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* Funeral Service notes: (see more on the obituaries page)
* Monte L. Osborn, 52, of Ainsworth later date
* Russell D. "Moose" Moody, 69, of Ainsworth 1:30 p.m. Jan. 27
* Patrick Baker, 51, of Atkinson 10:30 a.m. Jan. 26
* Loretta J. "Bubs" Coleman, 83, of Norfolk formerly of Bassett 10:30 a.m. Jan. 24
* Meeting reports located below for:
Jan. 16 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education
Jan. 11 Ainsworth City Council
Jan. 9 Sandhills Care Center Board
Jan. 3 Brown County Commissioners
Dec. 19 Brown County Commissioners
* Wentz appears on Open Line Tuesday to discuss upcoming school activities, tests
(Posted 10:15 a.m. Jan. 23)
Ainsworth Elementary Principal Mike Wentz was the guest
Tuesday on KBRB's school-day version of Open Line. Wentz discussed changes to
the school schedule with the snow day, and provided information on upcoming
activities and testing.
* Ainsworth speech team competes at Broken Bow Invitational
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Jan. 22)
==Broken Bow Speech Invitational==
7th: Cassidy Gilliland—Poetry
9th: Bo Painter & Bradi Scott—Duet Acting
Superior: Jenna Williams—Informative Speaking
5th: Cody Kronhofman—Poetry
9th: Kayla Witt—Serious Prose
10th: Brandt Murphy & Cody Scott—Duet Acting
No team scores kept.
“Broken Bow was a tough competition as usual,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. “Besides going against Class A and B schools, we were also hurt by the flu bug, so that knocked out a few of our entries. The short practice week also showed a bit, but we keep improving. Half of our speeches won awards, and that’s good for this early in the season.”
The next speech competition will take the Bulldogs to Ord on Saturday, Jan. 27, with rounds starting at the high school at 8 a.m.
* National Weather Service provides information on upcoming winter storm forecast
(Posted 11:30 a.m. Jan. 19)
Meteorologists from the National Weather Service provided in-depth information on a winter storm forecast to hit the area late Saturday night through Sunday and into early Monday morning. To hear the report, click on the audio link below.
* Area counties show mixed results in October taxable sales
(Posted 6:15 a.m. Jan. 18)
Nebraska Department of Revenue
Nebraska Department of Revenue
* Two longtime Ainsworth teachers announce plans to retire at school year's end
(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 16)
Two longtime Ainsworth Community Schools teachers have announced their retirement effective at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
Sue Wragge, who has taught kindergarten at Ainsworth Elementary since 1979, announced her plan to retire at the end of the year.
Linda Alberts, who has been with the school district since 1990, first at Long Pine and then at Ainsworth, also submitted a letter of resignation indicating she would retire at the end of the current school year.
Superintendent Darrell Peterson wished both longtime teachers well in their retirement, and said the district would likely hold off on advertising for replacements.
“There is some possibility that if the numbers stay lower in a couple classes, we might not have to replace them,” Peterson said.
He indicated a couple elementary grades could potentially get by with one teacher instead of two due to lower numbers.
The board voted to accept both resignations effective at the end of the school year.
Music teacher Kim Bejot submitted a request to the board to reduce her position with the district from full time to part time.
Peterson told the board the district could advertise for a part-time music position, splitting the morning and afternoon classes between the two teachers. The board approved the request, pending the district being able to find a suitable replacement for the other half of the day.
The superintendent also reported a student recently moved into the district who would be best served as a home-bound student. Therefore, he said the district needed to provide a teacher who could go to the home daily for one period.
He said current paraprofessional Bobbie Jo Robinson has the proper teaching endorsements, and would be contracted with the district for one period each day to serve the student.
The board approved hiring Robinson for a 12.5 percent full-time equivalent teaching contract for the remainder of the 2017-18 year.
In other business Monday, the board reviewed two proposals to serve as the district’s professional criteria developer for the proposed construction of a new ag building.
KTECH Project Services of La Vista and Design Build Procure of Johnson Lake both submitted proposals. Peterson said a committee met with both companies, and both had the required credentials to assist the district with the design-build project.
Peterson said Design Build Procure quoted a flat rate of $18,500 for the work, while KTECH Project Services bid 2.5 percent of the total project cost as its fee. Peterson said that fee could amount to $60,000 with the potential for a $2 million-plus project.
The board approved Design Build Procure as its first choice, and will negotiate a contract. KTECH Project Services was approved as the second choice if an agreement could not be reached with the preferred company.
The board approved an agreement with the Ainsworth Education Association for the 2018-19 school year. The district’s base salary for staff will increase $600 to $35,050 per year. The district will also provide a dual choice option for health insurance benefits, and the district agreed to provide an option for staff to use up to two of their existing sick days to attend funeral services not covered by other policies.
Peterson reported the district’s health insurance premiums did not experience an increase from the prior year.
The board approved advertising for food service companies for the next five years, as required by state statute. Peterson said the board is required to seek bids every five years to handle the district’s food service. Lunchtime Solutions has had the contract for food service with the district for the past 19 years.
The board approved the 2016-17 audit report of the district’s finances. Peterson said there were no deficient findings from Dana F. Cole & Company. The district did receive information on the usual finding of a lack of segregation of duties for the district’s financial practices due to a limited number of staff.
The board held its annual reorganization Monday, with Dan Dailey again elected as the board president. Mark Johnson will again serve as the vice president, and Jim Arens as the board’s secretary/treasurer. Laurie Witte, Dedra Stoner and Peterson were named the board’s recording secretaries.
Committee assignments were unchanged from the prior year, with Johnson, Scott Erthum and Arens serving on the curriculum, Americanism and multicultural committee. Dailey, Arens and Johnson will comprise the transportation, building and grounds committee. Brad Wilkins, Johnson and Dailey will serve on the budget and finance committee.
Wilkins, Arens and Scott Erthum will serve on the board’s negotiations and personnel committee. Erthum, Erin Rathe and Arens will serve on the policy committee, and Rathe, Wilkins and Dailey were named to the activities and athletics committee.
Rathe will continue to serve as the district’s representative on the North Central Development Center Board, and Wilkins will remain as the district’s government relations network representative.
Board meetings will continue on the second Monday of each month, at 7 p.m. from November through March and at 8 p.m. from April through October.
The board approved resolutions to have the West Plains Bank, First National Bank and Union Bank & Trust continue to serve as depositories for district funds.
Secondary Principal Bill Lentz’s report indicated nine new students moved into the district for the start of the second semester, and two to four more new students were expected this week.
Peterson reported the district received a $21,000 grant from the Nebraska Clean Diesel School Bus Rebate Program to assist in the purchase of a new bus that meets emissions standards. He reported the district planned to replace the bus that serves the Long Pine daily route. The grant covers up to 25 percent of the cost of a new bus, but Peterson said one requirement of accepting the grant was the district had to destroy the old bus. He said the bus would have likely had a trade-in value of less than $1,000.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 12.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 2:30 p.m. Jan 15)
The Brown Co. Sheriff's Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Monday, Jan. 15, in Ainsworth.
* Ainsworth finishes third in Valentine Speech Invitational to open season
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Jan. 15)
Valentine Icebreaker Speech Invitational
1st: Sam Wilkins—Extemporaneous Speaking
Morgan Osborn & Marley Murphy—Duet Acting
2nd: Cassidy Gilliland—Poetry
3rd: Henry Beel—Informative Speaking
4th: Morgan Osborn—Persuasive Speaking
5th: Jenna Williams—Informative Speaking
Coy Carson—Entertainment Speaking
2nd : Cody Kronhofman—Poetry
Team: 3rd of 6
“Although we took a limited number of entries to Valentine, we did fairly well,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. “That shows we’re on the right track. It’s early in the season, and we’re still developing our team and presentations, but at this point, I think we have great potential.”
The next competition for the speech team will be at Broken Bow Saturday, with rounds beginning at 8 a.m.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 3 p.m. Jan. 14)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
vehicle-deer accident that occurred Saturday, Jan. 13, west of Long Pine.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 11 p.m. Jan. 12)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Thursday, Jan. 11, southeast of Ainsworth.
* Ainsworth girl killed Thursday in 2-vehicle accident just east of Ainsworth
(Posted noon Jan. 12)
A 17-year-old Ainsworth girl was killed Thursday in a
two-vehicle accident just east of Ainsworth on Highway 20.
* Fire Wednesday damages tractor west of Ainsworth
(Posted 8:45 a.m. Jan. 11)
The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire
Department was paged Wednesday afternoon to a report of a tractor on fire west
* Fitness group members express displeasure with Conference Center room closing
(Posted 7:30 a.m. Jan. 11)
More than a dozen members of a local fitness group expressed their displeasure to the Ainsworth City Council Wednesday for the Conference Center’s wellness room being turned into a storage room for equipment.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Ann Hoch said the Ainsworth Conference Center is an envy of many communities, and community wellness was one of the major selling points when the facility was originally proposed.
“Closing the wellness room, we believe, is not in the best interests of the community,” Hoch said. “A fitness room was pledged to be available in the original bond issue.”
Hoch said the group was disappointed it was never made aware that the room was going to be taken away from public use. She said members of their group follow what happens during City Council meetings, and to their knowledge the subject was never addressed through the council.
She said Kylie Sterkel started the fitness group with three people, and it has since grown to 40.
“It has been a phenomenal experience,” Hoch said. “We implore you to keep the room open. We were offended that the room we were using was suddenly gone, and for a use that was not intended.”
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the youth activities equipment is now being stored in that room, as there is a lack of storage space in the Conference Center and the room the equipment had been housed in is now being used by the city office’s new employee.
“We initially pulled the divider in this meeting room so as not to close down the wellness room,” Schroedl said. “But, this room gets rented, and that wouldn’t work long term. The issue we face is a lack of storage space in the building.”
Mayor Larry Rice said it was an executive decision to use the room for storage, that is why it was not included in any council reports.
“Until this group got started, it was an under-utilized room,” Rice said. “When it was used, there was vandalism.”
Councilman Greg Soles asked how often the group used the wellness room.
Sterkel said there were two morning sessions and two evening sessions each week.
Councilman Chuck Osborn asked the group if it could use the gym instead of the wellness room for its gatherings.
Sterkel said the mat that is on the floor in the wellness room makes it perfect for the type of exercises the group conducts. She said group members could bring their own mats, and while using the gym wouldn’t be a big issue in the morning sessions, it would be a problem in the evenings due to the gym being utilized by youth for activities.
Audience member Deb Weiss asked if the city could rent a storage unit for the equipment. Schroedl said there was more than $13,000 worth of equipment.
“Do you want that open to rodents and extreme temperatures?” she asked.
Audience member Doug Weiss asked if an enclosed trailer would be an option the council could consider. That sentiment was echoed by audience member Marty Graff.
Councilwoman Deb Hurless said she believed the room should be open for use by the public.
“I don’t remember us voting to kick them out,” Hurless said. “I don’t think it should have been handled this way.”
Rice said they had looked at several other options prior to closing the wellness room.
“My suggestion is we look at these options and see what is the least costly,” the mayor said. “We will work on it.”
In the meantime, the council agreed to offer the group the use of the conference center’s meeting room to hold its sessions while a permanent solution was sought.
In other business Wednesday, Sandhills Care Center Board Chairman Phil Fuchs provided the council with an update on the care center’s operations, and asked them to think of possible options should the facility require additional funding to meet its operating costs.
“We are doing better all the time,” Fuchs said. “We have our expenses under control. RHD is doing a great job guiding us. The board couldn’t manage this ourselves.”
Fuchs said the facility is now up to 20 residents, and Care Center Administrator Stephanie Rucker reported the 21st resident was being admitted Wednesday night.
Fuchs said the board just wants to ensure there is long-term stability for the residents and staff.
The city and Brown County each made five-year commitments to provide the care center with $80,000 annually. Fuchs said his proposal was to potentially get the fifth year’s contribution in year two, as the funding should not be needed by the fifth year.
“We are going to make it,” Fuchs said. “We are just looking for ways to fund any potential shortages. If the resident population continues to grow like it has, we shouldn’t need it. But, we want to at least have a plan in place and have funds available if they are needed.”
Osborn, who serves as the city’s representative on the care center board, said the growth has been gradual, but he believed the facility would get to the point that it would be self-sufficient.
“It is such a numbers game,” Osborn said. “Three residents in or three residents out is such a big swing.”
The council agreed to consider the proposal during its next budget preparation.
The council tabled an agenda item authorizing participation in the Central Nebraska Development District after questions were raised by two council members asking why the city was using CNEDD for grant applications when it is already supporting the North Central Development Center.
Hurless, who works in the NCDC office, said, “I think you should be using us. That is why we have the NCDC. We can write the grants for the city, and then you don’t lose the percentage you lose for administration to CNEDD because the city is already a contributing partner to the NCDC.”
Soles said he didn’t understand why the city is giving money to another organization when it is already funding a local entity.
“I think we should use our local entity before we look at membership in CNEDD,” Soles said.
Osborn said was tired of this issue coming up every time the city talks about economic development.
“I am sick of it,” Osborn said. “It is always awkward. Do we use NCDC or CNEDD? This has happened for years, and it is the same thing every time.”
No action was taken on authorizing the city’s participation in CNEDD.
In a final agenda item, the council directed Schroedl to begin the procurement process for an engineering firm to handle the wastewater improvement projects the city recently identified.
As part of the mayor’s report, the council approved Rice’s recommended reappointment of Shirley Crone to a three-year term on the city’s Board of Adjustment, and his recommended reappointments of Cody Goochey and Bruce Papstein to three-year terms on the City Park Board.
Rice said there are 77 different volunteers serving on various city committees and boards, and he thanked them all for their volunteer service to the community.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 14.
* Tuesday vehicle safety check results in arrest of 2 motorist on drug-related charges
(Posted 3:30 p.m. Jan. 10)
A Tuesday vehicle safety check on Highway 183 northeast of Ainsworth resulted in the arrest of two out-of-state motorists on several drug-related charges.
According to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol observed potential criminal activity indicators while performing a safety check on a vehicle with North Dakota license plates near milepost 196 on Highway 183.
Sgt. Zach Welch and K-9 unit Dutch were deployed, and the canine unit indicated the presence of drugs within the vehicle. A subsequent search resulted in the discovery of several containers of marijuana weighing less than 1 ounce, several packages of THC wax weighing more than 1 ounce, several marijuana cigarettes and rolling papers.
The two occupants of the vehicle, both North Dakota residents, were arrested on charges of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute, possession of a controlled substance (THC), possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 3:15 p.m. Jan. 10)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Tuesday, Jan. 9, just east of Long Pine.
* National Weather Service provides update on winter storm track
(Posted 1:45 p.m. Jan. 10)
The National Weather Service provided an update on the
projected track of a winter storm scheduled to hit the area late this afternoon
through the overnight hours.
* Agenda for Wednesday Ainsworth City Council meeting
(Posted 9:15 a.m. Jan. 10)
Ainsworth City Council
I. ROUTINE BUSINESS
a. Announcement of Open Meetings Act
b. Roll Call
c. Pledge of Allegiance
II. CONSENT AGENDA – All items approved with the passage of one motion.
a. Approve minutes from the December 13, 2017 City Council Meeting
b. Approval of Claims
c. Treasurer’s Report
d. Department Head Reports
*Any item listed on the Consent Agenda may, by the request of any single Council member, be considered as a separate item under the Regular Agenda section of the Agenda.
III. MAYOR’S APPOINTMENTS AND REPORT
a. Mayor’s Report
b. Board of Adjustment – Reappointment of Shirley Crone (3-year term) with term ending 01/01/2021
Park Board – Reappointment of Cody Goochey and Bruce Papstein (3-year term) with terms ending 01/01/2021
c. Appointment of City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer, Lisa Schroedl, as the City of Ainsworth’s Fair Housing Representative, Limited English Proficiency Contact and Section 504 Coordinator
IV. PUBLIC HEARINGS
V. OLD BUSINESS
a. Review of the 2015-16 Financial Audit Statements – Dana F. Cole
VI. REGULAR AGENDA
a. Discussion regarding the Community Center Wellness Room – Ainsworth Fitcamps
b. Discussion regarding the Sandhills Care Center
c. Consider Resolution #18-01: Resolution authorizing participation in the Central Nebraska Economic Development District
d. Determine action for engineer selection for Wastewater System improvement projects
e. City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Report
* Care Center Board approves roof shingling contract
(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 9)
The Sandhills Care Center Board voted Monday to award a shingling contract to Shawn Fernau Construction of Ainsworth after receiving four bids for the work.
Shawn Fernau Construction submitted a bid of $13,900 to remove and replace the current shingles on the Sandhills Care Center roof.
Compass Contracting of Grand Island also submitted a bid of $13,900 for the work. Tim Denny Construction of Ainsworth submitted a bid of $15,000, and Borgmann Construction of Norfolk quoted a price of $19,800.
Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said most contractors are willing to stand behind their work, but going with one of the local contractors was his preference because they would be available if any issues were discovered following the shingle replacement.
Board member Buddy Small said he would prefer to keep the business local. Care Center Administrator Stephanie Rucker asked the board to make sure whoever was awarded the bid was bonded and insured.
The board approved the bid of $13,900 from Shawn Fernau Construction. Fuchs said the shingles cost $7,500, and there will be additional expense for other materials such as flashing, boots and felt.
Capital Campaign Committee chairman Rolland Paddock reported more than $16,000 has already been contributed for the project, and an additional $5,000 has been pledged.
“That gives us a little over $21,000 for this project if we can keep that money that was brought in to Stephanie and Lisa (Schroedl) separate,” Paddock said. “Most of the money that has come in for the shingling project has been unsolicited. People just came in with donations.”
Paddock said a Brown County landowner who resides outside the area donated 3,000 bushels of grain for the project, and another anonymous donor made a $5,000 contribution.
Rucker said the care center had a good month, with three residents admitted and none discharged, bringing the total to 20 residents in the facility.
“We had two additional referrals last week,” Rucker said. “One ended up going out of state near a family member, but I think we will be admitting one more resident soon.”
She said 12 are private-pay residents, with eight receiving assistance from Medicaid. The administrator said the facility generated $123,981 of income in December, with expenses of $110,508. With donations in December of $604, the care center finished the month with a net profit of $14,077, though the electric bill for the month had not yet been received.
Rucker asked the board if it planned to continue with Lyons HR for payroll service after the current contract expires at the end of March. Lyons HR was used as a pass-through company for more than $200,000 in city of Ainsworth Community Development Block Grant funding that was given to the nursing home and used to cover payroll.
With a cost of $2,200 monthly for the payroll service, the board indicated it would likely not continue the contract when the CDBG funds are exhausted.
Rucker said numerous care center employees are using Lyons HR for health, dental, vision and life insurance as well as a 401K retirement plan. While the employees have to contribute 100 percent of the cost of the premium for any of the insurance plans, she worried some employees may not stay if they are not provided an option to continue that insurance coverage.
The board directed Rucker to work with Schroedl and see if the care center employees could be included on the city’s group health insurance, with the employees still responsible for the complete cost of the premium.
Rucker reported the facility’s industrial washing machine, which is more than 30 years old, is on its last legs and will likely need to be replaced soon. She said new industrial machines cost approximately $15,000.
Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen said the hospital could potentially contract with the care center and handle its laundry requirements, especially in the short term if the facility’s washing machine failed.
Board member Chuck Osborn said there have been a few nursing homes that have closed recently, and he asked Rucker to see if any of those facilities might have a used industrial washing machine the facility could purchase.
Walt Dye with Rural Health Development, the company contracted to manage the facility, said Rucker was doing an excellent job managing the facility’s costs.
“The December cost per resident per day was $194,” Dye said. “Normally we see that cost per day between $210 and $220. If we continue to add a few more residents, it will be even easier to manage costs.”
Dye said it was important to monitor the cost per day figures. For the fiscal year, the facility’s cost per resident per day was still $259.
“If your costs per day fall below what the state is paying us, then the state will require us to pay back the difference and our reimbursement rate will go down for the following year,” he said. “It will come back to haunt us if our reimbursement rates go down.”
Fuchs presented the board with financial projections based on the facility having 17 residents, 20 residents and 25 residents for the remainder of the fiscal year.
“It looks like we have enough in accounts receivable to cover our costs for the month, but I am not comfortable operating on a month to month basis,” Fuchs said. “We have come a long way, reaching 20 residents in just over a year.”
Fuchs said he planned to talk to the Ainsworth City Council and Brown County Commissioners about fallback options should the facility’s residential population fall below 20. He said, since the city and county have each made a five-year commitment of $80,000 per year, he planned to request that the fifth-year contribution also be included with the second-year contribution to give the facility additional financial security if needed.
“We may never need it,” Fuchs said. “We are close to getting over the hump. I am just looking for some additional security as we build the population to our break-even number or better.”
Fuchs said he anticipated the facility would not need any city or county assistance by the fifth year of the agreement, but those funds would provide the financial cushion needed now as the facility builds the population back up.
“We likely have enough to fund operations through July if we maintain an average of 20 residents,” Fuchs said. “That would get us to the point where we would receive the next $80,000 contribution from the county.”
Fuchs’ data showed the facility’s break-even point for a full fiscal year would be an average of 23 residents.
“My hope is that through the course of the coming year that we can reach a population of 25 residents,” Fuchs said.
Fuchs will meet with the Ainsworth City Council during its Wednesday meeting, and will meet with the Brown County Commissioners Jan. 16.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board is scheduled for 4 p.m. Feb. 12.
* Friday night fire causes smoke damage to rural Johnstown home
(Posted 9 a.m. Jan. 8)
Three area fire departments responded to a report of a
house fire Friday night west of Johnstown.
* Traffic Accidents
(Posted 7:15 a.m. Jan. 8)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated three
traffic accidents that occurred during the past week.
* Area students named to UNK Dean's List for first semester
(Posted 6:15 a.m. Jan. 8)
The University of Nebraska at Kearney announced students who earned a place on the dean’s list for the fall 2017 semester.
Students who are on the dean’s list must have completed 12 credit hours or more of classes with a 3.5 grade point average or better on a 4.0 scale.
Area students qualifying for the dean’s list for the first semester at UNK include:
Ainsworth: Hailey McBride, Hayley Murphy, Cidnee Scholtes, Seth Taylor and Zachary Welch.
Long Pine: Vanessa Taylor.
Wood Lake: Brittney O'Kief and Britley Schlueter.
Bassett: Bailey DeVall and Aubrey Kroll.
Newport: Braydon Caldwell.
Brewster: Leah Pickering.
Stuart: Brittany Hanzlik, Kelsey Kaup and Hailey Paxton.
Atkinson: Megan Bilstein.
Valentine: Brooks Coleman and Madison Kelber.
Butte: Mitchell Atkinson.
* Brown County Hospital Board appoints Goche as interim CEO
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Jan. 5)
The Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees announced
the appointment of Jeanne M. Goche as interim hospital CEO beginning Jan. 11.
* Commissioners approve replacement of Meadville Avenue canal bridge
(Posted 3:15 p.m. Jan. 3)
The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday approved the replacement of the superstructure for the canal bridge on Meadville Avenue just north of the Ainsworth city limits.
With meetings now beginning at 5:15 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, the board approved having Norfolk Contracting, which has handled numerous bridge projects in the county, replace the superstructure at an estimated cost of $93,685. The canal bridge replacement has been on the county’s roads improvement plan, and the board has now authorized the replacement of several bridges across the canal.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said, by approving the bridge replacement Tuesday, Norfolk Contracting indicated it would have the work completed prior to the Ainsworth Irrigation District running water through the canal.
In another roads item, the board approved renewing a sign permit with the Nebraska Department of Transportation for a sign located near milepost 226 on Highway 20.
In other business Tuesday, the board held its annual reorganization, with Commissioner Buddy Small reappointed as the board chairman and Reagan Wiebelhaus the vice chairman. Turpin was reappointed as the county’s highway superintendent.
The board appointments will remain the same as 2017, with Small serving as the county’s representative on the Niobrara Council, the KBR Solid Waste and Lexington Area Solid Waste Committees, the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency Board, the North Central Development Center Board, and the Region IV Behavioral Mental Health Board.
Wiebelhaus will continue to serve on the Revitalization Committee, the North Central District Health Department Board, the Countywide Law Enforcement Committee, and will continue to attend Brown County Hospital Board of Trustee meetings.
Commissioner Les Waits will continue serving on the Central Nebraska Community Services Board, the North Star Region IV Board, and the Area Agency on Aging Board.
Also as part of its annual reorganization, the commissioners approved the First National Bank, West Plains Bank, Union Bank & Trust and NPAIT as depositories for county funds.
The commissioners approved 12 holiday dates in which the Brown County Courthouse will be closed and employees will receive a paid vacation day.
Board meetings will be held the first and third Tuesdays of the month, with Board of Equalization meetings beginning at 5 p.m. followed by the Board of Commissioners meetings at 5:15 p.m.
The commissioners approved the Ainsworth Star-Journal as the county’s official newspaper for publishing legal documents, and will continue to air announcement of issues on KBRB Radio.
In a repair item Tuesday, the board approved the replacement of a window in the probation office at a cost of $1,979 quoted by Glass Edge.
The board voted to transfer $5,000 from the miscellaneous general fund to the relief fund, and acknowledged an IRS mileage reimbursement rate of 54.5 cents per mile for 2018 for county employees who use their private vehicles for county business.
The commissioners also approved a resolution authorizing the county to maintain its membership in the Central Nebraska Economic Development District.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Jan. 16.
* Ainsworth records almost 29 inches of moisture in 2017
(Posted noon Jan. 3)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported 2017 was
warmer and wetter than the normal, with several months well above average for
moisture. June and November, however, were among the driest in the city's
history, and Ainsworth suffered through an extreme heat wave in July when the
highest temperature of the year, 107 degrees, was recorded on July 19.
* Sheriff's department issues 21 citations during 'You Drink & Drive, You Lose'
(Posted 12:45 p.m. Jan. 2)
Through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, the Brown County Sheriff’s Department participated in the national “You Drink and Drive, You Lose” campaign Dec. 15 through Jan. 1.
The campaign is designed to increase public awareness and make the nation’s roadways safer. Law enforcement nationwide joined in an effort to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on roadways during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday periods.
Three sheriff’s department deputies worked a total of 42 hours of overtime during the crackdown. The sheriff’s department issued eight speeding citations, one citation on a charge of driving on the shoulder, one on a no operator’s license charge, three citations of possessing an open alcohol container in a vehicle, one on a charge of minor in possession of alcohol, one on a charge of procuring alcohol to a minor, and one motorist was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence.
In addition, the sheriff’s department cited six people on charges of possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, two on charges of possession of marijuana more than 1 ounce but less than 1 pound, eight citations on charges of possession of drug paraphernalia, and three people were arrested on charges of possession of a controlled substance. One person was arrested on an outstanding warrant.
In total the sheriff’s department issued 21 citations and 42 warnings. The sheriff’s department used regular enforcement, saturation patrols and an enforcement zone during the campaign.
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department thanks everyone for doing their part to make roadways safer by always designating a sober driver.
* December weather warm for first 20 days, extremely cold for final 11
(Posted 10:30 a.m. Jan. 2)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported a stark
change between the first 20 days of December, with average temperatures those
days, and the final 11 days, when extremely cold temperatures were observed.
* Final Holiday Bucks winners awarded by Chamber of Commerce
(Posted 9 a.m. Dec. 29)
The fourth and final week of the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce’s
Holiday Bucks promotion is now complete, and the final five winners of chamber
bucks have been awarded.
* Brewer discusses upcoming session of Nebraska Unicameral
(Posted 7:15 p.m. Dec. 28)
Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Tom Brewer visited with KBRB's Graig Kinzie Thursday, previewing the upcoming legislative session that begins Jan. 3. To hear the report, click on the audio links below.
* Chamber of Commerce awards more Holiday Bucks to local shoppers
(Posted 9:15 a.m. Dec. 22)
The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce continues to reward local shoppers with Holiday Bucks during its annual promotion.
Those shopping in chamber businesses during the holiday season have a chance to win $50 in Chamber Bucks, which can be used at any chamber member business.
Week 2 winners of Chamber Bucks were Jacque Sybrant, whose winning purchase came from Keller’s Custom Embroidery and Imprints; Kim Hazard, who shopped in Bomgaars to be drawn; Corrine Gross, whose purchase was made in H&R Food Center; Amber Morgan, who shopped in Shopko; and Shirley Larabee, whose name was drawn after a purchase in the Red & White Market.
Week 3 Chamber Bucks winners include Robin Tuttle, whose winning purchase came from Shopko; Edy Simon Suarez and Kathy Klammer, who made their winning purchases in the Red & White Market; and Vonnie Siedel and Judy Cole, whose winning purchases were made in the H&R Food Center.
The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce will continue to reward shoppers for keeping their business local during the holiday season. Visit a chamber merchant, make a purchase and fill out a green slip for your chance to be a winner.
Winners may pick up their Chamber Bucks from the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce office, located in Home Again on Main Street.
* Atkinson Public Library receives $25,000 grant
(Posted 11:15 a.m. Dec. 20)
Nebraska Library Commission recently awarded $25,000 in grants for Excellence in
Youth service. Of the grants awarded to 19 Nebraska public libraries, several
addressed the need for Science Technology Engineering Art Mathematics
programming in libraries and some will design programs for specific age groups:
babies, toddlers, preschoolers, teens, and tweens. The Nebraska Library
Commission congratulates the public libraries as they develop new and innovative
programs to ensure excellence in library service for Nebraska young people.
* Commissioners approve $280,500 motor grader purchase Tuesday
(Posted 2:30 p.m. Dec. 19)
The Brown County Commissioners Tuesday approved the purchase of a new Caterpillar motor grader for the roads department at a cost of $280,500.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin told the board the price on Caterpillar motor graders was going to rise by $13,500 in 2018, and he planned to include the purchase of a motor grader in his 2018-19 budget.
He said Eddie Bomar with Nebraska Machinery of Norfolk proposed to sell a new motor grader to the county in December, with the county not having to pay for the machine until the 2018-19 fiscal year was finalized.
“Caterpillar has the state bid, so we don’t have to advertise,” Turpin said. “I think we would get between $50,000 and $60,000 to sell the motor grader we plan to replace with this new one, so that will help with the cost.”
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus told Turpin to see how much remained in his budget in June, and use those funds toward the purchase so the county could cut down on the amount it would need to budget in 2018-19 for the machine.
“If we can take half the cost from this year’s budget, it won’t be such a big hit for next year’s,” Wiebelhaus said.
The board approved the purchase of the new Caterpillar motor grader at a cost of $280,500, with the county then putting up for sale on an online auction site the motor grader that will be replaced by the new machine.
In another equipment item, the commissioners approved a $33,802 quote to repair the county’s 2000 Caterpillar motor grader. Turpin said the machine’s engine needed to be completely refurbished, and while the engine was torn out it would be easier to replace all the lines and hoses in the machine that have been having problems.
The commissioners reappointed three members to the Brown County Planning Commission, and three members to the Brown County Visitors Committee.
Zoning Administrator Dean Jochem told the commissioners the terms of Planning Commission members Jim Carley, Tom Jones and Wilber Saner were expiring, and all three had agreed to serve another three-year term.
Commissioner Buddy Small said he received letters from Roby Woods and Cheryl Mizner requesting to be appointed to the Planning Commission.
“I see no reason why we would not reappoint the three current members if they are willing to continue,” Small said.
Wiebelhaus said the last hog confinement issue created some hard feelings among some county residents.
“I don’t think we want Planning Commission members who have agendas,” Wiebelhaus said.
Audience member Gene Snyder asked why the decision on appointing Planning Commission members was being made so quickly.
Board members indicated the item had been discussed in open session and publicized that it would be on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.
Snyder, Kim Snyder and Mizner asked the board about implementing a moratorium on all special-use permits in the county until the commissioners had a chance to amend the county’s comprehensive plan.
County Attorney David Streich said any changes to the county’s zoning regulations would need to go to the Planning Commission, which would hold a public hearing and make a recommendation to the commissioners. The commissioners would then hold a public hearing and make a decision on any proposed change to the county’s zoning regulations.
The board suggested the individuals submit a letter in writing to the Planning Commission asking for a hearing.
Rod Palmer, Sheryl Graff and Jim Carley were reappointed to additional terms on the Brown County Visitors Committee after each indicated they were willing to serve again. The Visitors Committee handles the distribution of lodging tax funds collected by the hotels and other lodging establishments in the county. The funds are used to advertise and promote the county, and to enhance tourism opportunities in the county.
The commissioners approved the establishment of a county web site through the Multi County Information and Programming Services. Clerk Travee Hobbs said MIPS offered a one-time web site setup fee of $450, with a monthly maintenance fee of $59. She said approximately 50 percent of Nebraska counties have a web site through the company.
The board approved county property schedules as presented to submit to the Nebraska Interovernmental Risk Management Association for use in determining property insurance rates.
Small reported NIRMA’s Assist grant program to help mitigate county liability awarded $1,572 to the county for 50 percent of the cost of installing panic buttons in the courthouse offices.
Small said NIRMA Assist also provided $537 for the full cost of a rolling platform ladder for the Johnstown roads shop, $729 for the full cost of stair treads for the courthouse, and $506 toward the cost of steel-toed boots for roads department employees.
The commissioners approved the renewal of the Brown County Hospital’s home health license renewal application after a request from outgoing Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen.
Sorensen told the commissioners the Hospital Board of Trustees anticipated having a candidate identified for the interim CEO position in the next week. She said her time with the Brown County Hospital would likely conclude sometime in mid January, as she has accepted a position at Gillette, Wyo.
During the recent Nebraska Association of County Officials convention, Brown County Clerk Travee Hobbs was named the NACO County Official of the Year.
Beginning in January, the board will meet at 5 p.m. as the Board of Equalization followed by the regular board meeting on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, a change from the longstanding meeting time of 8 a.m. for the Board of Equalization and 8:15 a.m. for the Board of Commissioners.
The next meeting is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Jan. 2.
* Area students named to NSAA Fall Academic All-State list
(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 19)
Each year the Nebraska School Activities Association and the Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association recognize students who have been nominated by their schools, based on their individual academic excellence, leadership and significant contributions made to their NSAA activity.
The NSAA and the NCPA are proud to recognize all of the 2,483 award winners of the 2017 Fall NCPA Academic All-State Award.
This brings the total number of NCPA Academic All-State Award winners to over 63,000 spanning the 12 years of this awards program.
Ben Arens and Jacob Sinsel in boys cross country, Maria Harthoorn and Morgan Osborn in girls cross country, Payton Allen and Oren Pozehl in football, Rebecca Taylor in girls golf, Payton Allen and Claire Steinhauser in play production, and Megan Appelt and Claire Steinhauser in volleyball.
Megan Erickson in girls cross country, Charlie Gale and Marcus Reynolds in football, Skylar Cosgrove and Adam Turpin in play production, and Skylar Cosgrove and Caitlin Orton in volleyball.
Ariel Larsen and Lainey Paxton in girls cross country, Peyton Alder and Lainey Paxton in play production, and Peyton Alder and Reaghan Engel in volleyball.
Ben Thiele in boys cross country, Lindee Wentworth and Carlie Wetzel in girls cross country, Devon Dohrman and Mason Hale in football, Emily Burk and Brea Hostert in girls golf, Devon Dohrman and Leighton Mlady in play production, and Bailey Kraus and Kyla Wallinger in volleyball.
Nolan Marten in football, Taylor Downing and Heidi Saner in play production, and Jaylee Simonson in volleyball.
Jarrett Battershaw and Caleb Long in boys cross country, Gus Harvey and Wyatt Hitchcock in football, Bradi Larabee and Rita Woodraska in play production, and Sheyenne Hammond and Anna Perrett in volleyball.
Chase Harmon in boys cross country, Austin Koenig and Jared Koenig in football, Jayla Froman and Gracie Hansen in play production, and Sydney Atkinson and Jacey Hilkemann in volleyball.
* Area students receive degrees from UN-L during winter commencement
(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 18)
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln conferred 1,505 degrees during commencement exercises Dec. 15 and 16 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The 1,488 graduates are from 41 countries, 40 states and Puerto Rico, and more than 160 Nebraska communities.
Bob Whitehouse, chairman of the NU Board of Regents, offered some remarks to the graduates during the bachelor-degree ceremony Dec. 16.
"You are now in a position to begin very successful careers. You can improve the lives of your families and certainly give back to your communities," he said. "I commend each of you for making the decision to pursue higher education. That's a decision that will pay off for the rest of your lives, no matter what direction you choose to go."
Area graduates during UN-L winter commencement include:
Allison Marie Davis, College of Education and Human Sciences, Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences.
Whitley Mark McBride, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in Animal Science, Bachelor of Science in Grazing Livestock Systems.
Andrea Dale Lemmer, College of Education and Human Sciences, Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences.
Megan Marie Wenner, College of Education and Human Sciences, Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences.
Jacy Alexis Spencer, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics.
Shawna Kay Wheeler, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education.
Cassie Anne Cichorz, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Bachelor of Science in Applied Science.
Jennifer Rae Schubauer, College of Education and Human Sciences, Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences.
* Sheriff's department participating in 'You Drink & Drive, You Lose' enforcement
(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 18)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is working to keep roadways safe from impaired drivers this holiday season.
The sheriff’s department is participating in the annual “You Drink & Drive, You Lose” campaign thanks to funding from the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety. The sheriff’s department received a grant for overtime salaries to participate in the crackdown on impaired driving, which runs from now through Jan. 1.
Sheriff’s department deputies will be on the lookout for impaired drivers, and will enforce all traffic laws.
On average, there is one alcohol impaired driving-related fatality every 52 minutes across America. Impaired driving results in the death of almost 10,000 people each year. The loss of life can be reduced if impaired drivers are removed from the roadway.
Anyone who sees a suspected drunk driver is asked to contact 911 immediately. Anyone who sees someone who is about to get behind the wheel after drinking, be a friend, take their keys and help them make arrangements to get to where they are going safely. Anyone who plans on drinking is asked to designate a sober driver first.
Research has shown that high-visibility enforcement like the “You Drink & Drive, You Lose” campaign reduces alcohol-related driving fatalities by as much as 20 percent. By joining the nationwide effort, Brown County roadways will be made safer during the holiday season.
Sheriff Bruce Papstein said violators face jail time, loss of a driver’s license, and steep financial consequences such as fines, higher insurance rates, attorney fees, court costs, lost time at work, and the potential loss of a job.
“Driving impaired is not worth the risk, so don’t take the chance,” Papstein said. “Drive sober or get pulled over.”
* Second motorist in a week arrested by K-9 unit for drug possession charges
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Dec. 18)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department K-9 unit made a
second traffic stop last week that resulted in the arrest of a motorist on drug
* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department
(Posted 6:45 p.m. Dec. 17)
* September taxable sales decline for all area counties
(Posted 2:15 p.m. Dec. 14)
Nebraska Department of Revenue
Nebraska Department of Revenue
* City of Ainsworth moving forward with $1.9 million in wastewater projects
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Dec. 14)
The city of Ainsworth plans to undertake a $1.9 million wastewater project by utilizing a long-term, low-interest loan from the USDA coupled with the opportunity to receive $750,000 in grant money for the project.
The City Council Wednesday gave the go-ahead to pursue improvements identified by an engineering company hired to look at the city’s wastewater system.
City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the improvements include installing radio read water meters in the city, renovating sewer lines with cure-in-place pipe, making upgrades to two of the city’s lift stations, and purchasing two portable generators so lift stations can be operated during times of power outages.
The cost of the new water meters is approximately $800,000, and the cure-in-place pipe also carries a larger price tag.
City Councilman Greg Soles said, “We can get 40 percent of the project paid through grants if we make all of these improvements. Right now, we can get a 40-year loan through USDA at about 2.1 percent. Interest rates are only going to go up, and having 40 percent paid is a large portion.”
Council President Chuck Osborn agreed the city should move forward with all of the projects.
Schroedl said one of the requirements of the USDA will be for the city to raise its wastewater fees, and she said she had the Rural Water Association conduct a rate study and make recommendations for the council to consider.
“The sewer department has been running in the red,” Schroedl said. “The study did recommend an increase from $17.50 per month to $22.50 per month to break even.”
She said the rate per 1,000 gallons of wastewater would also increase from $1.50 to $2. She said the USDA may require the city to move the rate to $26 per month and $2.30 per 1,000 gallons as part of the application for the loan and grant funding.
The council approved pursuing the four projects identified, utilizing a $1.2 million, 40-year loan from the USDA and $750,000 in grant funding.
In other business, the council opted to take no action on a proposal from Utility Service Co. to provide annual inspections and maintenance for the city’s two water towers.
The company proposed putting the city on an annual inspection and maintenance schedule, with periodically scheduled tower cleanings, and painting every 10 years. The company indicated the benefits of the maintenance program would be spreading out the larger costs of painting the water towers, and better allowing the city to budget for the annual maintenance expenses.
Citing the cost of the program, the council opted to take no action on the proposal, and will continue to schedule inspections and maintenance projects as needed.
The council approved renewing its health insurance plan through Coventry. Schroedl said the cost of the insurance premiums would increase by 4.9 percent, which she said was fortunate for the city as other insurance policies were increasing by double digits.
“This is the same plan we have had for a number of years,” the city administrator said.
The council reviewed the 2015-16 audit report submitted by Dana F. Cole Co. Schroedl said there were no deficient findings other than the standard lack of segregation of duties over financial controls with the city having a small staff. The council approved having Dana F. Cole Co. conduct the 2016-17 city audit.
A hay contract with K Hay LLC was approved for approximately 2 acres of ground in the southwest portion of the city. Kristy Frew, whose property is adjacent to the property in Lot 8, Block 6 of Morrison’s Addition, asked the council if she could purchase the property from the city.
“I would like to renew the contract, or have the opportunity to purchase the property,” Frew said. “Buying it would put it back on the tax rolls.”
The council approved the hay contract renewal, and Mayor Larry Rice encouraged the council to begin the process of selling the property.
“I don’t see why the city would need to maintain ownership on that property,” Rice said.
Selling the property would require the city to advertise its sale and accept the highest bid.
Members of the Ainsworth Golf Course Board of Directors presented the council with an update on golf course activities.
Board member Chris Osterman said the course has hired Landon Welke as its superintendent after training during the past season under Superintendent Paul Hermsmeyer. He said the course will advertise for a clubhouse manager, as Sheri and Steve Gann opted not to return to manage the clubhouse for 2018.
Board member Kade Gracey said 2018 membership dues were not raised after they were raised in 2017. He said the course was raising the price for renting space in the cart sheds.
Gracey said the course also added an all-day play rate option for golfers who wanted to play more than an 18-hole round in a day.
Looking at the course’s financial statement, Soles asked why the municipal golf course was paying a $1,800 lease to the airport.
“The city owns the ground, why is the city course paying the airport to lease ground the city owns?” Soles asked.
Former golf course treasurer Rod Worrell said that subject had been previously broached with airport management, and the response was the airport was required to charge a lease for utilization of acres under the airport’s control.
The council approved the reappointment of Tony Allen to the Cemetery Board for a three-year term, and approved the appointment of Matt Arens and the reappointment of Rick Goochey to three-year terms on the City Planning Commission. Arens replaces Mike Kreycik on the commission.
Rice, Osborn, Dr. Mel Campbell and Chief of Police Bruce Papstein were appointed to the City Board of Health for one-year terms.
During his report, Rice said he was disappointed there have been no nuisance violation tickets issued by the sheriff’s department since that option was implemented by the city.
Councilwoman Deb Hurless said the council members conducted their inspections, and she was under the impression the sheriff’s department was supposed to look at the properties and issue citations for those that were not cleaned up.
Osborn said the council needed to put the item on its January agenda and visit with the sheriff’s department about the program.
Schroedl reported the city has hired Katie Painter to fill a maintenance position for the conference center. Painter also serves as the city’s youth activities coordinator.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 10.
* Ainsworth man dies early Wednesday while in custody
(Posted 12:45 p.m. Dec. 13)
A 49-year-old Ainsworth man was pronounced dead early
Wednesday morning in the Brown County Hospital after being transported from the
Brown County Jail.
* Ainsworth woman sentenced Tuesday in District Court
(Posted 12:45 p.m. Dec. 13)
In Brown County District Court Tuesday, Maureen Jackman,
44, of Ainsworth, appeared for sentencing after having been previously convicted
on a felony burglary charge and a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge.
* Area students scheduled to receive degrees from UNK Friday
(Posted 8:30 a.m. Dec. 12)
Undergraduate and graduate degrees for 363 will be conferred at commencement exercises 10 a.m. Friday at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.
District Judge Andrea D. Miller will be the commencement speaker for the exercises, with UNK Chancellor Douglas A. Kristensen presiding. UNK Health and Sports Center is the site for the event. Doors to the venue open at 8:30 a.m.
Miller, originally from Gordon, is a 2002 UNK graduate with an honors degree in political science, later earning her juris doctorate from University of Nebraska College of Law. She practiced civil law and family law at Simmons Olsen Law in Scottsbluff and became the first female shareholder of the firm in 2010.
In September 2017 she was appointed to the District Court for the 12th Judicial District by Gov. Pete Ricketts. She and her husband, Travis, were named 2015 UNK Distinguished Young Alumni.
Student speaker during the exercises will be Aatiya Ahmad, a cum laude graduate from Auburn, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, emphasizing health science. Ahmad has been accepted, and will begin study next fall, at University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Area UNK graduates for the winter commencement include:
Bassett – Brennan Frerichs, a Bachelor of Science degree in construction management.
Brewster – Ian Albrecht, a Bachelor of Science degree in information technology.
Valentine – Mary Cherry-Banas, a Bachelor of Science degree in organizational and relational communication.
* School Board approves $98,000 in repairs to malfunctioning chiller
(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 12)
The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education approved $98,509 to repair one of the three chillers that provides the air-conditioning to the school building.
Superintendent Darrell Peterson told the board one of the three chillers went out at the end of the summer. He said several options were explored, including a complete replacement of all the chillers at a cost of $250,000.
He said the $98,509 in repair work would fix the one chiller that went out, and would not cause any issues if more updates were required in the future.
The board approved the quote from Rasmussen Mechanical for the repair work.
In other business Monday, the board approved an annual contract with the North Central Development Center for services at a cost of $10,000.
An option enrollment request was approved, allowing Gloria Frick to option into the Ainsworth district from Keya Paha County. Peterson said Frick was currently home schooled, and planned to attend Ainsworth on a part-time basis to start. She will be in the sixth-grade class.
Following an executive session Monday, the board approved a contract for Peterson to continue serving as the district’s superintendent.
Peterson reported the district’s breakfast and lunch participation rates have never been higher.
He also presented the board with the findings from the district’s 2016-17 audit report. The report showed no major deficiencies, with the only negative finding being the lack of segregation of duties over financial controls, which is a deficiency found in all smaller governmental entities due to a limited staff.
Activities Director Scott Steinhauser reported Ainsworth did qualify to participate in eight-man football for the 2018 and 2019 seasons with an enrollment of 94 for the sophomore, junior and senior classes. He said district assignments would be released soon.
Ainsworth played eight-man football for the past two years, but with an enrollment of 101 students in the three classes for 2017-18, the school had not been eligible for the playoffs. The school will be eligible for the playoffs for 2018 and 2019, and would then receive a two-year grace period even if enrollment rose back above the eight-man threshold for 2020 and 2021.
Steinhauser also reported Ainsworth would host the Class D1-6 sub-district girls and boys basketball tournaments. Those tournaments were held at Niobrara during the past season.
Secondary Principal Bill Lentz reported three eighth-grade students had perfect math scores during the spring NeSA tests. Those students – Alyssa Erthum, Gavin Olinger and Elizabeth Wilkins – were recognized during a recent pep rally.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education was moved in January to the third Monday of the month, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m.
* Care Center Board opens bids for shingling project; operated in the black in November
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Dec. 12)
The Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors opened bids Monday for tearing off and installing new shingles on the facility’s roof, as an absent board member apparently received an additional bid for the work but was not present with the bid to be included with the other three that were opened.
The board opened a bid of $19,800 for the shingling work from Borgmann Construction of Norfolk. That bid estimated 165 square of shingles for a per square cost of $120.
Compass General Contracting of Grand Island provided a bid of $13,900, estimating 150 square of shingles for a per square cost of just under $93.
Tim’s Construction of Ainsworth bid a flat rate of $100 per square to remove the old shingles and install the new at the facility.
Board member Chuck Osborn said Buddy Small, who was absent Monday, had received an additional bid for the work. With Small not available, the board tabled taking action on the bids until the fourth bid could be reviewed.
The capital campaign committee reported it has already received a donation of approximately $9,000 worth of grain to be used toward the cost of the shingling project. The committee will attempt to privately raise all the funds needed for the cost of the shingles, and for the installation.
Administrator Stephanie Rucker reported there were 17 residents in the facility during November, and an 18th resident would move into the facility on Tuesday, Dec. 12. She said three residents were admitted in November, and two were discharged home.
The facility generated $136,231 in revenue from the eight Medicaid residents, eight private pay residents and one Medicare resident during November, with total expenses of $110,298. The center had an operating margin of $25,932 for the month, and Rucker said the facility would not need any fund transfers for the next month.
She also reported the center is down to utilizing one agency nurse for the night shift.
“We might have someone to fill that position in 2018,” Rucker said. “Then, we wouldn’t have to use any agency nursing.”
She invited the public to play Bingo with the residents at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, and said the center would have cookies and cocoa for the residents and public at 3 p.m. Dec. 22.
With board member Phil Fuchs also absent Monday, the board approved a $100,000 line of credit to be used as needed from the First National Bank.
Andy Forney with DA Davidson presented the board with information on issuing revenue bonds to support the center.
Forney said the board’s bylaws state it cannot borrow money and obligate the city and county to back the note, but the facility could issue a revenue bond based on future revenue or the value of the facility.
“I think a line of credit like you are doing is the best option,” Forney said. “What the bank is essentially doing for you now is issuing you a revenue bond with this line of credit. The 4.5 percent interest rate they are giving you is a very fair rate.”
Forney said the county or voters could approve a bond for the facility and the county levy a tax to pay the bond, similar to what was done with the Brown County Hospital addition bond.
“The interest rate in that case would be way better than having the care center issue revenue bonds,” Forney said.
No action was taken. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Jan. 8.
* Murdocks win inaugural Coyote Calling Contest among 32 competing teams
(Posted noon Dec. 11)
A total of 32 teams entered the inaugural Coyote Calling
Contest. George and Nick Murdock called in three coyotes to win the inaugural
tournament, with Monte Hurlbert and Brian Knust winning a tie for second place
with two coyotes.
* K-9 unit traffic stop leads to arrest of 2 Minnesota motorists on drug charges
(Posted 11 a.m. Dec. 11)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department’s K-9 unit
participated in a vehicle stop Sunday that resulted in the arrest of two
Minnesota motorists on charges of marijuana and THC possession.
* Chamber of Commerce draws first winners in Holiday Bucks promotion
(Posted 10:15 a.m. Dec. 8)
The first week’s winners of the annual Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Holiday Bucks promotion have been drawn.
Those shopping in chamber businesses during the holiday season have a chance to win $50 in Chamber Bucks, which can be used at any chamber member business.
The Week 1 winners include Royce Stout, who made his winning purchase in the Red & White Market. Bob Walton also made his winning purchase at Red & White. Darian Jones and Glen Cole each received $50 in Chamber Bucks when their names were drawn following purchases made at Bomgaars, and Dana Cuny made a winning purchase at the H&R Food Center.
The Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce will continue to award shoppers for keeping their business local during the holiday season. Visit a chamber merchant, make a purchase and fill out a green slip for your chance to be a winner.
Winners may pick up their Chamber Bucks from the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce office, located in Home Again on Main Street.
* Recent cases from Brown County Court
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Dec. 8)
In addition to fines, each case carries $50 in court costs
Izaiah Lee Rudolph, age 18, of Willmar, Minn., charged with the attempt of a Class 4 felony, fined $1,000; also charged with possession of K2 or synthetic marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; and possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Zachary Shane Rudolph, 20, of Willmar, Minn., attempt of a Class 4 felony, $1,000; possession of K2 or synthetic marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.
Travis J. Wurth, 37, of Valentine, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $75; commercial vehicle tire violation, $50.
Jeffrey L. Sisson, 36, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25; failure to use a seat belt, $25.
Luz Estrade, 22, of Albuquerque, N.M., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Melissa S. Bailey, 32, of Lincoln, driving under suspension, $100; unlawful or fictitious display of plates, $25.
Peyton E. Hengen, 16, of Littleton, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Scott T. Lawrence, 30, of Marquette, Mich., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Christopher James Otto, 33, of Maple Grove, Minn., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Dallas R. Ulibarri, 16, of Ainsworth, speeding 21-35 mph over the limit, $200.
Bryeanna D. Bedford, 20, of Mableton, Ga., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Hadley D. Caulfield, 19, of Ainsworth, minor in possession of alcohol, $300.
Kaleb C. Lauer, 20, of Ainsworth, minor in possession of alcohol, $300; issuing a bad check less than $500, ordered to pay $51 restitution; expired in-transit decal, $25; negligent driving, $25.
James E. Polen, 16, of Ainsworth, failure to use a seat belt, $25.
Jack R. Harvey, Jr., 55, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Mark Allen Gilroy, 29, of Aberdeen, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Brandon P. Baker, 27, of Ainsworth, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Cristian Holguin, 21, of Denver, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Bryan D. Rhoades, 33, of Ainsworth, assault by mutual consent, $100.
Mary B. Moore Salem, 65, of Bellevue, speeding 16-20 mph over the limit, $125.
Brad L. Mosely, 54, of Albuquerque, N.M., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.
Michael S. Burkholder, 57, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500 and sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.
Austin J. Melton, 20, of York, no operator’s license, $75.
Claire E. High, 32, of Omaha, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.
Myron Meseteth, 45, of Ainsworth, third-degree assault, sentenced to two days in jail with credit for two days served.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted noon Dec. 7)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Wednesday, Dec. 6, in Ainsworth.
* Ainsworth Mock Trial finishes 0-3 at State Championships
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Dec. 7)
The Ainsworth Mock Trial team finished the 2017 season with an appearance at the State Championships Monday and Tuesday in the Sarpy County Courthouse at Papillion.
The team went 0-3 during the tournament.
“The competition was tough, as usual,” coach Mary Rau said. “I could tell that when we started competing; we weren’t as sharp legally as we have been in the past. We had two first-year attorneys on the team as well as several first year witnesses, and they had a very large learning curve to surmount. Being really good at mock trial takes experience, and we were a little short in that category this year.”
On Monday, Ainsworth played the defense and lost a split decision against Bellevue West. That afternoon, the Bulldogs, again representing the defendant, lost in a split decision to state runners-up Columbus Scotus.
After the Monday night banquet, Ainsworth was paired as the plaintiff with Grand Island Northwest for the Tuesday morning trial, and lost that trial in a unanimous decision of the judges.
The state championship was won by Omaha Creighton Prep, with Columbus Scotus, Ogallala, and Gering rounding out the top four places. Creighton Prep will represent Nebraska in the 2018 National Championships at Reno, Nev., next May.
“It was a tough year for us in many ways,” Rau said. “But, we’ve learned so much and are very excited for next year. We’ll have a young team again, but the experience gained this year will shine next year.”
Members of the 2017 Mock Trial team are seniors Cassidy Gilliland, Marley Murphy, and Kayla Witt; junior Sam Wilkins; sophomores Coy Carson, Ethan Christensen, and Raven Stewart; and freshmen Cody Kronhofman and Brandt Murphy.
* Commissioners approve changing meeting time to 5 p.m. beginning in January
(Posted 2:30 p.m. Dec. 5)
Brown County Commissioner meetings will change to 5 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month beginning in 2018.
With Commissioner Buddy Small absent during Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved the change to accommodate the schedule of Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus.
“My days off have changed,” Wiebelhaus said.
After having Tuesdays off from his position with the Nebraska State Patrol, Wiebelhaus said his schedule is changing and will have him on duty for a 10-hour patrol shift on Tuesdays.
After discussing moving the meetings to Thursday mornings, Wiebelhaus and Commissioner Les Waits agreed to conduct board meetings at 5 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of the month. Small indicated by phone that he did not have any conflicts with a 5 p.m. start time.
The change will become effective for the Jan. 2 meeting.
In other business Tuesday, the board approved two members to the BKR Extension Board. Brent Bartak was reappointed to a second, three-year term, and Gary Luther was appointed to fill the remaining term of Clisty Taylor, who is moving from the area.
BKR Extension Educator Chandra Murray said the university had hired a new beef production specialist to replace the retired Dennis Bauer.
Murray said Jace Stott would begin working in the local Extension office soon. She said Stott, who is originally from Idaho, recently completed a Master’s Degree in range management from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Murray said, in addition to covering Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties, Stott will also cover Cherry County.
Judy Walters presented the commissioners Tuesday with a drawing of a Brown County Veterans Memorial, and asked the board if the monument could be placed on the south side of the courthouse lawn.
“After two years, we have come up with a plan that everyone agrees on,” Walters said. “It will include the names of all Brown County veterans, and those who died in service will be located together in one spot.”
She said the estimated cost of the memorial is $52,000, which will include the installation of two benches at the site.
“We will begin fund-raising soon,” Walters said. “We have raised $10,000 now.”
Wiebelhaus asked Walters to place flags in the area of the lawn the committee would like to utilize for the memorial, and the board would look at that proposed site during its next meeting.
In roads items Tuesday, the board approved the low bid submitted Nov. 21 by Hein Construction of Fairbury for crack seal work on asphalt roadways in the county.
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said he did some research on the three bids the county received.
“All three I talked to said Hein Construction’s work was fine,” Turpin said. “One did say they had a problem getting them scheduled.”
Turpin recommended the board award the bid to Topkote of Yankton, S.D.
“They have done the work for us in the past, and they do a good job,” Turpin said.
Wiebelhaus said the stark difference in bid prices gave him the opinion Hein Construction should be awarded the bid.
“The three that you called all said they did good work,” Wiebelhaus said. “That is a big savings. I think we should give them a shot.”
Wiebelhaus said the bid was only for one year, and the county could go in a different direction next year if the work was not satisfactory.
The board approved the bid of 43 cents per foot from Hein Construction.
Topkote of Yankton, S.D., provided a bid of 56 cents per foot for the work, and Bader’s Highway Construction of Norfolk bid 58 cents per foot. Those bids were rejected.
Turpin said he planned to have about $50,000 of crack seal work completed on the Elsmere Road asphalt.
The commissioners approved sign renewal permits to the Nebraska Department of Transportation for a “Discover the Sandhills” sign adjacent to Highway 20 in eastern Brown County, and a sign for the KBR Solid Waste Transfer Station located adjacent to Highway 20 just east of Ainsworth.
Turpin said the roads department was working to try and keep washboards down on the county’s gravel roads, but it was a losing battle due to the lack of moisture received during November.
“We have been working to repair a couple of roads that have been getting beat up by cement trucks,” Turpin said. “The planks are going to need to be replaced on the bridge over the Sand Draw on 430th Avenue.”
Prior to adjourning Tuesday, the commissioners held an executive session with Brad Schlueter, who had a recent issue with the county’s 911 emergency response.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Dec. 19. The Jan. 2 meeting will be held at 5 p.m.
* November extremely warm, extremely dry in Ainsworth
(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 4)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported November
was unusually dry and unusually warm, with the daily high temperature almost 10
degrees above normal. Just .12 of moisture fell during the month, but the city
remains above average for the year.
* Lions Club presents membership awards, accepts 3 new members
(Posted 2:30 p.m. Nov. 29)
During its monthly meeting, the Ainsworth Lions Club presented awards to Jerry Allen for 60 years of membership, Larry Rice for 50 years, Todd Mundhenke for 40 years of membership, Jim Arens for 20 years, and Darrell Peterson for 10 years of membership in the club.
President Rolland Paddock reported the trailer owned by Mundhenke and used by the Lions Club was available for sale to the club for $3,000. However, for insurance reasons, Mundhenke advised that a club member, or a few club members, buy the trailer with the understanding that it could be used by the club.
Chuck Osborn, Brian Williams and Paddock indicated they would be interested in purchasing the trailer for personal use, with the trailer also being available for use by the Lions Club. The board approved having the cost of the trailer divided four ways, with the Lions Club also providing 25 percent of the cost.
The board approved membership to Steve Salzman, Bob Beatty and Crystal Dailey.
The Lions Club Christmas Party will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 18, in the Nazarene Church. As in previous years, officers and directors are asked to bring a salad or a dessert. The main meal will be provided.
The board approved its annual donation of $300 to the Ainsworth Food Pantry.
Evan Evans reported he is working on plans to place more crumb rubber around the playground equipment at the city parks at a projected cost of $7,500. Approximately 50 percent of the cost would be financed by a grant, with the balance provided by the Lions Club and the ABC fund.
Two years ago, the Lions Club contributed $2,000 toward the previous purchase of crumb rubber. The issue was tabled until the January Lions Club meeting.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 28)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
vehicle-cow accident that occurred Saturday, Nov. 25, northwest of Ainsworth.
* Sorensen submits resignation as Brown County Hospital CEO
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Nov. 28)
Following an executive session during its recent meeting, the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees accepted the resignation of Chief Executive Officer Shannon Sorensen.
Sorensen, who is resigning to pursue an opportunity in another community, has been the hospital’s administrator since Jan. 1, 2011.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the Brown County Hospital for the past seven years and call the hospital and Ainsworth home for the past 11-1/2 years,” Sorensen said. “I am especially proud of our team, who provides exceptional care every day, leading the way in rural health care and setting a higher standard of excellence.”
Sorensen said Brown County and the surrounding area have a lot to be proud of in the Brown County Hospital and the services it provides.
Hospital Board President John Gross said, “We reluctantly accepted Shannon’s resignation, and we will all work to make this as smooth a transition as possible.”
Gross said, during her tenure as CEO, Sorensen oversaw the purchase of the Ainsworth Family Clinic, the recruitment of physicians, and a major structural upgrade for the hospital with the piping project.
“We were able to pay for both the clinic purchase and the piping project with internal funds,” Gross said. “Shannon took us from a mediocre financial standing to solid financial ground.”
Gross said the hospital has received numerous state and national awards for quality care during Sorensen’s tenure.
“We will look to appoint an interim CEO for the short term while we search for a permanent replacement,” Gross said.
Sorensen’s resignation will take effect within a 90-day period, as stipulated in her contract with the Brown County Hospital.
Prior to the executive session, Sorensen reported to the board the Brown County Hospital Auxiliary recently received a Community Star Award, and the Brown County Hospital earned a National Performance Leadership Award for Quality for rural and critical access hospitals. The hospital is rated among the top 3 percent for overall quality from among the more than 1,300 critical access hospitals in the country.
Sorensen reported the hospital is currently installing a security system, with wiring work being completed in all three buildings.
The board reviewed quotes for property and liability insurance, and approved a quote from the Mundhenke Agency with companies LMC Insurance Company for Travelers and COPIC for the hospital’s property and liability insurance coverage.
Prior to adjourning, the board also held an executive session to discuss a settlement agreement. Following the session, the board approved the settlement agreement as presented.
The next meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees is scheduled for 4 p.m. Dec. 18.
DISTRICT CHAMPIONS - The Ainsworth Mock Trial team defeated Valentine in four trials to win the district championship and qualify for the State Championships Dec. 4-5 at Papillion. Pictured are front row, left to right: Cassidy Gilliland, Marley Murphy, Brandt Murphy, Raven Stewart and Kayla Witt. Back row: State Supreme Court Justice William B. Cassel, Coy Carson, Ethan Christensen, Sam Wilkins and Cody Kronhofman. The team is coached by David Streich and Mary Rau.
* Ainsworth Mock Trial team defeats Valentine to qualify for State Championships
(Posted 1 p.m. Nov. 27)
The Ainsworth Mock Trial team qualified for state competition by defeating Valentine Nov. 16 and Nov. 21. Ainsworth played the plaintiff and Valentine represented the defendant in the Cherry County Courthouse Nov. 16. Ainsworth won in a close decision of Judges James Orr, Todd Flynn, and Bill Quigley.
On Nov. 21, Ainsworth played the defendant to Valentine’s plaintiff and won in a unanimous decision of Judges Bill Cassel, James Gotschall, and Forrest Peetz.
Members of the Ainsworth team who will represent Region 4 in the Nebraska Mock Trial State Championships Dec. 4 and 5 in the Sarpy County Courthouse at Papillion are seniors Cassidy Gilliland, Marley Murphy and Kayla Witt; junior Sam Wilkins; sophomores Coy Carson, Ethan Christiansen and Raven Stewart; and freshmen Brandt Murphy and Cody Kronhofman.
Other teams qualifying for state are Gering, Ogallala, Dundy County, Grand Island Northwest, Lutheran High Northeast, Columbus Scotus, Bellevue West, Humboldt-Table Rock-Steinauer, York, Omaha Skutt, and Creighton Prep.
The Ainsworth team is coached by Attorney David Streich and teacher Mary Rau.
* Brown County, Ainsworth taxable sales decline slightly in August
(Posted 12:30 p.m. Nov. 27)
Nebraska Department of Revenue
Nebraska Department of Revenue
* Two fire departments respond to chimney fire in Long Pine home Wednesday
(Posted 8 a.m. Nov. 23)
Two area fire departments along with the sheriff’s department and ambulance crew responded to a report of a chimney fire Wednesday in Long Pine.
According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, at approximately 8 a.m. Wednesday, a chimney fire was reported at 254 W. Sixth St. in Long Pine in a home owned by Chris Rehkopf.
Fiala said soot in the chimney pipe caught fire. Firefighters from the Ainsworth and Long Pine Rural fire departments removed the chimney pipe from the stove, cleaned out the stove and the pipe.
“It pretty much just burned the soot in the pipe,” Fiala said. “The pipe had not been cleaned this year. There was a little smoke in the house, but it was vented quickly and there was no major damage.”
Fiala reminded people with fireplaces and wood stoves to have their chimneys and pipes cleaned on a regular basis to limit the potential for a chimney fire.
In addition to the Ainsworth and Long Pine Rural fire departments, the Brown County Ambulance Association and Brown County Sheriff’s Department responded to the fire call Wednesday.
* School Board approves measures for potential new agricultural, industrial tech building
(Posted 12:45 p.m. Nov. 21)
During a brief special meeting Tuesday, the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education approved three items related to the potential construction of an agricultural education and industrial education building on the school grounds.
The board approved the second reading of a policy allowing the board to use a design-build contract for the project instead of the current design-bid-build contract.
Superintendent Darrell Peterson said the design-build model can save substantially on the cost of the project and speed up the time frame for its completion.
The board approved a resolution to select the design-build delivery system, and a notice to solicit a performance criteria developer for the project.
Peterson said the resolution was an official document showing the school planned to proceed with the design-build model for the building project, and the notice was the third step of the process and allows the district to advertise for a licensed architect or engineer to oversee the project.
The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 11.
* Brown County Hospital ranks among top 3 percent of critical access hospitals
(Posted 12:30 p.m. Nov. 21)
Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen told the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday the Brown County Hospital ranked in the 97th percentile in overall performance among critical access hospitals following a recent strength index report from iVantage Health Analytics.
Sorensen said the hospital was thrilled to be among the highest rated critical access hospitals in the nation, and it was a testament to the hospital staff.
The Hospital Strength Index is the industry standard for assessing and benchmarking the performance of rural and critical access hospitals. The Brown County Hospital finished in the top 3 percent of the more than 1,300 critical access hospitals nationwide for overall performance.
Hospital Chief Financial Officer Lisa Wood presented the commissioners with the final audit report for the recently completed fiscal year. Wood said there were no major deficiencies noted in the audit report, only the standard lack of segregation of duties that all small entities receive.
The commissioners unanimously approved the hospital’s license renewal application.
In other business Tuesday, the board opened bids from three companies for crack seal work on the county’s asphalt roads.
Hein Construction of Fairbury submitted a bid of 43 cents per foot for crack seal work. Topkote of Yankton, S.D., provided a bid of 56 cents per foot for the work, and Bader’s Highway Construction of Norfolk bid 58 cents per foot for crack sealing county asphalt roads.
The commissioners directed Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin to review the bids and provide the board with a recommendation during its Dec. 5 meeting.
Turpin reported the roads department planned to replace culverts Wednesday on the Moon Lake Road near Dan Clapper’s property. He said that stretch of the Moon Lake Road would be closed Wednesday from approximately 10 a.m. until noon while the culverts are replaced.
Turpin said he has received complaints about a stretch of road ditch on 430th Avenue not being mowed by the adjacent property owners as required by statute.
Commissioner Buddy Small said he would speak with County Attorney David Streich about sending letters to those property owners who did not mow road ditches as required.
Small reported he had a commissioner from a neighboring county tell him that county wanted to try and copy some of the things the Brown County roads department does because the roads in Brown County are in such good shape.
The board approved certifying Turpin as the county’s highway superintendent for the next year.
In the only other action items Tuesday, the board approved renewing a sign permit with the Nebraska Department of Transportation for a sign located along Highway 20 west of Johnstown, and approved a renewal of a Highway 20 law enforcement interlocal agreement. Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said the interlocal agreement includes 14 departments across several counties and allows law enforcement officers to assist another county during emergency situations. The host county agrees to cover the responding officers through its insurance policy.
Prior to adjourning, the commissioners held an executive session with Terry Baxter of the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Association regarding security measures for the courthouse.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Dec. 5.
* Brown County Hospital receives national award for overall excellence
(Posted 3 p.m. Nov. 17)
On National Rural Health Day, Brown County Hospital was recognized by The Chartis Center for Rural Health/iVantage Health Analytics and the National Organization of State Office of Rural Health for overall excellence in MERGEFIELD "Awards1" Quality, reflecting top quartile performance among all rural hospitals in the nation.
“This recognition is truly an honor and a testament to the high-quality care and services that are provided to each and every patient, every day at Brown County Hospital,” Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen said. “Our entire team puts the patient first and with that focus, high quality is achieved. We are so thankful for the opportunity to serve our community as an integral part of rural healthcare.”
The rankings are determined each year using iVantage Health Analytics’ Hospital Strength INDEX, the industry’s most comprehensive and objective assessment of rural hospital performance. iVantage Health Analytics has developed a data-driven program designed to identify excellence across a broad spectrum of indicators relevant to hospital performance and patient care. The Hospital Strength INDEX captures performance metrics for all rural and Critical Access Hospitals. Leveraging data from public data sources, INDEX aggregates data from more than 50 individual metrics into three major categories and eight pillars to derive a single strength overall rating for each facility.
“On this important day, as we celebrate the power of rural, it’s great to recognize these top performers who are excelling in managing risk, achieving higher quality, securing better outcomes, increasing patient satisfaction, or operating at a lower cost than their peers,” said Michael Topchik, National Leader of the Chartis Center for Rural Health. “These leaders serve as a benchmark for other rural facilities as they strive to achieve similar results and provide a blueprint for how to successfully run a hospital and serve their communities amidst today’s uncertainty and mounting pressures.”
* District Court for Brown County
(Posted Nov. 17 12:22 p.m.)
Craig Bernbeck, age 48, of Long Pine, appeared in the District Court of Brown County on Tuesday, Nov. 14. Bernbeck had previously been convicted of Attempted Terroristic Threats, a Class IV felony, and Possession of a Controlled Substance, a Class IV felony. Bernbeck was sentenced to concurrent counts of probation for 18 months. Bernbeck was also ordered to pay a fine of $1,000, court costs and also attend counseling.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted Nov. 16 4:03 p.m.)
A pickup-cow collision resulted in approximately $1,500 damage to a 2012 Ford driven by Thomas R. Schumacher of Ainsworth. The accident happened about 8 p.m. Wednesday 5 miles north of Ainsworth. Tom Schumacher was westbound on County Road 883 just east of Meadville Avenue when several head of black cows were crossing the road. The vehicle hit one cow near its head with the front of the pickup and the cow came along the driver side causing damage to both doors and the running board. The cow got up and ran into an adjacent corn field. The 2 to 3 year old Angus cow was owned by Michael D. Johnson of Ainsworth. No injuries reported and the vehicle was driven away from the scene.
* Peterson discusses items from board meeting during Tuesday Open Line
(Posted 10:30 a.m. Nov. 14)
Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Darrell Peterson
appeared on the school-day edition of Open Line Tuesday.
* Medicaid reimbursement arriving, but care center still currently operating in the red
(Posted 9:15 a.m. Nov. 14)
Though Medicaid is now reimbursing the facility for additional costs from its previous year’s operation, the Sandhills Care Center is still operating in the red due to a lower than anticipated number of residents currently utilizing the facility.
Walt Dye with Rural Health Development told the Care Center Board of Directors Monday the facility received more than $31,000 in Medicaid reimbursement in October, and should receive a total of $114,000 from the state.
Care Center Administrator Stephanie Rucker told the board the facility should receive another Medicaid reimbursement of $28,000 that will be processed this week.
Dye said the facility anticipated receiving an additional $65,000 to $70,000 from Medicare to reimburse the nursing home for its cost of care, but it would likely be April or May before those funds arrive.
Board Chairman Phil Fuchs said the facility would just have to be as tight as it could on the expense side until admissions reach the threshold needed to break even financially.
“We were expecting a census of around 19 or 20 at this stage, which would have put us close to being in the black,” Fuchs said. “We are just not seeing that census right now. If we can get to 21 or 22 residents, we can get close to cash flowing.”
Dye said an additional five or six residents in the facility each at $200 per day would make a huge difference.
“Historically, November and December are high admittance months,” Dye said. “We need to get between 22 to 25 residents to really have a chance in the long term.”
Board member Chuck Osborn said the care center has done a tremendous job in its first year changing the reputation of the facility from the previous management company.
“We are only a year into this,” Osborn said. “I am hearing very positive things in the community with how the care center is being operated. The open house you held recently just reiterates how important this facility is to the community.”
Dye said, after the first year audit report, in addition to the Medicaid reimbursement making up the gap between what the state paid and what it cost to house the Medicaid residents, the facility will receive approximately $7,000 more from Medicaid per month going forward based on the current census.
“Expenses are being held down,” Dye said. “Our focus needs to continue to be on getting the community behind the nursing home and getting the census built.”
Rucker reported there are currently 16 residents in the Sandhills Care Center. Eight of those are private-pay residents, seven receive Medicaid assistance, and one is a Medicare Part A resident.
She said three new residents were admitted during October, but two residents passed away during the past month.
“We are getting a lot of positive feedback from the community,” Rucker said. “We have had several community events, and it is great to see all the people coming out to visit us. Our relationship with the community is growing nicely.”
Rucker reported a new LPN started with the care center recently, taking advantage of the sign-on bonus offered by the community.
“We have another LPN potentially interested, but that person would not be available until February at the earliest,” Rucker said. “Having the new LPN will drop us down to one agency nurse at night.”
Fuchs said having the new LPN in-house instead of having to pay an agency for staffing will be a substantial savings to the facility.
It costs more than $11,000 per month to have one agency nurse in the facility, and the care center had previously needed two agency nurses.
Rucker said the new whirlpool tub has been installed in the facility, and the residents love it. She said it takes just 15 minutes to fill the new tub, instead of the 50 minutes it took to fill the previous tub. Donations from the community paid for the tub’s purchase and installation.
“We want to thank the capital campaign committee, the NCDC and everyone who donated,” Rucker said. “That tub is a life-changer for us.”
The board discussed replacing the shingles on the care center’s roof in the spring. The approximately 150 squares of shingles will be purchased soon, and the board will solicit bids for the labor involved to remove of the old shingles and install the new ones.
Fuchs said the capital campaign committee would also try and raise the funding needed for that project.
The next meeting of the Sandhills Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. Dec. 11.
* Ainsworth will continue to compete in 8-man football, likely eligible for playoffs
(Posted 6:45 a.m. Nov. 14)
Ainsworth will remain in eight-man football for the next two years, as the Board of Education Monday approved certifying to the Nebraska School Activities Association that the school would compete in Class D-1 for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Superintendent Darrell Peterson said he was fairly certain the district had made the enrollment cut-off to be eligible for eight-man football and compete in the playoffs.
“We have been more competitive in eight-man, and we would have qualified for the playoffs this year if we would have been eligible,” Peterson said.
Ainsworth has participated in eight-man football for the past two years, but was ineligible for the postseason due to the school’s enrollment being above the threshold to compete in Class D.
For the next two-year period, the NSAA is counting only the number of boys enrolled as sophomores, juniors and seniors to determine eligibility for football.
Activities Director Scott Steinhauser said the school’s number of boys enrolled has apparently been confirmed, and the school will be eligible for the playoffs for the next two years.
“We would also have a two-year grace period after this two years, so even if our enrollment numbers would go back up, we should be good for the next four years,” Steinhauser said.
He said the number of boys in the current junior class is small, so that helped the school qualify for eight-man the next two years.
That class will be graduated the next time the enrollment is certified.
In other business Monday, Peterson said some of the school board members had recently toured ag and shop facilities at Minden and Grand Island to get ideas for the potential construction of a new ag and shop building for the district.
He said one method to build a new facility for those classes would be the design-build model approved by the state. To be able to use the design-build model, the district needed to adopt a policy outlining that process.
“I think this would be a good way to do this project, especially for a smaller project like this,” the superintendent said.
He said studies have shown the design-build model can save 6 percent compared to the cost of a typical design-bid-build model, and construction is 12 percent quicker.
He said the district would have to have at least two contractors participate in the design-build process to be eligible, or the district would have to go back to the design-bid-build model.
Board member Brad Wilkins said he believed it made sense to approach the ag and shop project this way.
“I think it could speed up the process and save on the cost,” Wilkins said.
The board unanimously approved the first reading of a policy developing the design-build contracts.
During his report, Peterson said the school’s health insurance premiums would not increase for the next year.
“That doesn’t happen often,” he said.
The district has a Blue Cross/Blue Shield group health plan.
Peterson reported the Educational Service Unit provided the district a report showing how schools within the ESU have taken advantage of a cooperative purchasing program negotiated by the ESU to drive down costs to schools.
Ainsworth has purchased $47,204 in supplies through the cooperative, saving $16,095 from the retail price for those supplies.
Secondary Principal Bill Lentz reported six of the 10 living World War II veterans in the county attended the school’s Veterans Day program Friday.
Elementary Principal Mike Wentz’s report indicated lunch times had changed for the elementary classes effective Nov. 1 due to overcrowding caused by middle school students coming in for lunch while three elementary grades were still eating.
Steinhauser reported there are around 30 girls participating in basketball as the practice season gets underway. However, he reported there were only 10 boys out for high school basketball. There are 10 boys out for wrestling.
He reported there are 17 girls participating in middle school basketball, with five boys competing in middle school wrestling. Middle school boys basketball follows the wrestling season.
The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 11.
* Firearm deer season opens Saturday, several check stations open in the area
(Posted 7 a.m. Nov. 9)
Deer hunters for the upcoming season have several places in the area where harvested deer can be checked in.
In Ainsworth, deer may be checked in this year at Roadrunner on Highway 20 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. during the nine-day firearm season.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission office at Bassett checks deer from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. From 5 until 8 p.m. and from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. on weekends, hunters may check deer at the Rock County Sheriff’s Department.
In Springview, hunters may check in deer at the Turbine Mart on Highway 183.
Valentine has two check stations, including the Fish Hatchery on the north end of town and Wright’s Bait on Highway 20.
Torpin’s Rodeo Market in O’Neill as well as O’Neill Tire and Supply will serve as check stations again this year.
In Butte, deer may be checked in at the Firehouse Café on Main Street between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
As of Thursday
morning, all 1,450 permits in the Calamus West zone have been sold. There are
757 permits remaining in the Keya Paha Unit from the 2,300 that were issued. The
Sandhills Unit has also sold out of its 1,500-permit allocation.
* Roads department continues to identify bridges for replacement with culverts
(Posted 10:45 a.m. Nov. 7)
Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin discussed potential bridge replacement projects during Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Board of Commissioners.
The county has been replacing several older bridges with large culverts, and Turpin said the engineering work and the Army Corps of Engineers permit have been completed to replace a bridge on Road 881 west of Ainsworth with two 78-inch by 40-inch steel culverts.
The county received a quote of $36,800 from B’s Enterprises of Norfolk for the cost of the steel culverts, which the county will install.
Turpin said he would also like to get the ball rolling on replacing the Wilson Street bridge just north of Ainsworth with culverts.
The highway superintendent said bridge match program funds from the state are available to the county, but the Wilson Street project does not qualify for that program due to the bridge not being deemed as deficient. The issue with the Wilson Street bridge is its load capacity, as heavy commercial truck traffic uses the road and is too large for the bridge’s current load limits.
“The canal bridge on the Airport Road is eligible for the bridge match program,” Turpin said. “I would like to pursue replacing that bridge. The county would have to pay for the engineering costs, but the program would cover the rest.”
Turpin asked the board for permission to take the county’s excavator to Road Builders for some needed repair work, and received the go-ahead.
He said the roads department has been hauling clay onto the Moon Lake Road, and is putting up snow fence.
Royce Greder approached the commissioners with a complaint about a roads project near his property causing washouts and silting into his dam. He said it costs in excess of $1,000 to dredge out his dam each time it silts in.
The commissioners agreed to visit the site and determine if any upgrades were needed.
In other business Tuesday, the commissioners declared a 1994 GMC Sierra pickup and a 1998 Chevy Blazer as surplus equipment and will sell them to Clint Painter Iron as scrap since they have no resale value.
Rod Palmer asked the commissioners to provide a letter of support to the Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame to allow the organization to place signs east and west of Ainsworth adjacent to Highway 20 advertising the site of the Hall of Fame Museum, currently located on Main Street.
Palmer said there would be no cost to the county, as donations have been collected for the cost of the signs. He said the letter of support from the county would suffice for the Nebraska Department of Transportation to allow the signs to be erected.
Following an executive session with Zoning Administrator Dean Jochem, the board indicated that all future meetings of the Brown County Planning Commission would be conducted at least two weeks prior to the item appearing on the Board of Commissioners agenda, and the zoning administrator would be required to notify the commissioners any time he receives a special-use permit application.
Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, at some point, he wants to go through the county’s comprehensive plan piece by piece.
“I think some of the guidelines are vague,” Wiebelhaus said.
The commissioners approved signing an amendment to the interlocal agreement with Ainsworth, Long Pine and Johnstown to reaffirm the county’s commitment to the KBR Solid Waste compact.
The board also approved a subdivision request submitted by Krotter Law Group to subdivide 6.69 acres of property in northern Brown County. The subdivided acreage will allow a property owner with a currently landlocked parcel to have access to the parcel from Highway 183.
In a budget item, the commissioners discussed how to address a potential budget shortfall in the newly created K-9 unit line item.
Wiebelhaus said the line item is separate from the sheriff’s department budget, and it was set up as an estimate for the cost of purchasing and training a drug-detecting dog for the department.
Wiebelhaus said the donation money the department received to purchase and train the dog was higher than the budgeted amount.
The board agreed to have any excess expenses covered through the county’s miscellaneous general fund budget and readdressed during the 2018-19 budget year using the donated funds.
Wiebelhaus said having “Dutch” on duty has already led to the seizure of 1 pound of marijuana during a traffic stop and the arrest of three motorists.
In a final agenda item, Commissioner Buddy Small reported the county received an additional $6,364 dividend for renewing a three-year membership to the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Association. A charter member of NIRMA, the county has now seen $194,146 returned as dividends since 1988.
Small said he had submitted funding requests to NIRMA for cost assistance on several safety-related items for the county, including wiring for panic buttons in the courthouse, a ladder for the roads department shop, stair treads in the courthouse, and five sets of steel-toed work boots for roads department employees.
Small said he also submitted a request for assistance on concrete work near the courthouse, though NIRMA had never previously approved funding assistance for concrete.
The Commissioners also established elected official's salaries for the 2019-2022 term. Elected official's salaries were set at $49,600, Sheriff's salary at $56,600, County Attorney salary set at $76,600. Also official's will have a $1,500 increase on Jan. 1, 2020 and following years through 2022. County Board members salaries were set at $24,000 with the chairman's salary at $25,000 plus $750 per year annual increase starting Jan. 1, 2020 through 2022.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Nov. 21.
* Sheriff's Department advises residents to be aware of scam phone calls
(Posted 2:15 p.m. Nov. 6)
The Brown County Sheriff's Department received numerous
calls Monday from residents who said they were receiving threatening phone calls
from people claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service.
* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department
(Posted 6:30 a.m. Nov. 6)
* October becomes eighth month with better than normal precipitation
(Posted 8:15 a.m. Nov. 3)
Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn recorded 1.89
inches of moisture in October, which is .37 above the average for the month.
October became the eighth month in 10 with better than normal moisture, bringing
the precipitation total for the year to 28.64 inches, 7.06 above average.
* Social studies students collecting items for Grand Island Veterans Home
(Posted 7:30 a.m. Nov. 3)
The Ainsworth seventh- and eighth-grade social studies
students will again collect items for the Grand Island Veterans Home during the
Ainsworth Veterans Day program at 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, in McAndrew Gymnasium.
* Traffic Accident
(Posted 12:30 p.m. Oct. 31)
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a
one-vehicle accident that occurred Sunday, Oct. 29, on Highway 20.
* Monday night fire severely damages home north of Johnstown
(Posted noon Oct. 31)
A fire Monday night severely damaged a rural home north of Johnstown and prompted the response of four fire departments.
Battling bitterly cold temperatures, firefighters from Ainsworth, Johnstown, Long Pine and Wood Lake were paged at 11:15 p.m. to a report of a structure on fire on Norden Avenue north of Johnstown.
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said, when firefighters arrived to the home owned by Tim and Nancy Klammer, flames were coming out of the home’s walk-in door that led to the basement.
Fiala said the fire spread through the walls and into the upper floors of the home.
The couple was able to exit the home safely, but a family pet was lost. The home and its contents sustained extensive damage from the flames and smoke.
Fiala said Ryan Sylvester from the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s Office investigated the cause, and determined the fire started when a 220-volt wire in the basement shorted.
Firefighters returned to their respective fire halls at approximately 6 a.m. Tuesday, and were then called back to the scene at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Fiala said a few places were still smoldering, and the Ainsworth and Johnstown departments returned to apply additional water to those hot spots.
The Brown County Ambulance Association provided standby service while the firefighters were on scene through the night.
Mon-Sat - 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.