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

* Dorothy Brown, 92, of Gregory, S.D., 10:30 a.m. Sept. 29

* Jarolyn Crouse, 68, of Valentine 11 a.m. Sept. 28

* Meeting reports located below for:

Sept. 20 Brown County Commissioners

Sept. 15 Ainsworth City Council budget hearing

Sept. 13 Brown County Commissioners budget hearing

Sept. 13 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education budget hearing

Sept. 8 Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board

Sept. 7 Brown County Commissioners

Sept. 1 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education special meeting

* West Holt students participate in annual Capitol Forum

(Posted noon Sept. 23)

Presidential candidates are not the only ones offering their positions on foreign policy. Nebraska students have studied the issues and have their opinions as well.

Nearly 100 students from across the state, including West Holt students Christa Wentworth, Kyle Linders, Caitlyn Nelson, Austyn Ramm-Lech and Avery Neptune, took part in the 18th Capitol Forum on America’s Future at the State Capitol, deliberating four different foreign policy options. Capitol Forum is sponsored by Humanities Nebraska and Secretary of State John Gale.

Nebraska students suggest that cooperation with other countries is the best option when resolving complicated issues like immigration, environment, terrorism, poverty and human rights. The highest ranked choice marked a departure from thinking on policy options by participating students. For the past several years, students have advocated shifting focus from global concerns, to those affecting citizens more directly at home.

The last time students opted for a cooperative approach was 2010. This year, more than half (51 percent) of participants chose cooperation. Concentrating on national concerns was the second choice (26 percent). At 19 percent, the third preference was one that stipulated taking whatever actions were necessary to keep the nation safe and strong.  The least favored option (4 percent) called for the U.S. to serve as a beacon for democracy, utilizing the nation’s military if necessary, to do so.

The Capitol Forum program is integrated by participating teachers into their classroom curriculum. Teachers picked classroom representatives to attend the day-long event on March 21 and report back what they learned to classmates in their home schools. Then, students voted on their choice of foreign policy and international issues.

In addition to ranking policy options, students also weighed in on specific concerns with regard to other nations. Top issues included: billions of people suffering from poverty, hunger and disease; biological and chemical weapons falling into the hands of terrorists; and, draining U.S. resources to solve the problems of other countries.

When asked about a plan of action to address issues and relations with other countries, the majority of students opted for negotiating strict international standards for dealing with climate change and other environmental threats. Previously, developing a policy to deal with immigration has been a key plan of action.

* Lions Club donates to school lunch program that incorporates locally raised beef

(Posted 9 a.m. Sept. 21)

During its recent meeting, the Ainsworth Lions Club Board voted to donate $500 to assist with processing costs for Ainsworth Community Schools to serve local beef in its school lunch program.

School Superintendent and Lions Club member Darrell Peterson asked the club if it would volunteer to grill hamburgers Oct. 5 during an event to express appreciation for those who donated an animal for the program or helped with the processing costs.

The club not only volunteered to grill the locally raised beef during the Oct. 5 event, but voted to contribute $500 toward assisting the school with the costs to process the donated beef for the school lunch program.

In other notes from the Lions Club meeting, Shannon Sorenson, chair of the club’s “Adopt-A-Highway” Program on east Highway 20, announced a tentative date of 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9, for the club’s fall highway cleanup. Members are asked to meet at East City Park.  

Club member Larry Rice told the board park benches were needed at the Courthouse Park in the vicinity of the playground equipment south of the library. Club member Rita Paddock said park benches were also needed near playground equipment at East City Park. 

The board referred the issue to the Playground Equipment/Improvement Committee for a plan and recommendation to be presented during the club’s next meeting.

The club received thank-you notes from the local TeamMates chapter for the contribution of $300 from the proceeds of the All-Sports Tailgate Party, and from a recipient of financial assistance for eye care this past summer.

Ticket takers for the Sept 23 Ainsworth football game will be Rita Paddock, Roland Paddock and Steve Hapner.  Ticket takers should be at the gate by 6 pm.  Ticket takers for the Oct. 7 homecoming game will be Dave Spann, Evan Evans, Pat Jones and Brian Williams.  

In 1997, Congress approved the Volunteer Protection Act, which provided liability protection from claims that might be filed against a nonprofit organization’s individual volunteers. The club members reported that Congress is currently considering the Volunteer Organization Protection Act, which would extend liability protection to the nonprofit organization as well.

The District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund, chaired by Wayne Hinerman, will again conduct its annual raffle fund-raiser. The club approved purchasing raffle tickets, with the proceeds from any winning raffle ticket to be donated to a charitable organization.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club Board of Directors is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 10 in the Pizza Hut.

* Commissioners declare bull thistle a noxious weed in Brown County

(Posted 3:15 p.m. Sept. 20)

Beginning in June 2017, bull thistle will become a noxious weed in Brown County that requires landowners to spray for its control.

During a public hearing Tuesday, the Brown County Commissioners heard from Weed Superintendent Doug Mulligan and several landowners regarding the presence of the non-native thistle variety in some parts of the county.

“I have been watching bull thistle for the past two or three years,” Mulligan said. “The drought in 2012 gave some of these weeds a chance to get established. If we act now, we can control it. If we let it continue, it will be more of a problem later.”

Mulligan said there are some fairly heavy infestations of bull thistle near the Elsmere Road and near Highway 7 south of Ainsworth.

“Bull thistle is not a native plant,” Mulligan said. “It came over from Eurasia, and it has no natural enemies. We are starting to see a lot more of it in southern Brown County.”

Sheriff Bruce Papstein asked if the state is moving to declare bull thistle a noxious weed, or was it only Brown County.

Mulligan said bull thistle is not a statewide issue, but is more of a problem for the north central part of the state.

“Rock County has declared it a noxious weed,” Mulligan said. “Holt and Garfield counties have also had problems with it. There are 12 statewide noxious weeds, and the Department of Agriculture has taken action to declare those. The Department of Agriculture gets its information from weed superintendents.”

Landowner Tony Ruhter said he is seeing bull thistle on his and neighboring properties in lower depressions that are typically covered by water.

“We are definitely seeing it more after the drought,” Ruhter said. “I think, if we don’t do something, we are just going to extend the problem.”

Ruhter said he was not necessarily advocating that bull thistle had to go on the noxious weed list, but property owners in the county needed to be aware of it.

“We have a chance now, with a small infestation, to control it,” Ruhter said.

Property owner Henry Beel said he would rather have bull thistle stay off the noxious weed list, but he understood some property owners would not take action to control it unless it was included.

“I oppose the government getting involved, but if you do include it, you need to educate the public so they know how to get rid of it,” Beel said.

Mulligan said bull thistle is unique because the end of its leaves look like a chicken’s foot.

“With native thistle, the bottom of the leaf will be white to silver in color,” Mulligan said. “With invasive thistles, the bottom half of the leaf will be green.”

Commissioner Buddy Small said one of the concerns people have expressed to him is the procedure if a property owner does not control a noxious weed.

“Most do what they can to control these weeds,” Small said. “What is the procedure if someone doesn’t spray?”

Mulligan said he tries to contact the landowner in person, or he sends a letter if that is not possible. If the landowner still does not make an attempt to control, Mulligan said he will issue a 10-day notice. If they still don’t comply, then the county can perform a forced spray.

“We typically have a commercial sprayer go in at that point,” Mulligan said.

The cost of the county spraying is then passed on to the property owner.

Small asked what the recommended chemical would be to control bull thistle.

Mulligan said Milestone provides excellent control, but it is expensive at $400 per gallon.

“You can get pretty good results in early spring with 2-4-D,” the weed superintendent said.

Following the hearing, the board approved declaring bull thistle as a noxious weed effective June 1, 2017.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said he wanted to make the declaration effective June 1 of next year to allow enough notice to property owners.

“I think it is going to take a couple-three years to get good enforcement,” Wiebelhaus said. “I would rather give landowners some extra time to start controlling it themselves.”

Mulligan said he didn’t believe most landowners would have a problem with bull thistle being on the list because they are already controlling other noxious weeds.

“I don’t necessary like adding weeds to this list, but I think it needs to be done to protect the good stewards who are already controlling it,” Mulligan said.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners approved a transfer of $100,000 from the county’s inheritance tax fund to the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board as part of the county’s $340,000 commitment toward the city-county facility.

Small said $140,000 had previously been transferred to the Care Center Board. Wiebelhaus discussed transferring the remaining $200,000, since the commissioners had already agreed to provide it, but the board settled on providing the interlocal group with half of the county’s remaining commitment now, with the final $100,000 contribution made when it was needed.

Treasurer Deb Vonheeder reported the sheriff’s department had collected 14 distress warrants from personal property tax due from the 2014 tax year. Vonheeder said the sheriff’s department collected $4,928 in past-due personal property tax. Only one warrant went uncollected, and Vonheeder said the company that owed that tax was in bankruptcy.

Following a presentation from Central Nebraska Economic Development District Executive Director Judy Peterson on the benefits the county would receive, the board approved a membership to CNEDD at a cost of $1,572.

Peterson said the dues were based on the county’s population of residents not living inside the Ainsworth or Long Pine city limits, or the Johnstown village limits. She said Ainsworth, Long Pine and Johnstown were also members of the development district.

In roads items, the board chose to take no action on a request for the county to rebuild or repair a trail road east of property owned by Lester Stufft in Section 4, Township 25 North, Range 23 West.

Small said he had looked at the trail in question with Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin.

“It is not a county road, and it is not near a county road,” Small said. “It is on private ground, and I don’t believe we should be involved.”

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

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Sept. 20)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Monday, Sept. 19, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 5:30 p.m. Monday, a collision occurred at the intersection of Richardson Drive and Third Street between an eastbound 1998 Dodge pickup, driven by Robert Barkwill, 25, of Ainsworth, and a southbound 2009 GMC sport-utility vehicle, driven by Maureen Jackman, 43, of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Dodge was estimated at more than $1,000. The GMC sustained more than $1,000 damage.

* Swan wins Week 3 KBRB Football Contest

(Posted noon Sept. 20)

Derek Swan of Springview navigated a difficult Week 3 KBRB Football Contest, getting tripped up just once during a week that saw several unanticipated scores.

Swan’s only blemish on the card was missing FCS national champion North Dakota State’s upset of No. 13 Iowa on a field goal as time expired.

North Dakota’s upset win over the Hawkeyes was the most widely missed game of the 14 on this week’s contest, but there were several others from the high school and college ranks that tripped up players during a week that had a lot of games that, on paper, could have gone either way.

Swan did have the Huskers picked to lose to Oregon, but as the only card missing one game, the tiebreaker did not come into play for first place this week.

Swan wins the first-place, $40 certificate.

There were only two players who got through the week missing only two games. Brad Miller of Ainsworth went a perfect 7-for-7 on the high school side, but missed North Dakota State’s win over Iowa and Michigan State’s road win at Notre Dame.

Kenny Schelm of Johnstown incorrectly had Central Valley beating Anselmo-Merna on the high school side, and he too missed on North Dakota State.

That sent it to the tie-breaker to determine second place, Nebraska’s 35-32 thriller over No. 20 Oregon.

Both Schelm and Miller picked the Huskers to win. Miller’s 37-17 prediction missed by 17 total points, while Schelm’s 24-21 guess missed by 22 points.

That gives Miller the second place, $10 certificate. Winners from each of the first three weeks of the KBRB Football Contest may pick up their certificates from the KBRB Studios.

Week 4 cards are out and available from Circle B Livestock in Bassett, West Plains Bank in Springview, K&H Specialty Meats in Stuart, KC’s Roadrunner in Spencer, and in Ainsworth from Buckles Automotive, the Farmers-Ranchers Co-op Ampride and Co-op Propane and Appliance.

* Vonheeder's artwork named grand champion of AKSARBEN contest

(Posted 11:45 a.m. Sept. 15)

Macey VonHeeder, a senior at Ainsworth High School, had her artwork selected as the Grand Champion of the AKSARBEN Agricultural Art Contest.

Her drawing of a colt was also chosen as the champion of the high school division. There were nearly 100 submissions to the contest.

Vonheeder’s original artwork will be framed, displayed, and auctioned during the AKSARBEN Purple Ribbon Auction Sept. 25 in the Century Link Center at Omaha.

Vonheeder will receive 10 percent of the selling price of her artwork or $100, whichever is greater.  The remainder of the selling price will be used for scholarships. The AKSARBEN Purple Ribbon Auction is held in conjunction with the AKSARBEN Stock Show & Rodeo Sept. 22 - 25 in the Century Link Center at Omaha.

* City Council asks Ainsworth property owners for $282,250

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 15)

The Ainsworth City Council on Wednesday asked property owners for $282,250 to support a 2016-17 general fund budget of $5.14 million.

During the annual budget hearing and property tax levy hearing, the council proposed a levy of 47 cents per $100 in value for all property located inside the city limits.

The overall valuation in the city increased by just over $2 million to $60 million. The city kept the levy at the same 47-cent per $100 in value level that it did during the 2015-16 year, which will allow the city to collect an additional $27,000 in taxes from property owners.

The city’s $5.14 million budget includes $278,797 in debt service on the remaining $687,810 in bonded debt. The city has bonds remaining from past street, water and wastewater projects.

The city will not likely spend the entire $5.14 million budgeted for the general fund. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the city actually spent $2.35 million, including $222,260 to pay down debt. City spending in 2015-16 was below the $2.78 million spent during the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Included in the budget is the city allocating all $884,000 in economic development funding for disbursement, though the likelihood of that occurring is slim.

The budget includes $3.4 million in operating expenses, $744,198 in capital improvements, $557,384 in other capital outlays, $278,797 to service city debt, and $162,542 in miscellaneous expenses.

In the 2015-16 year, the city actually spent $1.69 million in operating expenses, $110,910 in capital improvements, $148,520 in other capital outlays, $222,260 to service bonded debt, and $181,376 in other expenses.

No one spoke in opposition to any of the spending in the 2016-17 budget during Wednesday’s hearings, and the council unanimously approved the budget and property tax request.

In other business Wednesday, the council voted to abate five remaining nuisance violations on parcels inspected this year by the Central Nebraska Economic Development District.

CNEDD Director Judy Peterson said two of the seven properties that were declared nuisances were cleared after the property owners abated the violations.

She said, of the remaining five parcels, three have done some cleanup and have indicated they have a plan to remedy the remaining violations. She said two property owners have not responded.

“One of the property owners was given additional time after a show-cause hearing,” Peterson said. “One property owner plans to do some demolition and has been in for a permit. One property is changing ownership, and there is a plan for cleanup.”

The board approved moving forward with abatement, with the five property owners having until Oct. 11 to either clear the violation or provide a written plan to the Central Nebraska Economic Development District for addressing the violations.

Should the violations not be cleared or a plan presented, the council will act on abating the nuisance violations during its Oct. 12 meeting and levy the cost of the abatement onto the parcel’s property tax statement.

Councilman Chuck Osborn said, “I wonder if we are doing any good with this. I have gone back and looked at the areas that were inspected the first two years. A lot of them have gone right back to the way they were before.”

Councilman Brian Williams agreed, saying, “There are some from the other two areas that are back to being in pretty bad shape.”

City Attorney Rod Palmer said, in his experience, nuisance abatement will be an ongoing project, not a one-time venture.

The council discussed potentially placing a ballot measure for city voters relating to bringing Keno to the community.

Councilwoman Deb Hurless provided the group with data on the percentage breakdowns for Keno related to paying back prize money and paying other expenses. At the end, the information indicated there was a profit margin of around 9 percent from the gross dollars spent playing the game of chance.

Committee member Graig Kinzie said he wanted some guidance from the council on the percentage it was willing to share with any proprietors potentially interested in having the game in their business.

“That is the first question I will be asked,” Kinzie said. “Looking at these percentages, I am a lot more lukewarm about this than I was before.”

The council agreed to offer a 50-50 split of any profits to proprietors interested. Kinzie said he would visit with two business owners in the community to see if there was any interest before the council determined whether it wanted to proceed.

The item was placed on the council’s October agenda.

During her report, City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said cemetery software has now been installed in the city office.

She said the streets department purchased a 1998 boom truck at a cost of $7,000. The truck, which was previously owned by an electrician in Wyoming, will be used primarily for tree trimming, and hanging flags and lights.

She reported building permits for the year totaled $882,450 in improvements.

The consent agenda approved Wednesday included a special designated liquor license for the Sandhills Lounge to serve alcohol in the Ainsworth Conference Center during the Nov. 4 Pheasants Forever banquet.

It also authorized the Ainsworth Women’s Club to close Main Street from 4:30 until 6:30 p.m. Oct. 31 for a Trick or Treat Safe Street.

The consent agenda also included approval of Mayor Larry Rice’s appointments of Keith Baker to another five-year term on the Ainsworth Housing Authority, Kristin Olson to another five-year term on the Community Redevelopment Authority, Jacob Sinsel to a two-year term on the Ainsworth Betterment Committee, and Pat Nelson and Maxine Mattern to fill vacant seats on the Sellors-Barton Cabin Advisory Board.

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

* Keya Paha County Commissioners adopt $3.25 million general fund budget for 2016-17

(Posted 3 p.m. Sept. 14)

Keya Paha County property owners will pay $962,990 to support the county’s general fund budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

During Tuesday’s budget hearing and property tax request, the board approved a $3.25 million budget, with $1.63 million budgeted for the general fund and $894,430 in the roads department fund.

The $962,990 in property tax is about $37,000 more than the $925,340 requested for the 2015-16 fiscal year budget.

Keya Paha County’s levy rate, despite the small increase in tax collection, dropped from 22 cents per $100 in valuation in 2015-16 to 20.8 cents per $100 for the 2016-17 year.

Had the county not collected the additional $37,000 in property tax, the levy rate would have been an even 20 cents per $100 in value.

The overall valuation in Keya Paha County increased from $418.7 million in 2015 to $461.5 million in 2016, an increase of $42.7 million. The overall value of all classifications of property in Keya Paha County rose 10 percent between 2015 and 2016.

One cent of levy in Keya Paha County for the 2016-17 year generates $46,148 in property tax, compared to the same 1 cent of levy generating $41,878 during the 2015-16 fiscal year.

In addition to the 20.8 cents in levy for the general fund, Keya Paha County property owners will also pay $14,037 to the Keya Paha County Agricultural Society, which represents about one-third of 1 cent of levy.

The Keya Paha County Rural Fire Protection District will receive a total of $44,635 in property tax, which represents a levy rate of nine-tenths of 1 cent.

The total levy approved by the commissioners Tuesday of 22.1 cent per $100 in valuation will generate $1.02 million in total property tax, up slightly from the $983,082 generated in 2015-16 from a levy of 23.4 cents per $100 in valuation.

Keya Paha County’s actual disbursements in 2015-16 were $1.43 million, which were down from the $1.71 million disbursed during the 2014-15 fiscal year.

The county spent $796,902 from its general fund in 2015-16, down from $907,686 in 2014-15. Roads department spending was down from $676,073 in 2014-15 to $553,374 in 2015-16.

Following Tuesday’s budget hearing, in which no opposition was expressed, the commissioners approved the 2016-17 county budget and the property tax request.

* Commissioners ask for $2.51 million to support 2016-17 general fund budget

(Posted 3:45 p.m. Sept. 13)

During the annual budget hearing and property tax request Tuesday, the Brown County Commissioners approved a general fund budget of $4.11 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year that asks property owners for $2.51 million in taxes.

The county’s property tax asking is $245,380 more than the $2.26 million requested for the 2015-16 fiscal year. However, with valuations in the county rising from $668 million to $824 million, due in large part to another jump in agricultural property value, the overall county levy decreased from 41.2 cents per $100 in property value to 35.6 cents per $100 in value.

The total value of all property in Brown County for the 2016 tax year is $156 million above the 2015 tax year total, representing a 23 percent year-over-year increase in the total value of property in the county.

With the increased overall valuation in Brown County, 1 cent of tax levy equals $82,438 in property tax generated, compared to $66,831 in tax generated from 1 cent of levy for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Had the county asked for the same $2.26 million in property tax as it did for the 2015-16 fiscal year, the levy would have dropped to 33.4 cents per $100 in value. The 35.6 cents of property tax per $100 in valuation for 2016-17 is 5.5 cents below the 2015-16 levy.

In addition to the $2.51 million in property tax to support the general fund, property owners in Brown County will pay $401,540 in tax to support the voter-approved Brown County Hospital addition bonds.

The $401,540 hospital bond payment is lower than the $453,090 collected during the 2015-16 fiscal year. With the increased valuation in the county, the hospital bond represents 4.8 cents in tax levy per $100 in valuation for the 2016-17 year, compared to 6.7 cents in tax levy during the 2015-16 year.

The levy breakdown for property tax collections in Brown County for the 2016-17 year includes $2.51 million for the general fund for 30.4 cents in levy, $305,731 for the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District for 4 cents in levy, $52,500 to the Brown County Agricultural Society for a 0.6-cent levy, and $401,540 to the Brown County Hospital addition bond representing 4.8 cents in levy.

Keeping the Brown County Rural Fire District’s levy at 4 cents allows the district to receive $103,746 more than it did during the 2015-16 year. The $52,500 contribution to the Brown County Agricultural Society was $20,000 more than the previous year, with that $20,000 allocated for arena repairs.

Taking all funds into account, the total property tax asking of $2.94 million is $185,050 more than the $2.75 million collected during the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The commissioners, as part of the budget, approved a contribution of $11,000 to the Ainsworth Public Library to allow county residents the ability to utilize the library free of charge, and a $5,000 partnership contribution to the North Central Development Center.

The Brown County Hospital’s budget is also included as part of the overall county budget. However, the only tax dollars supporting the hospital are for the voter-approved addition bond. The Brown County Hospital’s general operating budget is funded completely through hospital revenue.

The hospital addition bond, thanks to attractive refinancing rates and a contribution from the hospital’s operating budget, has $4.85 million remaining. By refinancing the remaining 10 years of bond payments, and receiving the contribution from the hospital’s operating revenue, one full year of bond payments were removed, leaving nine years remaining to pay the hospital addition in full instead of 10 years.

The total county budget, including the hospital’s budget and the budgeting of the now $1.93 million in the county’s inheritance tax fund, is $19.5 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

As an accounting standard, the commissioners budget for the spending of the entire $1.93 million in the inheritance tax fund, though actual expenditures from the inheritance tax fund have only been approved by the board recently, and in the amount of $340,000, to support the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board’s efforts to reopen a nursing home in the community, which is expected this fall.

The commissioners approved $154,551 in disbursements from the inheritance tax fund during the 2015-16 fiscal year to support the Care Center Board. The inheritance tax fund still has $1.93 million remaining for use by the board to support the betterment of Brown County. As a practice, the commissioners have rarely utilized the funds in the inheritance tax.

Counting the hospital’s operating expenses, $16.2 million was disbursed by the county during the 2015-16 year, up $2 million from the $14.2 million disbursed during the 2014-15 fiscal year. Increased general fund disbursements from $2.52 million in 2014-15 to $3.5 million in the recently completed 2015-16 fiscal year accounted for about half of the overall disbursement increase.

Following the budget hearing, in which no opposition to the budget was expressed, the board approved the budget, the property tax request, and the allowable increase in restricted funds.

The next regular meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Sept. 20.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 3 p.m. Sept. 13)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle rollover accident that occurred on the Moon Lake Road.

According to the sheriff’s department, the accident was reported at 7:18 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10. A 2003 Chevy pickup, driven by Karsyn Irwin, 18, of Ainsworth, was traveling north on the Moon Lake Road approximately 4 miles south of the Highway 20 intersection when the driver lost control of the vehicle. The Chevy left the roadway and rolled in the east ditch.
Irwin was ejected from the vehicle, however, the sheriff’s department report indicated he did not suffer injuries during the accident. The Chevy was considered a total loss.

* Allen wins Week 2 of the KBRB Football Contest

(Posted 11 a.m. Sept. 13)

Three contestants missed just one game during Week 2 of the KBRB Football Contest.

The game that tripped up the most contestants this week was Palmer’s 42-38 win over Burwell in the high school ranks.

Terry Allen of Ainsworth, Tom Mundorf of Springview and Jacque Richey of Springview each missed just one of the 14 games on the Week 2 card, and that was the Palmer win.

With three contestants tied, that sent us to our tie-breaker score, Nebraska’s 52-17 win against Wyoming.

Showing the most faith in the Huskers by picking a 42-17 Nebraska win, and hitting Wyoming’s score on the button in the process, was Terry Allen of Ainsworth. Missing the final score by just 10 points earns Allen the first-place, $40 certificate.

Jacque Richey picked the Huskers to win, 37-20, and Tom Mundorf had the Huskers, 34-20. That gives Richey the $10 second-place certificate by a close margin.

Jhett Hollenbeck and Erin Allen turned in cards that missed just two games, but all other contestants missed at least three during the week.

Week 3 KBRB Football Contest cards are out and available now at Circle B Livestock in Bassett, the West Plains Bank of Springview, K&H Specialty Meats in downtown Stuart, KC’s Roadrunner in Spencer, and in Ainsworth at Buckles Automotive, the Farmers-Ranchers Ampride, and the Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative Propane and Appliance Store.

Submit this week’s cards to the KBRB Studios by 5 p.m. Friday, or get them in the mail with a Friday postmark.
Winners may pick up their certificates at the KBRB Studios.

* School Board approves $9.36 million budget for 2016-17

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 13)

Property owners in the Ainsworth Community Schools District will be asked to pay $5.96 million to support a 2016-17 budget of $9.36 million.

Following a public hearing Monday, the Board of Education approved the 2016-17 budget, which is about $61,000 higher than the 2015-16 budget.

In addition to the $5.96 million to support the school’s general fund, property owners will pay $176,585 to support the kindergarten through eighth grade building bond, and $122,712 to support the high school building bond.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson told the board the 2016-17 year will be the final time bond funds are collected for the school addition.

“That levy will drop off next year,” Peterson said. “The bonds will be paid off after those taxes are received. That will amount to about $300,000 in taxes that won’t have to be collected next year.”

The $6.26 million in total property tax asking is a little more than $400,000 more than was requested from taxpayers to support the 2015-16 budget.

Despite the increase in tax asking, the levy rate decreased dramatically for the 2016-17 year, as property owners will pay 83 cents for every $100 in value. That total includes the 9.2 cents in levy for the voter-approved bonds, and is almost 12 cents lower than the 2015-16 levy rate of 95 cents per $100 in value.

The levy rate for Ainsworth Community Schools dropped substantially thanks to the overall valuation in the county again skyrocketing, mainly due to agricultural property values that were up by more than 20 percent from the prior year.

The valuation in the Ainsworth school district rose from $655 million to $806 million, an approximately 23 percent jump.

Had the school district opted to keep the property tax asking the same as the 2015-16 school year, the levy rate would have dropped to just under 78 cents per $100 in value.

The current school aid formula utilized by the Nebraska Legislature has resulted in state assistance for education to the Ainsworth district dropping from $1.71 million during the 2010-11 school year to zero for the 2016-17 year.

This will be the first year under the formula where Ainsworth Community Schools receives absolutely no funding assistance through the TEEOSA formula, though it is the third straight year with state funding assistance of less than $48,000.

“There was a piece in the formula that provided us a little in sales tax dollars, but that went away for this year,” Peterson said.

That meager sales tax portion had returned $33,266 to the district in the 2014-15 year, and $47,819 in the 2015-16 year. The last year the district received anything significant relating to state assistance was back in 2013-14, when $356,086 was returned to the school through the state aid formula.

Peterson said the $9.3 million budget provides for a cash reserve of approximately 23 percent.

Just because that dollar amount is budgeted does not mean that many dollars will be spent.

For example, during the 2015-16 school year, the district adopted a budget of $9.29 million, but spent a total of $7.38 million, including the money toward the bond funds. In the 2014-15 school year, the district budgeted $9.05 million, and spent $8.37 million. A large portion of the spending difference between those two years was a bond payment in 2014-15 that was more than $1 million higher than the payment made in 2015-16.

No one spoke in opposition to the budget, nor questioned any of the spending line items, during Monday’s special meeting.

Following the public hearings, the board adopted the 2016-17 budget and the property tax request.

The only other action item Monday was the passage of the second reading of a policy regarding staff members being prohibited from assisting anyone in finding a job who had been convicted of sexual assault of a child.

During her report, elementary principal Sarah Williams said Roni Daniels is spearheading the backpack food program this year, which provides supplemental food during the weekend to families who qualify. Williams said Al Steuter with the Brown County Foundation has been key in assisting with raising funding for the backpack program.

Secondary principal Bill Lentz said he has shared his expectation for behavior with the high school students and staff, and the district is emphasizing the concept of respectfulness.

He said there would not be a ninth period or Saturday school this year, as Lentz reported he did not believe those methods were effective. Instead, he is asking teachers to work directly with students before and after school who need additional help.

During his report, Peterson said the district has been serving local beef through the school lunch program. He said they have already gone through one animal and were starting on a second.

“It will take about eight to get us through the full year,” the superintendent said. “We currently have four animals that have been donated.”

He said there would be an event, likely during homecoming week, to recognize those supporting the local beef in school lunch program.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 10.

* Foundation ramping up Endowment Fund campaign with matching funds available

(Posted 9 a.m. Sept. 12)

The Brown County Community Foundation Fund Advisory Committee met Wednesday and received an update on the KBR Leadership Academy.  Jerry Ehlers and Wade Alberts shared details of the first session that was hosted by Keya Paha County and gave an overview of the next eight sessions. 

The Sherwood Campaign Leadership Committee will develop strategies for moving forward with campaign efforts.  The impact of the booth at the recent Brown County Fair was discussed.  Campaign and Foundation information has also been updated on the Nebraska Community Foundation website www.nebcommfound.org.

Contributions to the Endowment Account this past month totaled $3,450 from 5 donors, which will result in a $1,725 match from the Sherwood Foundation.  These contributions included the donation of two head of livestock.  The Ainsworth Community Schools Beef Processing Account also received donations totaling $200 from two donors.

Plans are currently underway for the Nebraska Community Foundation annual training and Banquet to be held Nov. 9-11 at McCook.

The Fund Advisory Committee was informed that Kristine Gale of Bassett has been named an area coordinator for the Nebraska Community Foundation and will be responsible for assisting affiliated funds in Cherry, Brown, Rock, Keya Paha, Holt and Boyd counties.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Brown County Community Foundation Fund Advisory Committee is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 5 in the North Central Development Center meeting room.

* Portion of Norden Avenue to be closed Monday for bridge replacement

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Sept. 9)

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported Norden Avenue will be closed to traffic from Road 880 to Road 881 beginning Monday morning.

Turpin said the roads department plans to take out a bridge on Norden Avenue and replace it with a culvert near the Road 881 intersection.

Turpin estimated it will take the roads crew about two days to complete the work. The area will be posted. Turpin will notify KBRB when the bridge replacement work has been completed.

* If inspection is passed, care center could admit residents by end of October

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 8)

There is light at the end of the tunnel in the long journey to reopen a nursing home facility in Ainsworth.

Representatives from Rural Health Development informed the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board Wednesday that the Nebraska State Fire Marshal plans to inspect the Sandhills Care Center building at 1 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12.

Should the facility pass the fire marshal’s inspection and receive a certificate of occupancy, the community can apply for a license through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Walt Dye with RHD said DHHS has 30 days from receiving notification from the community to schedule a licensure walk-through of the facility.

“We have to have a medical director, director of nursing and a dietitian in place at that time,” Dye said. “It will take DHHS a couple hours to go through everything. Then, we can receive a license and admit residents.”

Dye said passing the fire marshal’s inspection was not guaranteed, but they have been in contact with the inspector to make sure every item that will be checked is in working order. If the facility passes the inspection Sept. 12, the facility could admit its first residents toward the end of October.

Administrator Stephanie Rucker said the facility’s boiler passed inspection on Tuesday, and everything was ready for the fire marshal’s inspection with the exception of the generator.

Rucker said the part needed to repair the generator was in Broken Bow, and she was confident the repair would be complete ahead of the fire marshal’s arrival.

New board member Chuck Osborn volunteered to drive to Broken Bow Thursday to pick up and return the needed part so the generator repair work could be completed.

The board thanked Frontier Diesel for donating approximately $2,500 worth of repairs to the generator to help get it up and running.

Rucker introduced Amanda Tucker to the board after she was hired as the director of nursing for the facility. Rucker said the next hires will be a social services director, a dietary manager and a business office manager. She said the facility is seeking applications from registered nurses, certified nurse’s assistants and LPNs.

“The kitchen work has been completed, and the kitchen looks nice,” Rucker said. “The Methodist Church youth group painted the gazebo, pulled weeds and power-washed the fence. They did an amazing job.”

Rucker presented the board with options for dining room chairs. She said she found a company willing to sell 45 chairs for a delivered price of $100 each. She said the chairs were nursing-home approved and were being offered to the community at a discount because they had been ordered by another facility, but the sale fell through.

Board member Jim Walz said trying to take the old chairs apart so they could be repainted would ruin some of them.

“You are going to spend $25 per chair to try and repair them, and then you still have old chairs,” Walz said. “These new chairs can then be moved to the new facility.”

The board approved the dining room chair purchase from Invacare.

The board also approved working through the two local auto dealers to find a replacement for the care center’s minivan.

Walz said the van currently runs, but the air conditioning does not work and the brakes will soon need to be replaced. The board approved getting quotes from Ainsworth Motors and First Class Auto for a minivan not to exceed a price of $10,000 with the trade-in of the current minivan.

The board approved a bid from Time Management Systems for a system to clock in employees. Dye said the hardware does everything the facility needs it to do, and it is fingerprint verified when an employee clocks in to work. The first-year cost to install the hardware for the time management system will be between $6,060 and $7,710, depending on the installation time needed. Dye said the system could then be moved to a new facility.

By a 4-1 vote with Walz against, the board approved applying for a credit card for use by the administrator. The card would have a limit of $5,000.

The board held lengthy discussion with the RHD representatives regarding a tobacco free policy for the facility. Dye encouraged the board to approve a tobacco-free campus, but a majority of the board members instead preferred having one designated smoking area outside the facility where residents and employees could smoke.

The board approved having an off-site company handle all alcohol and drug testing of new hires and recurring random alcohol and drug tests of employees.

Discussing a benefits package to offer to employees, the board asked RHD to provide information on what other area nursing homes offer employees for benefits before making a decision.

Board chairman Kent Taylor said Eid Bailey, the company hired to generate a market study for the community as a requirement for a USDA direct loan program application for the construction of a new facility, would be on site in October and planned to have the market study completed by November.

The board approved purchasing a $350,000 title insurance policy on the Sandhills Care Center building at a total cost of $907.50.

The board also approved having RHD go out for bids for an insurance package for the facility, which would include property and liability insurance and workman’s compensation. Those bids will be opened at 2 p.m. Oct. 3.

The Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board will hold a special meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14. The next regular meeting of the board is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3.

* Brown County Hospital 2017 budget presented to commissioners

(Posted 10 a.m. Sept. 7)

Representatives from the Brown County Hospital presented the facility’s 2017 budget to the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday, showing the hospital finishing the 2016 year with a projected net profit of $366,242.

The Brown County Hospital generated $9.73 million in total operating revenue for 2016, with $9.74 million in operating expenses for a nearly balanced profit-loss margin. When including the voter-approved addition bond revenue, grant income and other contributions, the facility finished the year with the $366,242 profit margin.

In presenting the 2017 budget, Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen and Chief Financial Officer Lisa Wood said there were no major changes to the budget with the exception of the two additional providers, Dr. Ruslan Tourtsev and Dr. Bea Taylor, being added to the hospital staff.

The proposed budget projects revenue of $10.6 million for 2017, with expenses of $10.1 million.

Wood said adding the two physicians will increase expenses for the hospital, but should also lead to increased revenue when the providers begin to pick up increased patient visits.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus asked about two expense line items for 2017 that showed significant projected increases.

Sorensen said the maintenance and repair line item increased by 15 percent because the hospital had a credit for 2016 from its electronic health records installation that dropped the 2016 expense line. She said that line item of $467,000 was similar to the 2015 line item of $441,961, but the credit for 2016 dropped that line item to $407,359.

With a 23 percent budgeted increase in the “other” expense category, Wood said there was a detailed breakdown of items that fall into the “other” line item. She said the increase was attributed to the hospital helping to match physician recruitment efforts, such as student loan contributions. She said those contributions are spread out over the length of the physician’s contract.

Wood said the hospital also anticipated revenue in 2017 from again providing services to a local nursing home, as the Sandhills Care Center is scheduled to open late this year and will likely contract with the hospital for some services in 2017.

The commissioners include the Brown County Hospital’s budget as part of its 2016-17 budget. The annual budget hearing and property tax request for the Brown County 2016-17 budget is scheduled for 8 a.m. Sept. 13.

In related items Tuesday, the commissioners approved resolutions setting the 2016-17 property tax levy for the Brown County Rural Fire Protection District and the Brown County Agricultural Society.

The rural fire protection district will receive 4 cents in property tax levy for the 2016-17 budget year, and the agricultural society will receive $32,500 for its general operations and $20,000 toward arena renovations.

Commissioner Buddy Small reported the county had a balance of $70,000 in its sanitary landfill budget, and the county’s budget preparer recommended the balance did not need to be that high.

The commissioners approved reducing charges to county residents for solid waste disposal for 2017. Instead of a $10 monthly solid waste disposal charge for county residents, those outside the Ainsworth and Long Pine city limits, the board voted to cut the charge in half to $5 per month for 2017. The business rate and the cabin rate for solid waste fees in the county will also be cut in half for 2017.

The reduced fees take effect in January and are for 2017 only. The board will reassess the fees prior to 2018.

The commissioners received one bid to provide meals to the Brown County Jail for inmates. Big John’s submitted a bid of $9 per lunch and $9 per dinner delivered to the Brown County Jail. The bid from the local restaurant was equal to the bid it submitted the prior year, and the board approved it.

However, Wiebelhaus advised Sheriff Bruce Papstein he would like to see the sheriff’s department provide inmates with sandwiches, chips and fruit for a lunch meal, with the county required to serve one hot meal per day to jail inmates.

“It is not as big a deal when we only have one or two inmates,” Wiebelhaus said. “But, lately we have had five and six inmates in the jail, and going to one hot meal would cut down on some expense.”

Papstein said the sheriff’s department did recently replace a refrigerator in the building. He asked Wiebelhaus if it would be sheriff’s department personnel who would then be responsible for preparing the inmate lunches. Wiebelhaus said it would fall to the sheriff’s department to prepare the lunches for inmates, with the evening meal then still provided by the contracted restaurant.

The commissioners acknowledged the Brown County Ambulance Association roster as presented by members Mike Rudnick and Paul Carpenter.

Rudnick said the association has seen growth in its membership, and now has enough emergency medical technicians to implement a schedule that has an EMT on-call every five weeks. In the past, Rudnick said some EMTs were on call two of every three weeks.

The roster includes 21 EMTs, six ambulance drivers, and nine additional area responders as part of the on-call transfer schedule implemented in the past year by the association.

In addition, the roster shows nine students currently taking classes to become emergency medical technicians.

Rudnick and Carpenter then demonstrated the new power lifts that the association had purchased for its two ambulances. The board agreed to assist in the purchase of one of the power lifts, and will attempt to receive assistance for the cost of the lift from the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency.

The power lifts keep ambulance association personnel from having to physically lift patients in a stretcher into the ambulance.

During his report, Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the department has been hauling clay and patching roads, and planned to start next week on the replacement of a bridge on Norden Avenue near property owned by Royce Greder.

Turpin told the board he would like to continue the roads department’s summer hours through the month of September.

He requested again using a winter schedule that has roads department employees work four, 10-hour days instead of five, eight-hour days.

Wiebelhaus said he would again like to wait until November to begin the four-day shifts and run that schedule through the end of March.

The board approved a contract with Madison’s Great Western for propane at the county’s Johnstown roads shop. The county contracted the 1,800 gallons of fuel at $1.02 per gallon, with the county responsible for paying 10 cents per gallon up front.

The commissioners approved having Turpin sign supplement program agreements with the Nebraska Department of Roads for the Norden Bridge replacement project.

The board held an executive session to perform its annual performance evaluation of the highway superintendent.

The next regular meeting of the board is 8:15 a.m. Sept. 20, with the budget hearing Sept. 13.

* August records just over 25 percent of normal rainfall, though temps cooler

(Posted 4:30 p.m. Sept. 6)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn recorded just 0.71 of an inch of rainfall during August, which is well below the average for the month of 2.61 inches.
Despite the dry August, Ainsworth remains more than 3 inches ahead of normal rainfall. Through the first eight months, Osborn has recorded 20.75 inches of moisture, above the average of 17.56 inches.
Only four days in August eclipsed 90 degrees, which was well below normal. The high temperature for the month was 96 degrees on Aug. 18, with the low for the month just two days later, 49 degrees on Aug. 20.
To hear Osborn's full report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn August 2016 Weather Summary.mp3

* Swan wins Week 1 KBRB Football Contest

(Posted 3 p.m. Sept. 6)

No one turned in a perfect card during the first week of the KBRB Football Contest. In fact, missing two games put three players in contention for the $50 in prizes.

Wisconsin’s late field goal in a 16-14 win over No. 5 LSU and Northern Iowa’s five-point win over Iowa State tripped up the most contestants this week.

Mike Swan of Springview, Derek Swan of Springview, and Becky Schelm of Johnstown each turned in cards that missed two games. All three missed the Wisconsin and Northern Iowa wins.

That sent us to the tie-breaker, Nebraska’s 43-10 victory over Fresno State. Mike Swan missed that final by just two points, picking the Huskers to win, 45-10. That lands Mike the first place, $40 certificate. Becky Schelm missed the total by just nine points, picking the Huskers to win, 34-10. She earned the second place, $10 certificate.

Derek Swan also picked the Huskers, by a 38-17 margin, to miss the final score by 12 points.

Thanks to everyone who turned in a card. Pick up a Week 2 KBRB Football Contest Card from Circle B Livestock in Bassett, the West Plains Bank in Springview, K&H Specialty Meats in Stuart, KC’s Roadrunner in Spencer, and in Ainsworth from Buckles Automotive, the Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative Ampride, and the Propane and Appliance Store.

The Week 2 KBRB Football Contest cards are due in to the studios by 5 p.m. Friday, or they must carry a Friday postmark.

* Sheriff's department issues 15 citations during 'You Drink and Drive, You Lose'

(Posted 2:30 p.m. Sept. 6)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department, through funding provided by the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, participated in the national “You Drink and Drive, You Lose” campaign from Aug. 19 through Sept. 5. The campaign is designed to increase public awareness and make the nation’s roadways safer.

Law enforcement joined in the effort to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on roadways during the Labor Day holiday period. The sheriff’s department utilized three deputies, who worked a total of 67 hours of overtime.

During the enforcement period, the sheriff’s department issued 12 speeding citations, one citation for a stop sign violation, one for driving without an operator’s license, and one on a charge of driving on the shoulder.

In addition, the sheriff’s department made one arrest on a charge of driving under the influence. Eight citations were issued on charges of minor in possession of alcohol, and six citations were issued on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Three people were charged with tampering with evidence, one was arrested on a trespassing charge, and three were arrested on charges of unauthorized use of a financial transaction device and possession of unauthorized financial transaction devices.

One person was arrested on a charge of possession and theft of a controlled substance, and for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

There were a total of 15 citations and 19 warnings issued during the enforcement period. The sheriff’s department used regular enforcement, saturation patrols and an enforcement zone during the campaign.

Sheriff Bruce Papstein thanked everyone for doing their part to make the county’s roadways safer by always designating a sober driver.

* Sunday rollover accident on Moon Lake Road injures 3 teens

(Posted 2 p.m. Sept. 6)

A one-vehicle rollover accident on the Moon Lake Road Sunday injured three teenagers.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 4:30 p.m. Sunday on the Moon Lake Road approximately 18 miles south of the Highway 20 intersection, a 2004 Ford sport-utility vehicle, driven by Kendric Beck, 17, of Newport, was traveling north when the driver lost control of the vehicle. The Ford left the roadway and rolled in the west ditch before landing on its wheels.
Beck and two passengers in the Ford, Kaleb C. Lauer, 19, of Ainsworth, and Andrew Walton, 15, of Long Pine, were injured during the accident, and were transported by the Brown County Ambulance Association to the Brown County Hospital after responders were notified at approximately 5:30 p.m. and arrived on scene at just after 6 p.m.
The Ford was considered a total loss.

* School sees influx of new students for 2016-17 school year

(Posted 1:15 p.m. Sept. 1)

Ainsworth Community Schools Superintendent Darrell Peterson told the Board of Education Wednesday during a special meeting the district has 51 new students for the 2016-17 school year.

Presenting the annual census report, Peterson said the 51 new students boost the kindergarten through 12th-grade enrollment to 527 students, up from 490 for the 2015-16 school year.

“This is the most new students we have had in a long time,” the superintendent said. “It averages a little more than four new students per class.”

He reported seven students who had previously opted out of the district will not opt out after all. He said one family ended up not moving to the community, and the other family decided to continue home-schooling its children rather than attending public school.

The board approved an option enrollment request from Virginia Hughbanks to allow her children, Angel and Tamitha Cook, to attend Rock County Public Schools. Peterson said the family moved into the district from Bassett and would like to continue to attend school in Rock County.

The board also approved an option enrollment request from Anthony Grieser to allow his son, Noah Grieser, to attend Keya Paha County Public Schools. Peterson said the family moved to Long Pine from out of state and has relatives in Keya Paha County.

The board approved an early graduation request from John Bryant to allow his daughter, Hannah Bryant, to graduate a semester early in December of next year. Peterson said Bryant has been accepted into Northeast Community College, and by requesting the early graduation more than a year in advance, classes can be arranged to allow for the early graduation.

“We talked to the staff, and they felt the request was appropriate,” the superintendent said.

The school playground will have a new piece of equipment installed, as the board approved the purchase of a Wavy Wedge Walker from Crouch Recreation at a cost of $19,531.

Peterson said the school received an Americans with Disabilities Act grant for the equipment and the installation. He said the school will be responsible for the cost of the concrete work needed to support the installation. He said the equipment would be accessible to all students, including those with a disability.

The board approved first reading of a policy prohibiting staff members from aiding and abetting someone who has engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor from obtaining a new job.

Board member Brad Wilkins asked if the district’s teachers have been trained on their reporting requirements when it comes to instances of child abuse.

Peterson said the district takes the reporting requirements very seriously, and all staff have been trained on what to look for and when and how to report.

“This policy is verbatim from the Every Student Succeeds Act,” the superintendent said. “It forbids staff from helping someone find a new job who has engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor.”

The board approved the final expenditures for the 2015-16 school year, with the 2016-17 school year officially beginning Sept. 1.

The Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education will hold its annual budget hearing and property tax request for the 2016-17 school year at 8 p.m. Sept. 12, followed by the board’s regular meeting.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 1 p.m. Sept. 1)

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

Tyler W. Cress, age 26, of Long Pine, charged with first offense reckless driving, sentenced to seven days in jail, driver’s license revoked for nine months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Rosa E. Kepler, 43, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, fined $500, sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Larry Lane, 70, of Bassett, first offense driving under the influence, fined $500, sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Kevin D. Cole, 39, of Long Pine, domestic assault – intentionally causing bodily injury, sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for three days served.

Darby R. Cook, 45, of Johnstown, second degree trespassing – defying an order to leave, sentenced to two days in jail with credit for two days served.

Natalie C. Davidson, 43, of Thedford, first offense driving under the influence, fined $500, sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Vanessa Fernandez, 38, of Ainsworth, failure to license a dog or cat, $10.

Christopher L. Polen, 44, of Gretna, no park permit, $25.

Scott A. Swanson, 33, of Bassett, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Jesus Delgado Dominguez, 44, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Teresa R. Ryan, 28, of Ainsworth, licensing a vehicle without liability insurance, $100; also charged with no driver’s license on person, $25; failure to wear a safety belt, $25.

Dustin D. Dailey, 22, of Long Pine, overweight on an axle or group of axles, $75; commercial vehicle brake violation, $50.

David K. Croghan, 64, of Long Pine, commercial vehicle brake violation, $25.

Lynn F. Jessica, 31, of Aurora, Colo., speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Wanda M. Bare, 56, of Valentine, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Tommy Parks, 32, of Ainsworth, procuring or selling alcohol to a minor, sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for 14 days served.

John Tripp, 39, of Ainsworth, assault by mutual consent, $100.

Bridget A. Ortman, 42, of Canistota, S.D., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Robert A. Brawner, 55, of Wood Lake, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Alicia R. Olson, 21, of Gretna, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Gwendolyn M. Doane, 68, of Aransas Pass, Texas, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Schyler D. Schenk, 25, of Kearney, speeding 11-15 mph over the limit, $75.

Jeffrey J. Harrington, 63, of Hot Springs, Ark., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Joshua J. Finley, 19, of Ainsworth, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

James D. Arnold, 24, of Omaha, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Teresa L. Mueller, 42, of Springview, no valid registration, $25; speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Robert James Hutson, 49, of Greeley, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Lisa B. Hedges, 48, of Willis, Texas, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Patrick P. Jeffrey, 45, of Denver, Colo., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

C.L. Birkel, 56, of David City, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

* City Council looks into possible funding options for Sandhills Care Center

(Posted 7 a.m. Sept. 1)

The Ainsworth City Council appointed Council President Chuck Osborn to the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board of Directors during a special meeting Wednesday, and discussed additional sources of funds to provide operating capital to the Sandhills Care Center during its initial year of operation.

Osborn replaces Kent Taylor as the council’s representative on the Care Center Board. Taylor, after resigning from the council in August due to moving outside the city limits, was appointed by both the City Council and the Brown County Commissioners to a newly created at-large seat on the Care Center Board.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said, during a recent budget workshop, several possibilities were discussed to generate additional revenue for the first year of the care center’s operation. Projections show a large shortfall in operating revenue for the facility in its first year, as there is a delay in receiving Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

Schroedl said one option would be for the council to place on the ballot an additional one-half cent sales tax and let voters decide if that was acceptable.

She said the additional local option sales tax can only be used for general government infrastructure.

“We could use money from the general fund for the care center, then use the local option sales tax to place money back in for the infrastructure funding we would lose by using it for the care center,” Schroedl said.

No one from the council indicated they were in favor of placing a sales tax initiative on the ballot.

Schroedl said the budget committee also discussed utilizing Keno in the community to provide revenue for the care center and other community projects.

“We are not sure how much revenue that would generate,” the city administrator said. “Long Pine generates about $40,000 per year from Keno.”

The council agreed to form a committee to look into the possibility of placing Keno on a future ballot. The committee will look into the procedures for implementing the charitable game, and will check with business owners to see if they were interested in running Keno in their establishments.

In a related item, the council amended its Community Development Block Grant re-use loan program based on recommendations made by Central Nebraska Economic Development District Director Judy Peterson, who serves as the administrator for the CDBG re-use loan fund.

Peterson recommended the council amend its re-use loan program guidelines to allow for a zero percent loan that is forgivable over a period of years, and increase the loan amount to $35,000 for each job created or retained, up from the current $20,000.

City Attorney Rod Palmer asked how the changes facilitate using the money for the care center’s operations.

Peterson said the CDBG re-use loan program has to be used with for-profit businesses, which the city-county facility would not qualify for.

“Your management company is the only entity eligible to apply,” Peterson said. “I don’t advise you to do something that (Housing and Urban Development) will come back on and say that the funds were given improperly.”

Osborn said, whatever the method, the city needed to find a way to use the re-use loan funds for the care center’s operations.

Peterson said she has been communicating with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, who recommended the amendments to the program guidelines that she was proposing to the council.

“The state has been great to work with,” Peterson said. “We are trying to make this work for the city. We can’t loan to a non-profit, so we are looking to see if the management company can be the official applicant.”

Schroedl said she spoke with Ron Ross from Rural Health Development, the company hired to manage the Sandhills Care Center, and he indicated RHD had done something similar with another community.

“There is approximately $290,000 in that fund,” Schroedl said. “We are trying to work together. The state wants us to have access to these funds for this project.”

Councilwoman Deb Hurless questioned whether safeguards could be put in place in case the management company changed for any unforeseen reason.

Councilman Greg Soles said the loan agreement could provide the protections to the city if the forgivable loan applicant is RHD.

The council unanimously voted to approve the amendments to the plan as recommended by Peterson.

Prior to the discussion on care center funding, the council held a nuisance abatement show-cause hearing on a property classified as having a nuisance violation.

Property owners Charlie and Darlene Cleal, who own the rental property, said they did not realize the condition of the property.

“We hauled the refrigerator and tires out,” Charlie Cleal said. “The renter was supposed to take care of that. I plan to put a new roof and fascia on the garage when the weather cools and I get done irrigating. I thank the council for bringing this to our attention.”

Peterson, who serves as the city’s nuisance abatement code enforcement officer, asked that the Cleals provide a letter for her files stating their intent to address the remaining issues.

The council thanked the Cleals for agreeing to address the violations, and tabled action on the show-cause hearing until its November meeting to give them time to complete the repair work.

Osborn asked, “In the future, can this just be taken care of without having a hearing?”

Peterson said show-cause hearings were typically used by people who disagree that the property has nuisance violations, so in this instance the show-cause hearing was probably not necessary.

“It was wonderful to see all the tires cleaned up when we did our re-inspection on this property,” Peterson said.

Mayor Larry Rice said the council would take action in November to clear the property from the code violations after the repairs are completed, and there should not be a reason for the Cleals to come back before the council unless there is another issue that comes up.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 14.

* Arens named to Smith's Youth Advisory Council

(Posted 2:30 p.m. Aug. 29)

Nebraska 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith named the 20 high school students who will serve on his Youth Advisory Council for the 2016-2017 academic school year.

Among those selected to the Youth Advisory Council is Ainsworth High School student Jack Arens.

Smith’s Youth Advisory Council is a forum for high school students to discuss opinions, thoughts, and concerns about local and federal issues with Smith throughout the school year. Through in-person meetings and other contacts, the council provides students an opportunity for involvement and insight into their government and communities.

The council is open to junior and senior high school students who are selected through an application process in the spring. 

* Rock County man dies Thursday while changing a water pump north of Newport

(Posted 11 a.m. Aug. 26)

A 73-year-old Rock County man died Thursday, Aug. 25, in an accident 8 miles north of Newport.

Rock County Sheriff Jim Anderson said, at 10:20 a.m. Thursday, an emergency call was received that Lanny Heyden of Newport had been injured while replacing a water pump.

Anderson said Heyden and another individual were changing a water pump for a private well. While attempting to run air into the water tank to remove the water and reduce the weight of the tank, the tank ruptured. The tank and motor struck Heyden.

The second individual was not injured when the tank ruptured, and notified emergency responders. Heyden was pronounced dead at the scene upon the arrival of emergency medical technicians.

* Ainsworth native named rodeo coach at Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture

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

A 2014 alum and team roper of the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture has been named the as the NCTA Aggie Rodeo Coach.

Taylor Rossenbach, a native of rural Ainsworth, was a tie-down calf and team roper with the Aggies for two years before graduating in May 2014.

Rossenback now lives in Curtis, and is an insurance and financial advisor with Farm Bureau Financial Services. He officially joined the NCTA coaching staff in mid-August.

Rossenbach is active in Frontier County organizations including Curtis Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Rotary International, and serves as the treasurer for the UNSTA-NCTA Alumni Association.

Nearly 20 students will vie for spots on the traveling team, including 2-time national collegiate finals qualifier Lexus Kelsch of McLaughlin, S.D. She and her horse, Tigger, placed fifth at the CNFR this year.

We have a great group of young men and women on the NCTA rodeo team this year, Rossenbach said. I am looking forward to helping each of them improve, and also meet and exceed their goals.

NCTAs rodeo athletes will travel to the University of Wisconsin at River Falls for the season opener on Sept. 9-10. Mid-Plains Community College will host rodeo action on Sept. 16-17.

We are excited to have Taylor back on campus as a coach and are looking forward to the experience he brings to the NCTA Rodeo Team, Dr. Doug Smith, division chair of animal science and agricultural education, said. He is a great addition to our division due to the enthusiasm he brings to NCTAs rodeo program.

NCTAs team is part of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, which competes among more than 100 teams from two-year and four-year colleges.

NCTA is in the Great Plains Region of the 11 NIRA regions. Student athletes compete in events of saddle bronc riding, bare back riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping, and goat tying.

Former Aggie coach Bridger Chytka is leading a new agriculture education and FFA program at Thedford High School.

* Work scheduled to begin next week on Highway 281

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

Weather permitting, work is scheduled to begin the week of Sept. 6 on Highway 281 near Eagle Creek, 18 miles north of O’Neill. Work includes removal of asphalt pavement, stabilization of subgrade, and replacing the roadway surface with concrete pavement, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.

During construction, there will be a 12-foot width restriction. One-lane traffic will be controlled with reduced speeds and traffic signals. A&R Construction Co. of Plainview has the $1.2 million contract. Anticipated project completion is the end of October.

The Department of Roads project manager is Carl Hart of Ainsworth. Motorists are asked to drive cautiously through construction zones, and remember that speeding fines are doubled when workers are present.

* Progress continues toward opening Sandhills Care Center

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

Items continue to be checked off as the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board prepares for the opening of the Sandhills Care Center.

During a special meeting Monday, the board approved a vendor to provide the facility with electronic health records equipment and agreed on a pharmacy services provider.

Acting on a recommendation from Rural Health Development, the company hired to handle administration of the local facility, the board approved a quote from Point Click Care to provide the nursing home with electronic health records equipment.

Mike Harris with RHD said Point Click Care’s initial setup cost of $1,450 plus approximately $4,000 worth of hardware purchases was much lower than the $46,385 initial cost quoted by American Health Tech.

While the monthly support fee for Point Click Care’s electronic health records system was a little higher than American Health Tech, the five-year total cost for Point Click Care was close to $30,000 less expensive.

Also a recommendation from the RHD representatives, the board approved a pharmacy services agreement with Redler’s Pharmacy of Omaha. Harris said Redler’s Pharmacy provides services to 55 facilities across the state, including Cottonwood Villa in Ainsworth and Parkside Manor of Stuart.

Board member Jim Walz asked if the services could be provided locally. Harris said the Brown County Hospital was not able to provide all the services required by the state. The board then placed a phone call to the Rock County Hospital to see if it could provide the required service, but in the end the vote was unanimous to approve the contract with Redler’s Pharmacy.

Administrator Stephanie Rucker reported the state fire marshal toured the facility a week ago to see the progress being made to reopen the facility.

“He was happy with the progress, but there are still a couple things we need to do,” Rucker said. “The sprinkler system checked out well.”

Harris said they hoped to be completed with all renovations and have the fire marshal return for a final inspection on the Monday following Labor Day.

“We hope to have the generator circuit board repaired by then so we can pass final inspection and get a certificate of occupancy,” Harris said. “We need that so we can get licensed.”

Rucker reported the dishwasher has been installed in the kitchen, the countertops have been installed, and the room has been painted.

“The mold in the maintenance room is gone,” Rucker said. “Krotters donated all the paint for the building, and the carpets have now all been cleaned.”

Walz said there has been a substantial amount of work done on the facility.

“This group has done an excellent job,” Walz said.

Board member Leanne Maxwell said the outside of the building also looked much better.

Harris said the renovation costs have been coming in well under the original projections.

“Also, there is so much re-useable equipment in that facility,” Harris said. “The beds, the lifts, the physical therapy equipment – there is thousands of dollars of equipment that can then be moved to a new facility.”

Harris introduced Walt Dye, a Rural Health Development employee who will begin working to get the facility ready to open after helping to open a facility at White Clay. Harris said there was a large amount of paperwork for the Medicare and Medicaid certification that he would be working on in Lincoln.

Dye reported the facility has joined the Prairie Health Ventures group purchasing organization. He said there is no cost to become a part of the organization, and being a part of the network would save the facility money on day-to-day medical supplies.

“They can meet 90 percent of our needs for purchases, and we can get cheaper prices through the network than we could otherwise,” Dye said.

During its prior meeting, the board selected the firm Eid Bailey to perform a market study as a requirement for applying for a USDA direct loan for the construction of a new facility east of the Brown County Hospital.

Board Chairman Kent Taylor said the original quote of $7,000 from Eid Bailey apparently did not include all the items required by the USDA. He said Eid Bailey supplied a revised quote that fulfilled all of the USDA requirements for the study, but the price tag for the study jumped from $7,000 to $18,000.

Board member Buddy Small said he would rather the paperwork be done correctly the first time, and the board approved the revised quote for the required market study.

Following the public session, the board entered into executive session to work on wage scales, benefits packages and job descriptions for employees.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board is scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7, since the first Monday of the month falls on Labor Day.

* Friday fire destroys outbuilding and vehicle west of Ainsworth

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Aug. 22)

A Friday afternoon fire destroyed an outbuilding and a vehicle west of Ainsworth, and stopped traffic on Highway 20.

According to Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Jeff Keezer, at 5:30 p.m. Friday, firefighters responded to a fire call 1 mile west of Ainsworth. An outbuilding owned by Terry and Erin Allen caught fire, destroying the building and its contents, which included a pickup and other items. Damage to the building and its contents was estimated at between $8,000 and $10,000.

Traffic was stopped on Highway 20 in both directions while firefighters extinguished the flames.

Keezer said firefighters returned to the fire hall at approximately 7 p.m. The exact cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

* Sheriff's department participating in 'You Drink and Drive, You Lose' campaign

(Posted 7:30 a.m. Aug. 15)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is working overtime this month to keep roads safe from impaired drivers. The sheriff’s department is participating in the annual “You Drink and Drive, You Lose” crackdown thanks to a grant from the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety.

The department received a grant for salaries and mileage for the enforcement period that begins Thursday and continues through Labor Day, Sept. 5.

Deputies will be on the lookout for impaired drivers, and will enforce all traffic laws during the crackdown.

On average, there is one alcohol-impaired, driving-related fatality every 51 minutes across the U.S. Drunk driving kills almost 10,000 people each year, but the number of accidents and fatalities can be reduced by taking impaired drivers off the roadways.

Anyone who sees a suspected drunk driver is asked to contact local law enforcement immediately. Anyone who knows someone who is about to drive while drunk, be a friend, take their keys, and help them make other arrangements to get where they are going safely.

Anyone who plans on drinking should always designate a sober driver. Research has shown that high-visibility enforcement, like the “You Drink and Drive, You Lose” campaign, can reduce alcohol-impaired driving fatalities by as much as 20 percent. By joining the nationwide effort, the Brown County Sheriff’s Department wants to help make the county’s roadways safer throughout the Labor Day holiday period.

Sheriff Bruce Papstein said driving impaired is simply not worth the risk, as violators face jail time, the loss of their driver’s license, and steep financial consequences such as higher insurance rates, attorney fees, court costs, lost time at work and the potential loss of a job.

* Sibbel appointed to Northeast Community College District 2 Board seat

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

Carol Sibbel of O’Neill has been named the newest member of the Northeast Community College Board of Governors. Sibbel was sworn in at the board’s monthly meeting Thursday at Norfolk.

Sibbel, a loan officer with Pinnacle Bank’s O’Neill branch, succeeds Larry Poessnecker of Atkinson, who resigned his District Two seat this summer.

The district covers Keya Paha, Brown, Rock, Boyd, Holt, and Knox counties in their entirety and a portion of Cedar County. 

Sibbel said she applied for the board position because she believes in the opportunities a community college education provides students.

“Northeast Community College’s extended campus has been a wonderful addition to the O’Neill community and the surrounding area,” Sibbel said. “By serving as a member of the board of governors, I feel I can give back by serving our community in promoting higher education that is affordable to all students. Being from a small town, I appreciate higher education greatly and I like to see options available for all learners, regardless of where they live.”

Julie Robinson of Norfolk, chair of the board’s selection committee, said they look forward to Sibbel serving on the board.

“Larry Poessnecker was an outstanding, longtime member of the board and his shoes will be hard to fill,” Robinson said. “But, the selection committee felt that Carol’s experience in business and finance and her understanding of Northeast’s far western service area will bring invaluable insights to our discussions. She will make an excellent addition to our extremely dedicated board.”

Northeast President Dr. Michael Chipps said he was pleased Sibbel was selected as a District Two board member.

“Northeast has major initiatives presently underway and planned for the future with projects carefully crafted to meet the Board’s Vision 2020 goals,” Chipps said. “Carol is joining the board at an exciting time in its history as the college continues to forge the future of higher education for the Northeast service area and the state.”

Sibbel has a bachelor’s degree in business management with an emphasis in finance from the University of South Dakota; a bank management emphasis from the Graduate School of Banking at Colorado; and a master’s of science in banking and financial services from Northern State University.

She has been active in St. Mary’s Schools at O’Neill for the past 21 years. She presently serves as a member of the St. Patrick’s Parish Finance Committee and is also involved in recruitment, fundraising and development.

Sibbel said she will run for the seat when it comes up for election in 2018.

* Taxable sales remain on the decline in Brown County, May data shows

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Aug. 11)

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

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Boyd

1,027,824

987,073

4.1

56,530.46

54,289.14

Brown

2,730,352

3,016,518

(9.5)

150,169.54

165,128.52

Ainsworth

2,601,513

2,808,410

(7.4)

143,083.36

153,682.57

Cherry

5,610,116

5,964,337

(5.9)

308,556.88

328,038.96

Valentine

5,467,198

5,733,939

(4.7)

300,696.26

315,366.98

Holt

9,641,222

8,778,995

9.8

530,267.82

482,872.03

Atkinson

1,511,534

1,614,788

(6.4)

83,134.53

88,813.48

O'Neill

6,603,195

5,963,417

10.7

363,175.99

327,988.29

Keya Paha

253,379

208,441

21.6

13,935.87

11,464.29

Rock

529,212

531,665

(0.5)

29,106.72

29,241.64

Valley

3,286,060

3,255,201

0.9

180,733.54

179,036.29

Ord

2,784,948

2,858,917

(2.6)

153,172.31

157,240.63

State Total

$2,348,569,032

$2,331,800,955

0.7

$129,299,292.92

$128,326,726.27

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

County
or City

2016
Net Taxable
Sales

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2016
Sales Tax
5.5%

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

20,101

163,275

(87.7)

1,084.73

8,943.43

Boyd

492,332

577,212

(14.7)

27,144.30

31,776.71

Brown

760,444

833,417

(8.8)

42,131.52

46,031.86

Cherry

1,407,488

1,298,607

8.4

77,898.90

71,851.70

Holt

2,631,310

2,361,334

11.4

145,741.40

130,902.89

Keya Paha

203,727

205,121

(0.7)

11,197.97

11,264.68

Rock

492,791

579,973

(15.0)

27,192.87

32,050.87

Valley

885,685

1,138,879

(22.2)

49,063.33

62,951.92

State Total

$339,061,618

$326,403,961

3.9

$18,806,864.04

$18,096,880.66

* Soles appointed to Ainsworth City Council

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 11)

Greg Soles was sworn in as the fourth member of the Ainsworth City Council Wednesday, taking the oath of office to serve until December for the remainder of Kent Taylor’s term.

Taylor resigned from the council effective Aug. 2 due to moving outside the city limits. Soles was appointed to the seat by Mayor Larry Rice.

Deb Hurless will be the only candidate to appear on the General Election ballot for City Council. Unless a candidate agrees to run as a write-in, Rice will make another appointment to the council in December.

Judy Peterson with Central Nebraska Economic Development District presented the council with information on the latest round of nuisance abatement inspections conducted in the city.

CNEDD has been contracted to serve as the city’s nuisance abatement code enforcement officer. Peterson said 83 parcels were inspected this round, all located from Highway 20 south to Front Street, and from Elm Street west to Maple Street.

She said, of the 83 parcels inspected, 34 property owners received certified letters notifying them they had a violation of the city’s nuisance code and asking them to voluntarily correct the violation.

Peterson said there was a great response to the initial letters. Re-inspecting the parcels Tuesday, Peterson said 27 of the 34 parcels with code violations were cleared, leaving just seven parcels with violations.

After showing photos of the violations to the council, Peterson asked the council to declare the seven properties as nuisances.

Councilman Chuck Osborn asked if any of the seven had made any attempt to abate the nuisance. Peterson said there has been no response, and no effort made. Of the seven, at least three are owned by people outside the community, with the houses appearing to be vacant.

The council unanimously voted to declare the seven parcels as nuisances. Peterson said a certified letter will be sent to the parcel owners notifying them the parcels had been declared a nuisance.

Property owners receiving the violation letter can request a hearing within five days of receiving the certified letter. Any nuisances not cleared at that point will result in the council taking action to abate the nuisance. The council then has the option to have the violation abated, with the cost of doing so charged to the property owner.

Councilman Brian Williams asked about the progress on the nuisance properties from the 2014 and 2015 inspections.

Rice said the Board of Health met regarding six remaining parcels.

“Those property owners will be getting hand-delivered letters from the sheriff’s department,” the mayor said.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said those property owners will have 30 days upon receiving the letter to provide a plan for abatement to the city office. If no action is taken by the property owner at that point, the city will take the next step in the legal process.

This is the third year the city has conducted nuisance code inspections. Approximately 200 parcels were inspected in each of the first two years due to the city receiving a grant for the cost of the inspections.

With the grant dollars no longer available, the city opted to inspect a smaller number of parcels in 2016, but plans to continue with the nuisance inspections annually for the remaining areas of the city.

Peterson also updated the board regarding the city’s CDBG re-use loan program, the funds in which the council has indicated it would like to allocate toward the Sandhills Care Center project.

She said she is working with the state of Nebraska to make sure the amendment to the city’s re-use plan program guidelines are acceptable to the Department of Economic Development.

In other business Wednesday, the council approved two applications from the LB 840 fund totaling $185,000 following public hearings.

North Central Development Center Director Kristin Olson said the $65,000 grant to support economic development would be used to operate the NCDC office.

“We started with a request of $72,000,” Olson said. “We have tried to reduce the amount we requested each year, but this is the second year we are asking for $65,000. We have asked our other partners to increase their contributions. We asked the county to increase its contribution to the same level as the city, $12,000.”

The second LB 840 funding request, in the amount of $120,000, was labeled for professional recruitment.

Olson said the LB 840 committee reviewed the application and recommended it for approval.

She said the professional recruitment committee recently reviewed two requests.

“We try to match our funds with state funds to make sure we get a return on our investment in the community,” Olson said. “One of these applicants would have a federal match.”

Olson said there have been five applicants approved for professional recruitment assistance in the past, ranging from $5,000 and up.

Osborn asked if the professional signs a contract to receive the assistance. Olson said contracts are signed that require the professional to commit to the community.

“The federal program is typically a two-year commitment,” Olson said. “The state program is a three-year commitment. In the past, we have asked for up to a five-year commitment.”

Olson said the NCDC verifies the professional is meeting all of the contract requirements, and the funds are disbursed over a period of several years, and are typically used to assist with student loan debt.

Rice said, “Sid Salzman and I were on that committee when it was formed. We found, if we were going to be competitive with other hospitals in the state and in the area, we had better come up with incentives or we had no chance at these professionals.”

The council approved both LB 840 applications, with Hurless abstaining on the vote for the $65,000 application for economic development support.

By a 3-0 vote with Soles abstaining, the council approved a three-year agreement with Brown County for law enforcement service, with the city agreeing to contribute $16,328 per month. That total will increase by 2 percent for each of the subsequent two years.

“We had a productive meeting with the county,” Rice said. “There is no way in the world we want to go through the process of reforming the Ainsworth Police Department.”

Rice said the contract was amended to increase the money allocated for a vehicle purchase for the sheriff’s department from $12,500 annually to $13,500. If a vehicle is not purchased in the contract year, the council receives a credit for the $13,500.

Rice said the contract also had language added allowing the city the option to obtain a vehicle replaced by the sheriff’s department after the county transferred a former sheriff’s department vehicle to the roads department instead of using it as a trade-in to reduce the cost of the new sheriff’s department vehicle.

The council approved a conditional-use permit recommendation from the Ainsworth Planning Commission allowing for portable storage containers to be placed by Tate Schipporeit in an area of the city zoned for industrial use.

Schroedl said there were already portable storage containers in that area, and there was nothing in the city’s municipal zoning ordinances relating to storage containers. She said the Planning Commission is working on an amendment to the code allowing for storage containers by conditional-use permit only in areas zoned as industrial. They will not be allowed in residentially-zoned areas.

In a final action item Wednesday, the council approved renewing its liability, property and workman’s compensation insurance coverage through the League Association of Risk Management.

Schroedl said, by agreeing to a three-year renewal and a 180-day termination notice, the city would receive a 5 percent reduction on its premium, from $62,818 down to $59,676.

The council approved the three-year renewal at the 5 percent discount rate.

The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 14.

* Smith touts tax code simplification, trade opportunities during Ainsworth stop Tuesday

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 10)

During a Tuesday visit in the Brown County Courthouse, Nebraska 3rd District Rep. Adrian Smith told a small gathering the biggest thing he believed Congress could accomplish is the simplification of the tax code.

“I am willing to look at any of a number of proposals that are out there,” Smith said. “Our convoluted tax policy makes it easier for people to cheat and harder for honest people to comply. It is costing Americans $170 billion to comply with our tax code.”

Smith said one proposal would simplify the code to a point that 95 percent of taxpayers could file their returns using a postcard.

Smith said the skepticism between the two parties is preventing Congress from handling even the most simple functions of government.

“If all we did in Congress was pass a budget, many would say our job is done,” he said. “But, we aren’t even getting that done. The policies coming out of Washington are inconsistent with all these continuing resolutions.”

Smith said a lot of good legislation has come out of disagreement and negotiation.

“I hope we can leverage our disagreements and move the ball down the field,” he said.

The Congressman said one of the best ways for the U.S. to address its trade deficit is to sell more American products to other countries.

“We are good at producing food in an efficient manner,” Smith said. “We don’t want to lose markets for our agricultural products.”

Smith said the country could no longer ignore a $19 trillion debt.

“That amounts to $60,000 for every person in the country,” Smith said. “The government’s income has been rising steadily. We have cut discretional spending, but the biggest part of our budget is mandatory spending. We are going to have to look at our spending.”

Following the discussion, Smith spoke to KBRB’s Graig Kinzie. To hear the conversation, click on the audio link below.
 

audio clips/Adrian Smith 8-9-16.mp3

* School begins Monday with 5 new teachers and a new secondary principal

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 9)

Four new teachers and a new principal will greet students next week when Ainsworth Community Schools opens its doors to students for the 2016-17 year.

New secondary principal Bill Lentz told the Board of Education Monday he has met with a majority of the staff members to get a feel for the direction they would like to go for the upcoming year.

“We have had some good discussions,” Lentz said. “We have a strong staff, and we have good Sandhills kids. It has been a great start.”

In addition to Lentz, Ainsworth Community Schools welcomes Sean Sterkel, Neiley Fernau, Laurie Goodloe and Jake and Sandy Nelson to the district for the 2016-17 school year.

Sterkel will teach physical education and coach the varsity and junior high boys basketball teams.

Jake Nelson will teach math and take over the head football coaching duties, while Sandy Nelson will teach physical education and reading and will coach junior high volleyball and girls basketball.

Neiley Fernau will be the new elementary resource teacher and will coach C team volleyball.

Laurie Goodloe will teach geography, world history and American government. Goodloe had previously served as a substitute teacher.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson said a few changes have been made to teaching assignments for the new school year, with the sixth grade having two teachers and being a self-contained class this year.

“Mrs. Bowers is going to teach eighth-grade science, and Mr. Nelson is going to take over chemistry for Mrs. Bowers along with his math duties,” Peterson said. “Spanish is going to be taught by Jolene Drake of Pleasanton through distance learning.”

The board approved the staffing, organization and coaching assignments for the 2016-17 year.

In other business Monday, the board approved an option enrollment request allowing Katalina and Sterling Beach to attend Ainsworth Community Schools. The family moved to Keya Paha County but wants the incoming freshman and sixth-grade student to attend school in Ainsworth.

The board approved the second reading of several policies, including the assessments and academic content standards policy; the student transportation policy; the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act; a homeless student policy; an initiations, hazing, secret clubs and outside organizations policy; and a purchasing policy.

During his report, Peterson said representatives from the Nebraska School Board Association plan to host a community engagement session in Ainsworth to engage parents and community stakeholders. He said the session is tentatively planned for November, and he would provide additional details when the date is finalized.

He congratulated teacher Nichole Flynn for winning a Nebraska Department of Education GIS Story Map contest. Flynn was recognized for enhancing education through the utilization of GIS technology. The school will receive a GPS unit for use in classrooms.

Peterson said the new heating and cooling units have been installed, but there were leaks in the coils. The company will replace the coils, but that may not happen until after school starts for the year.

He also reported he plans to utilize a drug dog more frequently for random checks in the school buildings to discourage any drug activity in the school and around the community.

“We want to send the message that drugs are not acceptable,” the superintendent said.

During her report, elementary principal Sarah Williams said she was thrilled with the way summer school and the summer lunch program went.

She said 26 students between kindergarten and sixth grade attended. Seventh- through 12th-grade students helping with summer school volunteered 204 hours of their time.

Williams said surveys were mailed to participating families, and some good suggestions were already being received for next year.

She said more than 50 children per day ate lunch during the free summer lunch program that was held during the 12 days of summer school.

Williams reported 24 students and their parents attended kindergarten orientation Aug. 4. The 24 kindergarten students will be the smallest class in the elementary school.

The board will hold a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 31 to approve final expenditures for the 2015-16 school year.

The annual budget hearing and property tax request is scheduled for 8 p.m. Sept. 12, followed by the board’s regular meeting.

* Sybrant wins 2 horseshoe pitching events, including Roggasch Memorial

(Posted 11:30 a.m. Aug. 8)

Jim Sybrant of Bassett won the Dennis Roggasch Memorial Horseshoe Tournament Traveling Trophy Saturday during the annual Rock County Fair event. A total of 20 horseshoe pitchers competed in the double elimination tournament was pitched.

Results were:
1st.......Jim Sybrant, Bassett
2nd......Tom Borszich,Valentine
3rd.......Jeremy Roggasch, Long Pine
4th.......Tim Roggasch, Rose
5th.......Hadan Sybrant, Bassett
6th.......Malinda Hodge, Rose
7th.......Shane Connell, Waterbury
8th.......Brian Keck, Bassett
9th.......Ginger Babcock,East Wenatchee, Wa
10th.....Steve Coble, Bassett


A state sanctioned horseshoe pitching tournament was also held Sunday at the East City Park horseshoe pits, with Jim Sybrant winning that competition as well. He was named the tournament champion and qualifies for the upcoming state tournament at Scottsbluff.

Malinda Hodge of Rose finished second, followed by Joe Paitz of Hazard in third, Tim Roggasch of Rose fourth, Brandie Messersmith of Rose fifth, and Savanah Roggasch of Rose in sixth place.

Brandie Messersmith was named the junior champion.

* Osborns to receive Ruby Stufft Award from the National Weather Service

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

On Wednesday, Gerry Osborn and his wife Bev will be presented the Ruby Stufft award during
the 18th annual High Plains Chapter Conference. The conference and presentation will take place in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln West Central Research and Extension conference room at North Platte.
The award is named for Ruby Stufft of Elsmere, who in 1991 completed 70 years as a cooperative observer, thus becoming the first woman to ever reach that plateau. The National Weather Service presents the award in honor of Stufft to weather observers who have attained 70 years of service.
National Weather Service Central Region Director Christopher Strager will present the award to
the Osborns. Gerry Osborn was the backup observer to his father when he was younger and assumed duties as primary observer on Oct. 1, 1946. Bev is the secondary observer. Part of
their daily observations includes reporting temperature, precipitation, snowfall and snow depth to the National Weather Service. There are over 300 official volunteer cooperative weather observers in Nebraska and nearly 11,000 nationwide. Observers are placed at private residences, farms, municipal facilities, utilities, dams, parks, game refuges, radio and television stations, and other locations.
Osborn has received several awards during the years. In 1999, he was the recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award. This award is given to an observer who has shown outstanding and unusual achievements in the field of meteorological observations. This is the highest award the National Weather Service presents to an observer. In 1993, he was the recipient of the John Campanius Holm Award. That award is given to an observer with outstanding accomplishments
with their meteorological observations.
The observer’s job is a public service to the local community and to the nation. The Osborns and other cooperative observers make the climatological program a success, volunteering their time to provide National Weather Service, and their community, with daily weather information.

* City, county amend care center agreement; appoint Taylor as fifth board member

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Aug. 3)

In an effort to keep Chairman Kent Taylor on the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board, the Brown County Commissioners and Ainsworth City Council amended the interlocal agreement between the two entities to add a fifth member to the board selected by mutual consent between the city and the county.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the commissioners, with the City Council holding a special session, the groups agreed retaining Taylor on the board was a priority. The City Council representative on the interlocal board, Taylor resigned his council position effective Aug. 2 after moving to a new residence outside the city limits.

“The issue today is retaining Kent Taylor on the interlocal board,” Commissioner Buddy Small said. “The option that seems to be most favorable is adding a fifth member at-large to the board.”

Small also serves on the Care Center Board, representing the county. The original agreement called for four board members, including one commissioner, one City Council member, one member appointed by the county and one member appointed by the city.

County Attorney David Streich said the groups must first amend the interlocal agreement to include the language allowing for a fifth member that must be mutually agreed upon by the two entities. If the council and commissioners do not mutually agree on a fifth member, the board seat is to remain vacant.

Council President Chuck Osborn said, “Kent has been a leader on that board, and we agree he needs to stay on there. He has agreed to do so.”

Small said the commissioners were in agreement that it would be better for the interlocal board to retain Taylor’s expertise.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, “I think it has worked well having four on the board, but Kent has been a major asset so I don’t have a problem with going to five.”

Both boards approved amending the interlocal agreement, then each entity voted to appoint Taylor as the fifth member to the board.

The City Council will decide during its Aug. 10 meeting who will serve as the council representative on the board, though Osborn indicated Tuesday he would likely fill the role Taylor previously occupied.

The groups made an additional change to the interlocal agreement, adding language that allows non-board members to serve as the secretary and treasurer for the board, since County Clerk Travee Hobbs was handling the duties of recording secretary during the board’s meetings, and City Administrator Lisa Schroedl was serving as the treasurer for the board.

The City Council adjourned its special meeting following the care center discussion. Continuing their regular meeting, the commissioners discussed the extensive damage to county roadways from the weekend flooding, particularly the damage that occurred north and east of Ainsworth.

“We lost tons of gravel, and we will need a large amount of fill material,” Small said. “The roads crew has a lot of work ahead of it.”

Small said he had prepared an application requesting a disaster declaration in an effort to unlock federal funds to assist with the repair work.

Following a recommendation from Weed Superintendent Doug Mulligan, the commissioners set a public hearing for 10 a.m. Sept. 20 on declaring bull thistle as a noxious weed in Brown County, requiring landowners to spray if the thistle is detected on their property.

Mulligan said bull thistle was becoming a real problem in Brown County.

“I have been watching it for two or three years,” Mulligan said. “It is not a native thistle, it is from Europe and Asia. If we ignore it, it is going to get out of hand.”

Mulligan said bull thistle is frequently misidentified for more common, native thistle varieties. He said native thistle varieties have natural predators, such as bugs and worms. The invasive varieties, like bull thistle, do not face those same enemies.

“Some landowners are spraying for it now,” Mulligan said. “But, some are not, and those who are spraying are fighting a losing battle unless the neighbors spray too.”

Mulligan said bull thistle is distinctive from other native varieties due to the shape of its leaves. He said, if approved following the public hearing, bull thistle would be listed as a noxious weed in Brown County beginning in 2017.

“It is too late to control it this year, so this would start in 2017,” the weed superintendent said. “Rock County has already declared bull thistle as noxious.”

He said the thistle was not prevalent enough statewide to be labeled a noxious weed for the entire state.

Streich said the public hearing will give anyone opposed to declaring bull thistle a noxious weed an opportunity to speak about why they believe the thistle variety should not receive the label and require landowners to abate.

In the only other action items Tuesday, the commissioners agreed to sign a letter of support to the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District for that entity’s Long Pine Creek Watershed Project. Small said the letter of support does not commit Brown County to any funding requirements.

The board also approved a budgeted transfer of $250,000 from the county’s miscellaneous general fund to the county highway fund.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Aug. 16.

* Turpin provides road damage assessment; Road 883 and Bar 25 Road remain closed

(Posted 8 a.m. Aug. 2)

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin reported Tuesday two roads remain closed in northern and eastern Brown County due to flood damage from more than 10 inches of rain that fell in some locations.
Road 883 west of Meadville Avenue north of Ainsworth and the Bar 25 Road on the Brown County and Rock County line remained closed due to damage.
Turpin said water remains over the road in a few places on Meadville Avenue, as there is no place for the water to drain. He said, at one point, water was over the roadway in 65 different locations in the county.
To hear the full report with the highway superintendent, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Road closure and flood repair update.mp3

* Work continues on care center building; new $9.5 million facility design unveiled

(Posted 7 a.m. Aug. 2)

Building Committee Chairman Todd Mundhenke unveiled the design plans for an estimated $9.5 million nursing home facility to the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board during its meeting Monday.

Working with Wilkins Architecture of Kearney, Mundhenke said the 46-bed facility will have 38 private rooms and four double rooms.

“We believe having the newest facility with private rooms will be a draw for private-pay residents,” Mundhenke said. “Private rooms with a private bathroom are a necessity. Bids might come in less than the $9.5 million estimate, but we would rather plan on $9.5 million and have it come in lower than estimate it too low.”

He said the initial feasibility study showed a care center facility operating with 30 residents would support a $7 million building project, so the community may be looking at needing to raise $2.5 million to support the project.

Board member Buddy Small said, after speaking with Capital Campaign Committee Chairman Roland Paddock, 66 donors have contributed and pledged $231,878 toward the project thus far.

Mundhenke said the building committee had reviewed the layout, room sizes and the outside look for the new facility design.

He said the committee reduced the room sizes to 250 square feet, which allowed for one nursing station to be within 150 feet of all three wings of the facility.

Mundhenke said, if the market study comes back and shows the facility would support 40 beds, then changes will be made to the design. USDA representatives told the board during its July meeting it would not agree to a loan for a facility with more beds than the market study shows it would support.

Board member Jim Walz said it was important to remember that a USDA loan for a new building would be paid back over 40 years by the facility’s operating income, and not funded by taxpayers.

With board member Leanne Maxwell absent Monday, the board approved a $7,000 proposal from Eid Bailly of Dubuque, Iowa, to perform the market study required for the USDA guaranteed loan application.

Chairman Kent Taylor said the board asked for proposals from four companies, and received two responses.

Small said he spoke with people from Pawnee City, Bridgeport and Madison regarding the companies that submitted proposals. He said Ron Ross with Rural Health Development recommended Eid Bailly, which also submitted the lowest of the two bids. The second bid, from Hanna-Keelan, came in at $8,500 to conduct the market study.

Taylor said the market study is the first step in the USDA application process. When the market study is completed, the board would work on securing the architect report, feasibility study and environmental study.

The board continues work on two fronts, as Sandhills Care Center Administrator Stephanie Rucker said housekeeping staff has been hired, in addition to a maintenance supervisor, and work continues on readying the former Ainsworth Care Center facility to open to residents in the fall.

Rucker told the board she hoped to have all the renovation work on the former facility completed within the next two weeks. She said 12 resident applications had already been received.

Anyone interested in placing a resident in the facility may find information and an application form on the web at www.sandhillscarecenter.com. Information on job openings is also available on the web site.

Walz said he understood the optimistic goal would be to have the facility open by the middle of September.

Mike Harris with Rural Health Development said the work is ongoing to get the facility ready to receive a certificate of occupancy from the fire marshal.

“Once we receive the certificate of occupancy, we can apply for a license,” Harris said. “That will take 30 to 45 days. Residents can be admitted shortly after that. Realistically, October would be optimistic.”

Renovation Committee Chairman Dick Schipporeit said Nelson Furniture has worked on the flooring in the facility, and the carpet cleaners are scheduled to arrive next week.

“The biggest concern right now is the air-conditioning units,” Schipporeit said. “They have not been looked at yet.”

Walz said the new countertops for the kitchen have been measured and ordered, and should arrive in a week or two.

The group continues to work off checklists provided by the fire marshal and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services of items that need to be addressed for the facility to receive a certificate of occupancy.

Brian Delimont with Three River Communications visited with the board regarding phone and Internet service for the facility.

He suggested the board stick with the current phone system that is already wired into the building.

“We will of course be interested in setting up the phone system in your new facility,” Delimont said.

He said the board could either have Three River provide an off-site backup server, which would incur a charge, or could simply back up data on an external drive and take it from the building each night as a backup.

“We would handle any ongoing maintenance for your computer system,” Delimont said.

County Attorney David Streich discussed obtaining title insurance for the facility, since the title insurance the North Central Development Center received did not transfer to the board when the ownership of the building was transferred.

“If you want clean title insurance for yourself, you would need to have it done,” Streich said. “It is likely not a major issue, since the NCDC just had it done and it came back clean.”

He recommended the board get title insurance for about half of the $690,000 in insurance the NCDC opted to obtain. He said the one-time premium would likely be between $700 and $800, and would cover the board from any potential liens or liabilities related to the real estate.

In the only other action item Monday, the board approved requesting a letter of credit from the First National Bank that would then allow the board not to be charged a deposit by Source Gas to have natural gas turned on in the building.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth-Brown County Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 10:15 p.m. Aug. 1)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Sunday, July 31, on Highway 20.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 9:43 p.m. Sunday on Highway 20 approximately 2 miles west of Johnstown, a 2014 Chevy sport-utility vehicle, driven by Jeremy Fisher, 38, of Yutan, was traveling west when the vehicle struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at more than $1,000.

* July is 10th wettest in Ainsworth's 111-year recorded weather history

(Posted 2:30 p.m. Aug. 1)

The 6.38 inches of moisture recorded by Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn in July is the most for the month since 1997, and puts July as the 10th-wettest in the 111-year history of the city for the month.
Ainsworth's year-to-date precipitation total of 19.94 inches is 4.99 inches above normal.
To hear the full July weather summary, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn July 2016 weather.mp3

* Rock County graduates reminded to request foundation scholarship funds

(Posted 2:30 p.m. Aug. 1)

Rock County High School graduates are reminded to request scholarship funds for the 2016-17 school year. Rock County 2016 graduates need to submit enrollment verification of at least 12 hours.
Graduates of the classes of 2013-15 are required to submit enrollment verification along with a transcript showing cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.
Information can be emailed to Jan Foster at mjfoster@abbnebraska.com, mailed to Jan Foster at PO Box 581 Bassett, NE 68714 or given to Brandi Hollenbeck in Rock County High School.

* BKR Archery Contest showcases youth archers

(Posted 10:45 a.m. Aug. 1)

The BKR 4-H archery contest was held last week, with area archers competing in several divisions.

Caleb Wyrick took the top spot in the advanced compound bow division, with Miah Wiebelhaus placing second and Josh Wyrick third.

Henry Beel won the advanced barebow division.

In the intermediate compound bow division, Beau Wiebelhaus was the champion archer, with CeeAnna Beel second, Katrina Beel third, Tate Kuchera fourth and Hunter Wiebelhaus fifth.

Caden Swanson won the intermediate barebow division.

Zach Wiebelhaus was the top archer in the novice compound bow division, with Kyra Anthony second, Dalya Dearmont third, Brianna Starkey fourth and Mackinzie Arnholt fifth.

Corbin Swanson won the novice barebow division, with Cole Swanson second and Baillee Palmer third.

For beginning shooters, Kip Leonard finished as the top archer, with Trey Anthony second, Trison Wenger third and Kaden Seidel fourth.

Archers were awarded trophies and ribbons based on their placing.

* Smith to hold mobile office Aug. 9 in the Brown County Courthouse

(Posted 10:30 a.m. Aug. 1)

Third District Rep. Adrian Smith will meet constituents of the Third District during a mobile office from 2:30 until 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9, in the Brown County Courthouse.
A mobile office allows constituents to meet directly with Smith about federal issues and take advantage of the constituent services available through his office, such as assisting individuals with challenges they face while working with a federal agency, ordering flags flown over the U.S. Capitol, and booking tours in Washington, D.C.
For additional information, contact Smith’s Scottsbluff office at (308) 633-6333.

* Department of Roads plans 9 projects for 2017 in District 8

(Posted 9:30 a.m. July 11)

Nebraska Department of Roads Director Kyle Schneweis released the fiscal year 2017 Surface Transportation Program, which details how the NDOR plans to use highway user dollars to provide the best state highway system possible for all Nebraskans and the traveling public.

The 2017 State Highway System Program is published at $520 million and is funded from state and federal highway user taxes and fees. 

Ninety-five projects will be let to contract on the State Highway System during fiscal year

2017, which runs July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017.

There are nine projects on the 2017 highway plan for District 8, which encompasses north central Nebraska. Seven of those nine projects include resurfacing, with the other two slated for micro-surfacing.

Milling, resurfacing work and bridge repairs are scheduled for 6.3 miles of Highway 7 from the Calamus River north in Brown County at an estimated cost of just under $2 million.

An additional 12.3 miles of Highway 7 milling and resurfacing work is planned for Highway 7 north of the first project at a cost of $3.2 million.

An 8-mile stretch of Highway 12 from Springview west in Keya Paha County is scheduled for milling and resurfacing work at an estimated cost of $3.3 million.

More than 25 miles of Highway 61 in Cherry County is scheduled for micro-surfacing work at a cost of $1.5 million. There is a 7.8-mile stretch of Highway 83 between Thedford and Valentine scheduled for milling and resurfacing work at a cost of $3.2 million.

The other District 8 projects are planned for Highway 91 in Loup County, Highway 91 in Garfield County, Highway 183 in Loup County and Highway 281 in Boyd County.

The nine projects planned in District 8 for 2017 carry a total estimated cost of $29.2 million.

Numerous projects are included on the Department of Roads’ five-year plan, including:

NDOR Five-Year Plan

Highway 7

Blaine County from Brewster north – 8.4 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.6 million.

Brown County  in the Ainsworth area – Micro-surfacing, $2.3 million.

Brown County in Ainsworth and south – 7.2 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.8 million.

Rock County from the Niobrara River south – 5.3 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.1 million.

Keya Paha County from the Niobrara River north – 4.7 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2 million.

Highway 20

Brown County in Ainsworth – 1.3 miles of concrete paving, $4.8 million.

Brown County near Willow Creek – Culvert repair, $600,000.

Brown County near Long Pine Creek – Bridge rehabilitation, $870,000.

Rock County – Micro-surfacing, $2.3 million.

Cherry County in Valentine – Micro-surfacing work, $4.3 million.

Cherry County from Merriman west – Micro-surfacing, $900,000.

Cherry County from Eli to Nenzel – Micro-surfacing, $1.7 million.

Holt County in O’Neill – Joint repair and grinding, $390,000.

Highway 183

Rock County from Rose south – 6 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.6 million.

Rock County from Rose north – Micro-surfacing, $1.8 million.

Rock County from Bassett south – 10.1 miles of resurfacing, $3.7 million.

Keya Paha County north and south of Springview – Micro-surfacing, $890,000.

Keya Paha County from the Niobrara River north – 4.3 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.1 million.

Keya Paha County from the Highway 12 junction north to the South Dakota line – 7.1 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.9 million

Loup County north and south of Taylor – Micro-surfacing, $1.5 million.

Highway 137

Rock County from Newport north – Resurfacing, $4.5 million.

Keya Paha County from the Niobrara River north – 9.7 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3.3 million.

Keya Paha County from the Keya Paha River to the South Dakota line – 6.5 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $3.5 million.

Highway 12

Cherry County at the Minnechaduza Creek – Bridge project, $1.5 million.

Cherry County from Sparks east – 3.5 miles of milling and resurfacing, $1.5 million.

Keya Paha County east and west of Burton – 9.4 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge work, $4.5 milion.

Boyd County near Bristow – Culvert repair, $1.1 million.

Boyd County from Lynch to Monowi – 8.6 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $3.2 million.

Highway 11

Holt County from Amelia north – 6.4 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $3.2 million.

Holt County north and south of Holt Creek – 8.5 miles of milling and resurfacing, $3 million.

Holt County from Atkinson south – 6.1 miles of milling, resurfacing and bridge repair, $2.8 million.

Holt County from Brush Creek to the Niobrara River – 4.8 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.2 million.

Boyd County from the Niobrara River to Butte – 5.2 miles of resurfacing, $1.9 million.

Boyd County from Butte north – 7.3 miles of resurfacing, $2.5 million.

Highway 91

Blaine County from Brewster east – 9.6 miles of milling and resurfacing, $4.7 million.

Loup County from the Blaine County line east – 6.3 miles of milling and resurfacing, $2.5 million.

There are additional District 8 projects in the five-year plan for Highway 61 in Cherry County, Highway 83 in Cherry County, Highway 96 in Loup and Garfield counties, and Highway 281 in Holt County.

The projects on the District 8 five-year plan total $144 million.

The state received $246 million from motor fuel taxes, $119 million for transportation funding from motor vehicle sales taxes, and $43 million from motor vehicle registration taxes.

The Transportation Innovation Act, passed by the Nebraska Legislature in 2016, will also begin providing revenue for the Department of Roads. An estimated $58.5 million in roads revenue is projected for the 2017 fiscal year.

* Public Service Commission District 5 race may be too close to call

(Posted 7 a.m. May 11)

The vote may be too close to call for the District 5 seat on the Nebraska Public Service Commission following Tuesday's Primary Election.
Fewer than 60 votes separates Mary Ridder and incumbent Jerry Vap. Both Republicans, Ridder received 21,818 votes (50.07 percent) Tuesday to 21,761 (49.93 percent) for Vap. That 57-vote margin represents just a 0.14 percent difference between the two candidates and may trigger an automatic recount in the race.
As expected, Donald Trump easily carried the state of Nebraska during Tuesday’s Republican Party Presidential Primary.

Trump received 61.5 percent of the Republican vote statewide, with Ted Cruz finishing a distant second at 18.5 percent.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton received 53 percent of the statewide vote to 47 percent for Bernie Sanders. The vote was largely symbolic, however, as Sanders won 15 of the 25 Nebraska delegates during the Presidential Caucus that was held in March. Tuesday’s support for Clinton was a reversal of the Caucus results two months prior.

In the Second District Republican Congressional Primary, Don Bacon captured 66 percent of the vote to 34 percent for Chip Maxwell. Bacon will face Democratic incumbent Brad Ashford in the November General Election.

Jeff Fortenberry in District 1 and Adrian Smith in District 3 both ran unopposed. Fortenberry faces Daniel Wik from the Democratic Party in November to retain his seat. Smith does not face a challenger in November.

While both candidates advance to the November General Election, Tom Brewer made an early statement by garnering 54.3 percent of the vote in the Nebraska Legislature’s 43rd District race. Incumbent Al Davis received 45.7 percent of the vote.

Davis will find himself in a similar position as four years ago, when he trailed John Ravenscroft following the Primary Election but defeated Ravenscroft in the General Election.

Brewer received 5,204 votes to 4,380 votes cast for Davis.

Voter turnout statewide was just 26.5 percent Tuesday, with 309,079 votes cast from the 1,165,371 registered voters.

Cherry County voter turnout eclipsed 50 percent at 50.5 percent, with 2,134 ballots cast from the 4,219 registered voters.

Holt County turnout was above the state average at 33 percent, with 2,305 ballots cast from the 6,988 registered voters.

Blaine County turnout was 42.3 percent, as 162 of the 383 registered voters showed up at the polls Tuesday.

* Voter turnout just 39.5 percent in Brown County with few races on the ballot

(Posted 10 p.m. May 10)

With few contested races Tuesday, voter turnout in Brown County was its lowest in several election cycles. Just 825 voters, 39.5 percent of the 2,087 registered, cast ballots in the Primary Election.

There were 744 votes cast in the Republican Primary, 60 in the Democratic Primary, and 21 non-partisan ballots were cast.

By a narrow margin, 417-387, Brown County voters favored challenger Tom Brewer over incumbent 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis. Both Davis and Brewer advance to the November General Election.

Republican voters in Brown County cast 555 ballots for Donald Trump for President. Ted Cruz finished second with 79 votes, followed by 36 for Ben Carson, 33 for John Kasich an 18 for Marco Rubio.

Brown County also favored challenger Mary Ridder for the Public Service Commissioner District 5 seat over incumbent Jerry Vap by a 396-207 margin.

* Craven, Tuerk win contested commissioner races in Rock, Keya Paha counties

(Posted 9:30 p.m. May 10)

Rock County Republican voters chose Dustin Craven to be the next commissioner and Keya Paha County Republicans re-elected Mike Tuerk to the Board of Commissioners in the only two contested local races in the area.

Craven received 313 Republican votes during Tuesday’s Primary Election, to 170 for incumbent Ernie Hasch. There was no Democratic Party candidate, so Craven will run unopposed in November.

In Keya Paha County’s West District Commissioner race, Tuerk received 96 votes in his re-election bid to 44 for challenger Jim Ruther. Tuerk will not face opposition in November from the Democratic Party.

Rock County and Keya Paha County Republicans overwhelmingly selected Donald Trump as their candidate for President. Though all Republican challengers had suspended their campaigns, five candidates had previously filed paperwork to appear on the ballot.

Trump secured 308 Republican votes in Rock County and 203 in Keya Paha County. Ted Cruz finished second in both counties, with 74 votes in Rock County and 31 in Keya Paha County. John Kasich picked up 31 votes in Rock County and 15 in Keya Paha County. Ben Carson had 26 votes in Rock County and 20 in Keya Paha County, and Marco Rubio received 13 votes in Rock County and four in Keya Paha County.

In the race for the District 5 seat on the Public Service Commission, challenger Mary Ridder carried both Rock and Keya Paha counties over incumbent Jerry Vap. Ridder secured 217 votes in Rock County to 140 for Vap, and 124 votes in Keya Paha County to 67 for Vap.

Keya Paha County voters favored challenger Tom Brewer over incumbent Al Davis for the 43rd District seat on the Nebraska Legislature by a 168-132 margin.

Republican Third District Rep. Adrian Smith ran unopposed Tuesday, as did Bob Phares for re-election to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

Voter turnout was 52 percent in Keya Paha County despite the few contested races, with 320 of the 634 registered voters casting a ballot.
Turnout in Rock County was solid as well at 53.6 percent. A total of 540 of the 1,006 registered voters in Rock County cast a ballot Tuesday.

* 2015 temps above normal, moisture total near average

(Posted 1:30 p.m. Jan. 4)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn recorded 22.89 inches of precipitation for 2015, which is right at the city's average total of 22.99 inches.
The largest single-moisture event was July 6, when 1.52 inches of rain was recorded. Six of the first seven months finished below their respective averages for moisture, but the final five months all recorded above-average moisture. December tallied .57 of moisture, .16 above average.
To hear the complete December and 2015 reports, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn December and 2015 weather.mp3

* Thank-you area firefighters for Second Street response

(Posted 10 a.m. Oct. 17)

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

Graig Kinzie
KBRB Radio

* Fire causes major damage to Royal Theater

(Posted 9 a.m. Oct. 15)

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

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