

The council agreed to offer a 50-50 split of any profits to proprietors interested. Kinzie said he would visit with two business owners in the community to see if there was any interest before the council determined whether it wanted to proceed.

The item was placed on the council’s October agenda.

During her report, City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said cemetery software has now been installed in the city office.

She said the streets department purchased a 1998 boom truck at a cost of $7,000. The truck, which was previously owned by an electrician in Wyoming, will be used primarily for tree trimming, and hanging flags and lights.

She reported building permits for the year totaled $882,450 in improvements.

The consent agenda approved Wednesday included a special designated liquor license for the Sandhills Lounge to serve alcohol in the Ainsworth Conference Center during the Nov. 4 Pheasants Forever banquet.

It also authorized the Ainsworth Women’s Club to close Main Street from 4:30 until 6:30 p.m. Oct. 31 for a Trick or Treat Safe Street.

The consent agenda also included approval of Mayor Larry Rice’s appointments of Keith Baker to another five-year term on the Ainsworth Housing Authority, Kristin Olson to another five-year term on the Community Redevelopment Authority, Jacob Sinsel to a two-year term on the Ainsworth Betterment Committee, and Pat Nelson and Maxine Mattern to fill vacant seats on the Sellors-Barton Cabin Advisory Board.

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

* Keya Paha County Commissioners adopt $3.25 million general fund budget for 2016-17

(Posted 3 p.m. Sept. 14)

Keya Paha County property owners will pay $962,990 to support the county’s general fund budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

During Tuesday’s budget hearing and property tax request, the board approved a $3.25 million budget, with $1.63 million budgeted for the general fund and $894,430 in the roads department fund.

The $962,990 in property tax is about $37,000 more than the $925,340 requested for the 2015-16 fiscal year budget.

Keya Paha County’s levy rate, despite the small increase in tax collection, dropped from 22 cents per $100 in valuation in 2015-16 to 20.8 cents per $100 for the 2016-17 year.

Had the county not collected the additional $37,000 in property tax, the levy rate would have been an even 20 cents per $100 in value.

The overall valuation in Keya Paha County increased from $418.7 million in 2015 to $461.5 million in 2016, an increase of $42.7 million. The overall value of all classifications of property in Keya Paha County rose 10 percent between 2015 and 2016.

One cent of levy in Keya Paha County for the 2016-17 year generates $46,148 in property tax, compared to the same 1 cent of levy generating $41,878 during the 2015-16 fiscal year.

In addition to the 20.8 cents in levy for the general fund, Keya Paha County property owners will also pay $14,037 to the Keya Paha County Agricultural Society, which represents about one-third of 1 cent of levy.

The Keya Paha County Rural Fire Protection District will receive a total of $44,635 in property tax, which represents a levy rate of nine-tenths of 1 cent.

The total levy approved by the commissioners Tuesday of 22.1 cent per $100 in valuation will generate $1.02 million in total property tax, up slightly from the $983,082 generated in 2015-16 from a levy of 23.4 cents per $100 in valuation.

Keya Paha County’s actual disbursements in 2015-16 were $1.43 million, which were down from the $1.71 million disbursed during the 2014-15 fiscal year.

The county spent $796,902 from its general fund in 2015-16, down from $907,686 in 2014-15. Roads department spending was down from $676,073 in 2014-15 to $553,374 in 2015-16.

Following Tuesday’s budget hearing, in which no opposition was expressed, the commissioners approved the 2016-17 county budget and the property tax request.

* Commissioners ask for $2.51 million to support 2016-17 general fund budget

(Posted 3:45 p.m. Sept. 13)

During the annual budget hearing and property tax request Tuesday, the Brown County Commissioners approved a general fund budget of $4.11 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year that asks property owners for $2.51 million in taxes.

The county’s property tax asking is $245,380 more than the $2.26 million requested for the 2015-16 fiscal year. However, with valuations in the county rising from $668 million to $824 million, due in large part to another jump in agricultural property value, the overall county levy decreased from 41.2 cents per $100 in property value to 35.6 cents per $100 in value.

The total value of all property in Brown County for the 2016 tax year is $156 million above the 2015 tax year total, representing a 23 percent year-over-year increase in the total value of property in the county.

With the increased overall valuation in Brown County, 1 cent of tax levy equals $82,438 in property tax generated, compared to $66,831 in tax generated from 1 cent of levy for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Had the county asked for the same $2.26 million in property tax as it did for the 2015-16 fiscal year, the levy would have dropped to 33.4 cents per $100 in value. The 35.6 cents of property tax per $100 in valuation for 2016-17 is 5.5 cents below the 2015-16 levy.

In addition to the $2.51 million in property tax to support the general fund, property owners in Brown County will pay $401,540 in tax to support the voter-approved Brown County Hospital addition bonds.

The $401,540 hospital bond payment is lower than the $453,090 collected during the 2015-16 fiscal year. With the increased valuation in the county, the hospital bond represents 4.8 cents in tax levy per $100 in valuation for the 2016-17 year, compared to 6.7 cents in tax levy during the 2015-16 year.

The levy breakdown for property tax collections in Brown County for the 2016-17 year includes $2.51 million for the general fund for 30.4 cents in levy, $305,731 for the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District for 4 cents in levy, $52,500 to the Brown County Agricultural Society for a 0.6-cent levy, and $401,540 to the Brown County Hospital addition bond representing 4.8 cents in levy.

Keeping the Brown County Rural Fire District’s levy at 4 cents allows the district to receive $103,746 more than it did during the 2015-16 year. The $52,500 contribution to the Brown County Agricultural Society was $20,000 more than the previous year, with that $20,000 allocated for arena repairs.

Taking all funds into account, the total property tax asking of $2.94 million is $185,050 more than the $2.75 million collected during the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The commissioners, as part of the budget, approved a contribution of $11,000 to the Ainsworth Public Library to allow county residents the ability to utilize the library free of charge, and a $5,000 partnership contribution to the North Central Development Center.

The Brown County Hospital’s budget is also included as part of the overall county budget. However, the only tax dollars supporting the hospital are for the voter-approved addition bond. The Brown County Hospital’s general operating budget is funded completely through hospital revenue.

The hospital addition bond, thanks to attractive refinancing rates and a contribution from the hospital’s operating budget, has $4.85 million remaining. By refinancing the remaining 10 years of bond payments, and receiving the contribution from the hospital’s operating revenue, one full year of bond payments were removed, leaving nine years remaining to pay the hospital addition in full instead of 10 years.

The total county budget, including the hospital’s budget and the budgeting of the now $1.93 million in the county’s inheritance tax fund, is $19.5 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

As an accounting standard, the commissioners budget for the spending of the entire $1.93 million in the inheritance tax fund, though actual expenditures from the inheritance tax fund have only been approved by the board recently, and in the amount of $340,000, to support the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board’s efforts to reopen a nursing home in the community, which is expected this fall.

The commissioners approved $154,551 in disbursements from the inheritance tax fund during the 2015-16 fiscal year to support the Care Center Board. The inheritance tax fund still has $1.93 million remaining for use by the board to support the betterment of Brown County. As a practice, the commissioners have rarely utilized the funds in the inheritance tax.

Counting the hospital’s operating expenses, $16.2 million was disbursed by the county during the 2015-16 year, up $2 million from the $14.2 million disbursed during the 2014-15 fiscal year. Increased general fund disbursements from $2.52 million in 2014-15 to $3.5 million in the recently completed 2015-16 fiscal year accounted for about half of the overall disbursement increase.

Following the budget hearing, in which no opposition to the budget was expressed, the board approved the budget, the property tax request, and the allowable increase in restricted funds.

The next regular meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Sept. 20.

* School Board approves $9.36 million budget for 2016-17

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 13)

Property owners in the Ainsworth Community Schools District will be asked to pay $5.96 million to support a 2016-17 budget of $9.36 million.

Following a public hearing Monday, the Board of Education approved the 2016-17 budget, which is about $61,000 higher than the 2015-16 budget.

In addition to the $5.96 million to support the school’s general fund, property owners will pay $176,585 to support the kindergarten through eighth grade building bond, and $122,712 to support the high school building bond.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson told the board the 2016-17 year will be the final time bond funds are collected for the school addition.

“That levy will drop off next year,” Peterson said. “The bonds will be paid off after those taxes are received. That will amount to about $300,000 in taxes that won’t have to be collected next year.”

The $6.26 million in total property tax asking is a little more than $400,000 more than was requested from taxpayers to support the 2015-16 budget.

Despite the increase in tax asking, the levy rate decreased dramatically for the 2016-17 year, as property owners will pay 83 cents for every $100 in value. That total includes the 9.2 cents in levy for the voter-approved bonds, and is almost 12 cents lower than the 2015-16 levy rate of 95 cents per $100 in value.

The levy rate for Ainsworth Community Schools dropped substantially thanks to the overall valuation in the county again skyrocketing, mainly due to agricultural property values that were up by more than 20 percent from the prior year.

The valuation in the Ainsworth school district rose from $655 million to $806 million, an approximately 23 percent jump.

Had the school district opted to keep the property tax asking the same as the 2015-16 school year, the levy rate would have dropped to just under 78 cents per $100 in value.

The current school aid formula utilized by the Nebraska Legislature has resulted in state assistance for education to the Ainsworth district dropping from $1.71 million during the 2010-11 school year to zero for the 2016-17 year.

This will be the first year under the formula where Ainsworth Community Schools receives absolutely no funding assistance through the TEEOSA formula, though it is the third straight year with state funding assistance of less than $48,000.

“There was a piece in the formula that provided us a little in sales tax dollars, but that went away for this year,” Peterson said.

That meager sales tax portion had returned $33,266 to the district in the 2014-15 year, and $47,819 in the 2015-16 year. The last year the district received anything significant relating to state assistance was back in 2013-14, when $356,086 was returned to the school through the state aid formula.

Peterson said the $9.3 million budget provides for a cash reserve of approximately 23 percent.

Just because that dollar amount is budgeted does not mean that many dollars will be spent.

For example, during the 2015-16 school year, the district adopted a budget of $9.29 million, but spent a total of $7.38 million, including the money toward the bond funds. In the 2014-15 school year, the district budgeted $9.05 million, and spent $8.37 million. A large portion of the spending difference between those two years was a bond payment in 2014-15 that was more than $1 million higher than the payment made in 2015-16.

No one spoke in opposition to the budget, nor questioned any of the spending line items, during Monday’s special meeting.

Following the public hearings, the board adopted the 2016-17 budget and the property tax request.

The only other action item Monday was the passage of the second reading of a policy regarding staff members being prohibited from assisting anyone in finding a job who had been convicted of sexual assault of a child.

During her report, elementary principal Sarah Williams said Roni Daniels is spearheading the backpack food program this year, which provides supplemental food during the weekend to families who qualify. Williams said Al Steuter with the Brown County Foundation has been key in assisting with raising funding for the backpack program.

Secondary principal Bill Lentz said he has shared his expectation for behavior with the high school students and staff, and the district is emphasizing the concept of respectfulness.

He said there would not be a ninth period or Saturday school this year, as Lentz reported he did not believe those methods were effective. Instead, he is asking teachers to work directly with students before and after school who need additional help.

During his report, Peterson said the district has been serving local beef through the school lunch program. He said they have already gone through one animal and were starting on a second.

“It will take about eight to get us through the full year,” the superintendent said. “We currently have four animals that have been donated.”

He said there would be an event, likely during homecoming week, to recognize those supporting the local beef in school lunch program.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 10.

* Department of Roads plans 9 projects for 2017 in District 8

(Posted 9:30 a.m. July 11)

Nebraska Department of Roads Director Kyle Schneweis released the fiscal year 2017 Surface Transportation Program, which details how the NDOR plans to use highway user dollars to provide the best state highway system possible for all Nebraskans and the traveling public.

The 2017 State Highway System Program is published at $520 million and is funded from state and federal highway user taxes and fees. 

Ninety-five projects will be let to contract on the State Highway System during fiscal year

2017, which runs July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017.

There are nine projects on the 2017 highway plan for District 8, which encompasses north central Nebraska. Seven of those nine projects include resurfacing, with the other two slated for micro-surfacing.

Milling, resurfacing work and bridge repairs are scheduled for 6.3 miles of Highway 7 from the Calamus River north in Brown County at an estimated cost of just under $2 million.

An additional 12.3 miles of Highway 7 milling and resurfacing work is planned for Highway 7 north of the first project at a cost of $3.2 million.

An 8-mile stretch of Highway 12 from Springview west in Keya Paha County is scheduled for milling and resurfacing work at an estimated cost of $3.3 million.

More than 25 miles of Highway 61 in Cherry County is scheduled for micro-surfacing work at a cost of $1.5 million. There is a 7.8-mile stretch of Highway 83 between Thedford and Valentine scheduled for milling and resurfacing work at a cost of $3.2 million.

The other District 8 projects are planned for Highway 91 in Loup County, Highway 91 in Garfield County, Highway 183 in Loup County and Highway 281 in Boyd County.

The nine projects planned in District 8 for 2017 carry a total estimated cost of $29.2 million.

Numerous projects are included on the Department of Roads’ five-year plan, including:

NDOR Five-Year Plan

Highway 7

Blaine County from Brewster north – 8.4 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.6 million.

Brown County  in the Ainsworth area – Micro-surfacing, $2.3 million.

Brown County in Ainsworth and south – 7.2 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.8 million.

Rock County from the Niobrara River south – 5.3 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.1 million.

Keya Paha County from the Niobrara River north – 4.7 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2 million.

Highway 20

Brown County in Ainsworth – 1.3 miles of concrete paving, $4.8 million.

Brown County near Willow Creek – Culvert repair, $600,000.

Brown County near Long Pine Creek – Bridge rehabilitation, $870,000.

Rock County – Micro-surfacing, $2.3 million.

Cherry County in Valentine – Micro-surfacing work, $4.3 million.

Cherry County from Merriman west – Micro-surfacing, $900,000.

Cherry County from Eli to Nenzel – Micro-surfacing, $1.7 million.

Holt County in O’Neill – Joint repair and grinding, $390,000.

Highway 183

Rock County from Rose south – 6 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.6 million.

Rock County from Rose north – Micro-surfacing, $1.8 million.

Rock County from Bassett south – 10.1 miles of resurfacing, $3.7 million.

Keya Paha County north and south of Springview – Micro-surfacing, $890,000.

Keya Paha County from the Niobrara River north – 4.3 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.1 million.

Keya Paha County from the Highway 12 junction north to the South Dakota line – 7.1 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.9 million

Loup County north and south of Taylor – Micro-surfacing, $1.5 million.

Highway 137

Rock County from Newport north – Resurfacing, $4.5 million.

Keya Paha County from the Niobrara River north – 9.7 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.3 million.

Keya Paha County from the Keya Paha River to the South Dakota line – 6.5 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $3.5 million.

Highway 12

Cherry County at the Minnechaduza Creek – Bridge project, $1.5 million.

Cherry County from Sparks east – 3.5 miles of milling and resurfacing, $1.5 million.

Keya Paha County east and west of Burton – 9.4 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge work, $4.5 milion.

Boyd County near Bristow – Culvert repair, $1.1 million.

Boyd County from Lynch to Monowi – 8.6 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $3.2 million.

Highway 11

Holt County from Amelia north – 6.4 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $3.2 million.

Holt County north and south of Holt Creek – 8.5 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3 million.

Holt County from Atkinson south – 6.1 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $2.8 million.

Holt County from Brush Creek to the Niobrara River – 4.8 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.2 million.

Boyd County from the Niobrara River to Butte – 5.2 miles of resurfacing, $1.9 million.

Boyd County from Butte north – 7.3 miles of resurfacing, $2.5 million.

Highway 91

Blaine County from Brewster east – 9.6 miles of milling and resurfacing, $4.7 million.

Loup County from the Blaine County line east – 6.3 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.5 million.

There are additional District 8 projects in the five-year plan for Highway 61 in Cherry County, Highway 83 in Cherry County, Highway 96 in Loup and Garfield counties, and Highway 281 in Holt County.

The projects on the District 8 five-year plan total $144 million.

The state received $246 million from motor fuel taxes, $119 million for transportation funding from motor vehicle sales taxes, and $43 million from motor vehicle registration taxes.

The Transportation Innovation Act, passed by the Nebraska Legislature in 2016, will also begin providing revenue for the Department of Roads. An estimated $58.5 million in roads revenue is projected for the 2017 fiscal year.

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