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

* Jerold W. “Jerry” Dannatt of Haigler formerly of Ainsworth

* Meeting reports located below for:

Feb. 3 Brown County Commissioners and Hospital Board of Trustees session

Feb. 2 Brown County one- and six-year roads plan

Feb. 1 Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board

Jan. 26 Keya Paha County Commissioners

Jan. 25 Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees

Jan. 21 Brown County Commissioners

Jan. 20 Brown County Foundation Town Hall

* Area students named to UN-L Deans List for fall semester

(Posted 3:45 p.m. Feb. 8)

Nearly 4,500 University of Nebraska-Lincoln students have been named to the Deans' List/Explore Center List of Distinguished Students for the fall semester of the 2015-16 academic year.

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

The following is a list of area students on the Deans' List and Explore Center List of Distinguished Students:

Ainsworth

Devron Michael Crawford, senior, Dean's List, College of Engineering, construction management.

Conner Kozisek, senior, Dean's List, College of Arts and Sciences, political science.

Shea Christian Schlachter, freshman, Explore Center List of Distinguished Students, Explore Center, pre-health.

Kellie Frances Sholes, senior, Dean's List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, animal science.

Maggie Elise Steinhauser, senior, Dean's List, College of Education and Human Sciences, speech-language pathologist.

Katherine Kay Wilkins, senior, Dean's List, College of Arts and Sciences, communication studies.

Springview

Kara Nicole Bruns, freshman, Dean's List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural education.

Moriah Lynn Heerten, sophomore, Dean's List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agronomy and agricultural economics.

Bassett

Taylor RaDawn Hart, senior, Dean's List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, agricultural education.

Payton James Shankland, senior, Dean's List, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, animal science.

Newport

Thomas Julian Ammon, senior, Dean's List, College of Engineering, mechanical engineering.

Stuart

Dylan Christopher Laible, junior, Dean's List, College of Arts and Sciences, computer science.

Atkinson

Kaitlyn Anne Butterfield, senior, Dean's List, College of Architecture, landscape architecture.

Alex Jerome Fritz, freshman, Dean's List, College of Engineering, electrical engineering.

Aaron Mark Johnson, freshman, Dean's List, College of Engineering, computer engineering.

Dunning

Cassidy Moore Jackson, freshman, Explore Center List of Distinguished Students, Explore Center, undeclared-undergraduate.

Valentine

Jordan Michelle Bussinger, senior, Dean's List, College of Arts & Sciences, biological sciences.

Sydney Lauren Dunn, freshman, Dean's List, College of Business Administration, marketing.

James Kenneth Simmons, senior, Dean's List, College of Engineering, electrical engineering.

* Foster picks Broncos, 23-14, to win KBRB Big Game Contest

(Posted 2:15 p.m. Feb. 8)

Another KBRB Big Game Contest is in the books, and congratulations to Mike Foster of Bassett for picking the closest score to Denver’s 24-10 victory over Carolina.

Foster made his pick of 23-14 Broncos on Thursday morning, missing the actual score by just five points.

Janice Devall of Bassett finished second in the contest, picking the Broncos to win, 24-17.

Third place went to Melinda Hodge of Rose, followed by Brock Johnson of Rose in fourth, Molly Bittner of Hastings fifth, Jack Anderson of Ainsworth sixth, Connie Mauch of Ainsworth seventh, Rhonda Theis of Ainsworth eighth, Hazel Chase of Springview ninth and Tyrel Schuetz of Bassett 10th.

Congratulations to all the winners of this year’s Big Game Contest. Winners may pick up their prizes beginning Tuesday morning in the KBRB Studios at 356 S. Main St.

More than 200 scores were picked again this year during the two hours of live calls, from 8:30 until 9 a.m. and 3:30 until 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

Thanks to all of our Big Game sponsors, who make the annual call-in contest possible. Sponsoring the contest this year were:

Ainsworth Auto Parts

The Book Peddler of Ainsworth

Century Lumber of Ainsworth

Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative Ampride Store

First National Bank of Ainsworth

J’s Keggers of Ainsworth

H&R Food Center of Ainsworth

Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative Mr. Tire

J-T Construction of Bassett

Keller’s Custom Embroidery and Imprints of Ainsworth

Long Pine Feed Service

Plains Equipment Group of Ainsworth

Simple Solutions of Long Pine

Scott’s Place of Bassett

Ranch-Land Western Store of Ainsworth

Nelson Furniture of Valentine

L-Bow Room of Johnstown

First Class Auto of Ainsworth

The Whistle Stop of Bassett

Something Special by Marilyn of Atkinson

Ainsworth Elks Club

Husker Meats of Ainsworth

Sandhills Lounge of Long Pine

Print Xpress of Ainsworth

Buckles Automotive of Ainsworth

Ainsworth Motors

Red and White Market of Ainsworth

Ainsworth Flowers and Gifts

* West Holt wins Stuart Speech Invitational, Ainsworth fifth

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 8)

Stuart Invitational

==Varsity==

2nd:  Hayes Chohon—Informative Speaking

            Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

            Hayes Chohon & Lisa Ludemann—Duet Acting

            Lauren Allen, Hayes Chohon, Lisa Ludemann, Seth Taylor—OID

3rd:  Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

8th:  Cassidy Gilliland--Poetry

Superiors:  Marley  Murphy—Serious Prose

                        Lauren Allen—Serious Prose

Marley Murphy, Bo Painter, Bradi Scott, Jacob Sinsel—OID

==Novice==

4th:  Henry Beel—Informative Speaking

6th:  Henry Beel—Extemporaneous Speaking

Superiors—Brandi Scott—Humorous Prose

Jeremiah Finley—Humorous Prose

Ben Arens & Sam Wilkins—Duet Acting

Team:  5th of 21

 

Ainsworth Coach Mary Rau said, “We ran into excellent competition in Stuart.  Being able to see teams from the northeast part of the state is always a plus for us.  We finished quite well in the finals, and those who didn’t make it to the finals just barely missed the top six.  Overall, I was very pleased with the team’s performance.”

 

(Team placings:  1st—West Holt, 2nd—Clearwater Orchard, 3rd—O’Neill, 4th—Stuart, 5th—Ainsworth, 6th --Rock County…10th—West Boyd, 11th—Keya Paha, 16th—Valentine)

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 8)

Jan 31

  • Assisted individuals with a report of an injured dog found in rural Brown Co.

  • Investigated a report of stolen hubcaps from a vehicle in Ainsworth.

     

    Feb 1

  • Provided traffic control for 388 head of cattle crossing Hwy 183.

     

    Feb 2

  • Investigated a one-vehicle rollover accident South of Ainsworth.

  • Received a report of theft of money from an Ainsworth business.

  • Investigated a report of possible animal neglect in Ainsworth.

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

  • Investigated a one-vehicle accident South of Ainsworth.

  • The Ainsworth Fire Dept and the Brown Co Ambulance responded to a report of an apt fire on East 4th St Ainsworth.

     

    Feb 3

  • The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located South of Ainsworth.

  • The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property West & South of Ainsworth.
     

  • Feb 4

  • Investigated a report of an attempted burglary at a business in Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of a dog running at large on Hwy 20 near Ulrich St.

  • The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located West of Johnstown.

  • Assisted an individual with a parking complaint at the Ainsworth Schools.

  • Responded to a report of a stray dog running North bound on Ash St.

     

    Feb 5

  • Received a report of the possible truancy of an Ainsworth student.

  • Assisted Ainsworth residents with a possible scam.

  • Provided a welfare check on Ainsworth residents.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported a rural Brown Co resident to the Brown Co Hospital

  • Responded to a report of a possible intoxicated subject in Ainsworth.

  • Assisted a Long Pine resident with a report of suspicious activity.

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

    Feb 6

  • Provided traffic control for cattle crossing Hwy 20 West of Ainsworth.

  • Arrested a subject on a bench warrant, for no registration and no driver’s license. The subject was booked into the Brown Co Jail and released on bond.

     

    Weekly Summary

    0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

    9 - Handgun permits applied for

    20 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    6 - Paper Service was served.

    145 - Phone calls were received

    4 - 911emergency calls received 

    3 - Titles were inspected.

    2 - Traffic Citations were issued.

    0 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

     

    January Summary

    7 - Arrests

    88 - Calls for Service 

    9 - Citations were issued

    0 - Crime Stopper call received

    4 - Defect Cards issued

    20 - Handgun permits issued

    26 - Paper Service served

    534 - Phone calls were received

    44 - 911 emergency calls received

    23 - Titles inspected

    43 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued

* Stuckman wins annual Ainsworth Spelling Bee

(Posted 4:30 p.m. Feb. 5)

A pair of sixth-grade students were the final competitors standing Friday during the annual Ainsworth Spelling Bee.

From the original field of 20 fifth- through eighth-graders, the finals came down to Adrian Stuckman and Libby Wilkins.

After both correctly spelled several words, Stuckman won the bee by correctly spelling the words “appliance” and “admiringly”. Josie Ganser, a seventh-grader, finished third after also lasting numerous rounds in the bee.

Stuckman advances to compete in the Scripps-Howard State Spelling Bee at Omaha.

Joceyln Good spelled the words “vegetable” and “knuckle” back to back to win the fourth grade bee. Nathan Bryant finished second and Zach Parker was third among the six fourth-graders who qualified for Friday’s bee.

In a final that stretched through several rounds, third-grader Logan Schroedl spelled “civil” and “destroy” correctly back to back to win the third grade bee. Morgan Kinney finished second, and Emma Kennedy took third.

Kaitlyn Sease correctly spelled “guess” and “growth” to win the second grade competition, with Megan Jones finishing as the runner up and Adysson Sears taking third.

In the first grade bee, Erick Hitchcock spelled “floor” and “shine” back to back to earn the championship, with Kiley Orton second and Jaylee Good third.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 4:30 p.m. Feb. 3)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Tuesday, Feb. 2, on Highway 7.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday on Highway 7 approximately 2 miles south of Ainsworth, a 2005 Chevy sedan, driven by Bradi Scott, 16, of Ainsworth, was traveling south when the vehicle left the roadway due to icy conditions and struck a mile marker post before coming to rest in the east ditch.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Chevy was estimated at $2,500. The post, owned by the Nebraska Department of Roads, was valued at $200.

* Davis discusses recent Walk for Life event held at Lincoln

(Posted 3:30 p.m. Feb. 3)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis discussed a recent Walk for Life event he attended at Lincoln.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 2-3-16.mp3

* Traffic Accident

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

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred Tuesday, Feb. 2, south of Ainsworth during the winter storm that hit the area.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 5:45 a.m. Tuesday on Highway 7 approximately 7 miles south of Ainsworth, a 1978 Chevy pickup, driven by Floyd Evans Jr., 32, of Springview, was traveling south when the vehicle slid off the roadway due to icy conditions and turned onto its top in the west ditch.
No injuries were reported. The Chevy was considered a total loss.

* Commissioners, Hospital Trustees discuss several items during Tuesday session

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

During its Tuesday meeting, the Brown County Commissioners relocated to the Brown County Hospital for a lunch session with the Hospital Board of Trustees.

The groups discussed numerous items, including refinancing the remaining hospital bonds, a heating and cooling project at the hospital, and a remodeling project at Ainsworth Family Clinic to better utilize space with a fourth provider expected to arrive this summer.

The two boards also discussed filling a vacancy on the Board of Trustees.

Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen said Andy Forney with D.A. Davidson would meet with the commissioners during the board’s Feb. 16 meeting to go through options for refinancing the remaining hospital bonds.

Sorensen said it looked like the county could realize substantial savings in the neighborhood of $20,000 to $30,000 annually by refinancing the remaining 10 years of bonded debt. The county has the option to refinance the bonds every five years if a better interest rate becomes available.

Hospital Board Chairman John Gross said it looked like the hospital would also be able to contribute toward paying down the remaining bonds.

“The thought is, we can make a payment somewhere around $100,000 and make an impact on the length of the remaining bonds,” Gross said.

When the bonds are refinanced, the county would have the option to make a payment on the remaining principal, using the contribution from the hospital, and reduce the length of time to pay on the bonds from 10 years to around nine.

Hospital Board member Ryan Welke said, “The most effective way we see is to make a contribution directly to reduce the principal on the remaining bonds when we refinance.”

The other option would be for the hospital to make the same contribution, with the county then reducing the property tax levy the following year to account for the contribution. That option would result in a one-year reduction in the property tax required to service the bond payment, but the bonded debt would remain at 10 years instead of shortening the time frame.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said it made sense to leave the levy the same and reduce the number of years remaining on the bond with the hospital’s contribution.

Sorensen said she wanted the commissioners to be aware the hospital board was doing its best to help contribute to paying off the bond for the hospital’s addition, which was approved by voters in 2006.

Gross said the hospital board would review its financial status and make a determination on the exact amount it would be able to contribute to paying down the bond principal.

He said the hospital tried to keep enough cash on hand for approximately 150 days of hospital operations, but he, as one board member, could probably be talked into going below that threshold to increase the contribution toward paying down the bond.

During a financial report, Chief Financial Officer Lisa Wood said the hospital currently had $4.23 million cash on hand, which equated to approximately 175 days of operation. Wood said, during the past year ending Dec. 31, 2015, the hospital was able to increase its cash on hand from $2.79 million to $4.23 million, giving the hospital 175 days of operating cash compared to 126 the prior year.

Wood said, through the first six months of the fiscal year, inpatient days in the hospital were down 1 percent compared to the prior year, while emergency room visits were up 15 percent, specialty clinic visits were 9 percent ahead of the prior year, and total visits to the Ainsworth Family Clinic were 8 percent better than the prior year.

She said the hospital’s profit margin for the first six months of the fiscal year was just 0.1 percent, but when factoring in the contribution from the voter-approved hospital bond, the margin improved to 4.3 percent.

Wiebelhaus said the number of inpatient admissions, which were down 15 percent from the prior year, were a concern to him.

Sorensen said, industry wide, acute care stays were trending downward.

“If the criteria is not met for admitting a patient, they can only stay in the hospital for observation, which is an outpatient service,” Sorensen said.

Hospital Board member Ann Fiala said the reduction for inpatient services was a trend that was not going away.

“Medicare and Medicaid are trying to drive down their inpatient costs,” Fiala said.

Sorensen discussed the heating and cooling piping project that was underway in the hospital. She said the $607,000 project was being funded through the hospital’s operations budget.

“We have about a month left to complete that project,” the administrator said. “We had the north wing closed to get the work done there. The north wing has now reopened and the west wing is currently closed.”

Sorensen said previous noise issues in some of the rooms when the system was operating were being addressed through the installation of noise filters.

“This will be a nice improvement, and we were able to cash-flow it,” Sorensen said.

Gross said the heating and cooling upgrade was originally a part of the hospital bond project, but was removed to help bring down the cost of the addition bond that was taken to voters.

Sorensen also discussed a remodeling project at the Ainsworth Family Clinic to make the clinic more functional with the space it had available. That work, she said, was being completed in anticipation of the clinic welcoming a fourth provider this summer.

“The L-shaped nurses’ station and lab were creating some ineffectiveness,” Sorensen said. “The X-ray in the clinic is now digital, so we don’t need the dark room to process film. All of our records are now electronic, so we moved all the paper records to the basement.”

Sorensen said the hospital board wanted to get those improvements completed before the clinic added its fourth physician.

Commissioner Buddy Small said he had fielded a number of calls from residents who felt the hospital should be helping to pay off the hospital bond before undertaking a remodeling project in the clinic.

Fiala said a better term than remodeling would be a re-designation of the space available in the clinic to allow the clinic staff to be more efficient.

Gross encouraged the commissioners to tour the clinic with the hospital staff and have them explain the changes.

“After you see the changes and why, you start to understand it,” Gross said.

Privacy officer Becky Mizner presented the board with information on HIPAA and privacy regulations.

She discussed the varying issues that can trigger violations of a patient’s privacy, such as improper disposal of records or releasing information to the wrong patient. However, the top issue relating to patient privacy industry-wide was an employee either inadvertently or deliberately viewing or sharing a patient’s records.

Mizner said, if there is a potential breach of a patient’s records, the hospital is required to notify the patient and report the breach to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

“We take seriously our duty to protect the privacy and security of all patient health information,” Mizner said.

She said all employees are given annual training and sign off that they understand all confidentiality requirements.

Sorensen said the hospital strives to provide a high level of service to its patients and to the community.

The commissioners and hospital board then discussed the process for filling a vacancy on the Board of Trustees.

Wiebelhaus said he did not like the fact legislation passed at the state level removed the commissioners from the decision-making process relating to major expenditures for county-owned and operated hospitals.

“Basically, the only power we have as commissioners is to appoint members to the hospital board,” Wiebelhaus said.

Sorensen said Commissioner Les Waits attends almost all of the hospital board’s meetings, and she provides the commissioners with quarterly updates of the hospital’s activities and finances. She said the commissioners also vote annually on the hospital’s budget.

Gross said, when a vacancy existed in the past, two members of the hospital board and one commissioner met to discuss the expertise that might be needed on the hospital board, and then tried to seek out a candidate who had knowledge in that specific area.

All three commissioners said they had spoken to residents about potentially serving on the Hospital Board. The commissioners voted to appoint Crystal Dailey to fill the remainder of the six-year term that was created following the resignation of former Chairman Mike Kreycik.

Dailey’s term will expire Dec. 31, 2020.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Feb. 16. The Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees meet at 4 p.m. Feb. 22.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 9 a.m. Feb. 3)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Saturday, Jan. 30, north of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 8:55 p.m. Saturday, a 2012 Ford pickup, driven by Richard Morrow, 58, of Atkinson, pulled into a private driveway while being stopped for a traffic violation. The Ford struck a parked 1991 Chevy sport-utility vehicle, owned by William and Julie Worden of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $1,500. The Chevy sustained approximately $250 damage.

* Turpin presents 1- and 6-year county roads plan during Tuesday hearing

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Feb. 3)

Six roads improvement projects were completed during 2015, and 25 improvement and maintenance projects were placed on the one-year plan by Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin.

Presenting the one- and six-year roads plan to the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday during a public hearing, Turpin said the one-year plan includes $1.5 million in projects. However, more than half of that $1.5 million total came as the $814,200 Norden Bridge replacement, and Turpin said state funds were paying for 90 percent of that project.

Among the projects completed in 2015 were 11 miles of armor coating on the Elsmere Road, the resurfacing of a curve on the Norden Road, regrading on 880th Road, regrading on 432nd Avenue south of Plains Equipment, replacing a wooden bridge with a culvert on 435th Avenue, and resurfacing and grading Cattlemen Road south of Long Pine.

Following is a list of projects on the Brown County one-year plan.

* Norden Bridge replacement, estimated cost $814,200.

* Paradise Valley Road, 1 mile of grading work, estimated cost $28,000.

* Elsmere Road, 11 miles of armor coating, $167,000.

* 428th Avenue, replacing canal bridge, $90,000.

* 429th Avenue, replacing canal bridge, $86,000.

* Norden Avenue, culvert replacement, $15,000.

* 430th Avenue, replace bridge with a culvert, $20,000.

* Richardson Road, grading and easement acquisition, $30,000.

* Norden Avenue 1,5 miles north of Johnstown, replace bridge with a culvert, $25,000.

* 423rd Avenue north of the airport, grading work, $45,000 (partially completed in 2015).

* 886th Road west of Keller Park, clay base work, $12,000.

* 889th Road north of Keller Park, grading work, $15,000.

* Cattle Drive Road south of Johnstown, grading work, $22,500.

* 422nd Avenue northeast of Johnstown, grading work, $45,000.

* 885th Road north of Ainsworth, grading change to improve site line, $8,000.

* 879th Road north of Ainsworth, raising road to alleviate snow drifting, $6,000.

* 888th Road northwest of Long Pine, grading and resurfacing, $18,000 (partially completed in 2015).

* Meadville Avenue north of Ainsworth, clay and gravel resurfacing, $18,800.

* Raven Road south of Ainsworth, grading and resurfacing, $12,000.

* 432nd Avenue south of Ainsworth, grading work, $7,500.

* 879th Road northwest of Ainsworth, raise road to alleviate snow drifting, $12,000.

* 880th Road west of Ainsworth, grading and drainage work, $1,600.

* Beel Lane southwest of Johnstown, grading and resurfacing, $18,000 (partially completed in 2015).

* 876th Road southwest of Ainsworth, grading and resurfacing, $8,500.

* 431st Avenue south of Ainsworth, grading and resurfacing, $9,000.

In addition to the 25 projects on the one-year plan with a total cost of $1.5 million, Turpin identified 25 additional projects for the longer-term six-year roads plan. Those projects carry an estimated total cost of $1.4 million and include:

* Raven Road, realignment of the road south of Hagen Lake, $40,000.

* Norden Avenue, realignment of the road 10 miles north of Johnstown, $20,000.

* Meadville Avenue, Sand Draw box culvert replacement, $640,000.

* East Calamus Road, grading and resurfacing, $54,000.

* Beel Lane southwest of Johnstown, grading and resurfacing, $54,000.

* 429th Avenue northwest of Ainsworth, cutting a slope, grading and resurfacing, $20,000.

* Meadville Avenue, replacing canal bridge just north of Ainsworth, $70,000.

* 432nd Avenue one-half mile east of Ainsworth, replace canal bridge, $72,000.

* 420th Avenue 2 miles east of Johnstown, canal bridge replacement, $80,000.

* 430th Avenue 2 miles north of Ainsworth, replace bridge with culverts, $25,000.

* South Pine Avenue, partial asphalt overlay and armor coat, $127,000.

* Moon Lake Avenue 16.5 miles south of Johnstown, resurfacing work, $10,000.

* Norden Avenue, regrading and resurfacing, $6,000.

* Norden Avenue, filling and repairing pot holes and armor coating, $19,000.

* 877th Road south of Ainsworth, regrading and resurfacing, $2,500.

* 430th Avenue near Rolling Stone Feed Yard, replacing bridge with culvert or box culvert, $100,000.

* 880th Road west of Johnstown, regrading and resurfacing, $10,000.

* Moon Lake Avenue near Willow Lake, replace damaged culvert, regrading and resurfacing, $10,000.

* Rauscher Avenue northeast of Johnstown, regrading and resurfacing, $1,000.

* Rauscher Avenue 4 miles east of Johnstown, regrade a ditch and install pipe to equalize water, $5,500.

* Canal Road just north of Ainsworth, placement of asphalt millings, $10,000.

The annual one- and six-year road plan is a requirement of the Nebraska Department of Roads, and is prepared annually by the highway superintendent in each of the state’s 93 counties.

Completion of items on the one-year plan is not required, it simply provides a guide to the items the roads department plans to address. Projects are completed as time and resources allow.

* Tuesday fire causes minor damage to rental home in Ainsworth

(Posted 6 p.m. Feb. 2)

An exhaust fan motor above a stove malfunctioned Tuesday, sparking a fire in the kitchen of Apartment 8 at Park Homes.

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said, at approximately 2:40 p.m. Tuesday, firefighters were called to the Park Homes unit, rented by Kevin Culey.

Fiala said the exhaust fan above the stove in the kitchen of the apartment failed and ignited a small fire, which was contained to the fan unit.

He said the fire was extinguished by the time firefighters arrived on scene. In addition to the loss of the exhaust fan, Fiala said there was a minor amount of smoke damage to the rental unit.

The Brown County Ambulance Association and Brown County Sheriff’s Department also responded to provide assistance, as is standard procedure with any structure fire.

* January warmer, slightly wetter than normal

(Posted 9:15 a.m. Feb. 2)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported January experienced well above-average temperatures. The 7 inches of snow in January produced .46 of an inch of moisture, which measured slightly above normal.
To hear the full report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn January 2016 weather.mp3

* Care Center Board approves having Kearney firm design new facility

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 2)

The Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors took a step toward the potential construction of a new nursing home facility Monday, approving a recommendation from its building committee to have a Kearney architectural firm design a new facility.

Building committee representative Todd Mundhenke said the committee reviewed several proposals submitted by firms to design a new nursing home facility.

“We received proposals from four firms,” Mundhenke said. “After reviewing the proposals, we had each member cast a vote, and, by a blind vote, all our members were in favor of the same company.”

He recommended the board have Wilkins Architecture Design Planning of Kearney move forward with designing a new nursing home facility for the community.

“We all felt comfortable going with them after we went through everything and looked at the projects they had done,” Mundhenke said.

Mundhenke said, if the plan is to build a new facility, this is the first step in proceeding down that path.

“We are at the point we were asked to get to,” he said. “We can’t go any further without an agreement with an architect.”

Asked if the group had a potential site for a building project selected, Mundhenke said there were a few possibilities but that none had been selected at this point.

“The architect would be involved in the site selection,” he said. “There is a potential site east of the hospital. There is another site south of Cottonwood Villa. Both could have infrastructure issues.”

Board member Leanne Maxwell said it was time for the group to figure out how it planned to pay for a new facility.

“I don’t see how we can proceed until we know how we are going to pay for it,” Maxwell said.

Board member Jim Walz said the board needed to move forward at some point.

“We need to move forward with this plan, or just stop altogether,” Walz said. “If we don’t spend the money for a building design, the capital committee has nothing to take to the people to try and raise some funding.”

Mundhenke said there has never been a question among the building committee.

“We have believed we would move forward with a new building and have planned for that,” Mundhenke said. “The goal is to get the plan, raise money and apply for a loan.”

Board member Buddy Small said he didn’t see how the group could go forward since it did not have the 8 percent of the total project cost available to pay the Kearney firm’s fee.

Committee member John Gross said the company was not asking for money up front.

“They would only charge 20 percent of their total fee to get us to the point where we are ready to go out for bids,” Gross said.

Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen said the city and county each committed $340,000 toward a nursing home.

“Is that money not available?” Sorensen asked.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson said a new facility planned at Burwell was a good example of how a community planned to construct a facility.

“That is a good example of a similar project,” Olson said. “They are utilizing a 40-year loan from the USDA, which has also been recommended for this project. You need to have plans, estimated costs, and a site before we can move forward with a USDA loan application. No loans and no grants are available unless the project is ready to build.”

Olson said the local economy loses approximately $3 million for every year it is without a nursing home.

“What happens to our hospital, our clinic, Cottonwood Villa, and to the 35 families who won’t be in our community because we have no nursing home?” Olson asked.

Gross said the cost to the community of the board doing nothing was much greater than the cost of moving forward and getting a building design completed.

Maxwell said both the city and county were committed to having a facility in the community.

Walz said, “If we aren’t willing to spend the money for the design, then we have been holding all these meetings for no reason.”

Small said he was very much in favor of building a new facility.

“My problem is putting money into the old dump at the same time,” Small said. “It isn’t like the county and the city have unlimited funds.”

By a 3-0 vote, with Board Chairman Kent Taylor absent, the board approved having Wilkins Architecture Design Planning move forward with Phase 1 and provide the community with a schematic design for a new facility, pending a review of the contract by Brown County Attorney David Streich.

In other business Monday, capital committee member Roland Paddock reported the committee had been waiting to see the direction taken by the board before proceeding.

With the board approving having a building designed, he said the capital committee would move forward.

Olson reported an appraiser had visited the site and was in the process of developing an appraisal report on the value of the former Ainsworth Care Center real estate.

“We hope the final report is completed this month,” Olson said.

By phone, Taylor said he met with a technician at the site of the former facility to look at the building’s boiler.

“It is a 1962 or 1963 boiler,” Taylor said. “But, he thinks it is still functional.”

The board approved a claim of $2,600 to pay the Nebraska Public Power District for heating the former Ainsworth Care Center facility in January.

The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board is scheduled for March 7.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 1)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-cow accident that occurred Friday, Jan. 29, northwest of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 8:27 p.m. Friday on 423rd Avenue north of the 883rd Road intersection 7 miles west and 4 miles north of Ainsworth, a 1996 Chevy pickup, driven by Spencer Schenk, 32, of Ainsworth, was traveling south when the vehicle struck a cow in the roadway.
No persons were injured during the accident. The Chevy was considered a total loss. The cow killed in the accident, owned by Dave Nelson, was valued at $1,800.

* Chohon wins informative gold at Perkins County Speech Invitational

(Posted 7 a.m. Feb. 1)

Perkins County Speech Invitational

==Varsity==

1st:  Hayes Chohon—Informative Speaking

7th:  Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

            Hayes Chohon & Lisa Ludemann—Duet Acting

Superiors:  Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

                        Jace Kremer—Entertainment Speaking

Jacob Sinsel—Persuasive Speaking

                        Henry Beel—Informative Speaking

                        Marley  Murphy—Serious Prose

                        Lauren Allen—Serious Prose

                        Cassidy Gilliland—Poetry

                        Bradi Scott—Humorous Prose

                        Marley Murphy, Bo Painter, Bradi Scott, Jacob Sinsel—OID

Team:  6th of 21

 

“It was a good choice to attend Perkins County’s contest,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said.  “It was a long trip, but we saw almost all of the teams in our district there. That gives us an idea about what we need to do before that competition rolls around.

“We continue to have team members who are practicing hard and doing very well. There’s still plenty of work to do, but I think we’re on the right track.”

The next speech competition will be on Saturday, Feb. 6, at Stuart.  Rounds begin at 8 a.m.

* Recent cases from Brown County Court

(Posted 3:15 p.m. Jan. 28)

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

Christopher M. Rehkopf, age 44, of Long Pine, charged with first offense driving under the influence, fined $500 and sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

James S. Wilson-Parker, 20, of Long Pine, possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300; also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, $100.

Robert G. W. Maxwell, 30, 255 N. Oak St., Ainsworth, licensing a vehicle without liability insurance, $100; driving under suspension, $100.

Rebecca Lynn Miller, 35, of Long Pine, driving on the shoulder of a highway, $25.

Gage A. Moyle, 25, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for one day served, driver’s license revoked for six months, ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Steven A. Cole, 48, of Ainsworth, two counts of issuing a bad check less than $500, fined $25 for each count.

Brett J. Jones, 31, of Ainsworth, issuing a bad check less than $500, fined $100 and ordered to pay $313 in restitution.

Sarah K. Spinks, 20, of Papillion, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Kenneth D. Davis, 67, of Ainsworth, no proof of insurance, $100; no valid registration, $25; driving left of center, $25.

Chad D. Kershner, 35, of Sutherland, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Justin A. Meister, 33, of Brewster, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Benson R. Goins, 20, of Minnetonkan, Ind., speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

Newt R. Bussinger, 17, of Valentine, speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

William D. Jeffers, 43, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500 and sentenced to six months of probation, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device; also charged with refusing to submit to a pretest, $100 and sentenced to six months of probation.

Jeremy L. Lurz, 29, of Hettinger, N.D., first offense driving under the influence, $500, also sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for one day served, driver’s license revoked for six months, ordered to install an ignition interlock device; also charged with possession of marijuana less than 1 ounce, $300.

Robert V. Allen, 55, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500, sentenced to seven days in jail, driver’s license revoked for 60 days, ordered to install an ignition interlock device; also charged with unlawful acts relating to drugs, sentenced to seven days in jail.

Ash Chaudhari, 33, of Ainsworth, first offense driving under the influence, $500 and sentenced to seven days in jail with credit for one day served, driver’s license revoked for six months, and ordered to install an ignition interlock device.

Shailesh Chaudhari, 32, of Ainsworth, obstructing a peace officer, $500 and sentenced to six months of probation; also charged with no operator’s license, $75.

Brian L. Larson, 38, of Norfolk, two counts of being overweight on an axle or group of axles, fined a total of $100.

Zachorey D. Jones, 17, of Ainsworth, violation of a stop or yield sign, $75.

Charlene G. Guerroro, 51, of Long Pine, first offense reckless driving, sentenced to six days in jail.

William J. Erb, 54, of Shickley, possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle, $50; speeding 6-10 mph over the limit, $25.

George A. Peterson, 28, of Bassett, disturbing the peace, $25.

Brady J. Graff, 27, of Ainsworth, first offense reckless driving, $500 and sentenced to six months of probation.

Larry C. Baumeister, 34, of North Platte, speeding 1-5 mph over the limit, $10.

* Davis discusses failure to pass bill on uniform statewide gun regulations

(Posted 1:15 p.m. Jan. 28)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis on Thursday discussed the failure of the Legislature to pass a bill that would have made the state's gun regulations uniform and remove the stricter laws passed in Lincoln and Omaha.
To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 1-27-16.mp3

* Keya Paha County Commissioners table school section access dispute

(Posted 4:15 p.m. Jan. 26)

Lack of access to a section of school land prompted a public hearing Tuesday during a meeting of the Keya Paha County Commissioners.

Nebraska Assistant Attorney Gen. John Jelkin, on behalf of the Nebraska Board of Educational Lands and Funds, asked the commissioners to address a lack of access to a section of land north of Meadville in Section 36-33-32.

“The Board of Educational Lands and Funds has owned this section of land since Nebraska has been a state,” Jelkin said. “The neighbors apparently don’t like us now and have refused us access to the land.”

Jelkin said the hearing Tuesday was to request the Keya Paha County Commissioners make a determination that the land is isolated without current access, and to identify suitable road access to the section.

The assistant attorney general said the cost to purchase right of way, improve and maintain a road as necessary would be borne by the Board of Educational Lands and Funds.

Commissioner Mike Tuerk asked if there was a process the group used to petition adjacent landowners to try and find a resolution privately to the access issue.

Jelkin said adjacent property owners were sent a certified letter asking if they would be willing to grant access.

“Some did not respond,” Jelkin said. “Some indicated they were not willing.”

Tuerk asked if the Board of Educational Lands and Funds had pursued the possibility of trading for a similarly valued section of land that would remove the access issue, or if the board would be willing to sell or exchange the section for a similarly valued parcel.

Jelkin said no opportunities had been pursued at this stage.

“That question would have to be addressed by the Educational Lands and Funds Board,” Jelkin said. “The land is not saleable if there is no access.”

Tuerk asked if the board would consider selling the section of land to an adjacent property owner.

Jelkin said the board may consider a sale, but that was not relevant to the conversation of whether access is being provided to the property.

“We have not found anyone willing to work with us on an easement,” Jelkin said. “If we meet the qualifications of the state statute, access must be granted. We are not asking where that access should come from.”

Harlin Welch Sr., who owns property south of the section owned by the Board of Educational Lands and Funds, said his property is narrow, and road access through his property would destroy many of the things his family would like to do with the property.

“That is why I closed the access,” Welch said. “I don’t think it is right I should be forced to provide access through my property.”

Harlin Welch Jr. said his family was against providing access from the south end of its property all the way to the north end.

“The access runs right through the middle of our property,” Welch Jr. said. “We put thousands of dollars into creating food plots for wildlife. The trail access is 25 feet from the front of our cabin and 15 feet from our garage. We don’t live there. If anyone can go through there at any time, there is a greater chance for problems.”

Board of Educational Lands and Funds Executive Secretary Richard Endicott said he had made contact with the Welches and their attorney.

“We walked the land trying to find an alternative,” Endicott said. “We even tried to arrange for a private road where a gate would remain locked and keys provided to the section’s leaseholder. This statute is not for the sole protection of the Board of Educational Lands and Funds. If we were to shut off access, any property owner could use the same statute against us. This statute protects everyone.”

Adjacent property owner Ed North said he had made a verbal offer to the Board of Educational Lands and Funds to trade adjacent ground to the north and west. That trade would help address the access issue.

“I am not sure why that offer has not been addressed,” North said. “It would save a lot of money and make the access issue go away. I have not heard any interest back from them.”

Jimmy Ruther said the disputed school section had previously been utilized for cattle grazing, but the new lease holder seemed to be interested in utilizing the section for recreational purposes.

“I feel for the Welches,” Ruther said. “They have a nice piece of property, and I understand their concerns. But, they knew that access was there when they bought that land. It is unfortunate. We have someone from out of the area who now wants to use the land recreationally. This area is just not accessible from any section line. It is rough terrain.”

Travis Mundorf said he leases another section of Board of Educational Lands and Funds ground in Keya Paha County, and he has seen his lease rate double.

“Our school gets back roughly $15,000 of the $1 million Keya Paha County sends in to the Board of Educational Lands and Funds on rent for school-owned property,” Mundorf said. “Maybe that needs to be looked at. The board has some of its properties listed for sale. I think this is one of your properties that should be offered for sale or trade.”

Endicott said, “We produce a lot of income for the schools. We make 7-1/2 percent less investing money from land we sell than we do from land we lease. It is much more advantageous for us to keep the land. We do not sell much.”

Jelkin said the board pays its full share of property taxes for all school-owned ground.

Adjacent property owner Randy North said no real offer was ever made by the Board of Educational Lands and Funds to the adjacent property owners.

“The letter only asked if we would be willing to give them an access easement,” Randy North said. “If there was at least an offer made, they might have gotten a response.”

Tuerk again asked Endicott if his board would be willing to consider offers to sell or exchange the section to help resolve the issue.

Endicott said he didn’t believe it should be the responsibility of the board to feel pressured to sell the section or exchange it.

“We would listen, but I don’t think we should have a gun held to our heads and be forced to sell or trade,” Endicott said.

Tuerk said he believed Ed North’s proposal to swap land to resolve the access issue should be considered.

Jelkin said the Board of Educational Lands and Funds would entertain any offers. He said, however, he believed the group had met its requirement to show that it had no access to the section in question.

“If the commissioners find we have met the requirements, you would have another hearing and notify all adjacent landowners,” Jelkin said.

He said it would ultimately be the responsibility of the commissioners to provide access to the section if it was determined that no reasonable access was available.

The commissioners unanimously voted to table the issue to its March 29 meeting to allow time for any potential solutions to the access issue to be developed.

* Tuesday fire damages home on Bassett's Sunrise Terrace

(Posted 10 a.m. Jan. 26)

An early Tuesday fire in Bassett caused extensive damage to a home on Sunrise Terrace.

At approximately 3:20 a.m. Tuesday, a fire was reported in a home at 713 Sunrise Terrace, owned by Charles Fuller and Steve Houghton.

Bassett Fire Chief Jim Stout said an electrical fire sparked in the attic above the home’s living room. He said the two residents, who were home at the time, were able to evacuate safely.

Stout said firefighters cut a hole in the roof to vent the smoke, and had the fire under control by 6:30 a.m.

“The fire was contained to the attic,” Stout said. “There was major damage to the home’s electrical system, some 2x6s in the attic were charred and there was a lot of smoke damage.”

Stout said the home, however, was not a total loss and would be repaired. He said major repairs will be needed to the home’s electrical system, but that work would commence as soon as possible to return heat to the home and keep pipes from freezing.

The Bassett Volunteer Fire Department handled the fire call, and will be assisted by Ryan Sylvester from the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s office, who will investigate the official cause of the fire.

* Kreycik resigns from Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees

(Posted 5:45 p.m. Jan. 25)

Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees Chairman Mike Kreycik submitted a letter of resignation during the board’s Jan. 18 meeting.

Following an executive session, Kreycik submitted his resignation letter to the board, citing the way a recent personnel issue was handled by hospital management as the reason for his resignation.

The board thanked Kreycik for his many years of volunteer service on the Hospital Board of Trustees.

The board then held a second executive session before conducting the remaining business on its agenda. No action was taken relating to the second executive session.

During its annual reappointment of board officers, John Gross was elected to replace Kreycik as the board chairman. Ann Fiala was re-elected as the board secretary, and Mike Schrad was re-elected as the board treasurer.

The board then voted to replace Kreycik on the hospital’s bank signatory card with new chairman Gross and secretary Fiala.

The only other action item was the board approving Katie Dejong to the hospital’s consulting staff.

Lisa Wood and Becky Mizner presented the board with information from the HIPAA and privacy rules training all employees received in December.

Andy Forney of D.A. Davidson & Co. gave a presentation to the board regarding the potential refinancing of the hospital’s bonds. The board recommended Forney present options to the Brown County Commissioners.

Matt Lentz explained how the hospital’s risk management and quality assurance programs continue to integrate into one role.

Administrator Shannon Sorensen briefed the board on the most recent updates regarding the Sandhills Care Center. She also updated the board on the progress with the Service Excellence Initiative. Physician recruitment was discussed. Sorensen also discussed an upcoming educational opportunity through the NRHA Healthcare Law Forum to be held March 3 at Kearney.

Lisa Fischer spoke to the board regarding the employee wellness program, which is administered through Simply Well.

The board received their job description and conflict of interest policies for annual review.

Prior to adjourning, the board held an executive session regarding physician recruitment and privacy breaches.

The next meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees is scheduled for 4 p.m. Feb. 15.

* October taxable sales in the area dip drastically

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Jan. 25)

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of October 2015 and October 2014 Net Taxable Sales
for Nebraska Counties and Selected Cities

County
or City

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

2014
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

2014
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

57,791

50,230

15.1

3,178.52

2,762.66

Boyd

1,026,062

945,644

8.5

56,433.55

52,036.55

Brown

2,742,134

2,983,855

(8.1)

150,817.57

164,112.28

Ainsworth

2,571,018

2,786,646

(7.7)

141,406.17

153,265.76

Cherry

$5,492,609

$5,672,307

(3.2)

$302,093.83

$311,977.21

Valentine

5,334,260

5,449,756

(2.1)

293,384.58

299,736.91

Holt

8,863,045

10,318,781

(14.1)

487,468.10

567,533.53

Atkinson

1,585,169

1,964,415

(19.3)

87,184.47

108,042.98

O'Neill

6,117,686

7,061,760

(13.4)

336,473.05

388,397.14

Keya Paha

246,985

255,590

(3.4)

13,584.19

14,057.48

Rock

533,667

510,489

4.5

29,351.72

28,076.98

State Total

$2,352,179,437

$2,291,697,969

2.6

$129,430,311.84

$126,028,850.50

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of October 2015 and October 2014
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Collections by County

County
or City

2015
Net Taxable
Sales

2014
Net Taxable
Sales

Percent
Change

2015
Sales Tax
5.5%

2014
Sales Tax
5.5%

Blaine

217,080

145,040

49.7

11,891.50

7,934.14

Boyd

444,684

560,389

(20.6)

24,422.70

30,838.99

Brown

670,924

723,338

(7.2)

37,064.49

39,936.69

Cherry

1,239,736

2,249,619

(44.9)

68,398.74

124,137.64

Holt

2,598,812

3,173,547

(18.1)

143,791.53

175,406.44

Keya Paha

114,747

228,073

(49.7)

6,274.93

12,515.75

Rock

373,830

543,044

(31.2)

20,615.78

29,883.59

State Total

$333,505,292

$339,513,867

(1.8)

$18,446,549.72

$18,810,771.97

* Chohon wins informative category, 3 medals at Broken Bow Speech Invitational

(Posted 5:30 a.m. Jan. 25)

Broken Bow Speech Invitational

==Varsity==

1st:  Hayes Chohon—Informative Speaking

4th:  Marley Murphy—Serious Prose

               Hayes Chohon & Lisa Ludemann—Duet Acting

5th:  Lauren Allen, Hayes Chohon, Lisa Ludemann, Seth Taylor—OID

7th:  Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

8th:  Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

Superiors:  Cassidy Gilliland—Poetry

                              Lauren Allen—Serious Prose

                              Jace Kremer—Informative Speaking

                              Jace Kremer—Entertainment Speaking

==Novice==

7th:  Ben Arens & Sam Wilkins—Duet Acting

9th:  Henry Beel—Extemporaneous Speaking

No team scores are kept.

“Broken Bow was as challenging as ever,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. “I was very pleased by the number of team members who broke into final rounds.  There were 25 teams in attendance, so competition was stiff.  It’s great to see some great speakers because they encourage us to do better every week.”
The next meet for the speech team will be next Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Perkins County High School.

 

* Weekly summary from State Sen. Larson

 

(Posted 5:45 a.m. Jan. 25)

 

Nebraska 40th District State Sen. Tyson Larson provided an update on the week's activities in the Nebraska Legislature.

To hear the report, click on the audio link below.

 

audio clips/Tyson Larson 1-23-16.mp3

* Weekly summary from State Sen. Davis

(Posted 7 p.m. Jan. 24)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis provided an update on the week's activities in the Nebraska Legislature.
Click on the audio link below to hear the report.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 1-24-16.mp3

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 6:15 p.m. Jan. 24)

Jan 17

  • Responded to a report of a domestic disturbance in Long Pine.

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

  • Investigated a report of vandalism to stop signs in rural Brown Co.

  • Responded to a domestic disturbance in Ainsworth.

     

    Jan 18

  • Assisted an individual with a report of suspicious activity in Long Pine.

  • Took a subject into emergency protective custody and transported them to the Faith Regional Center in Norfolk.

  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a court ordered commitment for driving under the influence.

  • Responded to a dog at large complaint in Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a report of criminal mischief in rural Long Pine area.

     

    Jan 19

  • Investigated a one-vehicle accident on Hwy 20 West of Johnstown. The Johnstown & Ainsworth Fire Depts responded.  The Brown Co Ambulance was also dispatched; no one was transported from the scene.

  • Responded to a report of a possible transient on Hwy 20 West of Ainsworth.

  • The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located South on Moon Lake Rd.

     

    Jan 20

  • Investigated a report of stop signs that were shot and knocked down in rural Ainsworth area.

  • Investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred in an alley between Oak & Elm St. Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of cattle out North on Hwy 183.

  • Assisted an individual with a report of possible intoxicated subjects driving with juveniles in the vehicle.

     

    Jan 21

  • Investigated a one-vehicle accident without injury at the overpass South of Long Pine.

  • The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located West of Johnstown.

  • Investigated a one-vehicle accident without injury at the 9A Spur near Long Pine.

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

  • Investigated a one-vehicle accident without injury on Hwy 7 South of Ainsworth.

  • Received a report of possible child abuse or neglect.

  • Assisted an individual with a report of the possible theft of medication from a vehicle in Ainsworth.

  • The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located South & West of Ainsworth

    Jan 22

  • Investigated a report of a burglary at a business in Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a report of vehicles tearing around West of Ainsworth.

  • The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located West & North of Johnstown.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a rural Ainsworth residence to the Brown Co Hospital.

  • The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located North of the Long Pine Spur.

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

  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a bond revocation for the charges of Sexual Assault. 

  • The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located North on the Norden Rd.

     

    Jan 23

  • Provided traffic control for cattle crossing Hwy 183 to the North of the 20 junction. Provided traffic control for same herd crossing Hwy 20, West of the 183/20 junction.

  • Investigated a report of vehicles tearing around in Long Pine.

  • Investigated a report of possible witness tampering.

     

    Weekly Summary

    2 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

    2 - Handgun permits applied for

    23 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    0 - Paper Service was served.

    131 - Phone calls were received

    10 - 911emergency calls received 

    4 - Titles were inspected.

    0 - Traffic Citations were issued.

    1 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

* Traffic Accidents

(Posted 7:30 a.m. Jan. 22)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated several accidents that occurred Thursday, Jan. 21.

The first took place at 7:20 a.m. Thursday on South Pine Avenue near the 866 Road intersection. According to the sheriff’s department report, a 1984 Long Pine city truck, driven by Jimmy DeBolt, 56, of Long Pine, was traveling under the Cowboy Trail overpass on South Pine Avenue when the box of the truck struck the overpass.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the Long Pine city truck was estimated at $1,000. The overpass, owned by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, did not sustain any damage.

At 9:54 a.m. Thursday on Highway 7 approximately 14 miles south of Ainsworth, a 2004 Dodge pickup, driven by David Fowler, 55, of Ainsworth, was traveling north when the vehicle slid off the roadway due to icy conditions, entered the west ditch, and struck a sign before coming to rest.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the Dodge was estimated at $2,500. The sign, owned by the Nebraska Department of Roads, sustained approximately $100 damage.

At 3:55 p.m. Thursday on East Third Street east of the Oak Street intersection, a 2009 Ford sedan, driven by Sydney Fling, 17, of Ainsworth, was backing from a driveway and struck a parked 2005 Ford sedan, owned by Becky Younkin of Ainsworth.

No injuries were reported. Damage to the 2009 Ford, owned by Billie Fling of Ainsworth, was estimated at $1,500. The 2005 Ford sustained approximately $1,000 damage.

* Sheriff's department seeking information regarding recent sign vandalism

(Posted 9:45 a.m. Jan. 21)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information regarding a recent string of vandalism in the county.

According to the sheriff’s department, during the past several weeks, numerous signs and posts in rural Brown County have been shot, stolen or broken.

The cost to Brown County to replace the signs is rising, and the missing signs create potentially dangerous travel conditions for motorists.

Anyone with information regarding who is responsible for the vandalism to the signs is asked to call the Brown County Sheriff’s Department at 402-387-1440 or call Crime Stoppers at 402-382-3121.

All callers remain anonymous, and information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for this, or any other crime, could result in a cash reward of up to $1,000.

* Commissioners approve closure of Road 135 in northern Brown County

(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 21)

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners, the board approved the closure of Road 135 in northern Brown County following a public hearing on the subject.

The road, located north of Bone Creek west of Highway 183, will be closed from its connection to Road 134 and west of that location. The most eastern 75 feet of Road 135 will be all that remains of the road.

The portion of the road being closed is legally described as that within portions of Section 9 and Section 10 in Township 31 North Range 21 West.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners approved a 25 cents per hour cost of living increase for roads department employees, the custodian, the weed superintendent, zoning administrator, deputy emergency manager, highway superintendent and veterans service officer beginning with the Feb. 2 pay period.

The board also approved a beginning wage for new hires in the roads department of $15 per hour.

Assessor Charleen Fox and Genie Andrews with GIS presented the board with a proposed contract for aerial photographs to be taken of all rural quadrants in the county. They reported Brown and Rock counties would each receive a $1,500 discount as Rock County planned to contract for similar services, allowing the mapping for both counties to be conducted in one trip.

The board approved the contract, with payment to be made during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 budget cycles.

The commissioners approved the annual report from Weed Superintendent Doug Mulligan.

County Attorney David Streich asked the board to go into executive session to discuss secretary reimbursement. Following the session, the board approved having Streich reimburse the county $500 per month for secretarial services provided on behalf of Streich Law Office.

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

* Eight priorities identified during session hosted by Community Foundation

(Posted 8:45 p.m. Jan. 20)

Ninety area residents identified eight main objectives to improve the future of Brown County during a town hall meeting Wednesday hosted by the Brown County Community Foundation.

Facilitated by Anders Olson and Jana Jensen from the Nebraska Community Foundation, broad goals for the community were selected by those in attendance, then narrowed down to targeted areas for future development.

The eight areas identified, with no ranking toward one being more important than another, included: quality housing for all, womb to tomb healthcare, diverse recreational opportunities, modernized infrastructure and transportation, thriving economic development, labor growth opportunities, preserving rural values, and creating efficient multi-county services.

Brown County Community Foundation Advisory Committee representative Al Steuter said the foundation wanted to get a feel for what the community wants to see.

“This needs to be a partnership between all of the entities moving in the same direction to best leverage our resources,” Steuter said. “The foundation wants to get behind projects that will have a long-term impact.”

Jerry Ehlers said the first town hall session, conducted in January 2007, resulted in the identification of recruiting youth, recruiting business, housing and funding the North Central Development Center. Action committees were formed, and the housing, business and youth committees are still active today.

“We were able to provide a funding source through the passage of the LB 840 one-half cent sales tax and address the objectives that were identified,” Ehlers said. “Where do we want to be in the next seven or eight years? That is why we are here tonight.”

NCDC Executive Director Kristin Olson encouraged those attending to think of things that would benefit the area into the future.

“The number one asset we have is our people,” Olson said. “There are a lot of opportunities here.”

She highlighted the work done by the housing committee, with four new homes constructed in the community since its inception. The funding to construct two homes and clear lots for the private construction of two additional homes in Ainsworth occurred thanks to a loan from the LB 840 fund to the committee.

In addition, by working with the fire department to conduct controlled burns and fire training, the costs to remove dilapidated homes was reduced. The housing committee, working with the fire department, removed three homes from South Main Street that resulted in a business construction project.

While built privately, the housing committee also helped facilitate a 15-unit senior housing complex on Zero Street to address the housing situation in the area.

Olson said the youth committee annually conducts a career fair for high school sophomores and juniors, inviting 36 area business representatives to highlight the employment opportunities available in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties.

She said the professional recruitment committee has successfully recruited several professionals to the area, some of whom have agreed to longer-term contracts.

“We hope to see additional committees formed from tonight to help make our community a great place to be,” Olson said.

After the community members identified their eight goals, the Nebraska Community Foundation representatives unveiled the priorities identified through a discussion Wednesday afternoon with a group of seventh- through 12th-grade students at Ainsworth Community Schools.

“We had a youth visioning session,” Jensen said. “We wanted their opinion of Brown County. We wanted to hear their vision for what the community could be in the future.”

The youth identified community health and safety services, community social opportunities, county beautification and tourism, ideal housing, food and retail options, diverse job opportunities, expanded student benefits and transportation modernization as its priority goals.

“In all these sessions we have conducted, we have never had youth mention housing opportunities before,” Jensen said. “They are very connected to your community.”

Those in attendance were asked to post their names next to the objectives they felt strongly about, and to be ready to receive communication about becoming members of new committees to address the priorities.

As the goal-setting session closed, Ehlers said if there was no follow-up, the session would all be for naught.

“We will analyze these priorities during the next two months and address the formation of committees,” Ehlers said. “We will come up with action plans to address these priorities and set some objectives to reach.”

Kristin Olson said her definition of economic development was a community that refused to stand still.

“We will work to implement these priorities and make sure we are always moving forward and don’t become stagnant as a community,” Olson said.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 3:45 p.m. Jan. 19)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a one-vehicle accident that occurred on Tuesday, Jan. 19, on Highway 20.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday on Highway 20 approximately 1 miles west of Johnstown, a 2015 Nissan Rogue, driven by Teresa Layton, 55, of Omaha, was traveling west when the vehicle slid off the roadway and struck a fence in the north ditch.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Nissan, owned by Enterprise Rent a Car of Omaha, was estimated at $2,500. The fence, owned by Tom Theis of Johnstown, sustained approximately $100 damage.

* Lions Club discusses several items during Monday meeting

(Posted 3:15 p.m. Jan. 19)

During its monthly meeting Monday, the Ainsworth Lion Club Board learned the Lions Club District 38-I Individual Assistance Fund currently has approximately $23,000 in the account to assist any individual in need of monetary assistance for health issues related to sight, hearing, diabetes, and other health issues deemed appropriate by the local Lions Club.

The Assistance Fund will provide matching funds up to a maximum of $400, with the Nebraska Lions Club providing matching funds up to a maximum of $750.

The Assistance Fund receives its revenue from the sale of lottery tickets by local clubs. The Ainsworth Lions Club has annually purchased $250 in lottery tickets. Last year, the club received a $50 check as a result of the lottery drawing held in May, and donated the winnings to the Ainsworth Food Pantry.

Larry Rice and Evan Evans reported 10 bags of crushed rubber have been ordered for surfacing on the park playgrounds at a cost of approximately $500 per bag, plus around $2,000 in total shipping costs. The North Central Development Center is applying for a grant that would provide 50 percent of the cost per bag. The club will investigated shipping alternatives, as well as alternative sources for the crushed rubber.

Longtime club member Jim Walton was awarded an Honorary Membership in the Ainsworth Lions Club after 33 years of active membership. The club thanked Walton for his previous contribution to the club, having donated his time and energy to assist in numerous club activities. He organized and served as the first chairman of the Brown County Fair concession booth project, one of the club’s major fundraising events.

After a discussion regarding the location of future Lions Club meetings, it was the consensus of the club to continue to meet in the Pizza Hut.   

Information was received regarding the Fourth Grade Foresters project, which would provide a tree for each fourth-grade student to plant in observance of Arbor Day. The cost this year is $1.79 per tree, and the club approved sponsoring the trees for the students.

The club received a request to assist an optometry student in the Student Volunteers in Optometric Service for Humanity program. The club last participated in the program in 2014. The student, who is expected to raise $1,000 to participate in the program, is a first-year optometry student from Lincoln. The board approved a contribution of $100.

The board briefly discussed the All-Sports Tailgate Party to be held in April and hosted by the Lions Club. More information will be presented during the February Lions Club meeting, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 15 in the Pizza Hut. 

The Ainsworth Lions Club has been providing the Norfolk Daily News to the Brown County Hospital for several years. The board approved paying the $200 annual subscription for the hospital.

A “thank you” note was received from Tatum and Payton Sorenson for gifts received during the Lions Club Christmas Party held last month.

Club Secretary Jerry Ehlers attended the District 38-I Fall Rally Cabinet Meeting held at Grand Island Nov. 21. He reported District 38-I dues will increase to $7 in 2016, $8 in 2017, and $10 in 2018. The $65 local club dues include the current $6 district dues assessment, along with Lions Club International dues assessment.

It was suggested at the cabinet meeting that funds in four “restricted funds” maintained by District 38-I, which have been unused for several years, could be transferred to the District 38-I operating budget, thereby preventing a dues increase. Ehlers said he would provide additional information when a decision was made by District 38-I.

* Total property tax asking rises for all area counties, valuations continue big gains

(Posted 3 p.m. Jan. 19)

The Nebraska Department of Revenue, Property Assessment Division has received the 2015 Certificates of Taxes Levied Reports from every county assessor. The data indicates that total property taxes levied, statewide, increased 6.07% from 2014 to 2015, from $3.56 billion to $3.78 billion. Overall, governmental agencies that levy property taxes will collect an additional $216 million from the 2015 tax year from Nebraska property owners.
The total increase in taxes of $216 million, includes $24 million in voter-approved bonds, which is 11 percent of the total increase; and $41 million in property taxes from new construction, which is 19 percent of the increase. However, a vast majority of the rise in tax collections, $151 million or 69 percent, comes from tax increases on existing property.

Real property valuations are determined by county assessors. Property tax rates are set by local governments. Property taxes support schools, counties, cities, community colleges, natural resource districts, fire districts, and other local governmental subdivisions. Property taxes are payable to the county treasurer.

The impact of the property tax change on individual taxpayers varies depending on the budget needs of their local governmental subdivisions and voter-approved bonds. For example, Greeley County taxes levied decreased by 4.56%, while Nuckolls County taxes levied increased by 15.40%.

Brown County taxing entities had the highest increase in property tax asking in the KBRB listening area. The total sum asked from Brown County property owners for the 2015 tax year is $10.22 million, which is a 10.25 percent increase from the $9.27 million levied in 2014. That percentage increase is the 14th highest in the state.

Holt County had the 17th largest percentage tax increase among the state’s 93 counties, at 9.76 percent. Holt County tax entities asked property owners for $36.3 million in 2015, up from the $33.1 million collected during the 2014 tax year.

Cherry County’s tax increase of 6.92 percent ranked 43rd highest. Cherry County taxing entities will collect $21.8 million from the 2015 tax year, up from $20.4 million in 2014.

Rock County ranked 54th among the counties for the rate of increased tax. Rock County property owners will pay an additional 5.56 percent in the 2015 tax year, from $6.17 million to $6.52 million.

Blaine County had the 18th lowest increase in the state among the counties at 3.28 percent. Blaine County property owners will pay $2.76 million for the 2015 tax year to fund the entities that receive property tax, modestly above the $2.67 million collected from the 2014 tax year.

Keya Paha County had the distinction of having the smallest tax increase among area counties. Property owners will pay $3.47 million for the 2015 year, up just 2.76 percent from the $3.37 million collected in 2014.
The State of Nebraska offsets a portion of the real property taxes levied in 2015 with approximately $72 million in homestead exemptions for qualified individuals and $204 million from the property tax credit relief fund, which are shown as a credit on the tax statements.

The first half of all 2015 property taxes become delinquent May 1, and the second half of 2015 taxes become delinquent Sept. 1.

From a total property valuation standpoint, several area counties again saw their total property value increase by double digits.

Rock County’s overall valuation rocketed up 30.49 percent, the third largest jump in the state behind the 42.22 percent rise in Loup County and the 32.5 percent increase in Garfield County.

Rock County’s total valuation of $580 million for 2015 was up $136 million from the $444 million total valuation in 2014.

Holt County’s valuation was up 25.43 percent from a year ago, rising from $2.48 billion to $3.11 billion.

Brown County had a total valuation increase of 19.4 percent, jumping more than $100 million from $559 million in 2014 to $668 million in 2015.

Blaine County’s valuation in 2015 increased by 18.29 percent, from $210 million to $249 million.

Cherry County, the largest county by area in Nebraska, saw an overall 17.47 percent increase in property value, from $1.39 billion to $1.63 billion.

Keya Paha County had the lowest increase in total property value in the KBRB listening area, but it still jumped by 15.83 percent in 2015, from $361 million to $418 million, a gain in value of $57 million.

Increasing agricultural land valuations continue to account for the large property value increases in the area counties. Commercial and residential property values increased slightly, and new construction accounted for a small portion of the overall increase in the counties.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 5:30 a.m. Jan. 19)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Thursday, Jan. 14, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 1:45 p.m. Thursday at the Bomgaars parking lot, a 2004 Chevy pickup, driven by Lorrin Thomas, 67, of Long Pine, was pulling a trailer and backing from a parking space when the trailer struck a parked 2012 Ford pickup, owned by Kevin Blake of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $1,000. The Chevy and trailer did not sustain any damage.

* Weekly report from State Sen. Al Davis

(Posted 8 a.m. Jan. 18)

To hear the weekly report from 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis from the first week of the Nebraska Legislature's session, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 1-16-16.mp3

* Ainsworth finishes second in season-opening speech contest at Valentine

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Jan. 18)

Valentine Icebreaker

==Varsity==

1st:  Cassidy Gilliland—Poetry

               Hayes Chohon & Lisa Ludemann—Duet Acting

2nd:  Hayes Chohon—Informative Speaking

               Lauren Allen, Hayes Chohon, Lisa Ludemann, Seth Taylor—OID

3rd:  Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

               Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

               Lauren Allen—Serious Prose

4th:  Marley Murphy, Bo Painter, Bradi Scott, Jacob Sinsel—OID

5th:  Jace Kremer—Entertainment Speaking

               Marley Murphy—Serious Prose

6th:  Jace Kremer—Informative Speaking

==Novice==

2nd:  Henry Beel—Extemporaneous Speaking

3rd:  Bradi Scott—Poetry

Jeremiah Finley & Shayden Platt—Duet Acting

4th:  Ben Arens & Sam Wilkins—Duet Acting

 

Team:  2nd of  6

“This was a great start for us,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said.  “Every entry brought home a medal, which is very encouraging.  We have a nice bunch of novices this year, but overall, our numbers are down. That will hurt us in terms of team scores. We’ll just keep working, and I know the team members will do their best to represent AHS well.”

The next competition will take the team to Broken Bow on Saturday, with rounds beginning at 8 a.m.

 

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

 

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Jan. 18)

 

Jan. 10

  • Responded to a report of juveniles driving recklessly around Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a report of suspicious activity on North Main St Ainsworth. A verbal warning was issued for shining a laser light into traffic.

  • The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued 3 burn permits for the following areas: 1 – for West and South of Ainsworth. 2 – for South of Ainsworth. 3 – North of the old Drive In Theater.

     

    Jan. 11

  • A subject turned a stray dog into the Sheriff’s Office. The dog was transported to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic. The dog was claimed later by his owner.

  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a court ordered commitment for Reckless Driving 1st Offense.

  • Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a court ordered commitment for Driving Under the Influence & Unlawful Act Relating to Drugs.

     

    Jan. 12

  • Assisted a Brown Co resident with a report of suspicious activity and possible stalking, occurring in Ainsworth.

  • Responded to a traffic complaint South of Ainsworth.

  • Responded to 2 traffic complaints on a juvenile tearing around on county roads near Ainsworth.

  • The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located South and West of Main St.

    Jan. 13

  • Received a report of a stray dog running at large near 1st St Ainsworth. A verbal warning was issued to the owner.

  • Performed a traffic stop where a subject was cited for a stop sign violation.

  • Responded to a report of stray dogs running at large back and forth across Hwy 20 near Dollar General parking area. The owner arrived to claim their animals.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transported an Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co Hospital.

  • Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail, as their sentence had been completed.

Jan. 14

  • Investigated a two – vehicle accident without injury in the Bomgaar’s parking lot.

  • Assisted residents of Ainsworth with information on suspicious activity involving possible forgery.

  • Cited a juvenile for Minor in Possession of Tobacco products.

  • Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail.

     

    Jan. 15

  • Provided traffic control for 300 head of cattle crossing Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth.

     

    Jan. 16

  • Responded to a report of cattle out North of Hwy 20 on Hwy 183.

  • Provided traffic control for cattle crossing Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth.

     

    Weekly Summary

    1 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

    3 - Handgun permits applied for

    15 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    6 - Paper Service was served.

    107 - Phone calls were received

    2 - 911emergency calls received 

    5 - Titles were inspected.

    2 - Traffic Citations were issued.

    0 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

* Arens, Finley and Schleuter named Volunteers of the Year during chamber banquet

(Posted 10:45 a.m. Jan. 17)

During its annual meeting Friday in the Elks Lodge, the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce presented three awards to members of the community.

Jack Arens was named the Youth Volunteer of the Year. Arens, a junior at Ainsworth High School, is the student member of the Ainsworth Betterment Committee, the student board member of the Sandhills Area Entertainment Corporation Board, and helped set up the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce web site.

Patty Finley received one of two Volunteer of the Year awards presented by the Chamber of Commerce.

Finley was nominated by the staff at Little Paws Preschool for her volunteer work with the preschool. For the past 31 years, Finley has volunteered at the preschool twice weekly. She brings items for the children to use for making crafts, and she helps the center recycle.

Finley is also involved with the area Special Olympics organization.

Lisa Schleuter was also named a Volunteer of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce. She is a founding member of the Ainsworth Teammates Chapter and serves as the coordinator for the volunteer youth mentoring program.

She coordinates all the training for the youth mentors, and handles the reporting for the Teammates Board meetings.

Schleuter also volunteers with post prom and is a Sunday School teacher.

Approximately 50 people attended Friday’s chamber banquet in the Elks Lodge, with a steak dinner served by the Ainsworth Does Drove.

Sheri Buoy from the First National Bank and Jon Pierce from the Mundhenke Agency were elected to three-year terms on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. There are still three openings on the chamber board. Anyone interested in serving may contact the chamber office.

The incoming chamber president is Chris Raymond. Bryan Doke is the outgoing president of the chamber.

* City Council approves upgrades for wastewater plant, cemetery mapping

(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 14)

During a busy agenda Wednesday, the Ainsworth City Council approved making upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant and a software upgrade for mapping the city’s two cemeteries.

The council green-lighted the purchase of SCADA computer and dialer upgrades for the wastewater treatment plant as recommended by engineering firm Olsson Associates.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said the current system is seven years old, and the computers need to be updated. She said the computers have been locking up, which sets off warning alarms at the treatment plant.

The upgrades will cost the city $18,920. Additionally, the council approved the replacement of an additional piece of equipment at the wastewater treatment plant at a cost of $15,000.

With the city keeping paper records of cemetery plots at both the South and East Park cemeteries, the council approved the purchase of cemetery mapping software from Legacy Mark, a Pennsylvania company, at a cost of $11,407.

Schroedl said the two bids received by the city, the other coming from CemSites, another Pennsylvania-based company, were similar. She recommended using the Legacy Mark software to map the two cemeteries following a conversation with company representatives.

She said the council had budgeted $12,000 to purchase the software and get the cemeteries mapped.

In other business Wednesday, the council discussed moving forward with inspecting the third quadrant of the city for nuisance ordinance violations in 2016.

The city inspected the southeast and northeast quadrants in 2014 and 2015 with the cost paid for by a grant awarded to the Central Nebraska Economic Development District.

With those grant funds no longer available, CNEDD will inspect properties in the city for nuisance ordinance violations at a cost of $45 per property.

Mayor Larry Rice said progress had been made in cleaning up the city through the inspections, and he said he had received encouragement from residents to continue the inspections in the remaining areas of the city.

Councilman Kent Taylor said the city might need to further subdivide the remaining quadrants and have 100 inspected per year as opposed to the 200 parcels per year that had been inspected thanks to the grant funding.

Rice said he believed the city budgeted a sufficient amount to inspect a full quadrant, with the cost of inspecting 200 parcels totaling approximately $9,000.

The mayor said numerous properties in the first two quadrants that were initially flagged as violating nuisance ordinances had been cleaned up and cleared of violations.

“Several of the remaining properties will need to go to the Board of Health,” Rice said. “Several of them are unoccupied.”

The council discussed having the city contract to have the nuisances abated, with the cost then assessed to the property. In several cases, the property owners may choose to abandon the property as opposed to paying for the cost to abate the nuisance.

Rice said the best method for addressing the remaining violations may be to have the Housing Committee work with the property owners to see if some might be willing to donate the parcel.

“The Housing Committee already has two fire training burns scheduled,” Rice said. “The fire department has indicated it can likely only conduct two or three trainings each year.”

The consensus of the council was to have the Housing Committee contact property owners where applicable, and continue the nuisance abatement program with additional inspections this year. The item was placed on the February agenda to determine the quadrant and the number of parcels to inspect.

The council approved a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to provide $4,196 in ABC sales tax funds to the Brown County Ambulance Association to purchase defibrillators for various sites in the city.

Dan Osborne with Topkote presented the council with a quote for armor coating oil for 2016. He said, while the price of oil has come down, the price of the type of oil used in armor coating had not decreased from 2015. He quoted the council a price of $1.14 per square yard, which he said was the same price as the previous year.

Kim Buckley updated the council on activities at the Ainsworth Golf Course. He said Paul Hermsmeyer had been hired as the course superintendent for 2016.

“We had the best season we have had in quite a while,” Buckley said of the course’s financial outlook. “The assistance from the city has helped us. We finished this year in better shape than in any year since I have been on the board.”

He said the course planned to use funding from the city for 2016 to upgrade its greens mower. He said the equipment upgrades made possible by the support from the city have greatly helped course operations.

Taylor updated the council on a decision Monday by the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board to approve having the former care center property appraised to protect the community if it accepted the building as a gift from the current owners without receiving a hold harmless agreement against potential future litigation.

He said the capital campaign and new building committees created by the board have been making great strides.

In other action items Wednesday, the council approved a certificate of compliance with the Nebraska Department of Roads. Councilman Chuck Osborn said, under the agreement, the Department of Roads clears snow from Highway 20 through the city limits, while the city agrees to remove snow on Main Street/Highway 7.

By a 3-1 vote with Councilwoman Deb Hurless against, the council approved the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Plan Update.

The council also approved a memorandum of lease with American Tower Corp. for two cell tower sites.

The consent agenda Wednesday included the appointment of Brian Delimont to a three-year term on the City Park Board, and the appointments of Jeff Carr and Heather Lutter to three-year terms on the Board of Adjustment.

During his report, Rice said the city received $4,820 after selling numerous pieces of surplus equipment through an online auction company. Rice recognized Steve Warneke for eight years of employment with the city and Kevin Shaul for one year of employment.

The council approved having a special meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20, to allow all the council members to attend the Brown County Foundation Fund’s town hall meeting to set goals for the community. That meeting will be held in the Ainsworth Community Schools cafeteria.

The next regular meeting of the City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 10.

* Norden Bridge replacement moving forward, road to close to traffic Jan. 25

(Posted 2:45 p.m. Jan. 12)

The Norden Road will close to traffic on Monday, Jan. 25, in anticipation of the demolition of the Norden Bridge across the Niobrara River on Jan. 28.

During a preconstruction conference Tuesday in the Brown County Courthouse, engineer Gary Steele with Miller and Associates outlined the timeline for the more than $800,000 bridge replacement project with the Brown County Commissioners and Keya Paha County Commissioners.

The bridge replacement project is a joint venture between the two counties, with 90 percent of the funding for the bridge replacement coming from the state of Nebraska through federal bridge funds.

Representatives from Simon Contractors of North Platte, the company that received the bid to replace the bridge, indicated they would begin mobilizing equipment to the area next week.

Signs will be placed at the intersection of the Norden Road with Highway 20 in Brown County and with the Norden Road intersection with Highway 12 in Keya Paha County notifying motorists of the road closure.

Barricades will be placed near the site to keep motorists at a distance from equipment and workers.

Unlike the Meadville Bridge replacement, where the old bridge was kept open to traffic while the new bridge was constructed adjacently, the new Norden Bridge will be constructed at the same site as the former bridge, forcing the closure of the road to through traffic for the duration of the project.

While a firm completion deadline of June 1 has been set, representatives from Simon Contractors said they anticipated completion of the new bridge well ahead of that date. The timeline shows guardrail and bridge rail, the final steps in the replacement project, scheduled for completion by May 18.

Steele said all pertinent permits for the project have been obtained. With the site being of paleontological significance, any potential fossils uncovered during the demolition or construction will trigger a phone call to a professor with the University of Nebraska.

The contractor is also required to prevent debris from entering the Niobrara River waterway.

Motorists should be aware that heavy equipment will begin being delivered to the site next week, with the road closing to through traffic on Monday, Jan. 25.

* Annual Tour de Nebraska bike ride planned for north central area in June

(Posted 8 a.m. Jan. 12)

The 29th annual five-day Tour de Nebraska bicycle adventure will head to beautiful north central Nebraska on its 275-mile round trip journey June 22-26. Approximately 250 cyclists will leave Springview on Wednesday, June 22, and camp overnight at Bassett, Ainsworth and Valentine.

“We are very excited about the route this year and are happy to explore a part of the state that is a hidden secret for scenic beauty and rural hospitality,” Susan Larson Rodenburg, who organizes the tour with her husband, Rich, said.

The noncompetitive circle tour will start and end in Springview, 280 miles northwest of Lincoln. It will then proceed to overnights at Bassett June 22, Ainsworth June 23, Valentine June 24-25 and back to Springview on June 26.

The Tour de Nebraska bicycle adventure is a mental and physical challenge for cyclists of all ages. Participants come from across Nebraska and more than a dozen other states.

 “Our cyclists like the size of Tour de Nebraska because it’s big enough to meet some new people, but small enough not to overwhelm the communities we visit,” Rodenburg said. "We have families, school teachers, busy executives and others who all share a passion for cycling and adventure. They can ride all day at their own speed so they can take full advantage of sightseeing and food in the small communities along the way. By the time the tour ends, we’re all bonded in one way or another.”

The Rodenburgs created Tour de Nebraska 29 years ago after many of their friends expressed interest in doing a statewide tour. It’s grown from 11 cyclists and is now limited to 250 cyclists. Tour de Nebraska arranges meals, rest stops, daily maps, itineraries, luggage/gear transfers, emergency support on the highway, daily fruit and water. Riders camp at city parks or near high schools. There are also indoor camping options at high school gyms.

The Rodenburgs help local communities along the route prepare for rest stops and overnight stays.

“We encourage the communities to highlight their community spirit, history and friendliness – their uniqueness,” she said. “We work closely with the local organizers so they can provide everything we need. Most find that hosting Tour de Nebraska is a fun way to bring new revenue to the area. It’s always exciting to find out what they have planned for us.”

The favorite rest stop and overnight host towns chosen by the riders receive cash awards. “It’s a small token of thanks for their efforts,” Rodenburg said.

Organizers also present daily spirit awards to build camaraderie among riders.

* Care Center Board votes, 2-1, to have building appraised and maintain electricity

(Posted 9 p.m. Jan. 11)

By a 2-1 vote Monday with one member absent, the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors voted to extend a previously implemented deadline for the acceptance of the former Ainsworth Care Center property, continue to pay for electricity to heat the building for the next month, and authorize the North Central Development Center to have an appraisal conducted on the property.

NCDC Executive Director Kristin Olson said RP Midwest, the company that owns the former nursing home property, did respond to the latest correspondence from the community.

Olson said RP Midwest is still willing to donate the building to the NCDC, but the company will not provide the community with a hold harmless agreement, which was a stipulation from the interlocal board during its December meeting.

The interlocal board had voted in December to cease negotiations and discontinue paying for electricity to heat the building if RP Midwest did not agree to donate the building and provide the community with the hold harmless agreement as a safeguard for any potential future litigation.

“The NCDC Executive Committee recommended moving forward if we can get the property appraised,” Olson told the interlocal board. “They agreed to a March 1 timeline to allow time for an appraisal.”

Board member Kent Taylor said, part of the reason the board had not previously agreed to have an appraisal performed was the board had been given no indication that it for sure would have the building gifted to the community.

“The reason for an appraisal is, if we don’t have a hold harmless agreement the appraisal gives us a value for the building,” Taylor said.

Olson said an appraisal would be the community’s defense against any liability it might be exposed to if the community is sued for accepting the building and not paying the actual value.

“We want to make sure the appraisal is something we can defend,” Olson said.

She said an appraiser from Kearney had been contacted and could visit the community next week if the board determined it was interested in having the building appraised.

Board member Buddy Small said, if it were his decision only, he would be done with attempting to acquire the former facility and would turn the focus solely to building a new facility.

“If we now vote to have an appraisal, it will now be late spring or summer before we ever get a conclusion to this,” Small said.

Board member Leanne Maxwell said the skeptic in her wondered if there was even more exposure the community would be subjecting itself to by not having the hold harmless agreement.

“Maybe there is another reason why they don’t want to give us the hold harmless agreement,” Maxwell said.

Olson said RP Midwest had already paid a lot of claims that were run up by the company that leased the buildings from RP Midwest and operated the nursing homes.

“There is no incentive for them to provide a hold harmless agreement,” Olson said. “The people who own the building are not the enemy. The operators are the ones who have made this mess.”

With Small voting against and board member Jim Walz absent, the board approved having the building appraised and keeping the electricity turned on to heat the facility for another month.

A claim approved Monday paid the Nebraska Public Power District $1,878 to heat the building for the previous 30 days. Taylor said there were eight electric heaters running currently to keep the pipes in the building from freezing.

Mike Harris with Rural Health Development, the company hired to handle the opening and operation of a nursing home in the community, said it would be important for an appraiser to know there is a covenant on the property that states it can only be operated as a nursing home.

“No one is going to come in, pay for that building and pay $10,000 per license to open a nursing home privately,” Harris said. “There is really no value for the building except to this community. We are eligible to get the bed licenses free of charge from the state.”

Harris presented two sets of data to the board and those in attendance Monday. The first showed cost and income projections for opening a new facility without first acquiring the former facility and building up a resident census.

He projected an initial cost of $9 million to build and equip a new facility, with the cost of doing so spread out over a 40-year period at 4 percent interest using a USDA guaranteed loan.

In that scenario, the community would have a monthly mortgage and interest payment of $38,000. Projections include a gradual buildup of residents until a population of 40 residents was reached by the end of the first year.

His projections show the community would need an estimated $722,450 in operating capital for the first year until the resident population was built up and the community began receiving Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

He said Ron Ross with RHD planned to meet with representatives from the Department of Health and Human services to see if the state would be willing to pursue from the federal government the fixed costs over and above the $27 per day allowed by the state.

Currently, DHHS will pursue excess nursing and support services costs from the federal government over the caps set in place by the state. That allows facilities to receive reimbursement for 60 percent of the costs incurred above the state caps.

He said the state does not currently pursue fixed costs from the federal government above the cap of $27 per day. With projections of more than $90 per day in fixed costs for a new facility, having the state agree to pursue the 60 percent share from the federal government would be a great help to small, community-operated facilities.
“Pursuing the additional funds above the caps does not cost the state anything,” Harris said. “We are hopeful they are willing to do the same thing for the fixed cap costs that they do now for the nursing and support services caps.”

Harris said the operating capital needed up front would not be as high if the community could obtain the former facility and begin operations there before transitioning residents to a new facility.

“The advantage to opening the old facility first is you would have residents to transfer when the new facility is built,” Harris said. “It is close to a wash fiscally, but remember the purpose is to have a place to care for your elderly residents and having the old facility would allow you to do that more quickly.”

Harris said the timing of being able to accept Medicare and Medicaid residents and receiving those payments will have the community playing catchup, especially during the first year of operation, regardless of whether the first year is in the old facility or a new one. The major difference is, the community would not have the $38,000 monthly mortgage and interest payment if it reopens the former facility.

The interlocal board heard reports from the three committees that were formed to assist in the process of reopening a nursing home in the community.

Renovation committee member Dick Schipporeit said, other than closing some storm windows, that committee has not been able to do a lot since the community does not yet own the former facility.

Taylor said it appeared the eight electric heaters were providing sufficient heat to the building.

Representing the capital campaign committee, Roland Paddock told the board the committee is working on putting together a brochure to use when seeking donations. He discussed a plaque that would recognize those who donate in amounts of at least $1,000 toward the care center project.

“If you tell us you are ready for us to get started raising funds, I think we are at a point where we could start,” Paddock said. “I have not met one person who thinks we should give up on this.”

New construction committee member Todd Mundhenke said the committee received four proposals from architects and engineering firms, and had been meeting Monday with representatives from some of those firms.

“We will schedule a meeting next week to review the proposals and will then come to the board with a recommendation,” Mundhenke said. “The firms estimated it would be 28 to 30 months from the time you start to the time you are ready to open.”

Taylor praised the work of all three committees.

“You are doing fabulous work,” Taylor said. “And I agree. Everyone I have spoken to has been positive about continuing.”

The next meeting of the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. Feb. 1 in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

* Dailey elected Ainsworth Board of Education president for 2016

(Posted 8 p.m. Jan. 11)

Dan Dailey was elected the president of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education for 2016 Monday as part of the board’s annual reorganization.

Dailey succeeds Mark Johnson, who was elected as the board vice-president. Jim Arens was re-elected as the board’s secretary/treasurer, and Laurie Witte, Dedra Stoner and Superintendent Darrell Peterson will serve as the board’s recording secretaries.

Board committee assignments will remain the same for 2016, with Johnson, Arens and Aaron Jackman serving on the curriculum committee; Dailey, Arens and Johnson on the transportation, building and grounds committee; Erin Rathe, Jackman and Dailey on the activities and athletics committee; Brad Wilkins, Johnson and Dailey on the budget and finance committee; Wilkins, Arens and Dailey on the negotiations and personnel committee; and Wilkins, Rathe and Arens on the policy committee.

Rathe will continue to represent Ainsworth Community Schools on the North Central Development Center Board of Directors, and Wilkins will continue to serve as the board’s government relations network representative.

In annual items, the board designated First National Bank as the depository for the district’s general fund, general clearing fund, bond fund and Section 125 plan fund. West Plains Bank was approved as the depository for the employee benefit fund, activity fund, building fund, student fee fund and depreciation fund. Union Bank and Trust was reapproved as the depository for the hot lunch fund.

Board meetings will continue to be held on the second Monday of each month in the district office on Third Street, beginning at 7 p.m. from November through March and at 8 p.m. from April through October.

The board designated the Ainsworth Star-Journal as the official newspaper for the district for public notices, and the board will continue to provide notice of public meetings for airing on KBRB Radio.

The board provided annual authorizations to the superintendent and treasurer.

During the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, math teacher Karen Prewitt read a letter of resignation to the board effective at the end of the 2015-16 school year, citing an opportunity in Texas after she obtained a teaching certificate for that state.

Since it was not an agenda item, the board will take action on the letter of resignation during its February meeting.

In the only other action item Monday, the board approved a resolution updating the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency’s Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan.

Secondary Principal Dirk Coon’s report indicated the changes to Ninth Hour will begin Jan. 18 upon the release of the first failing list for the second semester. Changes to the seventh- and eighth-grade open campus lunch policy begin Feb. 5.

During his report, Peterson said the district’s new Spanish teacher, Mrs. Stoner, began her duties with the district with the start of the second semester.

“Things seem to be going very well so far,” Peterson said.

He said the district secretary has had to spend considerable time with the new reporting guidelines associated with the Affordable Care Act.

“Laurie has spent a lot of time on webinars to figure it all out,” the superintendent said. “It is going to be tedious for the first year. There is a lot of work with all the reporting requirements.”

He reminded board members of the 5 p.m. town hall meeting Jan. 20 in the school cafeteria to set goals for the community.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 8 in the district office.

* Lentz named to the Brown County Foundation Advisory Board

(Posted 1:45 p.m. Jan. 11)

The Brown County Community Foundation Fund welcomed Colleen Lentz to the Fund Advisory Committee during its recent meeting.
Lentz brings many years of community involvement experience to the committee as well as a concern for the future of Brown County. She fills an opening on the Fund Advisory Committee left vacant by the retirement in June of Carolyn Johnson after four years of service to the Brown County Community Foundation Fund.
During its Jan. 6 meeting, the BCCFF Advisory Committee continued to make plans for the town hall meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20, in the Ainsworth Community Schools cafeteria. Everyone in the county is invited to participate in the session to identify goals to improve Brown County.

* Davis reports from first week of legislative session

(Posted 5:45 a.m. Jan. 11)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis reported on the opening week of the Nebraska Legislature's short session.
To hear the report from Davis, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 1-8-16.mp3

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 5:30 a.m. Jan. 11)

Jan 3

  • Assisted an individual with information on a citation that had been issued.

  • Received a report of a stray dog in rural Ainsworth area.

  • Assisted an individual with a fix it ticket.

  • Investigated a report of suspicious activity at a service station in Ainsworth.

  • Received a request for a business security check in Ainsworth.

  • Assisted an individual with a report of threats being made to an Ainsworth resident.

  • Received a report of a stray dog near the Ainsworth South Cemetery.

  • Received a report of a possible disturbance at an Ainsworth residence.

  • Responded to a report of dogs barking on the North side of Ainsworth.

     

    Jan 4

  • The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located North & West of Ainsworth.

  • Assisted two individuals with a report of an accident without injury on Hwy 20 on the East side of Ainsworth.

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of a dog at large. A verbal warning was issued.

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of a lost dog. The dog was located.

     

    Jan 5

  • Investigated a report of a domestic assault in rural Brown Co.

  • Assisted Ainsworth residents with a report of a neighborhood dispute.

  • Received a report of suspicious activity at the KBR Waste Station.

  • Responded to a traffic complaint involving juveniles. Verbal warnings were issued.

  • Received lost keys located at a business in Ainsworth.

  • Assisted a Rock Co resident with a report of a stray dog that wandered into a residence near the Rock Co / Brown Co line.

  • Investigated a report of suspicious activity and vandalism to Johnstown residence.

  • Responded to a traffic complaint at the Ainsworth schools.


     

  • Jan 6

  • Assisted an individual with a report of a vehicle / deer accident in rural Long Pine area.

  • Investigated a report of possible truancy occurring with Ainsworth residents.

  • Investigated a report of possible animal neglect on Hwy 20 in Ainsworth.

  • Investigated a report of a mailbox that was damaged in a hit & run, Ainsworth.

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

     

    Jan 7

  • Investigated a report of a two-vehicle accident that occurred on Meadville Ave & Cedar St Ainsworth.

  • The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located West of Ainsworth.

  • Received a report of a missing dog in Ainsworth. The dog was located.

  • Provided traffic control for 200 head of cattle crossing Hwy 20 East of Ainsworth.

  • The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located South on Moon Lake Rd.

  • Received a report of cattle out South & West of Ainsworth.

  • The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept issued a two day burn permit for property located North of Hwy 20 at the Rock/Brown Co line.

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with information on a phone scam.

  • Responded to a domestic disturbance in Long Pine.

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

     

    Jan 8

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transferred a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to the Good Samaritan in Kearney.

  • Responded to a traffic complaint on Hwy 20 in Ainsworth.

  • Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of a lost ladder on Meadville Ave Ainsworth.

     

    Jan 9

  • Received a report of a business security alarm going off in Ainsworth. The key holders were contacted.

  • The Brown Co Ambulance transferred a patient from the Brown Co Hospital to Faith Regional in Norfolk.

  • Provided traffic control for 52 head of cattle crossing Hwy 183, North of Hwy 20.

  • Responded to a report of a stray dog on North Main St Ainsworth.

  • Responded to juveniles driving recklessly on 6th St Ainsworth.


    Weekly Summary

    0- Fix-it tickets were issued.

    8 - Handgun permits applied for

    18 - Incidents Reports were taken.

    11 - Paper Service was served.

    114 - Phone calls were received

    2 - 911emergency calls received 

    8 - Titles were inspected.

    0- Traffic Citations were issued.

    6- Verbal & Written Warnings issued.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 1 p.m. Jan. 7 )

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred on Thursday, Jan. 7, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 8:48 a.m. Thursday on Highway 20 near the Cedar Street intersection, a collision occurred between an eastbound 2006 Nissan sedan, driven by Tailer Rogers, 24, of Ainsworth, and an eastbound 2015 Dodge pickup, driven by Marvin Ohlrich, 77, of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Nissan was estimated at $2,000. The Dodge sustained approximately $100 damage.

* Commissioners hear options to remedy weight restriction on Wilson Street bridge

(Posted 3:15 p.m. Jan. 5)

After discussing a posted weight limit at a bridge north of Ainsworth during its previous meeting, the Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday had an engineer from Kearney inspect the bridge and provide the board with options to remedy with issue.

Lance Harter with Oak Creek Engineering told the commissioners the bridge on North Wilson Street just north of the Ainsworth city limits was in fair condition structurally.

“The stringers under the bridge deck are healthy,” Harter said. “The problem is the overhang and the area between the girders. The guidelines have changed.”

He said those dimensions led to the bridge being posted with a 12-ton weight limit. The commissioners could opt for a three-limit sign, which would allow a 13-ton limit for a single-axle vehicle, a 19-ton limit for semis with a tandem rear axle, and a 24-ton limit for semis with a split trailer, which Harter said were rare.

“We could post that sign, but that still doesn’t solve the problem,” Harter said. “We could ask the Department of Roads for a load relaxation. Any reconstruction would have to bring it to a non-posted bridge that any legal loads could cross. That will be difficult to do with this bridge.”

Harter provided the board with three potential solutions to remove the weight restrictions, each carrying a different price tag.

The board could opt to replace the bridge with a similar structure. The cost to do so Harter estimated at $300,000. The board could remove the bridge and replace it with a box culvert at an estimated cost of $150,000 or more. Or, the commissioners could choose to remove the bridge and construct two culvert pipes with headwalls at a cost of around $100,000.

Harter said any of the three options would remove the weight restrictions.

“There are culverts instead of bridges on Bone Creek below this structure,” Harter said. “The culverts look like they would be viable as a replacement option instead of a new bridge.”

He said the cost to remove the current bridge would likely be between $15,000 and $20,000. Materials for placing two large culverts would run in the neighborhood of $35,000, with the county supplying the labor and equipment for the project.

The commissioners did not take any official action.

In other items during Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a home health renewal application for the Brown County Hospital. Administrator Shannon Sorensen said the hospital provides home health services to Brown, Cherry, Rock, Keya Paha, Blaine and Holt counties.

She told the board the hospital bonds can be refinanced in 2016, since the last time refinancing occurred was in 2011.

“We could potentially save about $20,000 per year over the final 10 years if we refinance,” Sorensen said.

The board gave Sorensen the go-ahead to visit with bond refinancing companies and make a recommendation to the commissioners.

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

The board voted to approve 11 holidays for 2016, unchanged from the previous year. The commissioners also named the Ainsworth Star-Journal and KBRB as its official newspaper and radio outlets, and named West Plains Bank, First National Bank, Union Bank and Trust and NPAIT as the official depositories for county funds.

The commissioners will continue to meet on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.

Small was appointed to represent the county on the Niobrara Council, the KBR Solid Waste Committee, the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency Board, the North Central Development Center Board, and the Region IV Behavioral Health Board.

Wiebelhaus will represent the county on the Revitalization Committee, the North Central District Health Department Board, and the Countywide Law Enforcement Committee.

Commissioner Les Waits was named to represent the county on the Area Agency on Aging Board, the Central Nebraska Community Services Board, the North Star Region IV Board, and will attend meetings of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees on behalf of the commissioners.

In other annual housekeeping items, the commissioners acknowledged the 2014-15 financial audit report as submitted by accountant Michael Pommer. Small said the report listed no deficiencies for the county.

The board acknowledged a change in the IRS mileage rate from 57.5 cents down to 54 cents per mile effective for 2016.

The board also approved sign permit renewals for KBR Recycling and Discover the Sandhills.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Jan. 19.

* Sheriff's department issues several alcohol-related citations during crackdown

(Posted 7 a.m. Jan. 5)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department participated in the national “You Drink and Drive, You Lose” campaign Dec. 18 through Jan. 3 thanks in part to a grant from the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety.
The program is designed to increase public awareness on the dangers of driving under the influence.
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department arrested two motorists on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol during the crackdown, and one motorist was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence of drugs.
Ten people were cited on charges of minor in possession of alcohol. One citation was issued on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, one on a charge of procuring alcohol to a minor, and two on charges of possessing an open alcohol container in a vehicle.
The sheriff’s department issued seven speeding citations, one citation on a charge of possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana, and one citation on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.
A total of 30 citations and 49 warnings were issued during the enforcement period, which covered the Christmas and New Year holidays. The sheriff’s department used regular enforcement, saturation patrols and an enforcement zone during the campaign.
The Brown County Sheriff’s Department thanks motorists for making roadways safer by always designating a sober driver.

* 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

* Ainsworth garbage service rates increasing by 30 percent in February

(Posted 2 p.m. Dec. 21)

Ainsworth residents and businesses will see an increase in the rates paid for garbage pickup in February.

During a special meeting Monday, the Ainsworth City Council adopted an ordinance increasing garbage rates by 30 percent for residential and commercial service.

In addition to the rate change, the city condensed down from five to three the number of classifications for garbage service.

Residential customers will pay $14.30 monthly beginning in February, up from the $11 monthly rate that has been in effect since the mid to late 1990s.

Commercial customers will pay $27.30 per month, up from $21, and heavy commercial customers will pay a monthly fee of $54.60, up from $42.

The cost to rent a dumpster also increased by 30 percent, from $10 to $13 monthly.

Mayor Larry Rice said a lot of hours were spent trying to come up with an equitable rate that satisfied the increasing costs of operating a garbage service in the city.

“We are still below what other communities charge,” Rice said.

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said she felt, after several meetings, the proposal adopted Monday was the most fair to all the classifications.

Rice encouraged the council to waive the three required readings and pass the ordinance Monday, since the issue had been discussed during numerous previous meetings.

The increase will allow the city to collect approximately $17,639 monthly beginning in February, which will be an increase from the previous monthly revenue of $14,556.

The rate increases will give the city an additional $37,000 in revenue annually, bringing total revenue to approximately $211,676. Previous annual revenue had been $174,672.

The annual cost to operate the garbage collection service is $180,226, with the city also needing to create a fund for the eventual replacement of the garbage truck.

The council approved the rate change ordinance, and waived the three required readings. The new rates take effect Feb. 1.

In other business during Monday’s special meeting, the council unanimously approved the sale of a 100-by-50 foot city-owned lot on Main Street at the mini park to the North Central Development Center for the eventual construction of a new theater.

Russ Moody, who serves on the committee working to get a new theater built following the October 2014 destruction of the Royal Theater by fire, said the group plans to construct an 80-by-40 foot theater on Main Street at the mini park site.

“That leaves us 20 feet in the back for parking,” Moody said.

He said plans are to have 120 seats in the new theater, with a screen measuring 13.5 by 24 feet. A concession area and restrooms will be included. Moody said a separate room for the projector will not be needed, as the new projector can sit in the wall itself.

“Refurbishing an existing building would just cost too much,” Moody said. “The insurance money won’t be enough to cover the cost. To get grant money for the theater, it has to be a new building.”

Moody said the group has set a goal to have the new theater open by the second anniversary of the Royal Theater fire in October 2016.

Councilman Chuck Osborn said people had asked him why an existing building could not be used for a theater, but he said Moody answered any questions he might have asked.

“I love the thought of having the theater on Main Street,” Osborn said.

The council agreed to sell the property to the North Central Development Center at a cost of $2,750. The council instructed City Attorney Rod Palmer to draw up a sale contract.

He said the sale could likely close in 30 days following the completion of a deed and title insurance.

The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 13.

* Commissioners asked to address bridge load limits after citations issued

(Posted 2 p.m. Dec. 15)

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday were asked to address bridge issues just north of Ainsworth after commercial truck drivers were recently issued citations for being too heavy to cross.

Resident Gary Kelly told the board there was no route to go north of Ainsworth from Highway 20 to be in bridge load compliance without having to go 3 miles from the city. He said he recently had a driver ticketed by the Nebraska State Patrol for going across a county bridge on North Wilson Street.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said the bridge has a posted weight limit of 12 tons, but law enforcement had not previously been actively patrolling that route for load limit violations.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said the bridge on North Wilson Street between Highway 20 and the Rolling Stone Feed Yard has had good inspections recently.

“That bridge has not been getting damaged,” Turpin said. “The state sets load limits. The problem is the bridge on Wilson Street is a single-span bridge instead of having a center pier.”

Kelly said, if carrier enforcement is going to start writing tickets for commercial drivers using that bridge, then the commissioners should make it a priority to either replace the bridge or improve it so loads that are legal for the highway are legal crossing the bridge.

Wiebelhaus said, “They are all legal loads for the road. There is no other real feasible access to the feed yard.”

He said it would be the decision of the county attorney on whether to prosecute citations that are written for load violations on the bridge.

Brown County Attorney David Streich said he did not necessarily pay much attention to the specific road or bridge when those citations crossed his desk.

“Well, we know the load limits on that bridge get violated on a regular basis,” Streich said. “I would consider it being the only access point. But, if the bridge collapses, the person who crosses it is responsible for the damage if the vehicle is overweight.”

The county attorney said, if the weight limit on the North Wilson Street bridge and the Meadville Avenue bridge across the canal had not been enforced in the past, he would agree not to prosecute now. He encouraged the commissioners to address the load limits and find a long-term solution.

Turpin said the county is scheduled to replace two canal bridges west of Ainsworth in addition to replacing the Norden Bridge. He said he would look at ways to increase the load limit for the North Wilson Street Bridge. He said the Meadville Avenue Bridge was posted with weight restrictions that were more conservative than the limits that would be allowed by the Department of Roads, so he would look at increasing the posted limits for that bridge.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved the certification for Turpin as a Class A Highway Superintendent. The county receives $9,000 from the Nebraska Department of Roads for employing a Class A superintendent.

The commissioners approved the purchase of three defibrillator units for the courthouse and sheriff’s department using funds from a Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency grant program.

Turpin discussed options for the board to consider for the water issues at the roads department’s Johnstown shop. He said the current well, shared by the county, the village of Johnstown and the Elbow Room, is pumping sand and needs replaced.

He said the county may be able to tie in to the Johnstown Volunteer Fire Department’s water line instead of digging a new well. The board agreed to have Turpin look into that option as an alternative to having a new well installed.

The board approved temporary construction easements for the Norden Bridge replacement project, and approved a sales tax exemption for materials associated with the construction of the bridge. The board was scheduled to meet with a representative from Simon Construction to tour the bridge site, but the representative was unable to make the trip from North Platte Tuesday due to inclement weather.

The commissioners appointed several representatives to various county and regional boards.

Commissioner Les Waits was reappointed to represent the county on the Northeast Nebraska Area Agency on Aging Board.

Based on a recommendation from Extension Educator Dennis Bauer, the board reappointed Greg Jochem to serve a second, three-year term on the Brown County Extension Board of Directors.

Bauer said the University of Nebraska had approved filling the vacancy created by the retirement of Pam Bauer from the Extension office. He said he hoped to have a new Extension educator hired by March 1.

Larry Rice and Linda O’Hare were reappointed to four-year terms on the Brown County Visitors Committee.

Marvin Ohlrich was appointed to serve a remaining term on the Brown County Veterans Committee Board. Ohlrich will serve the remainder of Jack Roark’s term, as Roark is no longer medically able to attend meetings. The term expires June 30, 2016.
The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Jan. 5.

* School changing ninth hour and open campus policies for second semester

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 15)

Principal Dirk Coon told the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education Monday about ninth hour and open campus changes that will be made for the second semester in an effort to encourage students to stay off the failing list.

Coon said, beginning second semester, ninth hour will now be mandatory for students failing a class. If a student skips the mandatory ninth hour session, he or she will be assigned an hour of Saturday school.

Coon volunteered to hold the Saturday sessions. Students who skip a Saturday session after they have been assigned will be issued an in-school suspension.

The principal said a similar program was implemented when he was at Dorchester Public School, and the number of students on the failing list dropped from about 15 down to three or four. He said there are currently about 20 students at Ainsworth Community Schools on the failing list.

In addition, at the middle school level, the monthly open campus lunch will only be available to seventh- and eighth-grade students who are not on the failing list.

“We hope these changes encourage students to perform,” Coon said.

In action items Monday, the Board of Education approved the 2014-15 school audit report as submitted by Dana F. Cole & Co. of Ord.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson said the audit report showed no deficiencies. The only findings included the lack of segregation of duties and control over financial processes, which he said was typical to all smaller school districts.

The board also approved an annual contract for services with the North Central Development Center. The NCDC assists the school in any grant-writing project and helps with other community outreach. The district, through the $10,000 contract, also is named a contributing partner and receives a seat on the NCDC Board of Directors. Board member Erin Rathe currently serves as the school’s representative on the NCDC Board.

Peterson reviewed the recent report from the newly developed AQuESTT school classification reports.

Peterson said the district, overall, received a rating of good. He said the scoring was based off last year’s NeSA tests.

The superintendent also report school breakfast and lunch participation numbers are moving up. The district realized a profit of $1,172 in November, with 4,457 lunches and 1,170 breakfasts served during November.

Peterson presented an audio report from Nebraska Educational Television featuring student Vanessa Taylor and teacher Nicole Flynn in a story on the pair’s recent National History Day trip to Normandy, France.

During the community input portion of Monday’s meeting, Scott Steinhauser invited the board members to participate during an upcoming Jan. 20 town hall session that is being hosted by the Brown County Foundation.

Steinhauser said the foundation is hosting the goal-setting session to set community priorities for the future. The last time a goal-setting session was held was in 2007.

Prior to adjourning, the board conducted an executive session to go over the superintendent’s evaluation. No action was taken following the executive session.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 11.

 

AINSWORTH FOURTH AT STATE MOCK TRIAL - Team members are front row, left to right: Emma Good, Shayden Platt, Lisa Ludemann, Hayes Chohon and Heather Martin. Back row: Jack Arens, Attorney Coach David Streich, Coach Mary Rau, Vanessa Taylor and Seth Taylor. Ainsworth finished 2-1 in its three trials.

* Mock Trial team defeats Scottsbluff, Eustis-Farnam; falls to Lutheran High

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

The Ainsworth Blue Mock Trial team finished fourth during the 2015 State Championships at Omaha Tuesday and Wednesday.

Omaha Duchesne Academy, the defending National Mock Trial Champion, defended its state title by beating Omaha Skutt in the state championship trial. Ogallala finished third in the 12-team state finals, followed by Ainsworth.

“I was very pleased with the team’s performance,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. “Because we had no outside competition, this was a very tough year for us. We had first-year witnesses who had not been cross-examined by anyone other than their teammates, and they were being crossed for the first time by some of the best student attorneys in the state. There were plenty of first round jitters, but then we were able to settle in and get to business.”

In Round 1 Tuesday, Ainsworth portrayed the defendant and faced Lutheran High Northeast, losing in a 2-1 split decision.

In Round 2 Tuesday, Ainsworth was the plaintiff and won a 2-1 split decision against Scottsbluff.

In Round 3 Wednesday, Ainsworth again represented the defendant against Eustis-Farnam and won that trial with a unanimous 3-0 vote from the judges.

Members of the Blue team are seniors Hayes Chohon, Lisa Ludemann, Heather Martin, Shayden Platt and Seth Taylor; and juniors Jack Arens, Emma Good and Vanessa Taylor. 

Rau said the team owed a debt of gratitude to Attorney Coach David Streich, who volunteers numerous hours every year to help the team understand the intricacies of the law.

* City Council asked to sell portion of Main Street mini park for theater construction

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

The Ainsworth City Council was asked Wednesday if it would be willing to sell a portion of the mini park on Main Street for the construction of a new theater.

Kristin Olson, executive director of the North Central Development Center, said the NCDC is in the process of acquiring the assets of the Sandhills Area Entertainment Corporation, the volunteer group that owned and operated the Royal Theater prior to its destruction by fire in October 2014.

“The volunteer board has expressed to us that it is overwhelmed with trying to get a new building constructed,” Olson told the council. “The NCDC is willing to work on the fund-raising and grant application process.”

Olson said the NCDC Board has discussed potential alternative locations for the theater.

“Rebuilding at the current location may not be justifiable due to the cost,” Olson said. “One option is a 40-by-80 building on the south side of the mini park if the city is willing to sell us the property at assessed value.”

Councilman Chuck Osborn said he was in favor of having the theater on Main Street.

“I am all for getting this going,” Osborn said.

Olson said, once the new theater was funded and built, the operation of the theater would go back to a volunteer, non-profit board, like it had been operated previously.

“We would like to be able to get construction started in the spring if possible,” Olson said. “We feel it would be beneficial to the community to have the new theater on Main Street.”

City Attorney Rod Palmer said the city would legally be able to sell the property for its assessed value.

Osborn asked what would become of the burned theater building on Second Street. Olson said the NCDC would also work to try and find a solution for that site.

No official action was taken by the council.

In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, Kathy Drake with the Central Nebraska Economic Development District presented the council with a list of the remaining nuisance properties from both 2014 and this year that have not yet been cleared of violations.

Drake said six additional nuisance parcels from the southeast quadrant of the city were cleared, with 10 remaining on the list from the 2014 inspections. Four of the 13 remaining nuisance properties from this year’s inspections in the northeast quadrant were cleared, leaving nine parcels that have nuisance ordinance violations remaining.

“The community needs to be commended,” Drake said. “There has been a lot of cleanup work done in the past two years. You now have the right to go in and clean up the remaining properties and charge the cost to the property owner. These have all had plenty of time to respond and clean up the nuisances.”

Councilman Brian Williams said, if the city doesn’t follow through with taking care of the properties that have not been cleaned up, it would be a waste of the money spent on the inspections and abatement process.

Councilwoman Deb Hurless said she was fine with giving the property owners until Feb. 1, but she encouraged the council to agree to send a letter now that warns the city will come in and clean up the property after that date, with the property owner charged for the cost.

Councilman Kent Taylor said the council could opt to have city crews clean up the nuisances if they have the time, or the council could hire a contractor.

Mayor Larry Rice said unless the city were to hire additional help, he didn’t believe the current workers would have the time to work on nuisance abatement.

Taylor said, “I think there are four to eight of these that need to be referred to the Board of Health.”

The Board of Health would view the entire home and determine if it was a hazard to public health, whereas the nuisance ordinance would only allow for things such as boarding broken windows or repairing holes.

Several homes in the city are dilapidated to the point they are uninhabitable, and the Board of Health could make the determination that they are public health hazards that need to be completely removed.

Olson said the community’s housing committee could potentially send letters to some of those property owners to see if they are willing to donate the property instead of incurring the cost of having nuisances abated.

Drake recommended, if the council were to begin having the nuisances abated, that law enforcement needed to accompany the workers to the site with a copy of the city’s nuisance ordinance.

The council members agreed to drive by and look at the 19 remaining parcels and decide which need to be forwarded to the Board of Health and which would have nuisances abated by the city or a contractor.

In other items during a busy agenda, the city again discussed raising its garbage rates, but opted not to take action.

Rice said a committee has been meeting to come up with a recommendation on rates, but seems to come up with more questions than answers at this point.

“Does the city want to be in the garbage business or do we want to go out to a company?” Rice asked.

He said there are currently 80 dumpsters and 865 homes in the community picked up by the city garbage truck. He said Valentine contracts with a company for garbage pickup and charges households $20 per month.

“Valentine is having a hard time breaking even with the contracting,” Rice said. “So many things have come up in our committee discussions. Do we look at a side dump instead of an end dump truck? How much man-power is needed? What is the cost of purchasing new bins of we go with a side dump?”

Osborn asked, since the city is having a hard time finding help, should the council look at a side dump with an automated arm and have totes for each home?

“We could maybe get down to one employee on the garbage truck if we do that instead of three,” Osborn said.

Rice said, even though the committee was still working on a long-term solution, he believed garbage rates need to be raised now, as the service costs the city more to operate than the revenue that is generated.

Osborn said, “The costs to be in KBR have gone up. The fees at Lexington have gone up. I think we want to be sure of what we want to raise the fees to since we have to pass them by ordinance.”

City Administrator Lisa Schroedl said she would run projections to condense the garbage categories down to three and raise the rates 30 percent.

The item will be placed on the council’s next agenda as an ordinance change.

Briefly, in other action, the council:

* Approved an $8,356 bid from Agland Electric Motor Service to repair a lift station on Merten Street.

* Approved two housing rehabilitation program loan applications.

* Approved accepting a Clean Water State Revolving Fund Planning Activities and Report Grant that Schroedl said would unlock future grant funding for wastewater system projects.

* Approved an update to the city’s employee handbook that allows for a $100 per pay period increase for full-time employees who opt not to take health insurance coverage from the city.

* Approved the consent agenda, which include the mayor’s appointments of Rice, Osborn, Dr. Mel Campbell and Sheriff Bruce Papstein to the Board of Health; Shari Luther to a three-year term on the Cemetery Board; Rice and Pat Lentz to five-year terms on the Community Redevelopment Authority; and Lance Schipporeit to a three-year term on the Planning Commission. The consent agenda also included approval of a special designated liquor license for the Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative for an event Jan. 7 in the Conference Center.

The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 13.

* Game and Parks, Tourism representatives discuss Cowboy Trail management

(Posted 7 a.m. Dec. 9)

Representatives from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission met with about 25 area residents Tuesday to discuss future plans for the management of the Cowboy Trail.

The Cowboy Trail, which has been developed from Norfolk to Valentine, has been targeted for a pollinator habitat project to reintroduce native plants and flowers along the trail that provide a food source for bees. In addition, milk weed will be planted along the trail to serve as a food source and breeding area for Monarch butterflies.

Kirk Nelson with the Game and Parks Commission said a prairie mix will be planted to try and support those pollinators, which have been declining drastically in number for several years.

“We are going to try and develop diverse plant species and create better habitat,” Nelson said. “We will have new haying practices, and we won’t be haying along the trail every year.”

Nelson said the seed mix that will be used to return the area along the trail to native plant species costs about $500 per acre. He said the commission received a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to seed the Cowboy Trail back to native prairie.

Audience member John Gross, who owns and operates a seed company in the area, asked if the commission had visited with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which had been trying without much success to reintroduce native plants through its Conservation Reserve Program.

“The Nebraska Department of Roads has also tried this without a lot of success,” Gross said. “It is difficult to sustain the plant varieties and the diversity.”

Greg Walker with the Game and Parks Commission said the native seeding is also being undertaken at state parks and wildlife management areas.

“This is all still pretty new to us,” Walker said.

Audience member Traci Alberts discussed the possibility of getting schools involved to maintain planters with the different native species so bikers and others utilizing the trail could then identify the plant species along the trail.

The representatives said they would encourage all participation from communities along the trail.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has maintained the Cowboy Trail since it was assigned that responsibility by the Nebraska Legislature in 1994 after the line of railroad was abandoned.

Nelson said federal funds were initially used to develop the trail, but the Game and Parks Commission lost a lot of its state funding in 2006.

“We spend about $150,000 annually on trail maintenance,” Nelson said. “Our fees come from hunting and fishing permits, and from state park permits. We don’t have a lot of extra funding.”

Nelson said, two years ago, the Nebraska Legislature approved allowing the Game and Parks Commission to enter into agreements with communities interested in managing the trail.

“There has been no divesting of trail management to this point,” Nelson said.

He said a Cowboy Trail West group from Gordon and Rushville formed in 2013 and converted three miles of trail in their towns. However, the trail has not been developed by the Game and Parks Commission west of Valentine, and the funding would not likely be there to do so in the near future.

The trail was used by 17,778 people from June through September in 2009, according to the most recent data provided by the commission and highlighted by Alex Duryea from the Nebraska Tourism Commission.

Duryea said the groups want to get a better idea of how many people are using the trail. He said, for bicyclists, sandburs and a soft surface were some of the stumbling blocks for having the trail become more widely utilized.

Duryea said adventure traveling is becoming more and more popular, and trails similar to the Cowboy Trail in other states bring in millions of dollars for the small communities along the trails.

Duryea said the Nebraska Tourism Commission is hosting an ultra-marathon June 11-13. While there will be a competition for people interested in traversing the entire length of the trail, there will be shorter races as well, and the Tourism Commission would be in contact with cross country teams and other running groups in communities along the trail to gain support for the event.

Audience members Doug O’Hare and Greg Lanka both commented that the Cowboy Trail would likely receive much more use if horses were allowed.

While the representatives said horses were not specifically banned from the trail, riders were encouraged not to run horses on the trail itself due to the damage caused. They said all-terrain vehicle use would continue to be banned, as federal rules prohibit ATVs on nationally designated trails and the commission had received substantial federal funding to develop the trail.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first of several scheduled in communities along the trail. Nelson said the Game and Parks Commission is taking comments from the public through the end of the month on how to better manage and promote the trail.

“We want to hear from you on what we can do to improve,” Nelson said.

* Care Center Board votes to stop negotiations for former facility

(Posted 6:45 a.m. Dec. 8)

The Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors voted Monday to stop the pursuit of the former Ainsworth Care Center building after learning the building’s owners would not provide the community with a hold harmless agreement to protect against future litigation.

Board Chairman Kent Taylor said RP Midwest, which owns the building, had come back to the community with stipulations the board was not comfortable with.

“They refused to gift the building to the interlocal board,” Taylor said. “They would only give it to the NCDC. There were claims against RP Midwest that have been settled, and now we are seeing people coming out of the woodwork. We don’t want to be held liable for any claims, and they won’t give us a hold harmless agreement to protect us.”

By a 4-0 vote, the board approved ceasing negotiations with RP Midwest. The motion further stated the interlocal board would only accept the gift of the building if a hold harmless agreement was included and if RP Midwest agreed to pay the costs incurred to winterize the facility and pay the outstanding electric bill.

By a 3-1 vote, with board member Jim Walz against, the board then set a deadline of Jan. 7 for any amended offer to be received from RP Midwest that included those aforementioned stipulations.

Walz said he was in favor of stopping the negotiations for the building, but he was not in favor of setting a timeline for the company to provide the offer meeting the board’s requirements.

“By abandoning the negotiations, we stop the lawyer bills,” Walz said. “If they come back to us with an offer, fine. I don’t like the timeline. We can still cut our expenses and, if they come back to us at any point, we can look at it. Otherwise we are giving up until we have a new building.”

Board member Buddy Small said he was ready to walk away from the former facility and proceed with a new structure.

“I think we need a finite timeline,” Small said. “Otherwise, this will go on forever. I am not quitting on a nursing home. I am just quitting on RP Midwest. They have had numerous opportunities.”

Walz said, by suspending negotiations on the old building, it let the community know the interlocal board was ready to move forward with constructing a new facility.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson encouraged the board to have the former facility appraised. She said, by getting an appraisal, it set a specific value for the facility and, in essence, capped the liability the board would expose itself to by accepting the gifted building without a hold harmless agreement.

“The appraisal is your protection in court, if it would ever come to that,” Olson said.

Board member Leanne Maxwell said maybe an appraisal was smart so the board knew what the building was actually worth.

“My concern is the risk to the community if we are allowed to be sued for a fraudulent transfer by accepting the building for less than its actual value,” Maxwell said.

In addition to moving to cease negotiations and set a Jan. 7 deadline for RP Midwest to meet the board’s requirements for accepting the building, the board voted to direct legal counsel to contact RP Midwest and let the company know that if an agreement is not reached by Jan. 7, the power to the building will be turned off Jan. 11.

Taylor said the community had previously received permission from RP Midwest to inspect and winterize the facility.

“The electricity is on,” Taylor said. “There are some milk house heaters that are now running. We think we are ok from keeping things from freezing. The upstairs has an electric heater running.”

Taylor said the water and natural gas were both still turned off.

Renovation Committee member Dick Schipporeit told the board, physically, the building only needed some cleanup and smaller fixes.

“We would need someone with expertise on the heating and cooling system,” Schipporeit said. “That could be a big expense. The fire suppression system may also need some work.”

In other committee reports, Finance Committee representative Roland Paddock said the group has met four times.

“We have some lists we have put together, and we have put together ‘did you know’ information on the care center that will be put on the radio and in the newspaper,” Paddock said.

Building Committee representative Todd Mundhenke said that committee has been putting information together to submit a request for qualifications to five or six architectural firms.

“We are going to try and get going on that after the first of the year,” Mundhenke said.

Ron Ross with Rural Health Development, the company tapped with helping to reopen a facility in the community and manage the nursing home once open, said he had been working with both the finance committee on fund-raising ideas and the building committee on ideas for a new facility.

The board approved a $10,000 claim submitted by Rural Health Development for the continued assistance in bringing a nursing home to the community. The contract stipulates that Rural Health Development would charge a maximum of $45,000 to perform all tasks needed to get a facility opened in the community.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth/Brown County Care Center Board of Directors is scheduled for 4 p.m. Jan. 11 in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

* Niobrara Basin NRDs, Game & Parks host session on agreement with NPPD

(Posted 4:45 p.m. Dec. 2)

Representatives from five Natural Resources Districts and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission visited Ainsworth and Atkinson Wednesday, providing details on their recent agreement with the Nebraska Public Power District to acquire the Spencer Dam and NPPD’s senior water rights on the Niobrara River.

Pat O’Brien, the manager of the Upper Niobrara White Natural Resources District, said the Niobrara River Basin encompasses 7.4 million acres in Nebraska through parts of five NRDs – the Upper Niobrara White, the Middle Niobrara, the Lower Niobrara, the Upper Elkhorn and the Upper Loup.

There are five major water flow gauges along the basin. The average river flow at the Nebraska-Wyoming state line is just 3.3 cubic feet per second. Above Box Butte Reservoir, the flow averages 24 cfs. It increases to 107 cfs at Gordon, then jumps to an average of 744 cfs at Sparks. The final gauge, located near Verdel, shows an average river flow of 1,741 cfs.

“Average flows have been decreasing during the past 50 years at the first three gauges, but average flows have increased during the past 50 years at Sparks and Verdel,” O’Brien said.

He provided a timeline of the Niobrara basin’s water management history. He said the first major change to the basin’s management came in 2004, when the Department of Natural Resources determined the Upper Niobrara Basin to be fully appropriated, meaning no additional development of water resources for agricultural use.

In 2006, O’Brien said the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission directed its staff to develop in-stream flow recommendations for the Niobrara River for habitat and recreation.

In 2007, for the first time in its history, NPPD exercised its 2,035 cubic feet per second senior water right, putting in a call that forced junior water rights holders to cease irrigation until the 2,035 cfs was delivered to the gauge at the Spencer Dam.

In 2008, the Department of Natural Resources declared the Lower Niobrara to be fully appropriated. O’Brien said that designation was challenged, and the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in the NRD’s favor that the Department of Natural Resources had failed to follow its guidelines in determining the Lower Niobrara’s fully appropriated status.

O’Brien said, in 2013, the five NRDs in the Niobrara River basin formed the Niobrara River Basin Alliance. The newly formed group began working with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to jointly acquire the Nebraska Public Power District’s water rights for the Spencer Dam.

An agreement was reached, and a memorandum of understanding was signed by the three parties Sept. 16.

O’Brien said the next steps for the Niobrara River Basin Alliance and the Game and Parks Commission will be to update subordination agreements that were in place between water users and NPPD. The groups will prepare a Voluntary Basin Plan for the management of the water resources.

He said the groups will pursue legislation to transfer NPPD’s senior water right from the manufacturing purpose to the purpose of an in-stream flow for habitat and recreation.

O’Brien said the agreement does not put any additional water restrictions on the Niobrara River.

“We are not looking to shut down any current water uses,” O’Brien said. “This agreement will not cancel any existing subordination agreements. It will protect all existing water users. It will allow for better opportunities to manage existing water supplies. Most importantly, it will help avoid the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service from seeking a federal reserve water right.”

O’Brien said the 505,250 groundwater irrigated acres and the 63,500 surface water irrigated acres in the basin would be protected under the agreement.

Ainsworth Irrigation District Manager Rod Imm said the Irrigation District Board did not oppose the Basin Alliance and Game and Parks Commission’s efforts to get an in-stream flow water right for the Niobrara River.

“We do oppose changing state water law, water law that has protected Nebraska water users since it was established,” Imm said. “If you want an in-stream flow with a current date, we will not oppose it.”

Imm said legislation to amend state water law and allow for the first time a senior water right to transfer when the use changes would set a terrible precedent. Imm said what the groups are proposing to do is change the water law that protects water users not only from other irrigators who do not have water rights but also against other governmental agencies.

“If the Spencer Dam no longer produces hydro power, the irrigation districts would become the senior water rights holders and would not have to subordinate,” Imm said. “The part of the law you are going to try and change is exactly the part of the law that was created to protect other water users.”

Imm said the Ainsworth Irrigation District and the Mirage Flats Irrigation District in the Upper Niobrara Basin both have subordination agreements with NPPD that were paid for when both surface water irrigation projects were constructed.

The Ainsworth Irrigation District has a water right for 495 cubic feet per second, and the Mirage Flats Irrigation District has a water right of 166 cfs. The Ainsworth Irrigation District supplies water to 35,000 acres.

Tim McCoy with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission said existing subordination agreements between NPPD and water users that are paid for and perpetual would not change under this agreement.

“We are not looking to throw the apple cart upside down,” McCoy said. “We want to protect existing water users.”

O’Brien said there is no final draft for any proposed legislation.

“We will be more than happy to share the draft of the proposed legislation when it is completed,” O’Brien said. “We hoped to have it done a month ago, but we have had to spend thousands in attorney fees trying to have the proposal interpreted.”

Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Manager Mike Murphy said he was not sure why there was opposition to the plan.

“All we are trying to do is provide a tool box locally for any new uses of water on the Niobrara River basin,” Murphy said. “We believe this agreement will satisfy the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service so we can work peacefully with those federal entities. The threat of seeking a federal water right is real, and they will step in and try to gain a federal water right if they are unhappy.”

Imm said he had a hard time understanding why the group could not do the exact same thing by applying for a current water right as opposed to changing state water law. He said a current water right would still allow the Basin Alliance and the Game and Parks Commission to determine any future water uses, and would not force long-standing state water law protecting water users to be changed.

“If the Spencer Dam senior water right goes away, we at the Ainsworth Irrigation District would have the senior right and we would know our water allocation would be protected,” Imm said.

Imm asked what the group would be seeking for in-stream flows during the summer months, when irrigation peaked. McCoy said a Game and Parks Commission study determined a sufficient in-stream water flow of 635 cubic feet per second would be satisfactory.

Following additional discussion, the parties agreed to try and work together with the Department of Natural Resources to come to an agreement for the future administration of the Niobrara River Basin.

* State DOR signs off on Norden Bridge replacement bid, board issues award notice

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

The Brown County Commissioners on Tuesday issued a notice to Simon Contractors of North Platte that the company’s $814,198 bid to replace the Norden Bridge across the Niobrara River in northwestern Brown County had been approved.

After recommending the low bid from Simon Contractors to the Department of Roads during its Nov. 17 meeting, the board received notice that the NDOR had approved the board’s recommendation. The Department of Roads is funding 90 percent of the cost of the project, and had to sign off on the recommendation prior to the commissioners being able to award the bid.

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said, once Simon Contractors receives notice that it was the winning bidder, it will take a few weeks to get everything ordered and to get a bond for the project.

He said a preconstruction meeting would be held between Simon Contractors, Miller and Associates and the county roads department prior to any work beginning.

When the project begins, the Norden Road will be closed to through traffic and the closure will be posted at both the Highway 20 and Highway 12 intersections with the Norden Road.

The current bridge will be removed, with the new bridge constructed at the same site.

In another bridge replacement item Tuesday, the commissioners approved a quote from Norfolk Contracting to replace the 428th Avenue bridge across the Ainsworth Irrigation District canal northwest of Ainsworth.

After the bridge deck was recently damaged by a piece of heavy machinery, the deck was repaired and a 3-ton weight limit placed on the bridge. Instead of replacing the bridge in the spring, as he originally intended, Turpin said the damage moved the timeline forward.

Norfolk Contracting bid $89,818 to replace the bridge. Turpin said federal Highway Bridge Buyback funds allocated to the county from the state of Nebraska would be used to fund the bridge replacement.

He discussed also having Norfolk Contractors submit a quote to replace the canal bridge a mile east on 429th Avenue while it was in the area.

The bridge on 429th Avenue has a cracked stringer,” Turpin said. “We had looked at replacing it next year, but I think we would save quite a bit if we have them replace it while they are already here.”

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said the county could potentially cut up to $20,000 off the price of replacing the bridge by avoiding the cost of having the company bring its equipment to the area on two different occasions.

“I think we should get a good price break on the second bridge,” Wiebelhaus said. “As long as we have enough budgeted, I think it makes sense to get them both done.”

Turpin said Norfolk Contracting estimated it would take one to two weeks to replace the twin-slab bridge on 428th Avenue. He said the 429th Avenue bridge would take a similar amount of time to replace, though that bridge was slightly smaller as the canal narrows a little as it moves east.

The board directed Turpin to have Norfolk Contracting provide a quote on the 429th Avenue bridge as well, and the item was placed on the board’s Dec. 15 agenda.

The commissioners discussed reopening the nursing home in the community, as the county has entered into an interlocal agreement with the city of Ainsworth to open and operate a facility following the closure of the Ainsworth Care Center in June.

Wiebelhaus said he was uncomfortable with moving forward until the interlocal group can acquire the former care center building.

“I just think we are putting the cart in front of the horse,” Wiebelhaus said. “If we don’t end up getting that building, a lot of money gets wasted.”

Wiebelhaus said he remained in favor of opening a nursing home in the community, but he questioned if too many resources have been spent with the continued problems that have occurred in trying to obtain the property.

“I in no way want to minimize the work that has been done locally,” Wiebelhaus said. “I just think we have gotten ahead of ourselves. I don’t think we should have hired a manager before we had a building.”

Commissioner Buddy Small said he had expressed similar concerns prior to the interlocal board retaining the services of a management firm, but the interlocal board had been convinced that there were numerous items the management company could work on ahead of the group taking ownership of the former facility.

“It has been a convoluted mess,” Small said. “I think that is largely due to the former management company and the building’s owners.”

Wiebelhaus discussed having a local attorney potentially bring a fresh set of eyes toward the property acquisition aspect.

“I think we could separate that aspect from the rest of it, and have someone just focusing on getting the real estate,” Wiebelhaus said.

County Attorney David Streich, who has been assisting the interlocal board on legal issues relating to the property acquisition while a Lincoln law firm has worked with the building’s owners to complete a purchase agreement, said it would not be a bad idea to get a fresh perspective.

“Dick Nelson has a large firm,” Streich said. “I would imagine they have someone in that firm with commercial real estate expertise. Before closing, someone should check in the courthouse the day before to make sure no new liens have been filed against the building.”

The care center interlocal board now has the responsibility of negotiating the purchase agreement with RP Midwest, which owns the care center property. The North Central Development Center removed itself from the acquisition process in November to allow the interlocal board to work directly on acquiring the facility.

The interlocal board has a regular meeting scheduled for Dec. 7 in the Ainsworth Conference Center.

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

* 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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Information from the 2012 Wildfires in the Niobrara River Valley

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

(Posted 7 a.m. Oct. 5, 2012)

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

* Incident Management Team transitioning out of the area Monday

(Posted 9 a.m. July 30, 2012)

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

* Fire containment proceeding, crews heading out of the area

(Posted 8 a.m. July 30, 2012)

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

* Fischer commends responders and volunteers Saturday during stops in area

(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 28, 2012)

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

audio clips/Deb Fischer Saturday report.mp3

* Region 24 manager reporting containment efforts progressing

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 28, 2012)

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

audio clips/Doug Fox Saturday Afternoon Update.mp3

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency update on containment progress

(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 28, 2012)

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

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

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

Hall - Crews will hold and improve lines.

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

Structure protection will continue on all three fires.

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

No evacuations are in place at this time.

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 73 percent , estimated full containment by Monday

Cause: Lightning

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

Personnel: 423, plus approximately 40 Rural Fire Department personnel

Crews: 8 crews on the fire line

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

Engines: 27, plus 20 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 14 residences, 17 associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 152

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

(Posted 7:45 a.m. July 28, 2012)

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

* Springview fire chief said work continues on Wentworth Fire Friday

(Posted 2:35 p.m. July 27, 2012)

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

audio clips/Scott Hallock Friday Noon Report.mp3

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


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

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


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

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


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

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


(Photo Courtesy of Win Mills)

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

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

(Posted noon July 27, 2012)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Posted Noon July 27, 2012)

Fighting Fires

By Gov. Dave Heineman

July 27, 2012

 

Dear Fellow Nebraskans:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* July could join June as one of driest in history

(Posted 7:15 a.m. July 27, 2012)

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

* Niobrara River opening to Rock Barn today for float trips

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 27, 2012)

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

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

(Posted 5:30 p.m. July 26, 2012)

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

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

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

(Posted 3:30 p.m. July 26, 2012)
 images/20120726_Region24Complex_NE_NES_120791_PIOThreeFire_MapCompressed_11x17.JPG
(Image courtesy of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency)

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

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

(Posted 3 p.m. July 26, 2012)

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

audio clips/Bob Kerrey Thursday visit.mp3

* Springview fire chief reports substantial progress, mounting expenses

(Posted 1:30 p.m. July 26, 2012)

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

audio clips/Scott Hallock Thursday Noon Report.mp3

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

(Posted noon July 26, 2012)

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

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

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

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

Volunteer evacuations have been lifted for Meadville and Norden.

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

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 50 percent, estimate containment by July 29

Cause: Lightning

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

Personnel: 480, plus approximately 80 Rural Fire Department personnel

Crews: 7 crews on the fire line

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

Engines: 38, plus 40 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 152

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

(Posted 10 a.m. July 26, 2012)

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

audio clips/Doug Fox Thursday AM Update.mp3

* Heineman says entire state focused on north central Nebraska efforts

(Posted 9 a.m. July 26, 2012)

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

audio clips/Gov Dave Heineman Thursday Report.mp3

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

(Posted 6:50 a.m. July 26, 2012)

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

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

(Posted 6:45 a.m. July 26, 2012)

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

* Ainsworth fire chief close to declaring Fairfield Creek Fire contained

(Posted 7:15 p.m. July 25, 2012)

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

audio clips/Fire Chief Brad Fiala Wednesday Evening.mp3

* Communications infrastructure one of the key elements of firefighting efforts

(Posted 7 p.m. July 25, 2012)

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

audio clips/Communications Report w Brian Delimont.mp3


(Photo courtesy of Cody Croghan)

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


(Photo courtesy of Cody Croghan)

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

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

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 25, 2012)

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

audio clips/Larry Rice Report on Volunteer Effort.mp3

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

(Posted noon July 25, 2012)

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

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Update

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 25, 2012)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volunteer evacuations are still in place for Meadville.

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

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 25 percent

Cause: Lightning

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

Personnel: 321, plus approximately 80 Rural Fire Department personnel

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

Engines: 30, plus 40 Rural Fire Department engines

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 128

* Firefighters making progress in difficult terrain

(Posted 10:45 a.m. July 25, 2012)

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

audio clips/Firefighter Nate Rau.mp3

* Wednesday efforts to focus on Wentworth, Hall fires

(Posted 10 a.m. July 25, 2012)

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

audio clips/Doug Fox Wednesday AM Report.mp3

audio clips/Springview Chief Scott Hallock Wednesday.mp3


(Photo courtesy of Emily Estes of Stuart)

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


(Photo courtesy of Emily Estes of Stuart)

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


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

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


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

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


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

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


(Jeff Biermann, Omaha-World Herald)

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

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

* Fiala reports major progress Tuesday on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted 9 p.m. July 24, 2012)

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

audio clips/Brad Fiala Tuesday Night Report.mp3

* Heineman hopeful containment of the fires is progressing

(Posted 7 p.m. July 24, 2012)

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

audio clips/Gov Heineman Tuesday Evening Report.mp3

* North central Nebraska not the only area dealing with fires

(Posted 6 p.m. July 24, 2012)

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

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

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

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

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

(Posted 5:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)

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

audio clips/Scott Hallock Tuesday 5 PM update.mp3

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency provides map of fires

(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 24, 2012)


Map provided by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency

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

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

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)

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

audio clips/Mindy Mangus w the Red Cross.mp3

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

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

(Posted 4:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)

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

audio clips/Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team Report.mp3

* Johanns says he will pursue additional federal resources if needed

(Posted 2:45 p.m. July 24, 2012)

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

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

(Posted 2:30 p.m. July 24, 2012)

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

* Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Tuesday fire report, statistics

(Posted 12:50 p.m. July 24, 2012)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Air Operations

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

Fire retardant drops may be available.

Road Closures

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

Evacuations: 

Volunteer evacuations are still in place for Meadville.

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

Fire stats at a glance:

Start Date: July 20, 2012

Containment: 15%

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 65,580 total

Personnel: 239

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

Engines: 30

Injuries: 3 (minor)

Structures destroyed: 10 and associated outbuildings

Structures/outbuildings threatened: 80

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

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 24, 2012)

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

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

(Posted 11:15 a.m. July 24, 2012)

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

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

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

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

audio clips/Susan Ford incident management Tuesday report.mp3

* Firefighters describe conditions at the front line of the fires

(Posted 9:30 a.m. July 24, 2012)

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

audio clips/Report w firefighters Evans & Keezer.mp3

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

(Posted 9:15 a.m. July 24, 2012)

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

audio clips/Doug Fox Tuesday AM report.mp3

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

(Posted 9:15 p.m. July 23, 2012)

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

audio clips/Fire Chief Brad Fiala Monday Night.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire reportedly crosses Highway 12 west of Springview

(Posted 5:45 p.m. July 23, 2012)

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

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

(Posted 5 p.m. July 23, 2012)

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

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

* Firefighter and EMT Ann Fiala discusses the volunteer effort

(Posted 4:45 p.m. July 23, 2012)

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

audio clips/Ann Fiala report on volunteer effort.mp3

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

(Posted 4 p.m. July 23, 2012)

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

audio clips/Doug Fox Monday Afternoon Report.mp3

* Wentworth Fire southeast of Springview breaks containment, heading northeast

(Posted 2:15 p.m. July 23, 2012)

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

audio clips/Scott Hallock - Wentworth Fire.mp3

* Federal team coordinating firefighting efforts from conference center

(Posted 11:30 a.m. July 23, 2012)

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

audio clips/Rocky Mountain Incident Management.mp3

* Meadville Avenue, Norden Road, Highway 12 remain closed

(Posted 10 a.m. July 23, 2012)

Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein reported Monday morning to KBRB that the Norden Road and Meadville Avenue in both Brown and Keya Paha counties, and Highway 12 in Keya Paha County remain closed to traffic.
Papstein said, with fire equipment traveling the narrow roads, other vehicle traffic is prohibited. He warned people to stay away from the area. Law enforcement officials have had to warn several motorists to turn around who were trying to make their way toward the Niobrara River for a closer look at the fire.
To hear the complete report with Sheriff Papstein, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Sheriff Papstein Road Closure Report.mp3

* Fox reports another home lost Sunday night, 1 feared lost found still standing

(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 23, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said he plans to tour the area to assess the damage from the Fairfield Creek Fire, which has been burning since Friday morning in northwestern Brown County and southwestern Keya Paha County.
More than 100,000 acres have burned. Fox said six homes have been lost to the fire. One home feared lost in the Norden area was found still intact with only the outbuildings burned. That home was one of several in the Norden area that were saved from destruction, though others were lost.
However, Fox said the fire again jumped the Niobrara River to the south, where it destroyed a home in the Fairfield Creek area Sunday night. He said the fire is moving quickly west, and is now burning several miles west of Norden. Another finger of the fire is burning in the Rocky Ford area of Cherry County.
Fox said the wind will be the main factor on Monday, and could cause additional problems. He said the backfire efforts west of Meadville has stopped the fire for the time being from moving east. Those backfires were set approximately five miles west of Meadville to remove the dry vegetation on which the fire is feeding.
The fire is still burning in Brown County south of the Niobrara River, and is currently west of the old Plum Creek dam.
To hear the complete report from Monday morning with the Region 24 emergency manager, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Monday Report.mp3

* Heineman reports state assets being brought to bear on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted 8:30 a.m. July 23, 2012)

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman told KBRB Monday morning state and federal resources have been brought in to assist with the effort to contain the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Heineman said a federal incident management team has taken control of the coordination of the firefighting efforts. He said the federal team has extensive experience in fighting wildland fires.
To hear the full report with Gov. Heineman, click on the audio link below:

audio clips/Gov Heineman Monday Report.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire 50 percent contained, but tentative with Monday winds expected; 6 homes lost thus far

(Posted 8:30 p.m. July 22, 2012)

In a report with KBRB's Graig Kinzie Sunday evening, Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox estimated the Fairfield Creek Fire was 50 percent contained, though that figure could easily change Monday as southwest winds are forecast at 10-20 and gusting to 30 mph.
Fox said six homes have been destroyed by the fire since it started Friday morning north of Johnstown from a lightning strike. The fire tore through the Norden area Friday, but Fox said some homes have been saved in that area.
As of Sunday evening, the western edge of the fire was the most aggressive, burning rapidly west of Norden and potentially endangering three homes. Fire breaks burned Sunday west of Meadville have helped slow the eastern movement of the fire and protect the Meadville area for another day. The northern edge of the zone remains at Highway 12, and the southern edge of the fire continues to jump south of the Niobrara River.
Fox said the fire that started in southeastern Keya Paha County Saturday evening due to a lightning strike has been contained to the river canyons. No homes have been lost in that fire.
For the complete report Sunday with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox, click on the link below:

audio clips/Doug Fox Sunday Evening Report.mp3

* Updated information from the American Red Cross

(Posted July 22, 2012)

KBRB's Graig Kinzie spoke with Red Cross volunteer Susan Epps Sunday on the activities of the organization, which has set up a shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools to aid firefighters and those who have been displaced by the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Also, Ainsworth Fire Hall volunteers reported they now have a sufficient number of coolers to transport water to the front lines of the fire. They again thank everyone who has made donations to the firefighting effort.
To hear the full report with Susan Epps of the Red Cross, click on the link below:

audio clips/Red Cross Sunday update.mp3

* NCDC setting up online avenue to assist firefighting effort

(Posted July 22, 2012)

The North Central Development Center is in the process of setting up an online shopping cart for all of the local departments and those who have been impacted by the fire.
All donations will be tax-deductible. Anyone who would like to help with the effort can go online to donate to the departments. As soon as everything is set up, more information will be posted. Items the departments have requested include an ice truck, supplies and items for the families who have lost their home. The North Central Development Center thanks everyone who is supporting the effort to control the Fairfield Creek Fire.

* Fiala reports fire still threatening Meadville area, impossible to control

(Posted July 22, 2012)

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said two Ainsworth firefighters were injured while working on the front lines of the Fairfield Creek Fire on Saturday. Both firefighters were injured while working on the fire lines. They were taken to the Cherry County Hospital, where they were treated and released.
Fiala said the difficult terrain and the high level of fuel in the Niobrara River valley are making the fire almost impossible to slow down. Fiala said a large amount of resources are being utilized to protect Meadville. He said C-130 tankers are being flown into the area dropping fire retardant, and three Blackhawk helicopters are taking water from area dams and dropping it in certain areas.
Fire lines are in the vicinity of the Coleman Creek canyon west of Norden on the fire's western front, west of Meadville on the eastern front, Highway 12 on its northern boundary, and just south of the Niobrara River on its southern boundary.
Winds are not expected to blow at more than 10 to 15 mph for the remainder of Sunday, and will generally be from the northwest. However, on Monday, winds are expected out of the south at 15-20 mph with gusts to 30 mph.
To hear the full report from Fire Chief Fiala, click on the link below:

audio clips/Brad Fiala Sunday Fire Report.mp3

* Heineman activates Emergency Operations Plan; 3 Blackhawk helicopters dropping water on Fairfield Creek Fire

(Posted July 22, 2012)

Gov. Dave Heineman has activated the State Emergency Operations Plan in response to the fire emergency in Brown and Keya Paha Counties. Saturday, Heineman surveyed firsthand the affected areas in north central Nebraska and met with local responders in Ainsworth, Long Pine and Norden.

“I am continually impressed with the hard work of Nebraskans in difficult situations,” Heineman said. “The local communities are working very hard and are supportive of the efforts of local responders and firefighters, including providing aid in the forms of food and water. We will continue to work closely together as we fight these fires.”

The Nebraska National Guard continues to mobilize available resources as the response grows. This includes the mobilization of three Nebraska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with “Bambi buckets” and approximately 28 personnel to provide support to local firefighters fighting a wildfire in Keya Paha and Brown Counties at the request of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. The helicopters are equipped with “Bambi buckets” which can scoop water from local sources and place the water where needed by ground firefighters.

The Nebraska National Guard is also preparing to send up to 35 additional ground, red-card certified Nebraska National Guardsmen to support local firefighters if needed.

Resources from the Nebraska State Patrol, Nebraska Department of Roads, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are also responding to the emergency.

At the beginning of this month, Heineman authorized an emergency declaration for statewide drought and fires that allows state personnel and resources to assist with emergency situations and prevention, and allows maximum flexibility to the state to deploy Nebraska National Guard and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency assets and resources as needed.

The governor and the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency will continue to monitor the situation throughout the state, as the drought continues.

* Gov. Heineman reports additional state resources on the way to battle fire

(Posted July 21, 2012)

Calling in Saturday evening to KBRB, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said two additional Blackhawk helicopters and members of the Nebraska National Guard would be in the area Sunday to help combat the Fairfield Creek Fire, which as of Saturday evening had burned to within four miles west of Meadville.
Heineman said the state of Nebraska has declared a state of emergency to allow for the use of additional state and federal resources to combat wild fires in the state.
The complete audio report with Gov. Heineman can be accessed by clicking the link below.

audio clips/Gov Heineman Report Saturday.mp3

* Fairfield Creek Fire has now burned approximately 100,000 acres

(Posted July 21, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox said the Fairfield Creek Fire was now burning out of control on Saturday evening. Despite massive efforts from fire departments representing almost one-third of Nebraska, the fire is burning faster than allows for fire lines to be established.
Fox said firefighters were beginning to experience major fatigue and heat-related problems, and a few firefighters have been injured in non-fire incidents relating to digging fire suppression lines.
The fire, at last report, was located four to five miles west of Meadville, which has been evacuated. The fire on Friday devastated the small community of Norden on the north side of the Niobrara River in Keya Paha County.
Additional fires have sparked southeast of Springview Saturday evening from another round of lightning strikes, and some of the firefighting resources from the Fairfield Creek Fire were moved to suppress those fires before they spread.
The complete report with Region 24 Manager Doug Fox is located below. Click on the link for the audio report.

audio clips/Doug Fox Saturday Update.mp3
 

* Brown County Ambulance Service requests towels, ice packs

(Posted July 21, 2012)

Anyone with towels and ice packs to spare, please drop them off at the Brown County Ambulance Service. The towels and ice packs will be used to help aid in cooling down firefighters battling the Fairfield Creek Fire.

Some area retailers are running low on water and ice. Deliveries are expected again tomorrow. Stay tuned to KBRB for reports on inventory supply.

* Report with Red Cross organizer Susan Epps

(Posted July 21, 2012)
(Click on the link below for the audio report)

audio clips/Red Cross Report.mp3

* Red Cross volunteers have arrived at Ainsworth Community Schools

(Posted July 21, 2012)

The American Red Cross has opened a shelter for people displaced by the Niobrara River Canyon Fire in north central Nebraska.  The shelter is located in the Ainsworth Community Schools facility at 520 E. Second St. Anyone displaced by the fire is urged to come to the shelter for a safe place to sleep, a meal, minor first aid, referrals and a shoulder to lean on. Volunteer teams will continue to provide food and hydration to the firefighters from 16 departments battling the wildfire.
As soon as conditions are deemed safe by local authorities, additional Red Cross volunteers will arrive to assess damage to area homes and conduct interviews with affected families. Food, clothing, shelter, comfort and care will be provided based on need. Snacks and drinks will be provided to area residents as well.

* Red Cross setting up emergency shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools

(Posted July 21, 2012)

Two teams of Red Cross volunteers from Grand Island and North Platte are setting up an emergency shelter at Ainsworth Community Schools for residents evacuated from the path of the Fairfield Creek Fire.
The Red Cross will also help provide meals and hydration to firefighters from the now more than 16 departments trying to battle the fire in the Niobrara River Valley.
More Red Cross volunteers are standing by. The Red Cross will work with local agencies and community organizations to ensure that the needs of first responders and those who have been evacuated are met.
To make a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief, call 1-800-REDCROSS or visit the web at www.redcross.org.

* Emergency personnel evacuating area east of the Norden Bridge to Highway 183

(Posted July 21, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox has issued an evacuation notice for all residents of the Niobrara Valley from the Norden Bridge east to Highway 183. This evacuation notice includes Meadville and the surrounding area.
The Fairfield Creek Fire is moving quickly to the east today, and with the dry and hot conditions and the steep terrain.
Those people east of the Norden Bridge to Highway 183 need to evacuate to the south, not to the north. Those evacuees are asked to report to the Ainsworth Community Schools, where the Red Cross has set up a temporary shelter.
The Brown County Ambulance Service is asking for donations of ice packs and towels to help cool down firefighters who have been battling the fire since it started before 10 a.m. Friday.
Stay tuned to KBRB for the latest information on the Fairfield Creek Fire.

* Updated Fairfield Creek Fire Report with Region 24 Emergency Manager Fox

(Posted at 8 a.m. Saturday, 2012)

(click on the link below)

audio clips/Doug Fox Fire Update.mp3

Fox reported the fire has now burned more than 30,000 acres, with numerous structures destroyed. Firefighters are trying to contain the fire to a line south of Highway 12, and fire lines have been set up both east and west of Norden. Fox said the fire is still raging in the Norden area. While firefighters try and contain the fire from the east and the west, aerial support is being brought in from South Dakota and other areas. A Blackhawk helicopter is dropping water on the flames, and a tanker plane from Rapid City will be utilized to drop a slurry mixture on the flames.
Fox said any food, water and ice donations for the firefighters can be taken to the Ainsworth Fire Hall. Highway 12 west of Springview remains closed. No traffic is allowed anywhere near the Norden area, which has been completely evacuated.

* Audio report with Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala Friday evening

* Fox reports leading edge of Fairfield Creek Fire 6 to 7 miles wide

(Posted 8 p.m. July 20, 2012)

Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox is reporting the leading edge of the Fairfield Creek Fire is between 6 and 7 miles wide as it moves through Keya Paha County north of Highway 12.
"The wind is starting to switch a little, so we may be able to start slowing this thing down," Fox said.
The fire has burned several thousand acres in northern Brown County and southern and central Keya Paha County, including extensive damage in the community of Norden. Numerous homes and structures in the Norden area have been damaged, though Fox said the exact number of homes damaged won't be known until the area can be surveyed.
Fox said more firefighting assets continue to move into the area, as units from the six-county North Platte Mutual Aid District are making their way to the area from as far south as Curtis. Fox said those firefighters will concentrate on mopping up hot spots Saturday in both Brown and Keya Paha counties.
A large air tanker from Rapid City, S.D. will also be in the area Saturday, as will a water-carrying helicopter from Lincoln.
No injuries have been reported from the fires, though Fox said some firefighters were being treated for symptoms relating to heat stress. A Long Pine Volunteer Fire Department truck was destroyed by the Fairfield Creek Fire, and a second truck belonging to the South Brown County Fire Department was damaged fighting a second fire south of Long Pine Friday afternoon, though Fox said that truck will be salvageable but will require new wiring.
Fox will again appear on KBRB Saturday morning to provide an update on the firefighting activities and the extent of the damage.

* Fire does severe damage to Norden area, jumps Highway 12 containment line

(Posted July 20 at 6:30 p.m., 2012)

The small community of Norden has been severely damaged by a fast-moving fire that began at 9:45 a.m. Friday north of Johnstown, jumped the Niobrara River and broke through a containment line on Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Recapping the events since the fire was first reported 13 to 14 miles north of Johnstown, the flames moved quickly through the Fairfield Creek area and jumped across the Niobrara River. The fire began moving north through Keya Paha County. Residents of Norden and the surrounding area were evacuated ahead of the fire reaching the community.
Region 24 Emergency Manager Doug Fox told KBRB Radio's Graig Kinzie Friday evening most of the Norden area has sustained extensive damage. No injuries have been reported due to the fire, but the Long Pine Rural Volunteer Fire Department did lose a fire truck to the blaze, and another truck belonging to the South Brown County Fire Department was damaged fighting another Friday afternoon fire south of Long Pine. Fox said that truck is salvageable with new wiring.
"We haven't had any injuries," Fox said. "People were evacuated ahead of time. Some of our firefighters are experiencing some symptoms of heat stress."
Temperatures Friday again soared to near 105 degrees, and south winds gusting to 25 mph led to the fire moving quickly through the area already dealing with severe drought.
As of 6 p.m. Friday, the fire had burned an area more than 10 miles long and reportedly up to four miles wide in some areas near Norden.
"The fire is moving faster than we can keep up with," Fox said after the blaze jumped a containment line set up on Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Some residents living north of Highway 12 in northern Keya Paha County and into southern Tripp County, S.D., are being evacuated. Highway 12 has been closed to traffic west of Springview.
Firefighters from the Ainsworth, Johnstown, Wood Lake, Long Pine, Bassett, Springview, Calamus, Raven and South Brown County departments battled what is being referred to as the Fairfield Creek Fire, while the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Bassett and Stuart fire departments fought the fire south of Long Pine. That fire was brought under control by 5 p.m. Friday. Damage from the fire south of Long Pine was limited to pasture ground and the loss of the South Brown County Fire Department truck.
Fox reported additional fires were burning north of Merriman in Cherry County on both sides of the Niobrara River, and east of the Spencer Dam in Boyd County. All of the fires in the area Thursday night and Friday morning were sparked by lightning from a storm that carried extensive lightning but little rain.
Aerial support was utilized, but Fox said the numerous buckets of water dropped from the plane were not effective in slowing down the fire in Keya Paha County.
The extent of the damage is not yet known, but thousands of acres and numerous structures, including homes, have now been burned by the Fairfield Creek Fire.
Brown County Board of Commissioners Chairman Buddy Small on Friday signed a declaration asking for disaster assistance for the county stemming from the wildfires burning in northern and southern Brown County.
Dozens of volunteers flooded the Ainsworth Fire Hall with bottled water, sports drinks, ice and coolers to send to the front lines of the fires. Organizer Heather Walnofer said the outpouring of support from the area has been overwhelming.
Stay tuned to KBRB for additional information.

* Fire crosses Niobrara River, Norden area evacuated

(Posted July 20 as of 4:50 p.m., 2012)

The fire burning north of Johnstown has crossed the Niobrara River, pushed by strong south winds. The Keya Paha County Sheriff's Department confirmed at 4:45 p.m. firefighters are attempting to contain the fire to an area south of Highway 12 in Keya Paha County.
Norden residents and those in Keya Paha County between the Niobrara River and Highway 12 in the Norden area have been evacuated from their residences.
Traffic is prohibited in the area until the fire has been contained.
The Keya Paha County Sheriff's Department is asking for anyone with a large disc to call the sheriff's department at 402-497-3201, as firefighters are trying to utilize that type of equipment to create a containment area and keep the fire from crossing Highway 12.
The Brown County Sheriff's Department reported just before 5 p.m. Friday the fire burning south of Long Pine had been brought under control by the Long Pine, Ainsworth, Stuart and Bassett departments. A Brown County Rural Fire Department truck was damaged fighting the fire south of Long Pine, though no injuries were reported.
No structure damage has been reported with either fire, though that could change as the fire moves its way from the Niobrara River north into the Norden area in Keya Paha County.
Brown County Board of Commissioners Chairman Buddy Small on Friday signed a declaration asking for disaster assistance for the county stemming from the wildfires burning in northern and southern Brown County. Aerial resources continue to be sought to battle the fire burning north of Johnstown that has now crossed into Keya Paha County.

* Another large fire burning south of Long Pine

(Posted July 20, 2012)

Area fire resources continue to be taxed to the limit as another large fire has been reported south of Long Pine.
According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, just before 1 p.m. Friday a fire was reported 15 miles south of Long Pine on property owned by Glenna Abbott. Resources from the Ainsworth, Long Pine, Bassett and Stuart volunteer fire departments responded to fight that fire while numerous area departments continue to fight a large fire north of Johnstown.
According to Papstein, a South Brown County fire truck was damaged by the fire south of Long Pine, but no injuries have been reported.
Area residents continue to volunteer at the Ainsworth Fire Hall, filling coolers with donated water, sports drinks and ice to get to the firefighters as they work in the 100-plus degree heat. Dozens of volunteers were working in the fire hall early Friday afternoon to get coolers of cold drinks headed to the front lines of the fires.
Volunteer organizer Heather Walnofer thanked the community for its support in answering the call for supplies.
"The response has been overwhelming," Walnofer said.
Papstein said the fire north of Johnstown continues to be pushed north by strong south winds, and firefighters are having a difficult time containing the blaze.
"It is a real bear," Papstein said. "It is just really tough for them to keep up with it right now. Thankfully, there has not been any structure damage."
Papstein said the fire has approached the Niobrara River, and there have been conflicting reports on whether it had possibly jumped the river. There has, as of yet, been no confirmation of the fire burning north of the river.
Stay tuned to KBRB for more information throughout the day.

* Firefighters battling large fire north of Johnstown

(Posted July 20, 2012)

Numerous area fire departments are battling a 1,000-acre fire that started Friday morning north of Johnstown due to a lightning strike.
According to Brown County Sheriff Bruce Papstein, the fire was reported at approximately 9:45 a.m. 13 to 14 miles north of Johnstown.
Firefighters from the Ainsworth, Johnstown, Wood Lake, Long Pine, Bassett, Springview, Calamus, Raven and South Brown County departments are on the scene trying to keep the fire from spreading.
Papstein said a plane is also on its way to drop water on the fire. He said residents in the area have been contacted and provided information. He said one residence was in jeopardy from the fire, which he estimated at between 800 and 1,000 acres.
Papstein urged people to stay away from the area and let the fire departments have room to work and try and contain the fire.
Stay tuned to KBRB for additional updates.

* Lightning sparks 500-acre fire northwest of Ainsworth Thursday

(Posted July 20, 2012)

A lightning strike Thursday night sparked a fire northwest of Ainsworth that burned more than 500 acres and prompted the mutual aid response of four fire departments to get the blaze under control.

According to Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala, a lightning strike sparked the fire at 8:45 p.m. approximately 5 miles west and 4 miles north of Ainsworth on property owned by Pat Schumacher.

Fiala said winds with the thunderstorm pushed the fire to the southwest onto ground owned by Taylor Johnson.

He said the fire remained on pasture ground but did work its way into a tree grove.

“It burned through the tree grove fast enough that it didn’t do much damage,” Fiala said. “It only burned the bottom of the trees.”

Fiala said firefighters were able to get the fire under control by using a county road and two cornfields to help block its advance.

Fiala said the fire was under control by 11:30 p.m., and firefighters returned to the fire hall by 12:30 a.m. Friday.

The Johnstown, Long Pine and Wood Lake fire departments provided mutual aid to the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department.

“We are just waiting now to see if any more fires start up today from those lightning strikes last night,” the Ainsworth fire chief said.

* Brown County Sheriff’s Department 2014 year-end report

2014 Year End Totals

 

Accidents Investigated – 77                         Fire Calls Ainsworth

 

Ainsworth Calls Responded to – 723            Accidents with Injuries - 9

 

Animal Cases – 14                                       Accidents w/o Injuries - 4

 

Board Of Health –           0                                     Assist Tower Rescue - 1

 

Brown County Arrests – 70                         Attempt to Locate missing people - 2

 

Burglaries – 6                                               Building Fires: House/Garage/Royal Theater - 3

 

Citations – 190                                             Burn Permits Issued - 102        

 

Crime Stopper Calls – 28                             Canyon Fires - 1

 

County Calls Responded to – 358                Chimney Fires - 1

 

Court Commitments – 17                             Corn Field Fire - 1

 

Criminal Cases –   32                                   Gas Meters & Leaks -3

 

Dog Complaints – 139                                 Grass Fires - 5

 

Domestic Assault Cases – 14                       Hay Bales - 1

 

Drug Cases – 3                                            Possible Electrical Fire - 1

 

Fix it tickets – 55                                         Power Lines Down - 2                       

 

Handgun Permits – 110                                School Alarm - 3  

 

Incident Reports –          1,204                              Storm Spotting - 3

 

Incoming Phone Calls –   8,467                     Tractor/Mechanical Fires - 2

 

Information Files – 28                                  Vehicle Fires - 4

 

Inmates Housed in Brown County – 106                

 

Inmates Housed for other agencies – 3

 

Inmates Housed for NSP arrests – 12           Ambulance Calls

 

Inmates – Females – 27                                This is just a summary of the Ambulance

 

Inmates – Males – 79                                   calls for 2014

 

Johnstown Calls Responded to – 5               Local Calls for Service - 137

 

Juvenile Cases – 15                                      Transfers to other Facilities - 43

 

Long Pine Calls Responded to – 118           

 

Mental Health Cases – 16

 

MIP’s – 18

 

911 Calls – 404

 

Papers Served – 200

 

Sex Crimes – 1

 

Thefts – 23

 

Titles Inspected – 242

 

Total Traffic Stops – 688

 

Traffic cases – 62

 

Traffic Stops where no action was taken - 7

 

Vandalism Cases – 15

 

Verbal Warnings - 144

 

Written Warnings - 292

 
   

 

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