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

* Alan B. Dailey, 54, of Arnold 2 p.m. April 29

* Meeting reports located below for:

April 21 Brown County Board of Commissioners

April 20 Statewide valuation changes for 2015

April 16 Ainsworth City Council and Brown County Commissioners special meeting

April 14 Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education

April 9 Town Hall meeting on future of the Ainsworth Care Center

April 9 Ainsworth City Council

April 7 Brown County Board of Commissioners

* Ainsworth takes home numerous Superior ratings from District Music Contest

(Posted 3:15 p.m. April 26)

Ainsworth band and choir students participated in the District Music Contest Friday at West Holt.
The Ainsworth mixed choir, band, men’s group and show choir all received top ratings in the contest and received state medals.
Ainsworth small groups receiving Superior ratings were the women’s group; Emma Good with a piano solo; Jace Kremer with a xylophone solo; Claire Steinhauser, Jace Kremer, Luke Peters and Payton Allen with a percussion ensemble; Drew Klatt, Brittani Beegle, Cassidy Gilliland, Shane Cole, Lisa Ludemann and Hayes Chohon with a  saxophone ensemble; Laura Peters, Kirsten Gilliland, Jack Arens, Sydney Fling and Chaeley Ruegge with a flute quintet; Hailey McBride, Maikayla Weiss, Miranda Raymond and Marley Murphy with a clarinet quartet; Nathaniel Goodloe, Matt Barrow, Jacob Jeffers and Vanessa Taylor with a low brass quartet; Brittani Beegle with a  saxophone solo; Drew Klatt, Lisa Ludemann and Hayes Chohon with a saxophone trio; Kirsten Gilliland and Laura Peters with a flute duet; Nathaniel Goodloe with a Trombone solo; Matthew Barrow with a tuba solo; Lydia Allen, Ellie Carr and Sara Salzman with a trumpet trio; Lydia Allen, Ellie Carr, Justin Keller, Sara Salzman, Abby Masters, Maria Harthoorn, Lauren Allen, Emma Good, Nathaniel Goodloe, Vanessa Taylor, Jacob Jeffers and Matt Barrow with a brass ensemble; Britley Schlueter with a vocal solo; Brittani Beegle with a vocal solo; Nathaniel Goodloe with a vocal solo; Hayes Chohon with a vocal solo; Abbey Doyle and Tara Taylor with a vocal duet; Hayes Chohon and Holden Smith with a vocal duet; Laura Peters and Luke Peters with a vocal duet; and Hayes Chohon, Britley Schlueter, Kirsten Gilliland, Jace Kremer and Emma Good with a mixed vocal quintet.
Groups receiving Excellent ratings were Justin Keller with a trumpet solo; Hailey McBride, Maikayla Weiss, Miranda Raymond, Marley Murphy, Jaycee Dillon and Emily Fay with a clarinet ensemble; Brittani Beegle, Kayla Witt and Hailey Eckross with a vocal Trio; and Laura Peters with a vocal solo.

* Lions Club invites public to the Ainsworth All-Sports Tailgate Party Tuesday

(Posted 3 p.m. April 26)

The Ainsworth Lions Club will host the annual Ainsworth High School All Sports Tailgate Party at 6 p.m. Tuesday in McAndrew Gymnasium.

A Lions Club work night is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday.  Lions are to be at the gym for the Tailgate Party by 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. During its monthly meeting, the board approved purchasing two new roasters and two fuel tanks for grilling burgers. The grill will be set up next to the school kitchen.

Former Husker Demoine Adams will be the guest speaker during the tailgate party. All high school athletes, cheerleaders, coaches, sponsors and their spouses are provided complimentary tickets to the event by the Lions Club.

Tickets for the general public are $10 and are available in the KBRB Studios or from Lions Club members.

In other items, the Lions Club completed its Adopt-a-Highway cleanup on Sunday, April 19, on a two-mile stretch of Highway 20 from the Ainsworth city limits east. Eleven club members and four volunteers participated in the cleanup. Shannon Sorensen served as the chair for the project, with the assistance of the Nebraska Department of Roads. The State Department of Roads will erect roadway signs recognizing the Ainsworth Lions Club as the “Adopt-a-Highway” sponsor for the two-mile stretch of Highway 20. 

The club approved membership for Chuck Osborn.

The Lions Club provided trees to the Ainsworth Elementary fourth-grade class as part of the Fourth Grade Foresters of Nebraska Project.

Todd Mundhenke told the board plans for the Ainsworth Alumni Banquet in June are progressing in a satisfactory manner.

The board approved the slate of officer and director candidates for the 2015-16 year, and will submit the roster of candidates to the membership for an email vote.

The board approved a donation of $100 to the Brown County Arts Council for Middle School Fine Arts Summer Camp scholarships. Motion carried.  Scholarship winners will be invited to share their experiences from the camps during a fall Lions Club meeting. 

Jerry Ehlers provided information regarding eye glass collection boxes that are now available from Lions Club International. The board approved purchasing 10 boxes for placement in various businesses in the community.

The Nebraska Lions High School Senior All-Star Golf Tournament will be held on June 22-23. To be eligible, seniors must have been a medal winner in the NSAA High School Golf State Championship to be held in May.  The board tabled supplying the entry fee for a player pending the results of the qualifying tournament.

Trees planted by the Lions Club around Legion Field at East City Park are doing well. The club extended thanks to the city park maintenance personnel for periodic watering of the trees. A suggestion was given to have an update at the next meeting regarding the status of the crumb rubber project for maintaining a surface under playground equipment in the city parks.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club is scheduled for noon May 19 in the Golden Steer.

* Ainsworth firefighters respond to smoke report in Ainsworth Care Center Friday

(Posted 2:30 p.m. April 26)

The Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department responded to a report of smoke in a hallway Friday afternoon at the Ainsworth Care Center.
Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said Ainsworth Care Center employees reported smoke in a hallway at 1:55 p.m. Friday. Fiala said the employees opened doors to vent the smoke from the building, and when firefighters arrived the smoke had been cleared from the building.
“We went through the building, looked in the attic, checked the heating and air motors, and we didn’t find anything that would have caused the smoke,” the Ainsworth fire chief said. “It could have been a ballast got hot, but everything checked out OK.”
Fiala said he advised the Care Center employees to keep a close eye on things for the time being.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 2 p.m. April 26)

April 19

* Responded to a report of a possible domestic disturbance at a rural Ainsworth residence.

* Responded to a report of barking dogs in Long Pine.

* Arrested a subject for Failure to Comply and booked them into the Brown Co Jail.

 

April 20

* Provided a security check on a residence on North Elm St Ainsworth.

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

* Performed traffic control for 500 head of cattle crossing Hwy 7 South of Ainsworth.

 

April 21

* Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a court ordered commitment.

 

April 22

* Responded to provide a welfare check, after receiving several calls from the same number, and no one on the other end.

* Received a report of possible drug activity in Ainsworth.

* Responded to a traffic and noise complaint in Long Pine.

* Assisted individuals with a report of barking dogs in Long Pine.

 

April 23

* Assisted parties with information on a civil dispute in Brown Co.

* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a fire alarm sounding at the Ainsworth Schools.

 

April 24

* Assisted individuals with information on a civil matter, involving private property.

* Responded to a report of a dog rummaging through trash in the area of East 3rd St Ainsworth.

* Investigated a report of suspicious activity in Long Pine.

* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a possible fire at the Ainsworth Care Center.

 

April 25

* Investigated information on possible drug activity at an Ainsworth business.

* Responded to 911 calls coming from an Ainsworth residence.

* Responded to a traffic complaint at an Ainsworth business.

 

Weekly Summary

0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

0 - Handgun permits applied for

15 - Incidents Reports were taken.

4 - Paper Service was served.

154 - Phone calls were received.

6 - 911 emergency calls received.

1 - Titles were inspected.

0 - Traffic Citations were issued.

4 – Verbal & Written Warnings were issued.

* State senators discuss weekly activity in the Nebraska Legislature

(Posted 11:45 a.m. April 24)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis and 40th District State Sen. Tyson Larson provided an update of bills debated in the Nebraska Legislature during the past week.
To hear the reports, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 4-24.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Tyson Larson 4-24.mp3

* Applications being accepted for Niobrara Council positions

(Posted 5:45 a.m. April 23)

Anyone with an interest in Niobrara River issues is asked to consider one of the seven positions coming up for appointment on the Niobrara Council.
The seven, three-year term positions include four landowner representatives, one recreational business representative, one timber industry representative and one representative of a recognized, nonprofit environmental, conservation or wildlife organization.
Each position is chosen by the governor from a list of qualified individuals submitted by the county board representatives on the Niobrara Council.
Anyone interested is asked to contact the Niobrara Council office at 402-376-2793 or email info@niobraracouncil.org. Names will be accepted for consideration until Friday, May 15.

* Commissioners state opposition to using property taxes for care center purchase

(Posted 2:30 p.m. April 21)

With the Brown County Commissioners agreeing April 16 to pursue an interlocal agreement with the city of Ainsworth relating to the ownership and operation of a nursing home facility in Ainsworth, Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus opened Tuesday’s commissioner meeting discussion on the subject by saying, while there was a need for a nursing home in the community, he was not in favor of property tax funds going toward the purchase or operation of a care center.

“I just want to squelsh any rumors that might be out there,” said Wiebelhaus, who was unable to attend the meeting last week between the Ainsworth City Council and Brown County Commissioners in which it was decided to proceed with the creation of an interlocal agreement. “I agree there is a need to keep the care center, but I think there are other ways to pursue funding without a bond. I don’t want to see any more bond issues for the county. I don’t think the burden should be put predominantly on the backs of agricultural land owners.”

Commissioner Buddy Small agreed.

“The day to day operation of the county is expensive enough,” Small said. “The board has no authority to use property tax funds toward the care center without going out for a vote. People have been telling us they want the facility to remain open, but they don’t want their taxes to go up.”

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson, a member of a local task force working toward the purchase of the facility and toward the formation of an entity to own and operate the nursing home, said the task force has never discussed a bond issue for the facility.

“I don’t anticipate a bond issue would ever be a viable option,” Olson said. “The role of the task force has been to try and determine how to finance a facility without using property tax dollars.”

Small again addressed the use of the county contributing inheritance tax funds toward the project.

“The inheritance tax fund is to be used at the discretion of the board,” Small said of the approximately $1.3 million fund. “This board has been cautious about using money from that fund. We have used money from it in the past and then budgeted over time to pay the money back into the fund.”

Small said some counties have exhausted their inheritance tax funds on equipment purchases and other operations.

Wiebelhaus said he would be open to using inheritance tax funds as a zero percent interest loan mechanism for the purchase of a facility.

County Attorney David Streich, tasked during the joint council and commissioner meeting April 16 with presenting the commissioners with options for an interlocal agreement, provided the board with a rough draft of what an interlocal agreement could look like.

“One question we have to answer is do we want to do this through an interlocal agreement or through a joint public agency?” Streich said. “I am in the process of getting examples of both.”

Streich said most agreements between two or more entities are interlocal agreements. He said he found six examples statewide of joint public agencies.

“The county and city are looking for the best way to work with each other to purchase and operate a facility,” Streich said. “A joint public agency is a new entity that protects the city and county from debt and would be the best protection against liability, but it establishes another level of government.”

He said a joint public agency also has the ability to issue bonds. The joint public agency would have a board appointed by the council and commissioners that includes a member of each of those entities.

Small said he did not like the idea of a joint public agency, and would rather see an interlocal agreement.

The county currently has an interlocal agreement with the city of Ainsworth and other entities for the KBR Solid Waste and Recycling Center.

Olson said she believed the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services might also have issues with a care center being operated through a joint public agency.

Streich said, with an interlocal agreement, there was more local control but not quite the same protection against liability.

“KBR Solid Waste and the Region 24 Emergency Management Agency are examples of interlocal agreements,” the county attorney said.

Olson again reviewed the possible funding needed to purchase the current facility and the licensed beds that are for sale, and the resources it would take to upgrade the current Ainsworth Care Center building and operate the facility in the short term.

“We have received about $20,000 in private donations so far, but we have not really gone out and sought donations because we have been waiting to see what kind of entity was going to potentially own and operate the facility,” Olson said.

Councilman Kent Taylor said the nursing home facility was interconnected with several other entities in the community.

“If we lose the nursing home, it will have an effect on our hospital and throughout the community,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the community could let the current facility close, hope that some private business would purchase and operate the facility, or the community could come together and own the facility.

Audience member Dean Jochem said no one wanted to address the elephant in the room that, if money was borrowed to purchase and operate the facility, it would be the taxpayers on the hook if the facility did not cash flow or if the loans could not be repaid.

Olson said the feasibility study conducted recently showed the facility would cash flow with community ownership. She said an architectural study showed long-term costs to bring the current building to code would be similar to the cost of building a new facility.

She said, as far as exposing the city and the county to debt, the USDA has a loan program available that guarantees 90 percent of the money borrowed from a participating lender. That federal loan program has a 40-year payback period.

“That program would protect the community and the lending institution from exposure,” Olson said.

Audience member Jane Lanz asked about building a care center wing onto the Brown County Hospital, similar to what had occurred when the Rock County Hospital added its Long Term Care Center.

Hospital Board of Trustees President Mike Kreycik said the reimbursement rates the state provides for Medicare and Medicaid patients would be much lower if the hospital were to purchase and operate the facility, and it would be nearly impossible for the facility to cash flow with hospital ownership.

Olson said, looking at the reimbursement rates, hospital ownership of the facility would get very scary, very quickly.

Kreycik said the loss of a nursing home locally would also have a significant negative financial impact on the Brown County Hospital.

Lanz complimented the task force for its diligence in working toward the best solution, and, with a parent currently residing in the Ainsworth Care Center, she encouraged the groups to proceed with gaining local ownership and operation of the facility.

No board action was taken following the public discussion. Streich will continue to work on potential options to include in an interlocal agreement between the commissioners and the Ainsworth City Council.

In other items during Tuesday’s meeting of the Brown County Commissioners, the board approved a resolution to have Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin perform a study on the use of Road 71 between Section 15 and 16, Township 31 North, Range 22 West after a request was made by property owner Wil Williams to vacate a one-mile stretch of the road.

“The road is not being used,” Williams said. “The mile to the north has already been closed. It is not a through road, and I would like to be able to put a fence in.”

Neighboring property owner Chet Wilkins said he was in favor of the road being closed by the county.

Turpin said the county does not receive highway allocation funding for that one-mile stretch of road.

“I think it will be OK for us to vacate,” Turpin said. “I don’t see that it would cause any problems. We would leave about 500 feet so a school section there could be accessed.”

Turpin said he could have the study completed within a few weeks. With the required notice needed for a public hearing on vacating the stretch of Road 71, the board approved placing the item on its June 2 agenda for a public hearing on the vacation request.

The next meeting of the Brown County Commissioners is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. May 5.

* Ainsworth High School prom scheduled for Saturday

(Posted 1 p.m. April 21)

Prom is scheduled for Saturday for Ainsworth High School juniors and seniors, and their dates. The prom banquet begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Ainsworth Conference Center, with the Grand March at 7:30 p.m. in McAndrew Gymnasium. The dance will be held from 9:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. in the Ainsworth Conference Center, with post prom from 12:30 until 4 a.m. in McAndrew Gymnasium.
This year’s prom queen candidates are seniors Laura Peters, Lydia Allen, Arianna Fletcher, Ellie Carr and Cera Arens. King candidates are seniors Hunter Martin, Jake Wilkins, Matt Barrow, Zach Welch and Drew Klatt.

* All area counties experience double-digit valuation percentage increases for 2015

(Posted 12:45 p.m. April 20)

The Nebraska Department of Revenue, Property Assessment Division, has processed the 2015 Real Property Abstracts of Assessment filed by the Nebraska’s 93 county assessors. Preliminary analysis indicates that real property valuations have increased 11.02 percent from 2014 to 2015, resulting in an increase in valuation of approximately $20.84 billion.

Of that total increase, $2.18 billion (10.46 percent) is attributable to newly-constructed real property, and $18.66 billion (89.54 percent) is attributable to existing property valuation increases.

Loup County saw the largest overall increase in valuation among the state’s 93 counties, at 43 percent. Hitchcock County, at 0.58 percent, saw the smallest increase, but all 93 counties had total valuations that were above 2014. Most saw double-digit increases, fueled again by agricultural land value gains.

Brown County’s overall valuation increased by 19.8 percent, with just 1.21 percent of that increase due to new construction. Brown County’s agricultural land jumped by 25.4 percent in value.

Commercial property in Brown County increased in value by 14 percent, but that was entirely due to new construction. Without factoring in new construction, existing commercial property in Brown County dipped in value by 1.5 percent. Residential valuation in Brown County was up by 3.8 percent, with 1.3 percent of that total due to new construction.

Rock County’s overall valuation increase was among the highest in the state at 32 percent. Only Loup County (43 percent) and Garfield County (34.3 percent) had larger valuation increases than Rock County.

Agricultural land was primarily responsible for the rise in valuation, with ag land values soaring by almost 35 percent from 2014. Residential valuations also took a large jump in Rock County, at 17.3 percent higher 2014. Just 1 percent of that increase was due to new construction. Only two counties, Sheridan and Boone, had larger residential valuation increases than Rock County.

Commercial property in Rock County was up by 6.27 percent, with 2.8 percent of that increase attributed to new construction.

Keya Paha County’s valuation increased by 16 percent for 2015. Agricultural land value was ahead by 16.7 percent, with commercial property also increasing by double figures, up 12.3 percent. A little less than 2 percent of that total was due to new commercial construction.

Residential property in Keya Paha County moved upward by 4.48 percent, with almost all of that total (4.34 percent) due to an increase in existing residential property value.

Cherry County experienced a 17 percent overall valuation increase in 2015, with ag land rising by 20 percent. Commercial value in Cherry County jumped by 21.9 percent, the seventh-highest increase in the state by percentage.

Residential property in Cherry County inched upward by 1.64 percent, but that was entirely due to new construction. Existing residential property in Cherry County was virtually unchanged from 2014.

Holt County also saw a large increase in total property value in 2015, up 27.5 percent from the previous year.

Agricultural land in Holt County grew in value by 31.85 percent, the eighth largest increase among Nebraska’s 93 counties.

Holt County commercial property increased in value by 6.78 percent, with 2.32 percent attributed to new construction.

Holt County residential property showed strong sales, with valuation on that classification of property increasing by 12.3 percent. Of that total, 11.5 percent was due to a rise in existing residential property value.

Statewide, agricultural land in 2015 was 19.1 percent more valuable than the previous year. The 19 percent increase in agricultural land valuation was less than the 29 percent increase experienced in 2014 and the 22.8 percent increase in 2013. Agricultural land value has risen by double digits in each of the past seven years.

Commercial property statewide increased by 7 percent, with 2.3 percent of that total due to new construction. The 7 percent commercial property valuation increase was the largest since 2009.

Statewide residential value rose 4.82 percent, with 1.73 percent of that total due to new construction.

In a sign of a stronger housing market, the 4.82 percent increase in residential value was the largest increase in the past seven years, and the 3 percent increase in existing residential valuation was double the rise from 2014. Existing residential property rose in value by less than 1 percent from 2011-13, and actually decreased in value in both 2009 and 2010 statewide.

The real property value percentage change by property type is based on the total property reported in each county. The real property value of individual property in each county may not be affected by the same percentage change.

Real property valuations are set by the county assessors and are subject to review during the statewide equalization proceedings before the Tax Equalization and Review Commission. Real property valuation change notices will be mailed on or before June 1, 2015 to real property owners who had real property values that increased or decreased from 2014 to 2015.

Increases to real property valuations may result in an increase of tax revenue for local governmental subdivisions. If the tax rates from the previous year remain unchanged, additional property taxes would be generated.

Local property taxes are the product of spending and budgeting decisions made by local governments, based on their fiscal needs. The final budgets must be approved by Sept. 20 of each year. Tax rates must be determined by Oct. 15 of each year.

For any property that changes in value from the previous year, whether an increase or a decrease, notice will be sent by the county assessor’s office to the owner of the property.

A property owner may protest a valuation change by filing for a hearing in the courthouse where the property is located. County commissioners, sitting as the Board of Equalization, hear valuation protests beginning in June.

* Sheriff's and fire departments respond to Saturday rollover accident

(Posted 5:30 a.m. April 20)

A one-vehicle rollover accident Saturday, April 18, west of Johnstown prompted the response of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and the Brown County Sheriff’s Department, but no one was injured during the crash.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 7:17 a.m. Saturday on Highway 20 near the Brown County and Cherry County line, a 2013 Ford F-250, driven by Benjamin Wolmarans, 26, of Winner, S.D., was traveling west when the vehicle began to hydroplane. The Ford crossed the center line and entered the south ditch, where it rolled.
No injuries were reported. The Ford, owned by Huehn Motor Leasing Inc. of Rochester, Minn., was considered a total loss.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 5 a.m. April 20)

April 12

* Investigated a report of a possible violation of probation in Brown Co.

* Received reports of cattle out on 884th Rd Ainsworth.

 

April 13

* Responded to a barking dog complaint on North Elm St Ainsworth.

* Assisted individuals with the removal of a juvenile from a residence in Brown Co.

* Responded to a report of a vehicle tearing around Dawes St in Ainsworth.

* Received a report of a possible health code violation at an Ainsworth business.

* Investigated a report of an Ainsworth resident being threatened by phone.

 

April 14

* Responded to a report of  vehicles racing on the Cemetery Rd.

* Investigated a report of suspicious activity in Ainsworth.

* Released a subject from the Brown Co Jail, and turned custody over to the NE Dept of Corrections in Lincoln.

* Investigated a semi/ deer accident that occurred on Hwy 183.

 

April 15

* Responded to a report of a semi blocking a roadway in Ainsworth.

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

* Responded to a report of a dog running at large on North Elm St Ainsworth.

 

April 16

* Assisted an individual with a report of an injured dog found on Hwy 183 near Keller Park.

* Investigated a report of a motorcycle on fire on Meadville Ave. The Ainsworth Fire Dept also responded to assist.

 

April 17

* Investigated a report of possible fraud, involving the theft of checks from another county, and possible forgery, in Ainsworth.

* Investigated several reports of a loud boom in the East part of Ainsworth.

 

April 18

* Investigated a one-vehicle rollover accident West of Ainsworth. The Johnstown, Ainsworth Fire Depts., & the Brown Co Ambulance also responded. No one was transferred from the scene.

* Investigated a report of an abandoned vehicle parked at a Long Pine business.

* The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located East & North of Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of a possible intoxicated subject West of Ainsworth.

* Responded to a report of vehicles tearing around Long Pine.

* Performed a traffic stop on Hwy 20, where a subject was cited for careless driving & booked into the Brown Co Jail for Failure to Comply & Obstruction of a Peace Officer.

 

Weekly Summary

2 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

6 - Handgun permits applied for

21 - Incidents Reports were taken.

11 - Paper Service was served.

178 - Phone calls were received.

5 - 911 emergency calls received.

5 - Titles were inspected.

4 - Traffic Citations were issued.

14 – Verbal & Written Warnings were issued.

* Davis reports on activities in the Nebraska Legislature

(Posted 6 p.m. April 17)

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

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 4-17.mp3

* Ainsworth grads participate in Rural Futures Institute internship program

(Posted 5:30 p.m. April 17)

By Kelli Rollin, Nebraska News Service

LINCOLN--While painting a historic house in Red Cloud, Jeff Story couldn't help but worry about what people in the small town would think.

Story, a senior political science and English major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was an intern in Red Cloud during summer 2013 funded by the Rural Futures Institute. The grant program matches rural towns with UN-L student interns to work on community projects. The Rural Futures Institute aims to help revitalize rural towns and enhance what makes them special.

Story helped organize a community cleanup that included repairing an old house near the entrance of Red Cloud. The house is one of the first things people see when coming into town and it sets the tone.

Though he was worried about meeting people and what they'd think about him and the project, Story's apprehensions were soon eased. Forty volunteers showed up that day to help.

"The people were really supportive of what we were trying to do," Story said. "People were really receptive."

During his eight weeks in Red Cloud, Story witnessed a domino effect while doing community cleanup. He said once people saw others cleaning up, they did the same in the town.

Once selected by applications, interns go through a three-week training before traveling to their assigned towns. Rural towns also are chosen through applications and town projects are specified. Interns are housed and paid by the chosen communities.

"It's not a normal internship," Tom Field, director of the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at UN-L, said. "We're simply hooking the talents of those at the university to the needs of the communities."
Field said the program coordinators have strong communication ties with chosen communities during and after the internship.

"I have a deep commitment, you might even say a little bit of a love affair, with rural America," Field said about his passion for the program and helping the communities.

He said he loves seeing students "bloom" in these internships and knowing that they're doing something that really matters.
Jessica Bartak, a junior agribusiness major from Ainsworth, interned in Kimball during summer 2014. She and another intern worked on grant research for the town and marketed the town with promotional videos.
"I realized that a person's attitude toward the community can make a big impact," Bartak said.
She said small towns like Kimball, which has about 2,000 people, can lack excitement from community members. She said Kimball is sort of a boom and bust town with an influx of business and people passing through.

Bartak said some people seem to forget what makes their hometown special. While making promotional videos, she set out to show that Kimball is a desirable place by visiting landmarks in the town.

"It made me appreciate my own community and appreciate the community support," Bartak said.

Wilson Bowling, director of economic development in Kimball, worked closely with the interns on researching grants during their stay.

Bowling said he didn't know what to expect at first because no one in Kimball had really worked with interns.

"They (interns) took everything we asked and ran with it," Bowling said.

He said the work the interns did benefited the community. "If I had projects that required additional help, I would do that in a heartbeat," Bowling said about participating in the program again.

Jordyn Lechtenberg, a UNL graduate student in agricultural economics from Ainsworth, interned in Holdrege in summer 2013, the first year of the internship program.

Lechtenberg worked on a community logo and slogan as part of her work there.

"It provided a lot of hope, I think," Lechtenberg said about the internship. "I hoped to help Holdrege think more positively about what they have to offer.”

Story, unlike most of the interns, isn't from rural Nebraska. The Omaha native said he was apprehensive about going to a town of 1,000 people.

"The bulk of my life was in the city," Story said.

However, Story said his eyes were opened to the opportunity in rural places, especially to practice law, which he hopes to do. He said some people view rural towns as dead, but to Story, they're very much alive.

He still keeps in touch with people from Red Cloud and visits often.

"It opens up the doors for city people to consider moving to rural areas and that it's not a step backward," Story said.

* Motorcycle catches fire Thursday north of Ainsworth

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

A motorcycle caught fire Thursday afternoon while in operation north of Ainsworth, prompting the response of the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department and the Brown County Sheriff’s Department.

According to the sheriff’s department report, at 3 p.m. Thursday on Meadville Avenue approximately 5 miles north of Ainsworth, a 1982 Kawasaki motorcycle, driven by Damian Stamp, 25, of Ainsworth, caught fire while it was in operation.

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said a leak in the motorcycle’s fuel tank likely led to fuel igniting. Upon the fire department’s arrival, the motorcycle was completely engulfed in flames.

Fiala said a small grass fire ignited in the Meadville Avenue ditch.

No injuries were reported. The Kawasaki motorcycle was considered a total loss.

Fiala said firefighters had the fire knocked down and returned to the fire hall by 3:45 p.m.

* Council, commissioners vote to pursue agreement to operate nursing home

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

The Ainsworth City Council and Brown County Commissioners intend to move forward with an interlocal agreement to jointly own and operate a nursing home in Ainsworth.

During a special meeting of both entities Thursday in the Ainsworth Conference Center, the City Council unanimously approved having Brown County Attorney Dave Streich and City Attorney Rod Palmer work on the details involved in forming an interlocal agreement between the two entities.

The Brown County Commissioners, with Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus absent, approved the same action.

Both entities then approved having Streich work on a scope of services contract with attorney Richard Nelson of the Lincoln law firm Erickson/Sederstrom to assist the entities in forming an interlocal agreement to operate a care center. Streich will present a cost estimate during the April 21 meeting of the Brown County Commissioners.

Streich said there were aspects of the interlocal agreement that he and Palmer could handle.

“There are several areas involved that are outside my areas of expertise,” Streich said. “We can try and do as much locally as we can.”

Councilman Kent Taylor said he believed the city was willing to work with the county to keep a nursing home in the community.

“We have had good luck with the sheriff’s department and KBR Solid Waste interlocal agreements,” Taylor said. “I would rather see us secure this facility so the residents can remain. I don’t like the trend we are seeing in small towns that things are not privately owned, but I don’t see anyone from the private sector stepping up to buy this facility.”

Dr. Mel Campbell, a member of a local task force that formed after it was learned the Ainsworth Care Center had been listed for sale, said there has been a 30-year history of private ownership of the Ainsworth Care Center.

“Private ownership has not been good for the facility in the long term,” the longtime local physician said. “We are too small of a community and the care center has a high percentage of residents receiving Medicare and Medicaid.”

Ron Ross told a group recently after performing a feasibility study on the care center that Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates nursing homes receive from the state have not kept up with the costs to care for residents.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson, a member of the task force working on the project, said the purpose for the special meeting with both entities Thursday was to determine what the ownership structure might look like if the current care center can indeed be purchased or if a new facility is constructed.

“NCDC did make an offer to the broker to see if there was interest in selling the Ainsworth Care Center,” Olson said. “They have now said we need to consider a revised offer. They did not make a counter offer.”

Audience member Jerry Ehlers said the task force would like an indication from both the City Council and the commissioners of intent to proceed with an interlocal agreement to own the facility.

“That lets the task force have some guidance that it can begin working toward that goal,” Ehlers said.

Taylor said there seemed to be no inkling from the current ownership of the facility on what it planned to do with the Ainsworth Care Center.

Olson said, “It is listed for sale at $1.2 million through the broker. The only thing we know for sure is they are closing the Edgar and Exeter facilities.”

The company that currently operates the Ainsworth Care Center owns centers at Exeter, Edgar and Lyons in Nebraska and had ownership in facilities in other states.

Edgar and Exeter recently received notice that the facilities in those communities would close.

Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorensen, a member of the task force, said there was value in the 46 licensed beds at the current care center, but the only real value in the current building was the ability to keep a facility operational in the short term.

Olson said the initial offer made by the North Central Development Center on behalf of the task force was on the lower end of the going rate for licensed beds in Nebraska.

Taylor said, “I can’t believe they wouldn’t even make a counter offer.”

Councilwoman Deb Hurless said she would be more willing to move forward with an interlocal agreement for a new facility.

“I understand the current residents would have to be relocated, but in a year or so, if we have a nice, new building, I think we would have people who would want to live and work in the facility.”

Hurless said she felt the group was losing valuable time trying to wait on an answer from the current owners of the facility.

“We don’t want to overpay for something we are going to have to replace soon,” Hurless said.

Sorensen said, should the current facility close, or if the licensed beds are purchased and moved elsewhere, the community could get a license for the same number of beds that are currently licensed.

“I think the state would be willing to work with us to keep from having to transfer the current residents elsewhere,” she said.

Olson said she believed the community was in a good position to apply to the state for a license should an agreement with the current ownership fail to materialize.

Commissioner Buddy Small said he believed, after speaking with numerous residents, that the consensus of the community was to keep the facility open.

“But, no one has the best idea for how to do that,” Small said. “People don’t want to see their taxes raised. It may not be possible to both keep it open and not have some kind of contribution that would need to be made.”

Audience member Sheryl Graff asked if some of the funding for the project could come from the county’s inheritance tax fund. She said more than $300,000 in inheritance taxes were paid to the county recently during the transition of her uncle's estate.

“I have had family members in the care center, and we have paid about $560,000 for their care that then left our county,” Graff said. “That money could stay here if it is owned locally.”

Streich said inheritance tax funds could be used by the county toward the project without changing the county’s budget.

“The county budgets for those funds to be spent each year,” Streich said.

County Treasurer Deb Vonheeder said there was currently a little more than $1 million in the county’s inheritance tax fund.

Small said, during his six years as a commissioner, the board has borrowed money from the inheritance tax fund for projects, and has had the policy of budgeting to return the funds to the inheritance tax fund over a period of a few years.

“The inheritance tax fund can be used at the discretion of the commissioners,” Small said. “It does not have to be lent, it can be given.”

Small said he would not feel comfortable committing to the use of inheritance tax funds without the full board present.

Audience member Dean Jochem cautioned the commissioners about using inheritance tax funds or allocating property tax dollars toward the project.

Jochem said agricultural property owners have seen sharp increases in their tax bills due to rising valuations and would not be able to bear more funding commitments. He said the inheritance tax money should not be spent, but rather saved to handle large, unforeseen expenses the county may incur in the future.

The city also has potential funding sources available, including a CDBG development reuse fund, the LB 840 fund and the ABC fund, but the task force has indicated private charitable donations would also likely be needed for the project to proceed.

Ehlers said he visited with officials from Stuart involved in the operation of Parkside Manor. He said that facility was initiated by the village of Stuart in 1971.

“Stuart passed a bond and started a facility,” Ehlers said. “A board was appointed to prepare a budget and operate the facility.”

He said the operation became self-supporting and was no longer subsidized by the village with the exception of two expansion projects.

“They were very encouraging that this community would be able to support keeping a facility open,” Ehlers said.

To try and keep the current facility open and operational if an agreement could be reached with the current ownership, Olson said it would cost an estimated $200,000 to make upgrades to the Ainsworth Care Center building, and approximately $500,000 in operating capital would be needed. That would be in addition to whatever the purchase price of the facility would be.

Sorensen said the operating capital was needed because Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement takes about eight months to receive.

“Money would be needed to operate until that time,” she said.

Sorensen said June 1 was mentioned during the recent town hall meeting as a timeline for the transition of ownership in order to qualify for a potential increase in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

She said there are so many aspects that still had to be addressed, a June 1 timeline was likely no longer realistic.
“The task force still has a sense of urgency, but we also still don’t know what the current ownership is planning to do,” she said.

Streich said it would likely be a 60-day process just to get a legal entity established for the interlocal agreement.

Sorensen said the city and county agreeing to pursue an interlocal agreement allows the task force to continue moving forward on the project.

“Without knowing that intent was there, we were just spinning our wheels at this point,” she said. “We just don’t want to be in a situation similar to Exeter and Edgar. We want to have a plan started if we do receive notice that the care center is going to close.”

Streich said he would meet with Palmer and identify the various aspects of an interlocal agreement that would need to be addressed by both entities.

“The option I would recommend is to create a joint public agency for the care center,” the county attorney said. “It would be a separate political subdivision, and would stand and fall on its own liability-wise. The city and county could then opt to generate funding for the joint public agency, but the city and county would not be responsible for any debt incurred.”

Small said he would include the item for further discussion and action during Tuesday’s meeting of the commissioners, and Thornburg indicated the council would likely hold another special meeting and work session next week to address the decisions that still need to be made.

* University of Nebraska President Bounds in Ainsworth, Valentine Thursday

(Posted 5:45 a.m. April 16)

Hank Bounds, who just began his tenure as the seventh president of the University of Nebraska, is traveling the state this week, and will make stops in Ainsworth and Valentine Thursday.

Bounds will appear at a noon Rotary Club luncheon Thursday in the Peppermill at Valentine, and will speak to Ainsworth High School students at 2:30 p.m.

Bounds is visiting 20 Nebraska communities this week. He is meeting with leaders in agriculture, business, education, civic organizations and the news media, and will visit a number of high schools, community colleges and state colleges in addition to NU campuses and research and extension facilities.

Bounds will be joined on much of the tour by Ronnie Green, NU vice president and vice chancellor of the Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Brian Hastings, president and CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Members of the Board of Regents and friends of the university will help host events and meetings across the state.

Bounds, who recently wrapped up duties as commissioner of higher education in Mississippi, a role he had held since 2009, said his Nebraska tour is an opportunity to listen and learn from citizens of the state about how the university and its stakeholders can work together to build a stronger future for Nebraskans.

“One of the things that has struck me most about this state is how much Nebraskans care about their university,” Bounds said. “We have an incredible opportunity to harness that passion and build the University of Nebraska into a giant in higher education – an institution doing more than ever to serve students and people in the state and around the world.

“I’m excited to spend time with faculty, staff, students, farmers and ranchers, business owners, community leaders, educators and many other alumni and friends who have made the University of Nebraska one of the nation’s leading institutions. Their ideas will help shape a new era for Nebraska’s public university.”

Bounds succeeds Interim NU President James Linder, M.D., who has served since May 2014.

* Bassett Tree Board recognized by Tree City USA

(Posted 10 p.m. April 15)

This year's award winners for Tree City USA Recognition Day span the state from Scottsbluff to Omaha and from big cities to the village of Potter (population 337).
Awards were given by the Nebraska Forest Service at the Nebraska State Capitol on April 1.
Jessica Kelling, coordinator for the ReTree Nebraska Initiative, said, "Even one person dedicated to planting trees in a community can make a significant difference in its beauty and vitality, regardless of how populated it is or where it's located."
Among the Tree City USA awards given were the Dave Mooter Legacy Award, which was presented in memory of Ken Minnig of Bassett. The award is named after Dave Mooter, forester emeritus for the Nebraska Forest Service, and presented to individuals whose lessons, actions, dedication and love for trees carry forward into the future. Minnig was inspired to take action in the mid-1990s after the loss of diseased trees around the community pool. He and other community advocates went on to create a memorial tree program for Memorial Park, develop a community tree ordinance and start an annual Arbor Day program with the Bassett Grade School, which culminated in Bassett's Tree City USA status.
The recipient of the Tree City USA’s Educator Award is Evelyn Armstrong, who taught at Bassett Grade School for 37 years until her retirement in 2014. For more than 15 years, Armstrong worked closely with the Bassett Tree Board to engage students in planning the annual Arbor Day program. She also worked with students and teachers to develop a special booklet in honor of Ken Minnig. The booklet was for Minnig, his wife Neva and the Tree Board. It includes thumbprint leaves, haiku poems with artwork, signage with online stories about trees and photos of students with trees they planted around the grade school.

* January taxable sales skyrocket in Brown, Cherry counties

(Posted 1:45 p.m. April 15)

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of January 2015 and January 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%

Boyd

740,051

695,122

6.5

40,702.93

38,231.82

Brown

3,220,893

2,817,021

14.3

177,149.31

154,936.34

Ainsworth

3,058,537

2,660,523

15

168,219.68

146,328.94

Cherry

5,133,879

4,640,397

10.6

282,363.68

255,222.31

Valentine

4,983,312

4,456,572

11.8

274,082.42

245,111.74

Custer

7,635,225

7,660,303

(0.3)

419,937.86

421,317.16

Broken Bow

6,264,141

6,288,431

(0.4)

344,528.02

345,864.00

Holt

8,565,639

8,665,350

(1.2)

471,110.92

476,594.92

Atkinson

1,240,869

1,459,257

(15.0)

68,247.96

80,259.30

O'Neill

6,345,079

6,077,053

4.4

348,979.77

334,238.26

Keya Paha

176,423

204,239

(13.6)

9,703.28

11,233.17

Loup

52,000

47,401

9.7

2,860.01

2,607.07

Rock

502,940

559,560

(10.1)

27,661.77

30,775.87

Thomas

598,058

409,364

46.1

32,893.24

22,515.06

Valley

3,073,086

3,464,303

(11.3)

169,019.98

190,536.93

Ord

2,773,522

3,005,978

(7.7)

152,543.91

165,328.99

State Total

$2,151,001,013

$2,046,005,764

5.1

$118,210,784.80

$112,673,129.47

Nebraska Department of Revenue
Comparison of January 2015 and January 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

107,045

192,418

(44.4)

5,828.15

10,519.67

Boyd

817,316

421,061

94.1

44,939.64

23,199.60

Brown

842,425

1,067,140

(21.1)

46,478.32

58,920.57

Cherry

2,544,400

1,759,205

44.6

140,500.78

97,148.50

Custer

3,553,699

3,107,555

14.4

196,347.99

171,790.83

Holt

$3,148,691

$2,724,270

15.6

$173,894.51

$150,443.79

Keya Paha

416,327

424,683

(2.0)

22,919.27

23,362.66

Loup

236,981

128,146

84.9

13,007.83

7,000.15

Rock

544,469

373,637

45.7

29,967.52

20,581.55

Thomas

326,452

162,096

101.4

17,906.09

8,853.56

Valley

1,273,028

683,365

86.3

70,439.58

37,734.32

State Total

$329,506,035

$334,617,360

(1.5)

$18,251,466.81

$18,538,730.48

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 1:30 p.m. April 15)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a vehicle-deer accident that occurred on Tuesday, April 14, northeast of Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 8:50 p.m. Tuesday on Highway 183 approximately 8 miles north of the Highway 20 junction, a 2003 Peterbilt semi, driven by Timothy Kerner, 55, of Winner, S.D., was traveling south when the semi struck a deer in the roadway.
No persons were injured. Damage to the Peterbilt was estimated at $1,000.

* Gilliland, Arens among leaders in State FBLA competition

(Posted 1:30 p.m. April 14)

The Ainsworth High School Future Business Leaders of America attended the annual State Leadership Conference at Omaha April 9-11.
Students competed against peers from across the state in several business-related categories.
Kirsten Gilliland, Laura Peters, Dominic Henry, Lauren Allen, Jack Arens, Miranda Raymond and Marley Murphy attended the conference with FBLA Advisor Juli Murphy.
Gilliland and Peters competed in the Job Interview category against seniors across the state, with Gilliland reaching the finals. She finished ninth in the state from the more than 400 seniors who competed in the category. It marked the highest finish for an Ainsworth senior since 2006.
Jack Arens was the winner of the impromptu speaking competition, and finished second in the business math category. Arens also received honorable mention recognition in the intro to business communication category.
Arens qualified for the FBLA National Leadership Conference, to be held June 29 through July 2 at Chicago, Ill.

* King sentenced to 10 to 14 years in prison on 2 felony drug counts

(Posted 1:15 p.m. April 14)

Appearing for sentencing Tuesday in Brown County District Court, Edgar Todd King, 44, of Ainsworth was remanded to the custody of authorities to serve 10 to 14 years in prison on two felony drug convictions.
King had previously been convicted in district court of one Class II felony count of manufacturing a controlled substance, and one Class IV felony count of possession of a controlled substance.
King was ordered to serve 10 to 14 years in prison on the manufacturing conviction, and one to three years in state prison on the possession conviction.
The two sentences will be served concurrently, meaning the one to three years on the possession conviction will be served at the same time as the 10 to 14-year sentence for the manufacturing conviction.
King was given credit for 127 days served in the Brown County Jail since his arrest Dec. 8, 2014.

* Area lands 2 of the 7 State FFA officer positions

(Posted 1 p.m. April 14)

Two of the seven Nebraska state FFA officers for the 2015-16 year hail from north central Nebraska, as Ainsworth senior Jake Wilkins and Rock County senior Katie Nolles were each chosen to serve as vice-presidents of the state FFA organization for the next year.

More than 5,000 FFA members and guests from across the state participated in the 87th annual Nebraska State FFA Convention April 8-10 at Lincoln.

As part of the annual event, several career competitions were contested.

The Ainsworth Junior Parliamentary Procedure team of Shylo Paddock, Whittney Killion, Britley Schlueter, Breanna Schwindt, Maria Harthoorn, Sydney Graff, Emma Good and Macey Vonheeder finished as the state runner-up.

The Ainsworth Senior Parliamentary Procedure team of Jake Wilkins, Shea Sinsel, Jayden Philben, Heather Martin, Evyn Sharkey, Austin Harthoorn and Matt Kovar received a bronze award.

Arianna Fletcher, Shea Sinsel, Maikayla Weiss, Sabree Porter and Jake Wilkins received State FFA Degrees.

During individual proficiency competition, Sam Wilkins took second in agriculture literacy speaking, and Emma Good placed third in cooperative speaking.

Jacce Beck received a Blue Award, and the other members of the Natural Resources team, including Karsyn Irwin, Jayden Philben and Sabree Porter, earned a Red Award.

Lindse Painter received a Blue Award in meat evaluation, with the rest of the Ainsworth team of Sara Salzman, Brittany Cole and Kyle Hobbs receiving a Red Award.

The ag sales team of Britley Schlueter, Emma Good, Heather Martin and Cole Sundquist received a White Award.

In addition to Nolles being named a state officer, the Rock County FFA took home several awards from the annual state convention.

Kara Bruns, Chris Coulter, Katie Nolles, Ashly Nelson, Hollie Morton, Justin Dearmont, Andrew Hollenbeck, Charton Clark, Nolan Sybrant and Tyler Knox each received State FFA Degrees.

Coulter was chosen as a State Star in Agricultural Placement, and Nolles was a Star Finalist in the area of production.

The Rock County Ag Issues team of Megan Erickson, Jack Gale, Aaron Sybrant, Colin Erickson, Riley Bussinger, Aubrey Kroll and Kate Osbon was crowned the state champion and will represent Nebraska in October during national competition.

Nolles earned the top spot in the senior public speaking category and will represent Nebraska during national competition.
Kara Bruns was named the state champion in agricultural education proficiency. Her application advances on to the national competition.
Andrew Hollenbeck finished second in wildlife management, Kenady Stanton was second in ag communications, Chris Coulter earned second in ag services, and Jayde Shankland finished third in the diversified crop production proficiency standings.
The Rock County FFA Chapter was recognized as one of the top 15 chapters in the state, and received a Premier Chapter Award.
Colin Erickson took third in extemporaneous speaking. Trace Ebert earned a bronze award in junior high discovery speaking.
The ag demonstration team of Rachel Stewart, Rachael Calvo, Bridget Jackson, and Katrina Clay received a silver rating.
The ag communications team of Katie Nolles, Kenady Stanton, and Jayde Shankland took third, with Nolles receiving second place as the writer and Stanton fourth as the designer.
The ag sales team of Hollie Morton, Kate Osbon, Katie Nolles and Kenady Stanton finished in fifth place with Osbon receiving Red, and Morton and Nolles Blue ribbons.
Jenna Hansen, Jadyn Bussinger, Skylar Cosgrove and Megan Erickson competed in agriscience, with Cosgrove receiving a Red and Erickson a Purple ribbon.
Jud Kuchera, Chris Coulter, Cash Cosgrove and Andrew Hollenbeck competed in agronomy. Hollenbeck received a Blue ribbon.
In farm business management, the team was of Emma  Teel, Rachel Stewart, Kara Bruns and Rachael Calvo competed, with Bruns receiving a Blue ribbon and Calvo a White ribbon.
The senior livestock judging team of Ashly Nelson, Hollie Morton, Joe Calvo, and Quinton Shaw competed on Friday, with Nelson receiving a Red ribbon.
In Meat Evaluation, Griffin Smith, Sage Osborn, Jeff Reynolds and Nolan Sybrant received a White ribbon with Sybrant receiving a Blue ribbon individually.
The natural resources team of Andrew Hollenbeck, Tyler Knox, Chris Coulter and Colin Erickson received a Blue ribbon. Erickson was awarded a Purple ribbon, Coulter a Blue ribbon, and Knox a Red ribbon individually.
Jentrie Maurer, Addie Shaw, Tori Davis and Hollie Morton competed in nursery and landscape and received a White ribbon. Individually, Morton received a White ribbon and Davis a Red ribbon.
In the Agriscience Fair, Skylar Cosgrove and Rhegan Shankland received second place and will submit their application to Nationals. Emma Teel and Megan Erickson finished fourth.
Kara and Paige Bruns participated in the State FFA Choir.
Rock County FFA Advisor Ann Dvorak was presented an Honorary State Degree.

KBRB's Graig Kinzie spoke with Ainsworth senior Jake Wilkins on being named a state officer. Wilkins and Rock County senior Katie Nolles are participating in officer training this week.

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

 

audio clips/Jake Wilkins State FFA Officer.mp3

* School Board accepts resignations of principal, social studies teacher Monday

(Posted 5:30 a.m. April 14)

Ainsworth Community Schools is losing one of its administrators and a longtime high school teacher at the end of the 2014-15 year.

The Board of Education on Monday approved the resignation of Secondary Principal Richard Gilson and social studies teacher and co-activities director Jeff Konkoleski.

Konkoleski told the board he had accepted a position as an assistant principal and activities director with West Point-Beemer Public Schools.

“We have enjoyed our time here,” Konkoleski said. “This will be a new challenge in our lives.”

The board thanked Konkoleski for his service to the district. Superintendent Darrell Peterson said several candidates for the social studies position have been interviewed, and he hoped to have a recommendation for the board to consider in the near future.

Gilson also submitted his resignation effective at the end of the 2014-15 contract year. He thanked the board for giving him the opportunity to serve as an administrator for the first time.

Peterson said the district will begin advertising for the secondary principal position right away.

In other business during Monday’s meeting, Tonny Beck presented the board with information on upgrades to the school’s weight room a group of volunteers would like to make.

Beck said the group’s intention was to have the details and costs finalized by the time the School Board meets in May.

“We hope you will be willing to act during the next meeting so we can get materials ordered and try to have the improvements made by June for summer weight lifting,” Beck said.

Beck said a fund-raiser this year raised approximately $12,000, and the Ainsworth Bulldog Booster Club was willing to contribute another $3,000 to $5,000 for the upgrades, but the total cost of the improvements would likely be around $30,000.

“We can do more fund-raisers, but we are asking the school to contribute funds as well,” Beck said.

In addition to the replacement of some of the weight room equipment, Beck said the group would like to replace the flooring in the weight room. He said improvements also included new paint, graphics, audio/visual equipment, storage and other upgrades.

“We would like to make this a large, one-time improvement,” Beck said. “We want to try and get everything completed during a 10-day window and get things opened back up again as quickly as we can.”

The board held a lengthy executive session regarding what it termed a personal matter. No action was taken following the executive session.

In action items Monday, the board approved the second reading of a policy regarding the school’s option enrollment capacity.

The board approved advertising for bids to recoat the track at East City Park with two coats of polyurethane spray.

Peterson said the coating was a planned maintenance undertaking to help extend the life of the track’s rubber surface.

“When the new track was installed seven years ago, the plan was to recoat the track after seven years of use,” the superintendent said. “This top coating should extend the track’s life for another seven years.”

Peterson said he discussed an estimate for the coating with the company that installed the track.

“The ballpark cost was actually lower than what they told us it would be back when they installed the track,” Peterson said. “The estimate was still over $40,000 though, so we need to bid it.”

He told the board the Nebraska Legislature had passed a bill that would increase the project dollar limit for school districts that triggers districts to have to advertise for bids.

The previous $40,000 threshold for bidding work adopted in 1979 would increase to $100,000 if Gov. Pete Ricketts signs the bill into law.

Bids for the recoating work must be received by May 7. With the specialized nature of the work, Peterson told the board it may receive only one bid for the project.

The board authorized the law firm KSB School Law to provide the school district with any legal counsel that might be needed.

Peterson said the firm Harding and Schultz, which had provided the district with most of its personnel legal work, was disbanding. He said three of the attorneys from that firm formed KSB School Law, and the district needed an agreement for services.

He said the agreement did not mean the district had to use that firm exclusively, it only signified that it may utilize the firm’s services.

The district is only billed for legal services rendered.

Elementary Principal Sarah Williams’ report indicated 33 kindergarten students had registered for the 2015-16 school year. That would make the incoming kindergarten class already the largest in the elementary, as there are 32 third-grade students, 31 current kindergarten students, 29 first-graders, 29 fourth-grade students and 27 second-graders.

During his report, Gilson said the school will have a guest speaker for the April 28 All Sports Tailgate Party.

While originally scheduled speaker Tom Osborne had to cancel speaking during the athletic banquet due to his title as “Coach Emeritus” for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Gilson said former Husker player and longtime TeamMates mentor DeMoines Adams had agreed to speak during the gathering.

The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. May 11.

* Taylor wins National History Day state contest, qualifies for nationals

(Posted 10:15 a.m. April 13)

On Saturday, two Ainsworth students participated at the state level of the National History Day contest.
Sixth-grader Katrina Beel gave a performance on Eleanor Roosevelt. 
Sophomore Vanessa Taylor earned first place for her senior individual documentary titled “Electricity for All: The Leadership and Legacy of George W. Norris.” 
Taylor won three additional awards, including the Nebraska State Historical Society award, Michael Berg Memorial Award, and a Nebraska Wesleyan University scholarship.  Ainsworth National History Day Advisor Nichole Flynn said the students have been working extremely hard on their projects since last fall. 
Taylor qualified for the second straight year to compete in the National History Day Contest, scheduled in June at College Park, Md.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 5:45 a.m. April 13)

April 5

                  Investigated a two – vehicle accident without injury on East 1st St Ainsworth.

                  Investigated a two – vehicle accident without injury on West 2nd St Ainsworth.

                  Responded to a possible disturbance on East 1st St Ainsworth.

                  Investigated a report of possible trespassing West of Ainsworth.

                  Responded to a report of a stray dog getting into trash on North Harrington St Ainsworth.

 

April 6

                  Investigated reports of a possible juvenile assault that occurred in Brown Co.

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

                  The Brown Co Ambulance transported the air ambulance crew from the Ainsworth Airport to the Brown Co Hospital & back to the Airport with patient, for flight to another facility.

 

April 7

                  Received a report of an individual, in Brown Co, who might need assistance from Adult Protective Services.

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

 

April 8

                  Investigated a report of possible drug activity in Ainsworth.

                  Responded to a report of unattended children, in a parked car, in Ainsworth.

                  The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued burn permits for the following areas:  1 mi West of Ainsworth & 7 miles West of Ainsworth.

                  Responded to a report of trespassing in rural Ainsworth area. A subject was cited.

 

April 9

                  Responded to a report of a stray dog running at large on West Dawes St Ainsworth. The dog was transported to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic. The owner claimed the animal.

                  Investigated reports of a possible sexual assault of a minor in Brown Co.

                  The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued burn permits for property located West & South of Ainsworth.

                  Received a report of possible child neglect in Brown Co.

                  The Long Pine Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located North of the State Park.

                  The Johnstown Fire Dept issued a burn permit for property located South of the Golf Course.

 

April 10

                  Responded to a report of an open door at a business in Ainsworth.

                  The Ainsworth Fire Dept issued burn permits for the following areas of Brown Co.: South & East of Ainsworth, West & South of Ainsworth, & West & North of Ainsworth.

                  Assisted residents of Brown Co with information on a civil matter, involving personal property.

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

 

April 11

                  Assisted an out of state resident with a report of a disturbance that occurred in Long Pine.

                  Investigated a report of vandalism to a window at the Ainsworth Elementary School.

                  Investigated a two – vehicle accident without injury at the Union Bank parking area.

                  Investigated a report of an assault in Ainsworth. A subject was cited for 3rd Degree Assault.

  

Weekly Summary

2 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

6 - Handgun permits applied for

22 - Incidents Reports were taken.

10 - Paper Service was served.

148 - Phone calls were received.

5 - 911 emergency calls received.

6 - Titles were inspected.

4 - Traffic Citations were issued.

9 – Verbal & Written Warnings were issued. 

* Destination Imagination teams compete in state finals at Kearney

(Posted 5:45 a.m. April 13)

On Saturday, three Ainsworth Destination Imagination teams competed in the Affiliate Finals at Kearney.

Each team competed in the “Improv Games” challenge, where they created three different short skits given four randomly chosen elements. Each team was allowed only one minute to plan the skits. 

The elementary level team of Dawson Deibler, Savannah Holmes, Amelia Neumiller, Shelly Saner, Moriah Cheatum, Maren Arens and Saylen Young placed 10th in the instant challenge and 10th in the central challenge for an overall 10th-place finish.  The team’s manager is Kelly Deibler.

The senior level team of Kayla Witt and Brittani Beegle placed seventh in the instant challenge and sixth in the team challenge for an overall seventh-place finish.

The senior level team of Drew Klatt, Sydney Fling, Tara Taylor and Abbey Doyle placed sixth in the instant challenge and second in the team challenge for an overall third-place finish. Both senior level teams are managed by Rachel Williams.

The team thanks Alan Hurless, Nathan Bauer, Chad Mizner and Quentin Wagner, who volunteered as appraisers for Ainsworth during Destination Imagination tournaments this year.

* Davis, Larson files reports from the Nebraska Legislature

(Posted 2:30 p.m. April 10)

Floor debate continued this week in the Nebraska Unicameral. Both 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis and 40th District State Sen. Tyson Larson provided updates on the weekly activity in front of the legislature.
To hear the reports, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 4-10.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Tyson Larson 4-10.mp3

* Area students recognized by UN-L for academic achievement

(Posted 1 p.m. April 10)

More than 1,800 UNL students will be recognized during the All-University Honors Convocation at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Lied Center for Performing Arts.

Students are recognized at the Honors Convocation for their cumulative academic achievements (compared with Dean's List, which is for one semester). Honorees include:

* Chancellor's Scholars: students who graduated in December or who will receive their degrees in May or August and have maintained 4.0 grade-point averages on all collegiate work at UNL and elsewhere.

* Superior Scholars: seniors graduating in the 2014-2015 academic year who are in the top 3 percent of their college's senior class or who have been recognized at Honors Convocation each year of their enrollment.

* High Scholars: students other than Chancellor's Scholars and Superior Scholars who are in the top 10 percent of their class.

The following is a list of Chancellor's, Superior and High scholars from the area.

Ainsworth

Kayla Marie Klammer, Superior Scholar, senior, Fine and Performing Arts.

Conner Kozisek, High Scholar, sophomore, Arts and Sciences.

Maggie Elise Steinhauser, High Scholar, junior, Education and Human Sciences.

Atkinson

Kent Anthony Frickel, Superior Scholar, senior, Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Mackenzie Ann Gibbens, Superior Scholar, senior, Architecture.

Stuart

Dylan Christopher Laible, High Scholar, sophomore, Arts and Sciences.

Valentine

Matthew Wayne Harris, High Scholar, senior, Arts and Sciences.

* Town hall indicates overwhelming support to keep care center in Ainsworth open

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

Support Thursday was overwhelmingly in favor of having community leaders continue to work toward ensuring that Ainsworth retains a care facility.

Asked by Mayor Larry Rice at the end of a more than 90-minute presentation how many were in favor of allowing the Ainsworth Care Center to potentially close, not one hand was raised from among the more than 100 residents in attendance.

Rice said a task force had been organized to research the feasibility of purchasing the Ainsworth Care Center after learning several months ago that the facility had been listed for sale.

Special meetings of the Ainsworth City Council, Brown County Commissioners and Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees were called to order at the outset, with Ron Ross of Rural Health Development then presenting information from a study his company conducted on the feasibility of a government entity or non-profit organization purchasing the facility.

Ross, whose company manages 20 nursing home facilities in Nebraska, including the Parkside Manor at Stuart, said nursing homes are vitally important in small communities.

“Private companies are not making money with nursing homes in small towns, so there is a paradigm shift in the nursing home industry,” Ross said. “It is a tough business, but it is still very doable. The for-profit businesses are leaving the small towns because there is no money in it, but communities are coming together to keep these facilities open. To see this many people here shows me there is support for the nursing home here.”

Ross said all rural communities are going to be in the same position in the near future that Ainsworth now finds itself. He said Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to care centers have not kept pace with costs, and private payers are trying to find ways to stay out of nursing homes for as long as possible.

“At $6,000 per month or so, it doesn’t take long for people to go through their savings,” Ross said. “The state does pay for people’s care who run out of money, but they don’t pay the entire share of the costs to care for those people.”

Ross said the company that owns the Ainsworth Care Center owns three other facilities in Nebraska, at Lyons, Edgar and Exeter. He said it had previously given notice that the Exeter facility would close.

“Just a few days ago, they gave notice that they were closing the Edgar facility,” Ross said, stressing the need for the community to move forward quickly.

If the community can obtain the nursing home prior to the end of June, it can submit a cost report to the state of Nebraska and likely receive a $20 to $25 per day reimbursement increase for each resident.

Ross said that amounted to an extra $30,000 per month that could be used to support the facility, hire staff and make improvements to the building.

“There is room to receive higher reimbursement, as the current costs are well below the state’s caps,” Ross said. “We anticipate it will cost a new operator more to run the facility, but the facility really needs to be purchased by June so the community can submit a cost report to the state.”

Ross said, should the current owner sell the licensed beds for the facility to a company that moves them from the community, state laws have changed that allow communities to keep the number of beds that have been licensed to it.

“Communities now can’t be left high and dry,” Ross said.

As far as an ownership structure, Ross said some facilities are owned by a government entity, which could be the city or the county. The other option is to form a non-profit company with a volunteer board of directors.

Regardless whether the facility is owned by a non-profit corporation or a government entity, a management company would be hired to operate the care center.

He encouraged people to make tax-deductible donations to support the initial purchase of the facility.

“This facility is going to need community support financially to get started,” Ross said.

He said a similar meeting at Callaway led to $300,000 in funds being raised to save the care center in that community.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson, who is also a member of the task force working on the project, said the NCDC Board voted during a meeting Monday to set up an account to accept donations for the care center.

“The NCDC is a non-profit, 501c3 corporation,” Olson said. “A fund has been set up that can accept tax-deductible donations. A donation receipt would be issued toward the end of the year.”

Brown County Hospital Administrator Shannon Sorenson, another member of the task force, said there was a sense of urgency for the task force to continue moving forward due to the scenarios currently faced by Exeter and Edgar as well as to give a local entity the ability to submit a cost report prior to the June 30 deadline.

“We are looking at needing $500,000 to be able to operate the facility for the eight to 10 months it will take to receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements,” Sorensen said. “We are also looking at $200,000 for facility improvements, and we will also have to pay the company for the beds.”

Olson said the task force would need to come up with at least 10 percent to 20 percent of the expected costs in donations to be able to apply for loans to operate and maintain the facility.

“That is where the donation aspect comes into this,” Olson said.

Rice said the task force has been looking at the impact to the community if the facility closes.

Olson said the care center employs 28 full-time equivalents with a payroll of almost $1 million annually. Indirect benefits to the community approach $3 million.

Ross said, if the community is earnest about continuing to have a care center in Ainsworth, it needed to go into the purchase knowing a new facility would eventually need to be built.

“The building was constructed in 1962,” Ross said. “The future of the current building is a significant piece of this. I told the task force not to get involved in the facility unless it was willing to build a new one in the future.”

He said the current facility, with some upgrades, would serve the needs of its residents for a few years, but a new facility would be needed at some point.

“You would be looking at about $6 million to $7 million to construct a facility for 40 beds,” Ross said.

Sorensen said an architect was retained to examine the current facility.

“The architect’s numbers show it will take about $200,000 to repair the current facility to operate for two to three years,” Sorensen said. “Down the road, we are going to need a new facility.”

Ross said he was confident, with the support that has been displayed in the community, that a solution would be found.

“The bottom line is the community wants to have a facility so that it can take care of its people,” Ross said. “Family members don’t want to drive 40 or 50 miles to be able to visit a relative who needs the care that these facilities provide.”

Anyone interested in supporting the community effort to retain the Ainsworth Care Center may contact the North Central Development Center at 402-387-2740 for more information on how to make a tax-deductible donation.

Ross encouraged the audience members not to underestimate the value smaller donations can have on the overall goal of keeping the facility open in Ainsworth.

“This town is large enough to support a nursing home, I have no doubt about that,” Ross said. “Don’t underestimate what a donation of $5,000 or $10,000 can do.”
Ross then became the first to donate toward purchasing the center, pledging $2,000.

* Sandhills Rides providing free tours of Ainsworth Friday for Public Transit Week

(Posted 2:15 p.m. April 9)

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts signed a proclamation declaring this week as Public Transit Week in the state of Nebraska. 
In recognition of Public Transit Week, Sandhills Rides and the Ainsworth Senior Center will host coffee and cookies in the Senior Center from 1:30 until 3:30 p.m. Friday. Bus tours of the Ainsworth community will also be given at no charge.
For more information on the event, visit www.nebraskatransit.com or contact the Ainsworth Senior Center at 402-387-0777.
On hand to view the signing of the governor's proclamation were Nebraska Association of Transportation Providers members and representatives from the Nebraska Department of Roads.
The Nebraska Association of Transportation Providers is an organization that attempts to enhance the quality and accessibility of public transportation for Nebraska residents. For thousands of Nebraskans, public transit is the single point of access to critical services such as medical care, shopping, education and employment. It is through the efforts of supporting organizations like the Nebraska Association of Transportation Providers members and the Nebraska Department of Roads as well as transit providers and operators statewide that public transit continues to exist and help Nebraska communities thrive.

* Keya Paha County Sheriff's Department seeks information on December burglary

(Posted 2 p.m. April 9)

The Keya Paha County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information from the public regarding a recent burglary to a business.
Sometime between Dec. 28 and Dec. 30 of last year, the Meadville Store was burglarized. The suspect(s) broke into the Meadville Store and removed several items, including beer, pop, food, clothing and other items.
Anyone with information on who may be responsible for the burglary is asked to contact the Keya Paha County Sheriff’s Department at 402-497-3201 or call Crime Stoppers at 402-382-3121. All callers remain anonymous, and information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the burglary, or any other crime, could result in a cash reward of up to $1,000.

* South Street residents assessed $7.06 per foot for milling improvement work

(Posted 5:45 a.m. April 9)

Property owners on South Street between Main and Ulrich streets were assessed $7.06 for every foot of street frontage they possess following a public hearing during Wednesday’s Ainsworth City Council meeting.

City Administrator Kristi Thornburg said there were 16 property owners who would be assessed for the millings that were placed on the formerly gravel street.

Those assessed will have the option of paying the assessment in full within 50 days of receiving the assessment notice. If not paid in full in 50 days, the assessment will be placed on the property tax statement and can be paid over a 10-year period at an annual interest rate of 4.5 percent.

In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, the council approved moving forward on abating nuisance properties declared by the Central Nebraska Housing Developers, the city’s contracted nuisance abatement officer.

CNHD staff presented the council with updated information on the nuisance inspections performed on the southeast quadrant of Ainsworth, from Elm Street east and Highway 20 south.

Of the 265 properties inspected in that quadrant, 104 were sent initial courtesy letters to clean up items flagged as potential nuisances according to city code.

CNHD cleared an additional 52 properties Aug. 11 and cleared 11 more Nov. 7. Seven more properties were cleared after inspections April 1.

Of the 16 remaining properties that have not fully abated nuisances as instructed, CNHD Executive Director Judy Peterson said three had performed substantial cleanup work on their properties.

“Those who have made an effort to clean up can ask for an extension,” Peterson said.

Peterson said CNHD would send the owners of the 16 parcels that have not been cleared a final letter letting them know when the citywide cleanups are planned this spring, and making them aware that if the abatement is not completed the city will have the nuisance cleared and charge the property owner for the cost.

“Some cities have been taking care of the abatement on their own,” Peterson said. “We have not gone in and hired any work done. If the city or a contractor goes onto a property to abate a nuisance, the personnel will be accompanied by the sheriff’s department.”

The cost of abating any nuisances not handled by the property owner will be billed to that property owner. If not paid, the cost will be placed onto the parcel’s property tax statement.

“The next phase is to begin the abatement process,” Peterson said.

She recommended the city put a committee together to study the properties that have not been cleared and develop a plan for abating the remaining nuisances.

Councilman Kent Taylor said he agreed the city needed to develop a plan.

“Some of these have obviously had nothing done to them,” Taylor said. “I think a committee needs to be appointed to review the code and the properties and make recommendations to the council.”

Taylor and Councilman Chuck Osborn, who also sits on the city’s Board of Health, agreed to serve as the council’s representatives on the review committee. Thornburg was also included on the review committee, and Thornburg said she would ask Sheriff Bruce Papstein, also a member of the Board of Health, to participate.

The council unanimously voted to rescind the seven nuisance resolutions on the properties cleared by CNHD April 1, and to have CNHD send a final letter to the property owners yet to fully comply giving them a final notice of 30 days to abate the identified nuisances or risk having the city contract the work at the property owner’s expense.

In a related item, the council rescinded resolutions on two initial nuisance abatement properties due to a clerical error by CNHD that misidentified the city’s code ordinance number during the initial mailing. The council then agreed to declare the same two properties as nuisances and have the CNHD resend letters to the property owners. Those two property owners were originally late in receiving a notice because the notices were sent to the incorrect address.

The city also voted to reappoint the Central Nebraska Housing Developers as the city’s nuisance officer, and authorized Mayor Larry Rice to sign an agreement between CNHD and the city to perform nuisance code inspections on the northeast quadrant of the city this year, which includes properties from North Main Street east to the city limits, north of Highway 20.

That quadrant of the city was drawn randomly during the previous council meeting as the next area to have the inspections performed. A grant will pay for the inspection of 150 parcels, with CNHD charging the city $45 per property inspected above the first 150.

Thornburg estimated there were close to 220 parcels in the quadrant that has been identified for inspection.

In other action items Wednesday, the council approved an agreement with engineering firm Miller and Associates to provide professional services to the city to create a capital improvement plan.

The $5,200 contract would allow Miller and Associates to facilitate a planning workshop with the City Council to prioritize capital improvement goals and prepare a plan of action.

Thornburg said the plan would likely include the revitalization of Highway 20 and Main Street to coincide with Nebraska Department of Roads asphalt overly projects of the two streets.

“We also have a potential pool project, and potentially another paving project,” the city administrator said. “Having a plan in place would help us on potential grant applications down the road.”

The council opened three bids for armor coating city streets. By a 3-1 vote, with Osborn against, the council accepted the low bid of $1.02 per square yard submitted by TopKote of Yankton, S.D.

The city received bids of $1.30 per square yard from Stabilt Construction of Harlan, Iowa, and a bid of $1.65 per square yard from Figgins Construction of Red Cloud. The Figgins bid included a different variety of oil for the armor coating work than the other two bids.

Streets Foreman Monte Goshorn said he felt TopKote had done a good job armor coating streets for the city in the past.

During her report, Thornburg said the city recently upgraded its skid steer to a new model, as it does annually. The city’s previous skid steer had 130 hours of use, so it cost the city $1,300 to upgrade to a new skid steer.

She said the East Cemetery fence that was damaged during a recent motor vehicle accident had been replaced.

Thornburg also reported strong participation already for the city’s upcoming tire amnesty day on April 15, as numerous residents had called the city office to pre-register tires.

She reported approximately $627,000 in building permits had been issued in the city for the first quarter of 2015. A total of $3.3 million in building improvements was permitted in 2014, a total that includes construction within the city’s one-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Rice reported he had been approached about the increased traffic on the east side of Highway 20 in Ainsworth with the relocation of the Bomgaars store. He said a request had been made to lower the speed limit in that area from 45 mph down to 35 mph.

Thornburg said the Nebraska Department of Roads conducted a traffic study at the same site when Alco and Pamida were constructed, and said at that time the traffic counts did not warrant a further reduction in speed.

The council will meet in special session at 7 p.m. Thursday as part of a town hall meeting on the potential purchase of the care center in Ainsworth.

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

* One-vehicle accident east of Bassett Friday claims the life of a 24-year-old woman

(Posted 4:15 p.m. April 7)

A one-vehicle accident Friday, April 3, east of Bassett claimed the life of a 24-year-old Atkinson woman and seriously injured a 22-year-old Ainsworth man.
According to the Rock County Sheriff’s Department report, at 2:22 p.m. Friday, a 2002 Chevy Trailblazer was traveling west on Highway 20 approximately 3-1/2 miles east of Bassett when the vehicle left the roadway and entered the south ditch, where it rolled multiple times.
Both occupants in the Chevy, Tyler Walton, 22, of Lincoln and Ainsworth, and Samantha Jo Everett, 24, of Lincoln and Atkinson, were ejected from the vehicle. Both were transported by Rock County Ambulance to the Rock County Hospital with severe injuries.
Everett was pronounced dead Friday afternoon in the Rock County Hospital.
Walton remains hospitalized due to injuries suffered during the crash.
Rock County Deputy Sheriff Garrett Weidner, who is investigating the accident, said it is not yet known who was driving the Chevy at the time of the accident. The Trailblazer, owned by Carol Walton of Ainsworth, was considered a total loss.
The Nebraska State Patrol and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission responded Friday to assist the sheriff’s department at the site of the accident.
A funeral service for Everett is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 8, in the Atkinson Community Center. Memorials for Everett have been suggested to the Make a Wish Foundation or to the family for future designation.

* Commissioners approve seeking bids for used bulldozer

(Posted noon April 7)

Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin received the go-ahead from the Brown County Commissioners Tuesday to advertise for bids to replace a 1970 bulldozer that is in need of major repairs.

Turpin said the 1970 machine had a bad seal that was allowing engine oil to drain into the dozer’s transmission.

“We have to replace the transmission fluid and add engine oil every week,” Turpin told the board. “Repairs would be at least $10,000 to $15,000, and it could be $20,000 if they find more problems.”

Turpin estimated the machine itself may only be worth about $20,000.

“Even if we would go ahead and make the repairs, we are still looking at a more than 40-year-old engine and transmission,” the highway superintendent said.

Turpin said he had been researching used bulldozers, and thought the county might be able to purchase a decent machine for $50,000 to $60,000. New bulldozers cost up to $200,000.

Commissioner Les Waits said he can’t see the purpose of putting those kinds of repairs into such an old piece of equipment.

“I don’t think I can justify paying $150,000 or more for a new one that we may only use for a few hundred hours a year or so though,” Waits said. “If we can get a decent used one, that may be the way to go.”

The board, with Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus absent, approved having Turpin draw up specifications and advertise for a used bulldozer.

Turpin said the roads crew had been out trying to blade roads, but the hard washboards were tough to remove due to the lack of moisture in the area.

“If we get some decent moisture like we are supposed to this week, we will be out blading roads the next couple weeks,” the highway superintendent said.

He reported a majority of the white rock the county purchased has now been trucked back from South Dakota. He estimated that rock would all be used this summer.

Brown County Treasurer Deb Vonheeder presented the commissioners with a public tax sale report from a delinquent property tax sale conducted March 2.

Vonheeder said investors purchased delinquent property taxes on 28 parcels for a total of $38,127.

Investors receive 14 percent interest if the delinquent taxes are eventually paid by the property owner. If the taxes are not paid, the investor would have to file a lien on the property to attempt to recoup the money spent to purchase the delinquent taxes.

Commissioner Buddy Small reported a technician from Thrasher Basement Systems would tour the courthouse to provide the county with recommendations for remedying courthouse foundation issues that have led to water leaking into the east side of the lower level of the courthouse at times.

“We have water that is leaking into the basement of the courthouse in several areas,” Small said.

The commissioners scheduled an emergency meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday to allow the board to attend the community meeting in the Ainsworth Conference Center regarding the future of the care center. The Ainsworth City Council and Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees have scheduled similar special sessions. The public is invited to attend the town hall meeting.

The next regular meeting of the commissioners is set for 8:15 a.m. April 21.

* Despite dry conditions, more than 3,000 acres burned during training

(Posted 5:45 a.m. April 7)

Fifty-five participants plus 14 days, minus some “red flag” days, equaled another successful Fire Training Exchange in the Niobrara Valley.
“The training was a huge success,” Rich Walters, program director for The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve, said. “The most important lesson we can impart is that safety is paramount. As much as we might want to, we simply do not burn when the wind isn’t right, or it’s too dry.  Fortunately conditions were favorable enough to get 3,691 acres burned.”
Walters said fire is a natural and necessary ecological process.
“Fire can be your best friend or your worst enemy,” Walters said. “We’ve certainly experienced both. Our aim is to maintain fire’s role in this landscape for the benefit of people and nature. Fire is a major influence on ecosystems, and when we can restore it successfully we manage against invasive species, and really invigorate grasses.”
This is the sixth year the exchange has been held at the preserve. A total of 55 firefighters, college students and professors, fire practitioners and ranchers met during the two weeks. As part of their lessons, they burned on seven units, both at the preserve and at the Fort Niobrara Refuge. 
The exchange was the culmination of a year of planning and coordinating. Prior to any units being burned, months of preparation occurs.
“Burn units are based on grassland management needs, research and location,” Walters said.
He said all units are within grazed pastures.
“We don’t set aside grass to implement a burn. We use fire and grazing together, within the same pastures, to manage the rangelands. Our objective is to create a mosaic of grasslands that differ in vegetation species and structure. This diverse range of plant species and structure provides habitat for a diverse range of wildlife and resilient grasslands for grazing.”
Jeremy Bailey, associate director for fire training for The Nature Conservancy, said, “The trainings in Nebraska are exemplary. These trainings were really developed in Nebraska over the past several years. Now the Nebraska model is being replicated all over the world.”
The participants included 25 students and professors from six different universities: University of Idaho, Northern Arizona University, Colorado State University, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and Doane College.
“Nebraska has become a spring break destination for students who are interested in fire science,” Walters said. “They are serious about safety and professionalism.”
They were joined by 35 others from 12 different states, including personnel from Washington State, the Los Angeles Fire Department, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, the Gering Volunteer Fire Department, and other state and national agencies. The preserve also welcomed 11 participants from Spain.
They leave Nebraska having implemented techniques such as black lining, which is burning around a unit with very low, controllable flames, so the fire stays within control lines.  They spent classroom time learning about ecology, wildfire prevention, and cell phone technology to use during fires. They scouted units, patrolled assignments, practiced as teams, executed plans, and did mop-up after the burns.
“Nebraska’s resource managers are dedicated to bringing fire to landscapes that need it, and pooling resources and professional expertise makes this event a success,” Walters said. “We’re already thinking about next year.”

* Four students selected to attend Girls State for Ainsworth, Long Pine

(Posted 3 p.m. April 6)

Tara Taylor, Tessa Mueller, Sara Salzman and Lauren Allen, all juniors at Ainsworth High School, have been selected to attend the 2015 session of Cornhusker Girls State.  Taylor and Mueller will represent Long Pine American Legion Auxiliary Unit 260, while Salzman and Allen will represent Ainsworth American Legion Auxiliary Unit #79.

Girls State is a nationwide program sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary.  Each year more than 400 girls from throughout the state are offered an opportunity to be active participants in structured role-playing that emphasizes our Democratic form of government.

Ainsworth and Long Pine American Legion Auxiliaries work with Ainsworth High School Guidance Counselor Lisa Schlueter in making the applications available to all interested junior girls.  Students selected for Girls State have demonstrated an interest in learning government and are leaders in their high schools.

Salzman has participated in Cheerleading, FFA, FBLA, Cross Country, Band, St. Pius Youth Group, Youth Choir and Lector, FCA, Youth Soccer Coach, A Club, and she is President of Ainsworth American Legion Junior Auxiliary. Sara’s parents are Amy and Steve Salzman of Ainsworth, Nebraska.

Allen has been active Cheerleading, Pom Squad, Volleyball, Basketball, Track, Speech, Band, Choir, FBLA, and the All School Play.  Lauren’s parents are Wendy and Tony Allen of Ainsworth, Nebraska. 

Mueller has participated in FFA and Volleyball.  Her parents are Neida and Doug Mueller of Long Pine, Nebraska.

Taylor has been active in the All School Play, Chorus, Destination Imagination, FBLA, High School Musical, Journalism, One Act Plays, and Thespians.  Tara’s parents are Julie and Todd Taylor of Long Pine, Nebraska.

Taylor, Mueller, Salzman and Allen will attend the Cornhusker Girls State session at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln May 31 through June 6.

* Asphalt work on Highway 12 from Keya Paha-Boyd County line east begins soon

(Posted 3 p.m. April 6)

Weather permitting, construction work is scheduled to begin the week of April 13 on

Highway 12, beginning at the west edge of Butte and extending 21.4 miles to the Boyd County and Keya Paha County line 8 miles west of Naper, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.

Knife River Corporation DBA Knife River Midwest of Sioux City, Iowa, has the

$3.5 million contract for milling and four-inch asphaltic concrete overlay east of Naper and the $1 million contract for milling and two-inch asphaltic concrete overlay west of Naper. In addition to asphalt work, guardrail will be replaced.

Traffic will be maintained during construction with the use of flaggers and a pilot car.

The load width will be restricted to 11 feet during construction of the project.  The asphalt portion of the work is anticipated to be completed early in July.

The Department of Roads' project engineer is H. Gene Colfack of O'Neill. Motorists are urged to use caution while driving through highway work zones and to remember that speeding fines are doubled when workers are present.

* Firefighters contain Saturday morning fire north of Johnstown to 1 hay bale

(Posted 9:15 a.m. April 6)

A Saturday morning fire in a hay bale north of Johnstown during extreme fire danger conditions prompted the response of the Ainsworth and Johnstown Volunteer Fire departments.

At just after 10 a.m. Saturday, a hay bale was reported on fire three miles north of Johnstown near Norden Avenue on property owned by the Klammer Brothers.

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said exhaust from a vehicle ignited a hay bale that was being loaded onto a truck.

Fiala said the Johnstown firefighters had the fire contained to the hay bale by the time Ainsworth firefighters arrived on scene. He said the Ainsworth department assisted in unrolling the bale and extinguishing the flames.

The loss was contained to the one hay bale, which was owned by Royce Greder. Fiala said firefighters were on scene for about 45 minutes Saturday.

Winds gusted to more than 25 mph Saturday and the National Weather Service placed the area in a fire weather warning. Fiala said he was relieved the departments were able to keep the fire from spreading.

The entire KBR area remains under a burn ban until conditions improve. Rain is in the forecast for Wednesday night and Thursday.

* Traffic Accident

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

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred on Sunday, April 5, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 4:38 p.m. Sunday in the 600 block of West Second Street, a 2011 Mazda sport-utility vehicle, driven by Roxane Shipps, 45, of Norfolk, was backing from a private drive and struck a parked 2006 Chevy pickup, owned by Bill Micheel Trucking of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Mazda was estimated at $1,000. The Chevy sustained approximately $1,000 damage.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 5:45 p.m. April 5)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred on Sunday, April 5, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in the 1400 block of East First Street, a 2003 Ford pickup, driven by Elmer Lentz, 80, of Ainsworth, was backing from a driveway and struck a parked 2014 BMW sedan, owned by Julie Haskell of Ainsworth.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the BMW was estimated at $1,000. The Ford did not sustain any damage.

* Weekly and March summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 5:30 p.m. April 5)

March 29

* Provided a welfare check on individuals who accidentally dialed 911.

* Investigated a barking dog complaint on Court St Ainsworth.

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

* Investigated a report of suspicious activity in rural Brown Co.

* Responded to a report of a noise complaint on North Main St Ainsworth.

 

March 30 

* Provided a welfare check on an individual in Brown Co.

* Investigated a report of a possible fire North of Hwy 20 in the Long Pine Hills. The Long Pine Rural Fire Dept Chief was advised & he also responded to check out this report.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported a rural Ainsworth resident to the Brown Co Hospital.

 

March 31

* Responded to a report of juveniles acting suspiciously at a residence in Ainsworth.

* Assisted residents of Ainsworth with information on drugs & alcohol.

* Responded to a report of an intoxicated subject causing problems at a business in Ainsworth.

 

April 1

* Responded to a traffic complaint on South Hall St Ainsworth.

* Investigated a report of theft of 2 Computer tablets in Ainsworth.

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

* Assisted an Ainsworth resident with information on drugs & paraphernalia.

* Responded to a report of a subject driving reckless & erratically in Ainsworth.

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

* The Brown Co Ambulance responded to an emergency cal on East 2nd St Ainsworth. No one was transported at the time.

* Received a report of a possible stolen calf South West of Ainsworth. The owner located the calf.

* Responded to a traffic complaint on Main St Ainsworth.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from a rural location in Brown Co, to the Brown Co Hospital.

 

April 2

* Arrested a subject & booked them into the Brown Co Jail for Domestic Assault 3rd Degree.

* Received a Crime Stopper call in ref to a 2014 incident. There is an ongoing investigation into this matter.

* Investigated a report of an Ainsworth business window being shot at with a BB gun.

 

April 3

* Received a report of cattle out East & North of Ainsworth.

* Assisted Ainsworth residents with information on the IRS scam.

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

* Received a report of a lost cat in Ainsworth.

 

April 4

* Received a report of an open door at an Ainsworth business.

* The Johnstown & Ainsworth Fire Depts. responded to a report of a hay bale on fire North of Johnstown.

* Booked a subject into the Brown Co Jail on a Court Ordered Commitment for violation of probation.

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

 

Weekly Summary

0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

3 - Handgun permits applied for

21 - Incidents Reports were taken.

10 - Paper Service was served.

168 - Phone calls were received.

7 - 911 emergency calls received.

5 - Titles were inspected.

2 - Traffic Citations were issued.

6 – Verbal & Written Warnings were issued. 

 

March Summary

9 - Arrests

89 - Calls for Service 

6 - Citations were issued

0 - Crime Stopper call received

2 - Defect Cards issued

4 - Handgun permits issued

27 - Paper Service served

654 - Phone calls were received

28 - 911 emergency calls received

31 - Titles inspected

15 - Verbal & Written Warnings issued

* Work scheduled soon on Highway 183 between Ainsworth and Springview

(Posted 4:15 p.m. April 3)

Weather permitting, work is scheduled to begin the week of April 13 on Highway 183 starting at milepost 198 and ending at the Brown-Keya Paha county line at milepost 207, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads.
Werner Construction, Inc., of Hastings, Nebraska, has the $4.6 million contract for the 8.72-mile project, which will include widening the roadway from 12-foot to 14-foot driving lanes.
Work will include culvert extensions, flume installation and new cable guardrail, as well as repair on the Bone Creek Bridge near Keller State Park.
Traffic will be maintained during construction with use of flaggers and a pilot car. Work
is anticipated to be completed in October.
The Department of Roads project manager is Michael Rudnick of Ainsworth. Motorists
are reminded to drive cautiously through highway construction zones.

* Sheriff's department investigating separate burglary, vandalism cases

(Posted 11:45 a.m. April 3)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information on a pair of incidents that took place during the past week.
Someone between the night of March 30 and the morning of April 1, a home in Ainsworth was burglarized. Someone broke into a home and removed two Trio Stealth G Tablets.
Then, on the afternoon hours of Thursday, April 1, someone shot the front window of William Krotter Lumber with a BB gun or pellet gun, breaking the window.
Anyone with information on who may be responsible for either of these incidents is asked to contact the Brown County Sheriff’s Department at 402-387-1440. Information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for these, or any, crimes could result in a cash reward of up to $1,000.

* State senators file reports from Lincoln

(Posted 8:45 p.m. April 2)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis and 40th District State Sen. Tyson Larson each reported on the weekly activities in the Nebraska Legislature.
To hear the updates from the state senators, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 4-3-15.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Tyson Larson 4-3-15.mp3

* March 2015 second driest in Ainsworth's 110-year recorded history

(Posted 8:30 p.m. April 2)

Ainsworth Weather Observer Gerry Osborn reported March 2015 will go down as the second driest in the 110 years records have been kept in Ainsworth.  Just .02 of an inch of moisture was recorded for the month, coming in a skiff of snow March 3.
March was also extremely warm compared to the average, with three days setting all-time records for high temperatures.
To hear the complete report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/Gerry Osborn March 2015 weather.mp3

* Winning bidders asked to pick up and pay for Takeover Day items

(Posted 7 p.m. April 2)

Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Radio Take-Over and Auction on April 1
PRODUCT                     BUSINESS      SALE              BUYER   
1-dozen cinnamon rolls Ainsworth Does $40 Todd Mundhenke
JD Ag Equipment Inspection Plains Equipment Group $300 Greg Jochem
Beef Draft Rolling Stone Feed Yard $22 D.J. Hladky
Metal Laser Wildlife Welcome  Sign AHS-Pollock Metal Class $70 Rod Imm
5 Straws of WK ROGER 8165  Joseph Angus Ranch $125 Todd Nielson   
10-lbs of Husker Burgers Husker Meats $40 Shirley Pitcher
Buy 1mon. Membership get 1 Free Ogden/Fitness Center $25 Michael Keck
Beef Draft Dennis & Pam Bauer $22 Deb VonHeeder
2 Tickets Husker Spring Game KBRB Radio $50 Kendra Hafner
Sandhills Sweetheart CD Lorraine Worth $12 Nellie Johnson
Bundle 10 Bur Oak Tree Middle NRD $30 Pam Schmitz
10# Certified Ribeye Loin Golden Steer $135 Clint Painter
Gift Certificate-straight sell J's Keggers $45 Jennifer Conroy
Dewalt 20-volt driver/impact drill Century Lumber $175 Clint Painter
$25 Beef Draft Madison’s Great West $22 Brandi Connell   
Service Job Ainsworth Motors $45 Chad Hollenbeck
Husker Framed Photo Print  @ PBA KBRB Radio $30 Shane Kinnick
Family Deal (large pizza & pop) Pizza Hut $22 Casey Johnson
2 Tickets Husker Spring Game KBRB Radio $25 Bonnie Richey
10 Broiler chicks & 10-pound bag feed Bomgaar's $15 Kathy Modoff
J-D Lawnmower Inspection Plains Equipment Group $90 Randy Brudigan
Metal Art Bulldog Head Blaxsmith $40 Phoebe Killion
$25 Beef Draft Rolling Stone Feed Yard $22 Betty Lucht
Oral-B Power Toothbrush w/extra Ainsworth Dental $60 Amy Cook
Gift Certificate Moody Tire & Supply $45 Debbie Myer
Homemade Pie (buyers choice) Ainsworth Does $15 Al Hodge
10-pound of Kentucky Blue Grass Seed Gross Seed Co. $20 Betty Weller
4 Tickets Husker Spring Game KBRB Radio $40 Gail Irwin
Gift Certificate Red & White Mkt $22 Brandi Connell
ACS Season Activities Pass Ainsworth Community School $60 Clint Painter
Beef Draft Madison's Great Western $22 Julie Worden
Sightron Spotting Scope Krotter Lumber $185 Todd Kicken
5 pound Husker Burger Patties Husker Meats $25 Kade Gracey
10 Bur Oak Trees Middle Niobrara NRD $10 Jane Lanz
Large Meat & Cheese Tray H&R Food Center $33 Carol Jones
Book: Veterans of Brown County Ainsworth Legion $50 Raven Cattle Co
Desk Calculator/Computer Bag Winner Office Products $95 Buckley Steel
2 Ainsworth All Sports Banquet tickets Ainsworth Lions $20 Jerry Paulson
Elks Sun Night Steak Certificate Ainsworth Elks $17 Tiffany Barthell
5 Noon Meals Ainsworth Senior Center $19 Melissa Doke
106 piece Screwdriver set w/tool pouch Buckles Automotive $26.50 Tammy Moretz
Medium Red Daniels Sprinkler Daniels Manufacturing $60 Sue Heyden
1 dozen Cinnamon Rolls Ainsworth Does $25 Buckley Steel
Bulldog Stadium Seat & Tote Keller Embroidery $45 Mary Gambill
Wireless Computer Mouse Simple Solutions $10 KBRB
Brown Co Hospital June 19 Golf Entry Brown Co Hospital $210 Mundhenke Agency
Gift Certificate Toward New Windshield K-C Kollision $165 Sherry Buoy
4 14-16 oz Rib Eyes Husker Meats $60 Brian Krentz
Country Worthwhile CD Lorraine Worth $8 Sheri Ganz
One Service Job 1st Class Auto $50 Rod Worrell
10 Bur Oak Trees Middle Niobrara NRD $30 Don Graham
4 Tickets Husker Spring Game KBRB Radio $50 Nick Stec
First Aid Kit Home Health $10 Tammy Cline
Goose Berry Garfield Cookbook Book Peddler $10 Connie Denny
Memories of a Cowboy Mike Baxter $10 Becky Schelm
$25 Gift Certificate Farmers Ranchers Coop $22 Todd Thornton
10-dozen Cream Cheese Mints Hills & Trails FCE $37 Gina Keller
2 Steaks Dinners at Ainsworth Golf Course Buckley Steel $40 Bard Waits
1/2 Gallon Of Honey Doke Apiaries $50 Bonnie Finley
Memories of a Cowboy Mike Baxter $10 Becky Schelm
Box of King Size Snickers Big Red Vending $35 Chad Hollenbeck
2 3-pound Chuck Roasts Husker Meats $27 Connie Dillon
9 Holes of Golf & Cart Ainsworth Golf Course $20 Larry Ziegler
$25 Beef Draft Madison's Great West $22 Todd Thornton
Medium Red Daniels Sprinkler Daniels Manufacturing $70 Chad Hollenbeck
Portable Hard Drive Three River Comm. $50 Susan Hoover
Homemade Pie Ainsworth Does $15 Al Hodge
4 8-oz Fillets Husker Meats $40 Jim Baker
Solar Light Memorial Cross Hoch Funeral Home $90 Scott Erthum
Gift Certificate Simple Solutions $20 Jim Jackman
10 Burr Oak Trees NRD $20 Brenda Goken
5 Straw of WK ROGER 8165 semen Joseph Angus Ranch $100 Tom Stephens
3-ft Subway Sandwich Subway $30 Riley Hitchcock
Check Engine Lite Diagnostic Ainsworth Motors $35 Sherry Buoy
ACS Season Activity Pass Ains Comm School $60 Clint Painter
Consult w/F.B Guru-Richardson Ainsworth Motors $40 Casey Carr
Buy 1 Mon Get 1 Free Membership  Ainsworth Fitness First $20 Sheri Ganz
$25 Beef Draft Dennis & Pam Bauer $22 Sherry Luther
2 Tickets Husker Spring Game KBRB Radio $32 Rick Brodbeck
Metal Laser Welcome Sign AHS-Pollock Metal Class $65 Lisa Fischer
Golf-9 holes w/cart Ainsworth Golf Course $20 Rick Brodbeck
Buy 1mon. Membership get 1 Free Ainsworth Fitness Center $30 James Worden
Homemade Pie (buyers choice) Ainsworth Does $25 Connie Goochey
Elks Sun Night Steak Certificate (sell) Ainsworth Elks $17 Beth Chase
The Greatest Hero Lorraine Worth $7 Wilber Saner
The Greatest Hero Lorraine Worth $10 Carolyn Schipporeit
Memories of a Cowboy Mike Baxter $10 Carolyn Schipporeit
Beef Draft Madison Great Western $22 Jan Buoy
Wireless Mouse Simple Solutions $13 Rhonda Sherman
2 Tickets Husker Spring Game KBRB Radio $15 Jo Swanson
Beef Draft Rolling Stone Feed Yard $22 Amy Cook
Family Deal (large pizza & pop) Ainsworth Pizza Hut $17 Skylar Cook
2 Tickets Husker Spring Game KBRB Radio $12 Brian Doke
$25 Gift Certificate Red & White Market $22 Todd Thornton
$25 Gift Certificate Simple Solutions $22 Becky Schelm
1 Large Fruit Tray H&R Food Center $32 Joe Dodd
Dozen Homemade Cinnamon Rolls Ainsworth Does $20 Carl Chase
$25 Beef Draft Madison's Great Western $22 Joe Dodd
4 Hamburger meals at Ainsworth Golf Course Buckley Steel $35 Chris Osterman
$25 Gift Certificate Rolling Stone Feed Yard $22 Brandi Connell
10 Burr Oak Trees NRD $21 Rosalie Fletcher
10 pounds of Super Turf-2 Grass Seed Gross Seed Co $26 Betty Weller
Set of "JP" John Pierce Signature-darts Longhorn Bar $110 Pam Raymond
2 Tickets to All Sports Tail Gate Lions Club $25 Chris Raymond
2 Tickets Husker Spring Game KBRB Radio $10 Jo Swanson
All-day Auction Items
Elite Traeger Grill Value Sponsors $975 Calvin Goochey
Husker Vacation - game, gas, meals, lodge KBRB Radio $900 KBRB
Ingersoll-Rand Air Impact Wrench Ainsworth Auto Parts and Sandhills Animal Health Clinic $265 Scott Erthum
Processing on half a beef Husker Meats $225 Melissa Doke
6 piece Patio Set - table, umbrella, chairs Value Sponsors $205 Micah Graff
Processing of a whole hog Husker Meats $100 Carolyn Jones

* Hanzlik chosen to perform championship speech for NET program

(Posted 5:45 a.m. April 2)

Brittany Hanzlik of Stuart, the Class D-2 State Speech champion in informative speaking, has been chosen to appear on the NET production of the NSAA Championships: Best of the Best television program. The program presents the top speech champions in Nebraska. It will be taped Tuesday in the NET studios at Lincoln.  The program is scheduled to be aired from 9 until 11:30 a.m. Sunday April 19 on NET-1 and on the web at www.netNebraska.org.

* Thanks for another fantastic Chamber of Commerce Radio Takeover Day

(Posted 5:45 p.m. April 1)

KBRB Radio and the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce thank everyone who participated in the annual April Fools Radio Takeover Day.
Participation in the annual event was again outstanding, from the guest announcers to the call takers, from those who donated items to those who called in a bid, whether successful in landing the donated item or not.
Those who were winning bidders are asked to pay for and pick up their items beginning on Thursday afternoon from the Ainsworth Area Chamber office on Main Street.
When the final list of purchasers is compiled, KBRB will post the winning bidders.
Thanks again for making this such a fun event.

* Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce takes over KBRB April 1

(Posted 5:45 a.m. April 1)

Special Guest Announcers for Takeover Day…

 7 a.m. – Bret Younkin, Ainsworth Motors & Kathy Klammer, Union Bank & Trust          

 8 a.m. – Jennifer Erthum & Dane Sears, 1st National Bank  

 9 a.m. – Sheri Stec, West Plains Bank & Kim Buckley, Buckley Steel

10 a.m. - Lisa Fischer & Lexa Ludemann, Brown County Hospital

11 a.m. – Jim Hoch, Hoch Funeral Home & Kathy Worrell, Ainsworth Star Journal

Noon – Harlen Welch & Wade Alberts, Ainsworth High School Coaches
1 p.m. - Angie Hood , GJW & Jayme Kinney, Ainsworth Dental Clinic

2 p.m. - Ann Fiala, Cottonwood Villa & Chris Raymond, Plains Equipment Group

 

Takeover Day Auction Items:

Ainsworth Senior Center – 5 noon meals

Brown County Hospital – entry into the BCH Hospital Golf Tourney, June 19

Red & White Market – 2 gift certificate

Plains Equipment Group – J-D Ag Eq Inspection

Plains Equipment Group – J-D Lawnmower Inspection

Middle Niobrara NRD – 5 bundles of Bur Oak Trees 

Ainsworth Dental Office – 1 Oral B Tooth brush

Keller’s Custom Embroidery & Imprints- Bulldog Stadium Seat and Bulldog Canvas Tote

Sandhills State Bank – Membership to Rock Council Arts Council

Moody Tire - gift certificate

H&R Food Center – 1 large fruit tray

H&R Food Center – 1 large meat & cheese tray

Pizza Hut – 2, Family Deal with Pop

Subway – 3’ sub sandwich gift certificate

Gross Seed – 2  10# bags of grass seed.  One is Kentucky Blue Grass, the other is Super Turf-2 os 

Blaxsmith – Laser Cut Metal Bulldog Head

Buckley Steel – 2, 9 holes of golf with cart for 1 person              

Denny & Pam Bauer – 2 Beef Drafts

Hills & Trails FCE Club – 10 dozen cream cheese mints

Ainsworth Does – 3 dozen cinnamon rolls & 3 pies of buyer’s choice

KBRB – 20 Husker tickets to April 11th Red-White Spring game

KBRB - Husker framed photo print of the opening night in Pinnacle Bank Arena

Rolling Stone Feed Yard – 4 beef drafts

Hoch Funeral Home – 1 Solar Lighted Memorial Cross

Ogden Electric – 3 – Buy one month, get one free fitness center memberships

Simple Solutions – 2 Cordless Mouse and 2 Gift Certificates

Ainsworth Motors – 1 - Service Job

Ainsworth Motors - 1 - Check Engine Light Diagnostic

Ainsworth Motors – 15 minute Football Consultation  with the Football Guru Don Richardson (Value - Priceless)

The Book Peddler – The Gooseberry Patch Cookbook

Ainsworth Golf Course – 2 – Nine hole rounds of golf with cart

Madison’s Great Western – 4 - beef drafts

Joseph Angus Ranch – 10 straws of WK ROGER 8165, one of Joseph Angus Ranch's premiere herd sires

Lorraine Worth – 6 – CD’s 

Big Red Vending – Box of King Size Snickers

Krotter’s Lumber – Sightron Spotting Scope

Elks Club – 2 - Sunday Night Gift Certificate

Lion’s Club – 2 sets of 2 tickets to Tailgate dinner with Tom Osborne as speaker

Home Health – First Aid Kit

Doke Apiary – Gallon Honey

Technologent – Women’s Golf Shirt

Farmers-Ranchers Coop - Ampride Gift Certificate

Longhorn Bar – Set of “JP” (John Pierce) Signature Darts or Darts products from Darts Supplies

Century Lumber – Dewalt 20 volt Driver/Impact Driver Drill

Golden Steer – 10 pound Certified Beef Rib Eye Loin

J’s Keggers – Gift Certificate

Ainsworth Community Schools – 2 Sports Seasonal Activity Pass

Bomgaar’s – 10 broiler Chickens & 10 pounds Chicken Feed

Buckles Automotive – 106 pc Screwdriver Set with Tool Pouch

1st Class Auto – Oil Change Service Job

K-C Kollision – Gift Certificate toward a new windshield

Office Products of Winner – Desk Calculator & Computer Bag

Daniel’ Manufacturing – 2 medium Red Daniels Sprinklers 

Ainsworth Auto Parts & Sandhills Animal Health – Ingersoll-Rand ” Air Impact Tool

Three River Communications – Portable Hard Drive

AHS, Mr. Pollock’s Metal Class – 2 Metal Laser Welcome Signs

Ainsworth Legion – “Veterans of Brown County” Book

KBRB Radio – Husker Football Package for Oct 24 game against Northwestern, two nights in a Lincoln suite, Misty's Steakhouse gift certificate, travel voucher, and two tickets to the Champions Club to tailgate with Ainsworth Motors

Husker Meats – Processing of a half of beef and processing of a whole hog, along with 10 pounds of Husker Burgers, 4 Rib Eyes, 4 Fillets, 5-lbs of Husker Burger Patties and 2 3-pound Chuck Roasts

 

Financial Contributors to Take-Over Day…

Mid America Land & Realty

First National Bank

Ainsworth Vision Clinic

Union Bank & Trust

Bejot Feedlot

West Plains Bank

Mundhenke Agency

Ainsworth Irrigation District

North Central Insurance Agency

Roadway Inn

Brown County Farm Bureau

Traci Hartley

They are sponsoring - An Elite Traeger Grill with a Red Lid with a Red N and a 6-piece Patio Set (table, umbrella & chairs)

* Four area seniors received "Future of Agriculture" scholarships

(Posted noon March 31)

The Farmers-Ranchers Cooperative awarded four area high school seniors “The Future of Agriculture Scholarship.”

Scholarship Recipients are:

Katherine Nolles of Bassett is the daughter of Mike and Trudy Nolles. Katie is planning to pursue a degree in Agriculture Education or Animal Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Jake Wilkins of Ainsworth is the son of Brad and Wendy Wilkins. He plans to attend Northeast Community College at Norfolk and pursue a degree in Agribusiness.

Nolan Sybrant of Bassett is the son of Kyle and Sheila Sybrant. He plans to attend Chadron State College or Hastings College to pursue a degree in Agribusiness or Rangeland Management.

Clint Miller of Valentine is the son of Marty and Nancy Miller. Clint plans to attend the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture at Curtis and pursue a degree in Livestock Management.

* Hospital Trustees discuss plans to replace facility's heating and cooling system

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

During a recent meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees, the trustees and hospital staff continued to plan for the replacement of the hospital’s heating and cooling system.

After initial projections came in higher than anticipated, the trustees discussed some revisions to the project with staff member Tom Ford.

Ford discussed some potential cost-saving measures with the project. No action was taken, as more information will be gathered regarding a detailed breakdown of the project with equipment specifications.

In action items during the meeting, the trustees approved engaging the services of Custom Learning Systems to implement the Rural Hospital of Choice – Service Excellent Initiative for the hospital.

The HCAHPS Patient Experience Improvement Plan was presented by Angie Jaques and Tammy Brown after being compiled by Brian Lee with Custom Learning Systems.

Administrator Shannon Sorensen discussed the feasibility of implementing the initiative, and the board agreed to implement the program.

The trustees accepted the letters of resignation presented by consulting podiatrist Dr. Richard Raska, and consulting radiologists Dr. Marilyn Ray and Dr. Richard Stemm.

The trustees approved the annual compliance summary for 2014 as submitted. The summary outlines focus areas and compliance programs for 2014.

The trustees approved the hospital’s vehicle usage policy as presented, and approved a revised bank resolution and E-corp banking agreement as presented by West Plains Bank.

During her report, Sorensen discussed recent information regarding the work of the task force researching the potential purchase of the Ainsworth Care Center, which has been listed for sale.

Sorensen reported the sale of the vacant hospital lot west of the clinic has been completed, and the hospital has received payment for the ground. The board voted to place the funds from the sale of the property into the hospital’s endowment fund.

The hospital administrator told the trustees a representative from Adaptive Medical Partners, the company the hospital hired to assist the facility in recruiting a physician, would tour the facility soon.

Director of Nursing Tammy Brown provided the trustees with an update on progress made to enhance the ability of the hospital’s nurses to be closer to patient rooms and thereby increase the amount of time spent with the patients at bedside.

Prior to adjourning, the board held an executive session to discuss physician recruitment, strategic planning, and the hospital’s employee assistance program.

Following the executive session, the trustees voted to approve the employee assistance contract for the year.

The next meeting of the Brown County Hospital Board of Trustees is scheduled for 4 p.m. April 20.

* Area crowns 2 state speech champions in Class D-2

(Posted 5:45 a.m. March 30)

NSAA Class C-1 State Speech

Thursday, University of Nebraska-Kearney

Ainsworth Results

Superiors:  Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

                        Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

                        Kirsten Gilliland—Informative Speaking

                        Lauren Allen—Poetry

                        Hayes Chohon & Lisa Ludemann—Duet Acting

 

 “Well, it was another tough day for us at state,” Ainsworth coach Mary Rau said. “We had two speakers who were pretty close to medals.  Jack ended up in a tie for eighth in extemp, just one ranking point away from finals. Kirsten finished in a tie for seventh, and she was only one rating point shy of finals. Our scores were all over the place; the speakers would be in the top 3 after one round and then get tanked in the second round with a 5 or 6.  It’s hard to know how to combat that.”

Raymond Central won the Class C-1 State Championship with 118 team points, 10 better than runner-up Omaha Brownell-Talbot.

 “But, it was a great trip. The team represented Ainsworth High School very well, and we have a nice group of underclassmen coming back next year.

“The whole year has been a successful one. We had more parents at tournaments than in the past, and the goodie bags they put together this year were awesome.  Everyone on the team showed huge improvement in speaking skills, and that’s our main goal. Plus, we made some great memories on those long bus rides. I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids to work with, nor better assistants than Gerry Carr and Heather Lutter. Thanks to all for your support this season.”

 

Class D-2 State Speech

Friday, University of Nebraska-Kearney

With five medalists, including one state champion, Stuart finished third Friday in the Class D-2 State Speech Championships. Bancroft-Rosalie won the team title with 128 points, 16 better than runner-up Bruning-Davenport. Stuart scored 80 team points for third place.

Brittany Hanzlik was crowned the Class D-2 champion in informative speaking for the Broncos.

Kelsey Kaup earned a silver medal at the state championships in persuasive speaking.

The oral interpretation of drama team, consisting of Hanzlik, Hailey Paxton, Jaden Schafer and Monique Schafer received a silver medal.

Tate Schmaderer picked up a fourth-place medal in extemporaneous speaking, and the duet acting team of Monique Schafer and Jaden Schafer grabbed a sixth-place state medal.

Rock County also crowned a state speech champion, as Colin Erickson topped the field in extemporaneous speaking.

Quinton Shaw earned a fourth-place medal for Rock County in entertainment speaking. Rock County finished eighth in the team race.

Representing Keya Paha County, Emily Swan placed second in the Class D-2 in humorous prose.

* Three Ainsworth teams advance to DI Affiliate Finals

(Posted 8:30 p.m. March 29)

On Saturday, four Ainsworth Destination Imagination teams traveled to Potter to participate in the Sandhills Regional DI Tournament.

Teams from across western Nebraska competed for the chance to advance to the Affiliate Finals April 11 on the University of Nebraska-Kearney campus.

The Ainsworth elementary level team of Dawson Deibler, Savannah Holmes, Amelia Neumiller, Shelly Saner, Moriah Cheatum, Maren Arens, and Saylen Young competed in the challenge “Improv Games”.  They placed second in the instant challenge and third in the central challenge for an overall third-place finish and a spot in the Affiliate Finals.  The elementary team manager is Kelly Deibler.

The Ainsworth middle level team of Ben Flynn, Brandt Murphy, Libby Smith, Cheyenne Bunch, Cassie Cole, Faith Fuller, and Dani Heinert placed fourth in the instant challenge and fourth in the team challenge for an overall fourth-place finish.  The team’s manager is Rachel Williams.

The Ainsworth senior level team of Kayla Witt and Brittani Beegle placed third in the instant challenge and second in the team challenge for an overall third-place finish and a qualifying spot in the Affiliate Finals.

The senior level team of Drew Klatt, Sydney Fling, Tara Taylor, and Abbey Doyle placed second in the instant challenge and third in the team challenge for an overall second-place finish. Both Ainsworth senior level teams advance to the Affiliate finals. Williams manages both senior level teams.

On Tuesday, March 24, Ainsworth DI held its presentation night. The teams practiced in front of friends and family. The second- and third-grade team also presented its “Animal Mish Mash” skit about a horse and butterfly coming together.

The members of that team are Jaden Appleman, Olivia Beel, Alivia Thompson, Kieley Walz, and Preselyn Goochey.  The team managers are Jenny Beel and Leonard Appleman.

* Saturday fire prevented from reaching Bobcat Hills WMA canyons

(Posted 8:15 p.m. March 29)

An all-terrain vehicle that was parked in dry grass after use sparked a fire Saturday evening north of Ainsworth that, without quick action by a resident on the scene and a response from firefighters, could have burned into a canyon and spread rapidly.

Ainsworth Fire Captain Devon Painter said the grass fire started at 7:15 p.m. Saturday 13 miles north of Ainsworth on property owned by John Flor. Painter said the dry grass below the ATV caught fire after the vehicle was parked.

Painter said, while the fire did not burn the all-terrain vehicle, it did ignite a nearby brush pile.

“The landowner used a tractor and a fire extinguisher to stop the fire from getting into a canyon at Bobcat Hills,” Painter said.

Painter said, as dry as the area remains, keeping the fire out of the Bobcat Hills wildlife management area kept firefighters from facing a potentially daunting situation.

“We were lucky it didn’t get in there, or it would have taken off quickly,” Painter said.

Painter said firefighters remained on location for about two hours Saturday evening, and then returned to the site for more than two hours Sunday to monitor the smoldering brush pile.

Winds were strong on both Saturday and Sunday, with Sunday gusts reaching more than 50 mph and prompting fire weather warnings across the area once again.

 

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

 

(Posted 8:15 p.m. March 29)

 

March 22

* Responded to a report of a domestic disturbance on Hall St Ainsworth. A subject was taken into custody & booked into the Brown Co Jail, for 3rd Degree Domestic Assault.

* Provided a civil standby for residents of Ainsworth, gathering personal property.

* Responded to a report of horses running at large on South Pine St Ainsworth.

* Assisted Ainsworth residents with a juvenile issue involving possible theft.

* Responded to a report of a possible unruly juvenile on North Ash St Ainsworth.

* The Nature Conservancy continued controlled burning in several areas of Brown Co., throughout the week.

 

March 23

* Assisted an individual with a report of possible stolen calves from property Southwest of Ainsworth.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an Ainsworth resident, from North Harrington St, to the Brown Co Hospital

* Received a report of possible trespassing & destruction of property in rural Brown Co.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an Ainsworth resident, from North Maple St, to the Brown Co Hospital.

* Provided a civil standby for an Ainsworth resident gathering personal property.

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

 

March 24

* Assisted an Ainsworth resident with information on abandoned vehicles.

* Received & investigated a report of a missing or stolen trailer from East of Ainsworth.

* Arrested a subject in rural Brown Co on a warrant from Red Willow Co and booked them into the Brown Co Jail. Subject was also charged with possession of Methamphetamine.

* Arrested a subject from a rural Ainsworth residence on possession of Methamphetamine & booked them into the Brown Co Jail. A second subject at the residence was charged with possession of Marijuana less than one ounce.

* Arrested a subject in Ainsworth, on a warrant from Knox Co., and booked them into the Brown Co Jail.

 

March 25

* Received a report of possible animal abuse in Brown Co.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an Ainsworth resident, from North Fullerton St, to the Brown Co Hospital

* Released 3 subjects from the Brown Co Jail on bond.

* The Brown Co Ambulance responded to an emergency call in rural Brown Co. No one was transported at the time.

 

March 26

* Responded to a report of a careless driver in Ainsworth.

* Received a report of possible child neglect in rural Ainsworth area.

* Attempted to locate a missing juvenile possibly in Ainsworth or Long Pine.

 

March 27

* Investigated a report of an assault in Ainsworth.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an Ainsworth resident, from East 2nd St, to the Brown Co Hospital.

 

March 28

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

* Investigated a report of vandalism to a vehicle parked at a residence, East of Johnstown.

* Provided a welfare check on an Ainsworth resident.

* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a fire North on Meadville Ave.

 

Weekly Summary

2 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

1 - Handgun permits applied for

21 - Incidents Reports were taken.

4 - Paper Service was served.

147 - Phone calls were received.

7 - 911 emergency calls received.

3 - Titles were inspected.

0 - Traffic Citations were issued.

1 - Warnings were issued.  (These include written and verbal.)

* State senators provide updates as Unicameral passes midway point

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

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis and 40th District State Sen. Tyson Larson each reported on recent legislative activity in the Unicameral.
To hear the reports from the area senators, click on the audio links below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 3-27.mp3

audio clips/State Sen Tyson Larson 3-27.mp3

* Area students receive Academic All-State recognition from the NSAA

(Posted 3 p.m. March 25)

The Nebraska School Activities Association announced the recipients of the Winter Nebraska Chiropractic Physicians Association Academic All-State Awards.

The awards recognize students who met the criteria for nomination by their school in the season of their activity.

Each year, the NSAA and the NCPA recognize students during the fall, winter and spring seasons who are nominated by their schools for their individual academic excellence, leadership and significant contributions in an NSAA activity.

Area students named to the Winter Academic All-State Team are:

Ainsworth – Austin Harthoorn and Zach Welch in boys basketball, Lydia Allen and Ellie Carr in girls basketball, Kirsten Gilliland and Nathaniel Goodloe in speech, and Dominic Henry in wrestling.

Keya Paha County - Kevin Udd in boys basketball.

Rock County - Chris Coulter in boys basketball, Kara Bruns and Paige Bruns in girls basketball, and Katie Nolles and Colin Erickson in speech.

Stuart – Conner Paxton in boys basketball, Jaden Schafer and Monique Schafer in girls basketball, and Brittany Hanzlik and Kelsey Kaup in speech.

West Holt - Evan Laible and Josiah McAllister in boys basketball, Mackenzie Hale and Courteney Hostert in girls basketball, Alex Fritz and McKenna Young in speech, and Viktor Jonseth and Jake Judge in wrestling.

Valentine - Wyatt Hitchcock and Logan O'Kief in boys basketball, McKenzie Anderson and Madison Kelber in girls basketball, Sydney Dunn and Sophie Lopez in speech, and Braxton Coleman and Jordan Kelber in wrestling.

Sandhills - Alex Coffman in boys basketball, Cassidy Hafer in girls basketball, Greg Schukei and Frankie Sierks in speech, and Landen Hopkins and Greg Schukei in wrestling.

* Davis discusses priority bills at legislative session's midpoint

(Posted 12:45 p.m. March 25)

Nebraska 43rd District State Sen. Al Davis discussed recent activity in the Nebraska Legislature, including the bill he has designated his priority for the 2015 session.
To hear the complete report, click on the audio link below.

audio clips/State Sen Al Davis 3-25.mp3

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 1:15 p.m. March 24)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Saturday, March 21, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 12:44 p.m. Saturday at the Shopko parking lot, a 2011 Chevy Suburban, driven by Joanie Osborne, 46, of Valentine, was backing from a parking space and struck a parked 2007 Chevy pickup, owned by JD Alberts of Long Pine.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Suburban was estimated at $150. The Chevy pickup sustained approximately $400 damage.

* Stuart wins D2-5 District Speech; several qualify from Rock, Keya Paha counties

(Posted 5:45 a.m. March 24)

Stuart captured the Class D2-5 District Speech Sweepstakes Thursday at Thedford, and several speakers from Stuart, Rock County and Keya Paha County qualified for the Class D-2 State Speech Meet this week by finishing in the top three during district competition.

The Broncos finished with 341 team points to run away with the title. Arcadia was the runner up with 212 points. Keya Paha County finished fourth with 202 points, followed by Rock County in fifth with 168 points in the nine-team district.

Individually, Emily Swan of Keya Paha County was the champion in humorous prose.

Moriah Heerten of Keya Paha County won the serious prose finals.

All three state qualifiers in extemporaneous speaking hailed from area schools. Colin Erickson of Rock County was the district champion, with Tate Schmaderer and Sunny Rodewald of Stuart qualifying for state by finishing second and third respectively.

Myron Hunt of Keya Paha County took third in poetry to qualify for state.

Kelsey Kaup of Stuart was the district champion in persuasive speaking.

Rock County speakers swept the top two spots in entertainment speaking, with Katie Nolles crowned the district champion and Quinton Shaw the runner up. Becky Chase of Keya Paha County finished third to qualify for state.

Brittany Hanzlik of Stuart won the informative speaking competition.

Stuart took the top two spots in the oral interpretation of drama division, with the team of Brittany Hanzlik, Hailey Paxton, Jaden Schafer and Monique Schafer taking the district title and the team of Rachel Kaup, Brook Doke, Caetlin Krysl, Alison Stracke and Peyton Alder finishing as the runner up.

The duet acting team of Monique Schafer and Jaden Schafer of Stuart won the district title to qualify.

The Class D-2 State Speech Championships are scheduled for Friday, March 27, on the University of Nebraska Kearney campus.

* Agricultural land values rise sharply in Rock, Keya Paha counties for 2015

(Posted 4 p.m. March 23)

Just like in Brown County, owners of agricultural property in Keya Paha and Rock counties will also see substantial increases in the valuations of their ground.

Rock County Assessor Monica Turpin reported recently to the Rock County Commissioners that agricultural land values had to be boosted substantially for the county to comply with a state mandate that requires agricultural property values to be between 69 percent and 75 percent of actual value.

Turpin told the commissioners, without an increase, agricultural land in Rock County would come in at 59 percent of actual value.

Using an example of the top soil ratings in each classification, Turpin indicated irrigated cropland in Rock County would double in valuation for 2015 from $1,500 per acre to $3,000 per acre.

Using the three most recent years, Turpin told the commissioners there were 70 total agricultural sales that were analyzed to determine the valuation of agricultural land.

The other classifications of agricultural property in Rock County did not escape increases, though the jumps were not as high as the doubling in value experienced by irrigated cropland.

Dryland cropland jumped from $570 per acre to $950 per acre, a two-thirds increase in value per acre. Grassland with the top soil rating jumped from $580 per acre to $900 per acre, a rise of 55 percent.

Conservation Reserve Program grassland increased in value from $565 per acre to $705 per acre, an increase of just under 25 percent.

Keya Paha County Assessor Suzy Wentworth also reported substantial increases in agricultural property values for 2015, continuing a trend that includes eight substantial jumps in agricultural property values in nine years for irrigated cropland.

For 2015, irrigated cropland with the highest soil rating will carry a value of $2,800 per acre, up $500 (almost 23 percent) from $2,300 per acre in 2014. From a historical perspective, irrigated cropland values were $580 per acre just nine years ago in 2007.

They have steadily risen since, to $860 per acre in 2008 and $990 per acre in 2009. The only year those values remained static was 2010, when values remained at $990 per acre for irrigated cropland.

The values increased to $1,040 per acre in 2011, $1,300 per acre in 2012, $1,800 per acre in 2013, $2,300 per acre in 2014 and now $2,800 per acre for 2015.

From 2007 to 2015, irrigated cropland values have risen 382 percent for Keya Paha County property owners.

Though smaller compared to irrigated cropland, dryland cropland acres in Keya Paha County have also experienced sharp valuation increases.

For 2015, the top soil rating for dryland cropland acres will increase from $740 to $900, a rise of almost 22 percent. Since 2007, dryland cropland acres in Keya Paha County have increased 109 percent, from $430 per acre to $900 per acre.

Grassland acres with the top soil rating increased by $75 per acre in Keya Paha County for 2015, but at $700 per acre are valued lower than those acres in neighboring Brown and Rock counties.

Wentworth said it was important for property owners to remember that valuations are only one piece of the puzzle in determining the amount of property tax paid.

She said the Keya Paha County Commissioners have held to a zero percent budget increase during each of the past three years, which drops the tax levy requested by the county and therefore does not increase the amount of overall tax paid to that entity. But, even with the county levy dropping, some tax does shift from the residential and commercial side to the agricultural side with the rising valuations in that sector and the static valuations in the residential and commercial classifications.

Wentworth said there are several taxing entities in the county, including the school district and others such as the community college.

She said Northeast Community College always asks for close to its maximum of 10 cents per $100 in property value, regardless of how much valuations increase. However, Wentworth said overall tax increases in Keya Paha County have been small during the past few years.

Driven by sales, agricultural land values in all three KBR counties have shown no signs of peaking, while residential and commercial property has remained nearly static in value.

Turpin reported residential valuations in Rock County would experience a small increase for 2015 based on the 47 sales analyzed over a two-year period.

Commercial values for both Rock and Keya Paha counties remained within the 92 percent to 100 percent window of actual value as mandated by the state, so valuations on that classification of property will not change.

Any property owner in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties who will experience a change in property valuation for 2015, whether an increase or a decrease, will receive notice from the county assessor’s office postmarked by June 1. For those whose property was unchanged, notices are not mailed.

Anyone wanting to protest the value of a parcel of property may request a valuation protest hearing from the County Board of Equalization in each county. The window to file a protest opens after the valuation notices have been sent, and are typically heard by the Board of Equalization in June. The Board of Commissioners in Brown, Rock and Keya Paha counties also serve as the Board of Equalization for each of their respective counties.

* Approximately 75 firefighters attend 2-day training to burn Ainsworth Bowl

(Posted 3:30 p.m. March 22)

The former Ainsworth Bowling Alley was used as a training site for approximately 75 firefighters across the state as part of a two-day controlled burn.

Ainsworth Fire Chief Brad Fiala said Saturday’s training focused on ways for firefighters to escape a burning building if their escape route becomes blocked.

“We worked on how to break through a wall to find another escape route,” Fiala said.

Those participating in the training were also instructed Saturday on how to ventilate the roof of a building to alleviate heat and smoke.

Sunday’s training focused on interior fire-fighting, with trainees and instructors donning air tanks and masks to train on how to keep fire from spreading inside a burning building.

Fiala said the training focused on the proper water patterns to use to knock down flames, and how to tell how a fire is burning inside a building and where it might spread.

Johnstown and Ainsworth firefighters were also called to a grass fire Saturday afternoon near Johnstown.

Fiala said a grass fire sparked from individuals shooting targets. The fire chief said hot lead or sparks from a shell ignited a grass fire, which burned approximately a 200 by 500-foot stretch of grass in a low-lying area.

“Johnstown had the fire pretty much handled by the time we got there,” Fiala said.

He said a residence in the vicinity, owned by Chad Doyle, was never in danger from the flames. Firefighters were on location for about a half hour on Saturday afternoon.

Fiala again cautioned area residents to be aware of the extremely dry conditions in the area.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 3:15 p.m. March 22)

March 15

* Investigated a two-vehicle accident without injury at the D & B parking lot, Ainsworth.

* Assisted individuals with a report of Brown Co residents possibly living in unlivable conditions.

* Investigated a report of possible trespassing in rural Brown Co.

* Received a report of a verbal disturbance near North Elm St Ainsworth.

* Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a report of possible harassment by electronic device.

 

March 16

* Responded to a report of a disturbance on East 3rd St, Ainsworth.

* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a grass fire in a ditch on Meadville Ave.

* Investigated a report of a possible assault in Ainsworth.

* The Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a cornfield on fire East & North of Ainsworth.

 

March 17

* Investigated a report of a hit and run accident that occurred in the Ainsworth School parking lot.

* Assisted a Long Pine resident with a report of a stray dog.

* The Nature Conservancy began a controlled burn in several areas & continued throughout the week.

 

March 18

* Received a report of possible child neglect in Brown Co.

* Investigated suspicious activity South of Long Pine.

* Responded to a report of a stray dog on East 2nd St. Ainsworth.

* Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a traffic complaint on West Dawes St Ainsworth.

* Arrested a subject for Driving Under the Influence & booked them into the Brown Co Jail.

 

March 19

* Investigated a report of suspicious activity South of Ainsworth.

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

 

March 20

* Responded to a report of a stray dog attempting to get into a house in Long Pine

* Assisted Health & Human Services with a welfare check on Brown Co residents.

* Assisted the Ainsworth Schools with a report of a juvenile disturbance.

* Investigated a report of suspicious activity, involving drugs, in the Ainsworth area.

* Assisted Health & Human Services with a welfare check on Brown Co residents.

* Responded to a security alarm going off at a business in Ainsworth.

* Received a report of a stray dog running loose near 6th & Walnut St in Ainsworth.

* Assisted a business with a report of a gas drive off in Ainsworth.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from the Ainsworth Care Center to the Brown Co Hospital.

 

March 21

* Investigated a two-vehicle accident without injury in the Shopko parking lot.

* The Johnstown & Ainsworth Firemen responded to a report of a grass fire near a rural residence East of Johnstown.

* Responded to a report of ATV units racing on West 2nd St Ainsworth.

 

Weekly Summary

0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

0 - Handgun permits applied for

23 - Incidents Reports were taken.

3 - Paper Service was served.

186 - Phone calls were received.

5 - 911 emergency calls received.

6 - Titles were inspected.

1 - Traffic Citations were issued.

5 - Warnings were issued.  (These include written and verbal.)

* Seventeen students participate in 4-H speech contest Friday

(Posted 3:15 p.m. March 22)

The BKR 4-H Speech Contest was held Friday at Springview, with 17 4-H students and Cloverkids presenting speeches to judges Connie Larrington, Thad Carr, Moriah Heerten and Ann Carr.
Purple ribbons in the speech contest were awarded to Hannah Linse, CeeAnna Beel, Sydney Linse, Henry Beel, Hannah Keller and Adyson Linse.  
Blue ribbons were awarded to Baillee Palmer, Hannah Beel, Carsten Ganser, Moriah Beel, Katrina Beel, Jensen Williams, Olivia Beel and Jenna Williams
Receiving cloverkid speech ribbons were Holden Beel, Shelby Connell and Lily Beel.    
Olivia Beel received a purple ribbon for her Public Service Announcement.
Special award certificates were awarded to Jenna Williams, Sydney Linse, Olivia Beel, Hannah Linse, Hannah Beel, CeeAnna Beel, Adyson Linse, Hannah Keller, Carsten Ganser, Henry Beel, Jensen Williams and Baillee Palmer
Four-H’ers selected to represent the BKR counties during the Regional 4-H Public Speaking Contest were Olivia Beel, Jensen Williams, Sydney Linse, Jenna Williams and Hannah Linse.

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 3 p.m. March 22)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Monday, March 16, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 8:14 a.m. March 16 at the Ainsworth Community Schools parking lot, a 1997 Buick sedan, driven by Riggin Temple, 16, of Ainsworth, was backing from a parking spot and struck a parked 2000 Mitsubishi sedan, owned by Mike Hempel of Long Pine.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Buick, owned by Joseph Finley of Ainsworth, was estimated at $100. The Mitsubishi sustained approximately $300 damage.

* Commissioners vacate a portion of Road 135, but make no decision on disputed area

(Posted 4 p.m. March 18)

Following a public hearing during its previous meeting, the Brown County Board of Commissioners voted on Tuesday to vacate a portion of a little-used road in northern Brown County at the center of a dispute between neighboring landowners, but did not address the stretch of the road at the heart of the access argument.

Commissioner Buddy Small said at the outset of the discussion he was not in favor of closing Road 135 north of Keller Park and would not put a motion on the floor to vacate or abandon the route.

After an additional hour of discussion between the two property owners and the attorneys representing them, the board, following  a motion by Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus, agreed to close a portion of Road 135 from the north corner of a wire gate parallel to the road northwest of property owner Lanny Billings’ building site and extending north to the intersecting 877 Road that runs east and west.

“I see no reason to keep the upper portion of the road near the blowout open,” Wiebelhaus said. “The rest of this road really only affects two people. We try and make our decisions for Brown County as a whole, and are we going to use county funding to pay for a survey on a road that only affects two people?”

All parties agreed the northern stretch of Road 135 had not been used in more than 60 years since runoff from a blizzard created a large blowout in the road.

However, the dispute between Billings and neighboring property owners Dave and Jane Duffield centered on another portion of Road 135 southeast of the stretch that was abandoned.

The Duffields have claimed they used the road to access their property, while Billings argued there was no county road at that location and the access was across his property.

Wiebelhaus said, “This would have been a lot easier if the two property owners could have gotten together and come to an understanding. But, that didn’t happen.”

County Attorney David Streich said at the outset of the discussion the commissioners needed to address three questions when determining how to act.

“Is there an enforceable public road across the Billings property?” Streich asked. “If there is a route, where is the road located? If there is a road, what is the need for the county to keep it open?”

Following additional discussion, the commissioners directed Streich to send a letter to the attorneys representing both landowners to try and reach some kind of access arrangement before the county took any further action.

In other business during Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners approved a $2,650 contract with Lance Harter of Oak Creek Engineering for the hydrology studies and permits needed to replace a timber bridge on the Norden Road northwest of Johnstown with a steel culvert.

Brown County Highway Superintendent Kenny Turpin said, with the Norden Bridge across the Niobrara River scheduled for replacement, the timber bridge on the Norden Road adjacent to property owned by Royce Greder needed to be replaced in anticipation of increased traffic and heavier vehicles using the road.

“We will also plan to replace a box culvert at some point on that same stretch near the Magary property,” Turpin said. “It is narrow in that stretch.”

Harter said the timber bridge had outlived its usefulness. He recommended replacing the bridge with a culvert, as the culvert would provide plenty of drainage for the area.

Commissioner Les Waits told Turpin it was a good idea to think ahead on how traffic might change with the new bridge at Norden, similar to the way traffic increased when the Meadville Bridge was replaced.

Wiebelhaus agreed.

“I don’t want to see a relatively minor project impeding us if we are going to go through the work of replacing the Norden Bridge,” Wiebelhaus said.

Turpin reported the roads department has been removing trees from county right of way, and has been checking road signs to make sure the reflectivity meets code. He said some signs were replaced.

Turpin also said the new waste oil heater the roads department purchased for the shop has cut the shop’s heating bill from $600 per month down to just over $90 per month. He said it would not take long at that rate for the heater to pay for itself, and the roads department has not had a problem thus far finding waste oil to use as fuel.

In a final roads item, the commissioners opened bids Tuesday for armor coating county roads. The county received two bids: $13,650 per mile from Sta-bilt Construction of Harlan, Iowa, and $14,680 per mile from Top Kote of Yankton, S.D., the company that has handled the county’s armor coating work for numerous years.

Following discussion, the board accepted the low bid from Sta-bilt. Turpin said he plans to have between 12 and 15 miles of asphalt roads armor coated this year.

In other business Tuesday, Sandy Benson with the Nebraska Forest Service presented the commissioners with a copy of a revised Community Wildfire Protection Plan. She said the updated plan would be good for five years. The board approved having Small, the board chairman, sign off on the plan.

The board approved a subdivision application submitted by Brad Arens for just shy of 10 acres of land in northern Brown County.

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

* Brown County 2015 agricultural land values increase sharply, once again

(Posted 4 p.m. March 17)

Agricultural property owners in Brown County hoping a drop in commodity prices would lead to decreased demand for cropland, and therefore a respite from the rising tide of valuations, will be sorely disappointed when 2015 valuation notices are received in the mail.

Assessor Charleen Fox told the Brown County Commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting the prices paid for all classifications of agricultural land continue to increase substantially.

To comply with state statutes that require counties to value agricultural land within 69 percent to 75 percent of its actual value based on three years of sales, Fox said she was forced to adjust all classes of agricultural land upward by 25 percent, with dryland cropland jumping by an average of 30 percent due to a 41 percent increase in the sales prices for ground with the poorest soil rating. The top three soil classifications in dryland cropland increased by 25 percent. Fox said there was not a lot of dryland cropland acreage in Brown County.

“If we did not increase valuations, agricultural land would have been sitting at 58 percent of actual value,” Fox said. “We just didn’t have a choice, we had to get agricultural land into compliance. People are not going to be very happy, but some counties had agricultural land values go up by as much as 50 percent.”

With the state requiring county assessors to use the three most recent years of sales to establish valuations, Fox said the sales from three years ago drop off and the most recent year’s sales are added.

Thus far, there has been no ceiling on the rise in prices paid for agricultural land of all classes, from irrigated to dryland cropland, from grassland to Conservation Reserve Program ground.

Fox said the sales from three years ago were lower in price than the most recent year's sales prices, so the sales that drop off the three-year window are replaced by sales prices that are much higher. Agricultural property owners could see another valuation increase next year, if land sale prices stay at the current level.

“We have a lot of out-of-area buyers,” Fox said. “That seems to be keeping the prices up.”

A total of 56 sales of agricultural property were analyzed. With the prices being paid, the 25 percent jump in valuation across all land classes brings agricultural land to 73 percent of its actual value.

Using the example of the top soil ratings for each classification of agricultural land, pivot-irrigated cropland increased in value from $2,715 per acre to $3,395 per acre. Gravity-irrigated cropland jumped from $1,945 per acre to $2,430.

The top soil rating for grassland took a 25 percent valuation increase, from $545 per acre to $680. Irrigated grassland rose in value from $940 per acre to $1,200 per acre. Conservation Reserve Program grassland values increased from $565 per acre to $705.

Commissioner Reagan Wiebelhaus said, until the Nebraska Legislature comes up with a way to fix the way land is valued, there isn’t anything the commissioners or the assessor can do.

“As much as I hate to see a 25 percent increase for ag land, your hands are tied by the state,” Wiebelhaus said.

Fox said, based on three-year sales figures, current commercial and residential property values fell within the state-mandated level of being between 92 percent and 100 percent of actual value, so those valuations would not need adjustment for 2015.

She said new construction accounted for $6 million in additional valuation for the county in 2015.

Valuations are one factor in determining the amount of tax paid by property owners. After the valuations are set, taxing entities approve budgets with an accompanying levy rate.

The levy rates, coupled with the valuation, determine the amount of tax paid by the property owner.

For example, for a $100,000 home or business, if the county were to approve a 40-cent levy per $100 in property value and the school district were to approve a 90-cent levy per $100 in property value, the property owners would pay $400 in property tax to the county and $900 to the school district for a total of $1,300 in property tax. That would be unchanged from 2014 assuming the same levies from the previous year.
However, on the agricultural side, for a 160-acre, quarter section of pivot-irrigated cropland, the valuation of that land increased from $434,400 in 2014 to $543,200 for 2015. Assuming the same 40-cent general county levy and a 90-cent school levy per $100 in value, the owner of that quarter-section of pivot-irrigated crop land will go from paying $5,647 in property tax to $7,016.

Considering agricultural owners have seen substantial valuation increases during each of the past six years, while residential and commercial property values have remained fairly static, the tax burden being assumed by owners of ag land is becoming more onerous by the year.

There are other taxing entities in addition to the county and school, including Northeast Community College, which can levy up to 10 cents in property tax per $100 in value. The rural fire protection district typically receives 4 cents per $100 in property value. Bonds approved by voters for special projects, such as school or hospital additions, also receive property tax levy commensurate with the amount of money needed to service the bond payments.

Property owners who will see the value of their property change for 2015, whether through an increase or a decrease, will receive notice from the assessor’s office. Fox said those notices will be mailed by June 1.

* Ainsworth Speech Team wins district meet, qualifies 6 events for state

(Posted 2 p.m. March 17)

District C1-6 Speech at North Platte

1st:   Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking                            STATE QUALIFIER

            Kirsten Gilliland—Informative Speaking                 STATE QUALIFIER

2nd:  Lauren Allen—Poetry                                                    STATE QUALIFIER

            Hayes Chohon—Persuasive Speaking                       STATE QUALIFIER

            Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking                   STATE QUALIFIER

3rd:  Hayes Chohon & Lisa Ludemann—Duet Acting           STATE QUALIFIER

4th:  Britley Schlueter—Poetry

5th:  Jace Kremer—Entertainment Speaking

            Nathaniel Goodloe & Lauren Allen—Duet Acting

6th:  Damen Cleal—Humorous Prose

            Seth Taylor—Informative Speaking

Superiors:  Miranda Raymond—Humorous Prose

                        Damen Cleal—Serious Prose

                        Matt Barrow—Extemporaneous Speaking

                        Matt Barrow, Kirsten Gilliland, Nathaniel Goodloe,  Emma Good—OID

 

Team:  1st of 8

 

“We had a really good day of competition," Ainsworth speech coach Mary Rau said. "Of the 11 events that made finals, six were able to qualify for state. Our district gets tougher every year, so I was excited that we were able to bring home the championship plaque again. It took solid performances from every member of our team to accomplish that goal.”

State Speech competition will be held on the University of Nebraska-Kearney campus March 26-27, with Class C1 competing on Thursday, March 26.

* Firefighters called out twice Monday as conditions remain prevalent for fire

(Posted 5:45 a.m. March 17)

Local firefighters were kept busy again Monday, as continued dry, warm and windy conditions led to two small fires near Ainsworth.

At 9:50 a.m. Monday, the Ainsworth Volunteer Fire Department responded to a report of two small fires in a cornfield northeast of Ainsworth. According to Ainsworth Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Keezer, a bearing on a stalk ripper went bad, igniting two small fires in a field owned by Jefferis Farms.

Keezer said the two fires burned only about an acre, as Pat Schumacher, who was operating the equipment when the fires started, used his machine to help knock down the flames until firefighters arrived.

Firefighters returned from that call by 10:30 a.m., but were called out again at 3:40 p.m. to a report of a grass fire 2 miles north of Ainsworth near Meadville Avenue.

Keezer said that fire started from embers remaining from a permitted controlled burn that took place nearly a month prior, Feb. 17, on ground owned by the Rolling Stone Feed Yard.

Even after almost a month of lying dormant, the assistant fire chief said there were enough embers remaining to ignite nearby grass when the north wind picked up Monday afternoon.

Keezer said firefighters were able to keep that fire to less than an acre before getting it extinguished.

There was no damage to property in either Monday fire.

Firefighters returned to the Ainsworth Fire Hall by 4:40 p.m.

Anyone operating machinery or working outdoors is reminded of the extreme fire danger the area continues to face. Conditions are expected to moderate somewhat during the next week, but the forecast continues to call for dry conditions during the next seven days.

* Lions Club making plans to host All-Sports Tailgate Party April 28

(Posted 5:30 a.m. March 17)

The Ainsworth Lions Club held its regular monthly meeting Monday, and continued to make plans for the All-Sports Tailgate Party April 28.

Darrell Peterson reported arrangements have been made for set-up and take-down of tables and chairs, with preliminary plans to seat up to 400 during the event.  The club voted to set the ticket price at $10, the same price as last year. The sale of tickets to the public helps off-set the cost of complimentary tickets provided to all high school athletes, plus cheer and pom squad members, sponsors, coaches and spouses. This year’s event will also feature a guest speaker and recognition of the Ainsworth School’s newly formed TeamMates program.

Larry Rice introduced and presented an application for membership from Chuck Osborn of Ainsworth.

Shannon Sorenson agreed to serve as chair for the Ainsworth Lions Club “Adopt A Highway” project. The club had voted earlier to sponsor a two-mile segment of Highway 20 east of town from mile markers 242 to 244.  The Nebraska Department of Roads encourages sponsors to pick up road-side trash during the month of April.

Club members agreed to conduct their section of roadway clean up on a Sunday afternoon during the month of April. The exact date will be determined later.

Ainsworth High School student Vanessa Taylor, in cooperation with the North Central Development District office, will serve as the leader for the youth soccer program this spring and the Ainsworth Lions Club voted to serve as the organizational sponsor and contributor to the program.

Brian Williams presented information to the club from his wife Sarah, Ainsworth Elementary School Principal, regarding plans for this year’s Arbor Day Trees for Fourth Grade Foresters project. The Ainsworth Lions Club provides the funds to purchase the 12 to 18 inch Norway Spruce trees that are given to each fourth grade student to take home and plant. The board voted to approve the purchase of the trees again this year.

Information was shared with members regarding a statewide survey being conducted by Lions Club District Governors asking opinions on receiving the Nebraska Lions Newspaper quarterly instead of monthly and the possibility of receiving the newspaper via email versus U.S. Mail as a cost saving measure to the state Lions organization.

The club voted to approve providing two sets of tickets for the All-Sports Tailgate Party to be offered for sale to the highest bidders during the annual Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Radio Take Over Day April 1.

The club also voted to renew their membership to the Ainsworth Area Chamber of Commerce in the organizational dues amount of $100.

Sorenson provided information on finding families willing to host Graduate Medical School students when they come to train at Brown County Hospital. She said three students (two men, one woman) from the University of South Dakota and Creighton University will spend from six to eight weeks in training in Ainsworth. Anyone interested in hosting one of the students may contact Sorenson or Bryan Doke.

The club was also presented with a financial hardship case for a person in need of appropriate eye care. This will be referred to the Lions Club Board of Directors to determine club policy and action.

The next meeting of the Ainsworth Lions Club is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. April 20.

* Little Elk sentenced to probation, restitution in Brown County District Court

(Posted 2:30 p.m. March 16)

In Brown County District Court recently, Barbara Little Elk, 29, of Ainsworth, appeared for sentencing after previously entering a plea of guilty to a charge of second degree forgery, a Class IV felony.
Little Elk was sentenced to five years of probation and was ordered to pay $4,344 in restitution to the victim. If Little Elk completes the terms of probation and restitution, a 120-day jail sentence that was imposed could be waived.

* Saturday fire north of the Ainsworth Airport destroys tractor

(Posted 7:45 p.m. March 15)

The Ainsworth and Johnstown volunteer fire departments were called to a report of a tractor on fire north of the Ainsworth Airport Saturday, March 14.

According to Ainsworth Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Keezer, at approximately 1 p.m. Saturday, a tractor caught fire approximately 2 miles north of the Ainsworth Airport.

Tractor owner Micah Graff reported the tractor caught fire while being operated in a bean field.

Firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the tractor itself and keep the flames from spreading in the dry, breezy conditions.

Keezer said the Case IH tractor was destroyed. He said the exact cause of the fire was not yet known, but due to the value of the tractor Ryan Sylvester with the Nebraska Fire Marshal’s Office was summoned to try and determine how the fire in the tractor ignited.

Keezer said firefighters returned to their respective fire halls by approximately 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

The area remains extremely dry, with fire weather warnings posted almost daily by the National Weather Service. Those working outside with equipment are encouraged to use caution.

* Sheriff's department seeking information regarding Saturday burglary

(Posted 7:30 p.m. March 15)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information from the public regarding a recent burglary that occurred Saturday, March 14, on the south side of Ainsworth.

According to the sheriff’s department, sometime between 6 and 7 p.m. Saturday, a home located just south of Daniels Manufacturing was burglarized.

Residents reported leaving the home at approximately 6 p.m. and returning a short time later to discover someone had been inside the home and had started to remove electronic equipment.

The intruders were apparently scared off when the residents returned to the home.

Anyone with information regarding who may be responsible for this burglary, or any other crime, is asked to contact 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 the burglary, or any other crime, could result in a cash reward of up to $1,000.

* Weekly summary from the Brown County Sheriff's Department

(Posted 7:30 p.m. March 15)

March 8

* Responded to a report of a dog chasing children on 3rd St near the Ainsworth Grade School.

* Performed fingerprinting services to a Brown Co resident.

 

March 9

* Investigated a two-vehicle accident without injury on Main St, Ainsworth.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from the Ainsworth Care Center to the Brown Co Hospital.

* The Brown Co Ambulance made two transports for patients from Brown Co Hospital. One transport was to a hospital in Lincoln & the second transport was to Faith Regional in Norfolk.

 

March 10

* Responded to a report of children playing in the street on West 2nd in Ainsworth.

* Provided a welfare check on a subject, who was traveling on the wrong side of the hwy, West of Ainsworth.

* The Brown Co Ambulance transported an individual from the Ainsworth Care Center to the Brown Co Hospital.

* The Brown Co Ambulance responded to an emergency call on East 4th St Ainsworth. No one was transported from the scene.

 

March 11

* Investigated a report of a stop sign vandalized North of Ainsworth.

* Assisted a rural Ainsworth area resident with a report of a missing dog.

 

March 12

* Arrested a subject and booked them into the Brown Co Jail for Driving Under the Influence. The subject was later released on bond.

* Responded to a report of a stray dog at a residence on West 6th St, Long Pine. The dog was transported to the Ainsworth Veterinary Clinic.

* Investigated a report of the theft of calves in rural Brown Co.

 

March 13

* Assisted an individual with a report of trespassing in rural Brown Co.

* Received a report of a possible trespasser East & North of Ainsworth.

* Provided a welfare check on individuals possibly needing adult services in Ainsworth.

 

 March 14

* Arrested a subject for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs & booked them into the Brown Co Jail. The subject was later released on bond.

* The Johnstown & Ainsworth Fire Depts. responded to a report of a tractor on fire North & East of the Airport.

* Investigated a burglary at a residence South of Ainsworth.

* Assisted an Ainsworth resident with a suspicious noise coming from a chimney.

* Responded to a report of cattle out near the KBR Waste Station, East & North of Ainsworth.

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

* Received a report of suspicious activity at the East City Park, Ainsworth.

* Assisted an Ainsworth resident with information on child custody issues.

 

Weekly Summary

0 - Fix-it tickets were issued.

1 - Handgun permits applied for

18 - Incidents Reports were taken.

8 - Paper Service was served.

128 - Phone calls were received.

7 - 911 emergency calls received.

12 - Titles were inspected.

3 - Traffic Citations were issued.

7 - Warnings were issued.  (These include written and verbal.)

* Area students compete in FFA Career Development Event at Northeast CC

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

Over 1,200 high schools students participated in the FFA Career Development Event at Northeast Community College. The students represented 40 high schools from three different districts.

Most of the contests were state qualifying events and winners will proceed to the state contest in early April at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

District 10

Ag Mechanics (Team) – 1. Ainsworth, 2. West Holt, 3. Rock County, 5. Stuart, 6. Valentine.

Agronomy (Team) – 1. West Boyd, 3. West Holt, 6. Valentine, 9. Ainsworth, 10. Rock County.

Agronomy – 1. Justin Goesch, West Boyd; 2. Seth Wentworth, West Holt; 5. Zach Sextro, West Boyd; 7. Breydon Mlady, West Holt; 8. Chris Coulter, Rock County; 9. Gunnar Hitchock, Valentine; 10. Troy Childress, West Holt.

Ag Sales (Team) – 1. Rock County, 2. Stuart, 3. Ainsworth, 5. West Holt.

Ag Sales – 1. Hollie Morton, Rock County; 2. Katie Nolles, Rock County; 3. Trina Swanson, Stuart; 4. Jaden Schafer, Stuart; 5. Cole Sundquist, Ainsworth; 6. Kenady Stanton, Rock County; 8. Jacob Tasler, West Holt; 9. Matt Dickau, Stuart; 10. Hailey Paxton, Stuart.

Biotechnology (Team) – 1. West Boyd, 2. West Holt, 4. Rock County, 5. Valentine, 6. Ainsworth.

Biotechnology – 1. Mackenzie Hale, West Holt; 2. Vanessa Reiser, West Boyd; 3. Wyatt Boettcher, West Boyd; 4. Seth Hytrek, West Holt; 5. Mitchell Atkinson, West Boyd; 7. Eddie Fredrick, West Holt; 8. Emma Laible, West Holt; 9. Jack Gale, Rock County; 10. Drew Stahlecker, West Boyd.

Farm Business Management (Team) – 1. West Boyd, 3. Rock County, 4. Stuart, 6. Valentine, 7. West Holt, 9. Ainsworth.

Farm Business Management – 1. Riley Ellwanger, West Boyd; 2. Matthew Reiser, West Boyd; 3. Austin Harthoorn, Ainsworth; 5. Gunnar Hitchock, Valentine; 7. Shea Sinsel, Ainsworth.
Floriculture (Team) – 1. West Holt, 5. Valentine, 6. Rock County, 7. Stuart.

Floriculture – 1. Caitlin Butterfield, West Holt; 4. Kassidy Jelinek, West Holt; 6. Evan Laible, West Holt; 7. Jessie Mohnsen, West Holt.

Food Science (Team) – 1. Stuart, 2. West Holt, 4. Ainsworth, 6. Valentine, 8. Rock County.

Food Science – 1. Ashley Kramer, Stuart; 2. Brook Doke, Stuart; 3. Rachel Kaup, Stuart; 4. Jenae Osborne, West Holt; 5. Emily Burk, West Holt; 6. Sabree Porter, Ainsworth; 7. Bailey Kraus, West Holt; 8. Brittany Hanzlik, Stuart; 9. Holden Smith, Ainsworth; 10. Macey VonHeeder, Ainsworth.

Livestock Management (Team) – 1. Wheeler Central, 3. West Boyd, 4. Rock County, 5. West Holt, 6. Valentine, 8. Stuart, 9. Ainsworth.

Nursery and Landscape (Team) – 1. West Holt, 2. Rock County, 4. West Boyd, 5. Valentine.

Nursery and Landscape – 1. Paige Mitchell, West Holt; 2. Megan Bilstein, West Holt; 3. Caitlyn Nelson, West Holt; 4. Jake Judge, West Holt; 5. Tori Davis, Rock County; 7. Hollie Morton, Rock County; 9. Addie Shaw, Rock County.

Veterinary Science (Team) – 1. Burwell, 2. West Holt, 4. Valentine, 6. Rock County, 8.  West Boyd, 10. Stuart.

Veterinary Science – 1. Breanna Dawe, Burwell; 4. Justin Lurz, Valentine; 6. Lindy Woita, West Holt; 7. Taylor Deseive, West Holt.

Welding (Team) – 1. Stuart, 4. Valentine, 6. Ainsworth, 9. West Holt, 10. Rock County.

Arc Welding – 1. Caleb Ross, O'Neill; 2. Wyatt Cole, Ainsworth; 3. Chase Broders, Stuart; 5. Newt Bussinger, Valentine; 8. Shawn Stehlik, West Holt; 10. Justin Dearmont, Rock County.

GMAW Welding – 1. Shyenne Dickau, Stuart; 3. Jake O'Kief, Valentine; 6. Kyle Erthum, Ainsworth; 8. Jacob Pacha, West Holt; 10. Tyler Knox, Rock County.

OAW Welding – 1. Logan Olson, Stuart; 5. Logan O'Kief, Valentine; 6. Chris Coulter, Rock County; 8. Preston Dickau, West Holt; 10. Jacce Beck, Ainsworth.

* Sheriff's department investigating theft of calves in northern Brown County

(Posted 4 p.m. March 12)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department is seeking information regarding the recent theft of two black Angus bull calves.
According to the sheriff’s department, the calves were a week old and had a yellow tag in their right ear. The calves were taken from 8 miles north and 3 miles west of Ainsworth sometime on either Tuesday or Wednesday, March 10-11.
Anyone with information on who may be responsible for the theft of these calves is asked to contact the Brown County Sheriff’s Department at 402-387-1440 or Crime Stoppers at 402-382-3121.
All callers remain anonymous, and information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for this theft, or any other crime, could be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.

* Two Atkinson residents injured in Highway 20 accident Wednesday in Rock County

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

Two Atkinson residents were injured Wednesday in a one-vehicle accident on Highway 20 east of Newport.
According to the Rock County Sheriff’s Department, which investigated the accident, at 11:27 a.m. on Highway 20, a 1989 Jeep Cherokee, driven by Nichole Griess, 35, of Atkinson, was traveling east when the vehicle left the roadway and entered the north ditch. The vehicle hit an approach and became airborne. When the vehicle hit the ground, both Griess and a passenger in the Jeep, Jimmy Fox, 33, of Atkinson, were ejected from the vehicle.
One of the occupants was transported by Stuart Ambulance to the West Holt Memorial Hospital, while the other was transported by Stuart Ambulance to the Rock County Hospital due to injuries suffered during the accident.
The Jeep was considered a total loss. The Rock County Sheriff’s Department, Stuart Volunteer Fire Department, Bassett Volunteer Fire Department, Newport Volunteer Fire Department, Stuart Ambulance and Rock County Ambulance responded to the crash.

* Bassett firefighters respond to cornfield fire Wednesday southwest of Bassett

(Posted 10:30 a.m. March 12)

On a day the National Weather Service issued a fire weather warning for the area, the Bassett Volunteer Fire Department was indeed called to respond to a Wednesday afternoon fire southwest of Bassett.

According to Bassett Fire Chief Jim Stout, at approximately 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, firefighters responded to a report of a corn field on fire 8 miles south and 1-1/2 miles west of Bassett on property owned by Terry Kuchera.

Stout said equipment was being used to shred cornstalks in the field when wire wrapped around a cultivator and started the stalks on fire.

With the dry conditions and strong south winds, the fire quickly burned between 40 and 60 acres, but Stout said firefighters were able to keep the flames out of a nearby grove of trees.

He said firefighters remained on scene until approximately 7:30 p.m., then returned to the site from 11 p.m. until 1 a.m. to work on a tree that had caught fire initially and was still smoldering.

“It is scary how dry it is out there already,” Stout said. “After 2012, we get a little leery, but maybe we will get some moisture soon to help things out.”

* Northeast section of Ainsworth drawn for second round of nuisance inspections

(Posted 9 p.m. March 11)

After dividing the city into four quadrants, the Ainsworth City Council randomly drew a number during Wednesday’s meeting to select the next section of the city to be inspected for nuisance code violations.

The Central Nebraska Housing Developers, the agency the city contracts to perform the nuisance inspections, tackled the southeast portion of the city in 2014 from Elm Street to the east city limits and from Highway 20 to the south city limits.

The portion of the city drawn for nuisance inspections in 2015 includes an area from Main Street to the east city limits and from Highway 20 north to the city limits.

City Administrator Kristi Thornburg said there were about 218 parcels in that quadrant that will be inspected for nuisances by CNHD, with the city receiving grant funds to cover the cost of inspecting 150 parcels.

Thornburg said the city would again host citywide cleanup days ahead of the inspections to give property owners a chance to clean up. She said a tire amnesty event has been scheduled for April 15, as the city qualified for a grant from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to dispose of 180 tons of tires. Ainsworth residents will have the opportunity to call the city and then dispose of tires free of charge during the amnesty event.

Mayor Larry Rice said the city would be discussing the nuisance inspections with the CNHD staff, urging them to focus on more on the major nuisance violations.

The city plans to continue inspecting portions of the city each year for nuisance violations.

In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, the City Council approved a recommendation from the Ainsworth Betterment Committee to provide $19,451 in ABC sales tax funds to the Ainsworth Municipal Golf Course to replace an irrigation pump.

Kim Buckley, representing the Ainsworth Golf Association, said the upgraded pump will allow the course to virtually double its watering capacity.

“Our current pump, running at 100 percent capacity, gives us less than one-quarter of an inch of water per day on the golf course,” Buckley said. “We always fight to try and get enough water on the grass.”

Buckley said the new pump would upgrade the course’s irrigation capacity from 150 gallons per minute to 300 gallons per minutes.

Golf Board member Mark Gracey said the watering system had been a problem for the course for as long as he had been a member.

“We can run twice as many sprinklers with this new pump,” Gracey said. “It is bound to help.”

Rice said the ABC Committee members in attendance voted unanimously to recommend the council approve the grant request, and the council unanimously voted to accept the recommendation and award the funds for the pump upgrade, which will be installed by Beck’s Well and Irrigation.

Following a public hearing Wednesday, the council accepted a recommendation from the LB 840 Loan Committee to deny an application for a $175,000 loan from the LB 840 fund for a building acquisition and working capital project.

Following a second public hearing, the council accepted a recommendation from the Ainsworth Planning Commission to approve a zoning change from Residential II to Commercial II for lots 7 through 20 in Hall’s Addition, Block 44, on the east side of South Main Street in the southern portion of the city.

Thornburg said the Planning Commission members in attendance during a Tuesday hearing unanimously voted to recommend the zoning change from residential to commercial be approved by the council.

North Central Development Center Executive Director Kristin Olson provided an update on the first phase of a study that was conducted on the feasibility of purchasing the Ainsworth Care Center.

Olson said the first phase of the study showed the facility could potentially cash flow, but only if the current building remains useable.

“There are still a lot of things that need to be worked through,” Olson said. “Phase 2 of the study will include having an architect look at the building.”

Olson said, at this time, the Ainsworth Care Center had not been sold.

She said a 60-day closure notice for a care center at Exeter, one of the four facilities in Nebraska owned by the same company that owns the Ainsworth Care Center, had been submitted by the company.

Olson said she has been in contact with an architect, an attorney and an accountant for proposals on the scope of service the working group would need for Phase 2 of the feasibility study.

During its February meeting, the council approved funding for the first phase of the feasibility study.

Rice said the company that performed the first phase of the feasibility study manages 21 care centers in Nebraska, including the Parkside Manor at Stuart.

“This is something we all believe we need to have in our community,” Rice said. “No one knows yet, however, how this is going to play out.”

Olson said the group would need to keep moving forward, as a decision on whether to make an offer and form an ownership group for the facility would likely be needed within the near future.

“I don’t think we are going to be able to wait around on this for a long time,” Olson said.

In a streets item, Thornburg provided the council with an update on the paving assessment for the milling work done on South Street between Main and Ulrich streets.

She said a hearing would be scheduled during the council’s April 8 meeting to levy the cost of the South Street milling project to the property owners along the street.

“The assessment should be relatively low,” Thornburg said, estimating a cost of $7.06 per linear foot of street frontage.

“In April, the council will need to make a decision on how long to set up the payback period,” the city administrator said.

She said property owners choosing not to pay the assessment in full could opt to have the cost placed on their property taxes to be paid over time.

Wade Alberts provided the council with an update on Park Board activities. He said the board and youth coordinator Katie Painter would assist the Ainsworth Elks and Legion organization with the summer baseball and softball programs.

“It sounds like there has been an excellent sign up so far for teams this summer,” Alberts said. “There are 16 players signed up for the Pony League team, and the Junior and Senior Legion should both be able to field teams.”

Alberts said the coaches at the high school all recognize that a good program starts at the youth level, and they are excited to help the youth programs continue to develop.

“We are also hoping to get some of the high school players to help with some of the summer youth programs,” Alberts said.

The consent agenda approved by the City Council Wednesday included the reappointment of Pat Brudigan and Reg Pischel to the Ainsworth Housing Committee for three-year terms, and an authorization for the Ainsworth Alumni Board to close Main Street from 10 until 11:30 a.m. June 27 for the Ainsworth Alumni Parade.

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

* Traffic Accident

(Posted 12:30 p.m. March 11)

The Brown County Sheriff’s Department investigated a two-vehicle accident that occurred Monday, March 9, in Ainsworth.
According to the sheriff’s department report, at 3:15 p.m., a 1996 Ford sedan, driven by Agatha Lewis, 76, of Ainsworth, was backing from a parking spot in the 300 block of Main Street and struck a parked 2013 Chrysler minivan, owned by James Frizzell of Bassett.
No injuries were reported. Damage to the Ford was estimated at $1,000. The Chrysler sustained approximately $1,000 damage.

* Ainsworth finishes fourth in Southwest Conference Speech Meet

(Posted 9 a.m. March 11)

Southwest Conference

==Combined==

4th:  Matt Barrow, Kirsten Gilliland, Nathaniel Goodloe, Emma Good—OID

5th:  Jack Arens—Extemporaneous Speaking

               Jack Arens—Entertainment Speaking

6th:  Hayes Chohon & Lisa Ludemann—Duet Acting
6th:  Kirsten Gilliland - Informative speaking

Superiors:  Damen Cleal—Humorous Prose

                              Miranda Raymond—Humorous Prose

                              Damen Cleal—Serious Prose

                              Emma Good—Serious Prose

                              Lauren Allen—Poetry

                              Jace Kremer—Entertainment Speaking

                              Hayes Chohon—Persuasive Speaking

                              Britley Schlueter—Persuasive Speaking

                              Seth Taylor—Informative Speaking

                              Matt Barrow—Extemporaneous Speaking

                              Nathaniel Goodloe & Lauren Allen—Duet Acting

 

Team:  5th of 7

 

“Southwest Conference was as tough as usual," Ainsworth speech coach Mary Rau said. "Gothenburg again won the championship, followed by Ogallala and Minden. Our conference is loaded with excellent teams, but we appreciate and learn from their examples. They help us when district competition rolls around next Monday.

“I am very proud of our medalists. It’s very tough to break finals in our conference. We had some entries that barely missed making the cut, which is hard to take, but that’s part of the subjectivity of speech competition.”

The next competition for the Ainsworth speech team is the C1-6 District Contest on Monday, March 16, hosted by North Platte High School.  Rounds begin at 9 a.m.

* Rock County Sheriff's Department seeks information following Saturday vandalism

(Posted 1:45 p.m. March 10)

The Rock County Sheriff’s Department is investigating an incident of vandalism that occurred in Bassett on Saturday, March 7.
According to Rock County Sheriff James Anderson, someone broke a large window out of a building located at 106 E. Buchanon St. in Bassett. The building’s owner discovered the damage on Sunday morning.
An estimate for the amount of damage caused has not yet been determined. Anyone with information on who may be responsible for the crime is asked to contact the Rock County Sheriff’s Department at 402-684-3811.
A reward of $200 has been offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the damage.

* Recent cases from Brown County District Court

(Posted 1:30 p.m. March 10)

During recent Brown County District Court proceedings, Eliza Sutton, 32, of Ainsworth, entered a guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, a Class II felony.
After pleading guilty to the felony charge, Sutton was ordered to participate in the North Central Problem Solving Court.
Brown County Attorney David Streich said Problem Solving Court is an intensive program with a minimum length of 18 months. Participants are subject to higher levels of supervision than those on traditional probation. Participants must maintain employment or schooling, submit to drug testing, meet with a supervisory team weekly, and comply with additional terms individually adapted to their rehabilitation.
Terms can include participation in substance abuse inpatient service or transitional halfway houses. Streich said the purpose of the program is to reduce offender recidivism by fostering a comprehensive and coordinated court response composed of early intervention, appropriate treatment, intensive supervision and consistent judicial oversight.
Streich said cases are pending for three other co-defendants arrested in December, while three defendants have now been sentenced after entering pleas to the felony charges against them.
As part of an ongoing investigation into the manufacturing of methamphetamine in Brown County, Streich announced an additional arrest had been made. A 40-year-old Ainsworth man was arrested March 3 and charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.
The county attorney said further arrests may still be made as law enforcement continues to investigate the illegal manufacturing of illicit drugs in the county.

* School Board approves contract for foreign language teacher

(Posted 5:45 a.m. March 10)

Ainsworth Community Schools will once again have a foreign language teacher after the Board of Education on Monday voted to hire a current University of Nebraska Kearney student.

Superintendent Darrell Peterson said the school had a couple people interested in the position after the district advertised the opening.

After interviews, Peterson said the job was offered to Emily Jacquot, a Valentine High School graduate who plans to graduate in December from the UNK.

Peterson said it is a unique situation for the district, as Jacquot will not graduate from college until after the first semester of the 2015-16 school year.

“This would be a one-semester contract,” the superintendent said. “We will likely continue with the Rosetta Stone program for the first semester next year.”

Peterson said the district was willing to make arrangements for Jacquot’s mid-year graduation because of the potential that she will be a long-term solution for the district in the foreign language department. He said she has ties to this area.

“We feel she will be a very good instructor, and we are excited about a possible long-term solution for Spanish classes,” Peterson said.

The board unanimously approved Jacquot’s hiring.

In other business during Monday’s meeting, the board opened two bids for its property and liability insurance, and accepted the low bid of $42,821 quoted by North Central Insurance through EMC Insurance.

The district received a bid of $67,796 for a one-year policy with ALICAP Public Risk Management, which Peterson said is a group of approximately 150 school districts that pool their resources and is offered through the Nebraska Association of School Boards.

Peterson said there were a few differences in the policies, but both met the bid specifications submitted by the district in the advertisement.

“There would be some advantages with the ALICAP policy, such as having a $500 deductible instead of a $5,000 deductible,” Peterson said. “There is some additional coverage in some areas, but the price difference on the policies is substantial. I don’t feel the ALICAP premium was very competitive.”

He said the quote from EMC Insurance was more comparable to what the district has paid in the past for its property and liability insurance.

Board member Brad Wilkins said EMC Insurance writes a lot of insurance policies for private schools in the state.

“The premium on the ALICAP policy is more than 50 percent above EMC,” Wilkins said.

Peterson said he did not believe the difference in deductibles would be a major factor for the district.

“The deductible rarely comes into play,” the superintendent said. “We would need five separate claims to make up the policy difference in the premiums, and I don’t think we have ever had more than one claim that I can remember in any year.”

The board unanimously approved the EMC Insurance bid submitted by North Central Insurance.

Following an executive session, the board approved contracts for the 2015-16 school year for Elementary Principal Sarah Williams and Secondary Principal Richard Gilson.

In other action items Monday, the board approved the first reading of the district’s option enrollment capacity policy for the 2015-16 school year. Peterson said the district has high numbers across the board it could accept for students wanting to option into the district.

“We have a pretty open policy for allowing students to option into and out of the district,” he said.

The board also approved two foreign exchange students for the 2015-16 school year.

Peterson said the district’s policy allows for up to three foreign exchange students per year. He said the district has had good luck in the past with the STS Foundation, which requested the placement of the female students from Denmark and Switzerland. Peterson said Loren and Laurel Appleman would serve as the host parents for both students.

The board also approved the 2015-16 school calendar as presented. Classes for students begin Aug. 13, with graduation set for May 15, 2016, and the final day for classes scheduled on May 17, 2016. Peterson said the calendar included 180 days of class for students and 185 work days for teachers.

Teachers Amanda Ganser, Nicole Flynn and Kelli Gibson presented information to the board members on the work done by the school’s internal improvement team to prepare for the upcoming external accreditation visit.

Ganser said the committee broke up into smaller groups and compiled information on how the school is meeting each of the five standards for accreditation. Those standards include purpose and direction, governance and leadership, teaching and learning, resources and support systems, and using results for continuous improvements.

Williams said the internal school improvement team was the hardest working committee in the school district.

“They put a lot of time into getting all this information together,” the elementary principal said.

Peterson said the external group works with the internal group to identify strengths and collaborate on improving identified weaknesses.

The external team will visit Ainsworth Community Schools March 16-18. The group will tour the school and hold a work session following a dinner on Monday. On Tuesday, March 17, the team will hear presentations from the principals and the steering committee, visit classrooms, and conduct interviews with parents, community members, school personnel and students.

On Wednesday, March 18, the group will present its report in the Learning Center.

During his report, Peterson thanked Shopko for a $2,000 donation the company made to the school through its “Help us Give Back” campaign.
Board President Mark Johnson thanked Schumacher Brothers Fencing for donating and installing the perimeter fence for the school’s west parking lot.

A goal setting retreat for the board is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. March 25 in the district office. The next regular meeting of the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education is scheduled for 8 p.m. April 13, as the board moves back to its summer meeting schedule.

* Ricketts elected as Nebraska's 40th governor

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

Pete Ricketts will be the 40th governor of the state of Nebraska, winning by a comfortable margin during Tuesday’s General Election.

Ricketts, a Republican, succeeds Dave Heineman, the longest-tenured governor in state history, after 10 years in office. Former State Auditor Mike Foley will be sworn in as the lieutenant governor.

Ricketts received 58.5 percent of the Nebraska vote to just 39 percent for Democrat Chuck Hassebrook. There were 301,646 votes cast for Ricketts, and 203,968 votes for Hassebrook.

Republican Ben Sasse is headed to the U.S. Senate after winning a four-man race for that office over Democrat Dave Domina and Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson.

Sasse received almost 65 percent of the vote in the state, compared to 31 percent for Domina, 3 percent for Jenkins and a little over 1 percent for Watson.

Republican Adrian Smith was comfortably re-elected to another term in the U.S. House of Representatives, winning the Third District race by more than a three to one margin over Democratic challenger Mark Sullivan. Smith received 75.5 percent of the vote in the Third District, with Sullivan receiving 24.5 percent.

Republican incumbent Jeff Fortenberry had no trouble winning another two-year term in the House, defeating Democratic challenger Dennis Crawford by a margin of 69 percent to 31 percent.

It appears Democrat Brad Ashford in District 2 is the only candidate keeping the Republican Party from a clean sweep Tuesday.

Though not yet certified, Ashford has a slim lead over Republican incumbent Lee Terry. Ashford received 76,354 votes, 48.6 percent of the ballots cast. Terry picked up 72,222 votes, 46 percent of the ballots. Libertarian Steven Laird received just over 5 percent of the vote in District 2.

The state’s minimum wage will increase, after voters overwhelmingly favored Ballot Initiative 425. More than 59 percent of Nebraskans favored the state’s minimum wage increasing to $8 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015, and to $9 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016.

Republican Doug Peterson will replace Jon Bruning as the state’s attorney general after Bruning held the office for the past 12 years. Peterson received 66.5 percent of the vote, compared to the 33.5 percent for Democrat Janet Stewart.

In the race to replace Foley as the state auditor, former State Sen. Charlie Janssen, a Republican, bested Democratic candidate State Sen. Amanda McGill by a margin of 59.5 percent to 40.5 percent.

Republicans John Gale and Don Stenberg were easily reelected as secretary of state and state treasurer respectively.

By a 2-1 margin, Tyson Larson won reelection to the Nebraska Legislature in District 40 over challenger Keith Kube. Larson secured 67 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Kube.

In the Subdistrict 2 race for Nebraska Public Power District Board of Directors, Barry DeKay picked up just over 54 percent of the vote to slip past Dan Scheer.

James Lee in Cherry County, Stanley Tuton in Keya Paha County, and Charles Shaw in Rock County were elected to seats on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors.

Larry Poessnecker of Atkinson was reelected to the Northeast Community College Board of Directors in District 2 without a challenge.

Molly O’Holleran won reelection to the Nebraska State Board of Eduction, defeating Robin Stevens by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent.

Sue Weston, Jean Pinney and Duane Gudgel were reelected without opposition to the Educational Service Unit 17 Board of Directors.

Voter turnout in Nebraska was 46.5 percent, with 539,123 of the 1,159,085 registered voters casting a ballot in the General Election.

* Brown County Election results

(Posted 11 p.m. Nov. 4)

The 2014 General Election is in the history books, and the few contested races at the local level in Brown County have been decided.

Two of the three incumbent candidates were elected to four-year terms on the Ainsworth Community Schools Board of Education.

Incumbent Jim Arens received the most votes in the race with 701, while incumbent Dan Dailey secured 633 votes to win reelection. The third spot on the School Board was decided by 15 votes, with newcomer Erin Bejot Rathe edging incumbent Scott Erthum by a 570 to 555 margin. Jason Atkisson received 400 votes, and Cody Stutzman picked up 250 votes for School Board.

In the only other contested race at the local level, Larry Rice was elected as the Mayor of Ainsworth by a 430 to 145 margin over Myrna Jakob.

Running unopposed and winning offices at the county government level were Commissioners Les Waits (949 votes) and Reagan Wiebelhaus (922 votes), Sheriff Bruce Papstein (1,044 votes) , Treasurer Deb Vonheeder (1,059 votes), Attorney David Streich (920 votes), Assessor Charleen Fox (1,001 votes) and Clerk Travee Hobbs (1,009 votes).

At the city level, Brian Williams and Chuck Osborn were elected to four-year terms on the Ainsworth City Council with 487 and 466 votes respectively.

Spencer Schenk was elected unopposed to a six-year term on the Ainsworth Airport Authority with 475 votes.

Beverly Newport is the next Long Pine mayor, receiving 40 votes in an uncontested race.

David Cheatum and Fred Meyer were elected to the Long Pine City Council, receiving 54 and 52 votes respectively.

Brenda Goeken was the only candidate elected to the Johnstown Village Board. She received 10 votes. Two additional members will be appointed to the board by the four sitting members.

In state and federal races, Brown County voters sided with Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor by a 758 to 293 margin over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.

Voters in the county favored Republican Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate over Democrat Dave Domina, 880 to 176. Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson garnered 49 and 18 votes respectively.

Third District Rep. Adrian Smith, another Republican, won the Brown County vote for another term in the House of Representatives, besting Democrat Mark Sullivan in the county by a 976 to 133 margin.

Republican Doug Peterson earned 903 votes in Brown County in the Nebraska attorney general race to 154 for Democrat Janet Stewart.

State Treasurer Don Stenberg was reelected to his seat, and coasted to a 939 to 107 margin over Democrat Michael O’Hara.

In the race to replace Foley as state auditor, Charlie Janssen secured 803 votes in Brown County compared to 210 for Democrat Amanda McGill.

Molly O’Holleran bested challenger Robin Stevens in the District 7 State Board of Education race in Brown County by a 567 to 240 margin.

All four candidates ran unopposed for four seats on the Middle Niobrara Natural Resources District Board of Directors, with Dean Jochem At Large, Marty Graff in District 6, Cherryl Lovejoy in District 4 and Justin Hammond in District 2 elected.

Larry Poessnecker of Atkinson ran unopposed for the Northeast Community College Board of Directors District 2 seat.

Jean Pinney in District 5 and Sue Weston in District 1 ran unopposed for seats on the Educational Service Unit 17 Board of Directors.

Initiative 425 to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour was favored by Brown County voters by a 609 to 495 margin.

Brown County voters chose to retain all four judges on the ballot. District 8 Judge Mark Kozisek received 874 votes for retention compared to 176 against. Nebraska Workers Compensation Court judges Laureen Van Norman, Michael High and Thomas Stine were also voted for retention in Brown County, with Van Norman’s margin 646 to 216 in favor of retention, High’s 632 to 226, and Stine’s 641 to 227 to retain.

Voter turnout Tuesday in Brown County was 53 percent, with 1,150 of the 2,150 registered voters casting a ballot in the General Election.

* Rock County Election results

(Posted 10:45 p.m. Nov. 4)

Bassett voters approved the two issue items on the General Election ballot by a comfortable margin Tuesday.

The vote finished at 203 to 58 in favor of establishing an economic development program, and 197 to 63 in favor of imposing a 0.5 percent city sales and use tax with the proceeds to be allocated to the Bassett Economic Development Program.

The new 0.5 percent sales tax will be implemented beginning April 1, 2015, for all products sold inside the Bassett city limits that carry the state sales tax. The 0.5 percent sales tax sunsets on March 31, 2030.

In other Rock County races, Larry Ebert II, Becky LeZotte and Kayti Gordon were elected to the Rock County Public Schools Board of Education. Ebert II received 452 votes, followed by 416 votes for LeZotte.

The margin for the third seat on the School Board was razor thin, with Gordon picking up 346 votes to 342 for Tonya Larson.

Charles Shaw received 247 votes to 92 for Steve Coble to win election to the Rock County seat on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors.

Rick Foxworthy and Cheryl Arrowsmith were elected to the Bassett City Council, with Foxworthy garnering 205 votes and Arrowsmith 194 in the unopposed race. Foxworthy received 493 votes after running unopposed for a six-year term on the Rock County Airport Authority.

Winning election at the county government level and running unopposed were Clerk Joyce Stahl (561 votes), Treasurer Mona Davis (574 votes), Sheriff James Anderson (516 votes), Attorney Avery Gurnsey (505 votes), Assessor Monica Turpin (513 votes) and Commissioners Jim Stout (518 votes) and Stan Larson (418 votes).

Rock County voters supported Tyson Larson for another term in the Nebraska Legislature. Larson won the 40th District vote in Rock County by a 425 to 135 margin over challenger Keith Kube.

In state and federal races, Rock County voters sided with Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor by a 416 to 175 margin over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.

Voters in the county favored Republican Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate over Democrat Dave Domina to the tune of a 496 to 101 spread, with Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson picking up 23 and nine votes respectively.

Third District Rep. Adrian Smith, another Republican, won the Rock County vote for another term in the House of Representatives, besting Mark Sullivan in the county by a 562 to 56 vote.

Rock County voters sided with Republican Doug Peterson over Democrat Janet Stewart, 499 to 81, to be Nebraska’s next attorney general.

Republican Charlie Janssen earned 434 votes to 110 for Democrat Amanda McGill in the state auditor’s race.

Molly O’Holleran secured 233 Rock County votes for the State Board of Education compared to 164 for her challenger, Robin Stevens.

There were three contested races in the Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District Board of Directors races, with Chip Whitaker receiving 191 votes in Subdistrict 4 in Rock County to 118 for Jerry Childers.

In Subdistrict 7, Michael Moser earned 165 Rock County votes compared to 114 for Keith Heithoff, and Paul Bartak secured 186 At Large votes to 124 for Christopher Dierks.

The other Natural Resources District Board seats from the Middle Niobrara, Lower Niobrara and Upper Elkhorn were uncontested races.

Initiative 425 to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour passed in Rock County by a 275 to 210 margin.

Rock County voters voted to retain all four judges on the ballot for retention. District 8 Judge Mark Kozisek received 362 votes for retention compared to 142 against. Nebraska Workers Compensation Court judges Laureen Van Norman, Michael High and Thomas Stine were also voted for retention in Rock County, with Van Norman’s margin 305-150 in favor of retention, High’s 286-150 and Stine’s 288-154 to retain.

Voter turnout in Rock County was almost 63 percent, with 644 of the 1,027 registered voters casting a ballot in the General Election.

* Keya Paha County Election results

(Posted 10:30 p.m. Nov. 4)

The only contested local races Tuesday in Keya Paha County were for the Springview Village Board and the KBR Rural Public Power District Board of Directors seat.

Five candidates ran for three open positions on the Springview Village Board. Joe Caulfield was the leading vote-getter with 85 ballots cast in his favor. Larry Hespe finished with 77 votes to win a four-year term on the Village Board, and Rob Painter edged Larry Worth by two votes, 77-75, for the third seat. Michael Swan finished fifth in the race with 57 votes.

In the race for the Keya Paha County seat on the KBR Rural Public Power Board of Directors, Stanley Tuton defeated Kirk Sharp by a margin of 315 to 89.

Bruce Ferguson and Donald Connell were elected to the Keya Paha County Public Schools Board of Education, with 338 and 288 votes respectively. Mark Frick ran as a write-in candidate for the third opening on the School Board, and received 108 votes to earn a seat on the School Board.

Winning reelection at the county level were the slate of uncontested Republican candidates, including Keya Paha County Sheriff Jeff Kirsch (343 votes), Clerk/Assessor Suzy Wentworth (351 votes), Treasurer Sandra McCoy (354 votes), Center District Commissioner Corey Nilson (130 votes) and East District Commissioner Bruce Ritterbush (95) votes.

In state and federal races, Keya Paha County voters sided with Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor by a 275 to 92 margin over Democrat Chuck Hassebrook.

Voters in the county favored Republican Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate over Democrat Dave Domina and Independent candidates Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson. Sasse received 313 votes to 53 for Domina, seven for Watson and five for Jenkins.

Third District Rep. Adrian Smith, another Republican, won the Keya Paha County vote for another term in the House of Representatives, besting Mark Sullivan in the county by a 333 to 45 vote.

Keya Paha County voters favored Republican Doug Peterson over Democrat Janet Stewart, 294 to 60, in the race for attorney general.

Republican Charlie Janssen received 261 votes for state auditor to just 63 for Democrat Amanda McGill.

Molly O’Holleran picked up 149 Keya Paha County votes to 83 for Robin Stevens in the State Board of Education race.

All of the Lower Niobrara Natural Resources District and Middle Niobrara NRD candidates ran unopposed in the General Election. Thomas Higgins in Subdistrict 1, Marvin Liewer in Subdistrict 2, Bradley Mahon in Subdistrict 4, Kent Pavlik in Subdistrict 5, Dwain Marcellus in Subdistrict 7, Larry Baumeister in Subdistrict 8 and Sterling Schultz At Large were elected to the Lower Niobrara NRD Board.

Justin Hammond in Subdistrict 2, Cheryl Lovejoy in Subdistrict 4, Marty Graff in Subdistrict 6 and Dean Jochem At Large were elected to the Middle Niobrara NRD Board.

Barry DeKay picked up 136 Keya Paha County votes for the Nebraska Public Power District Board of Director position, compared to 113 for Dan Scheer.

Initiative 425 to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour failed in Keya Paha County by a 196-167 margin.

Keya Paha County voters overwhelmingly voted to retain all four judges on the ballot for retention. District 8 Judge Mark Kozisek received 239 votes for retention compared to 56 against. Nebraska Workers Compensation Court judges Laureen Van Norman, Michael High and Thomas Stine were also voted for retention in Keya Paha County, with Van Norman’s margin 164-60 in favor of retention, High’s 160-63, and Stine’s 161-69 to retain.

Sixty-five percent of Keya Paha County’s 651 registered voters cast a ballot in the General Election.

* 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)

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.

* Nelson praises firefighters and volunteers in weekly column

(Posted 10:15 a.m. July 30)

By Sen. Ben Nelson

In large rural states like Nebraska, we depend heavily on volunteer firefighters to protect our homes and property. These are very special people who deserve our gratitude and respect because of their selfless devotion to a part time job that requires extensive training and doesn’t pay anything.

Their courage and bravery have never been more apparent than during the raging wildfires that have swept across parts of Nebraska this summer. In the face of unknown dangers, hundreds of volunteer firefighters answered the call. They left their paying jobs, their homes and their families to try to quell the dangerous fires.

Heroic Effort

Several hundred volunteers joined forces with federal firefighters and National Guard troops on the front lines of the wildfires. They came from more than 30 communities from all over Nebraska; some traveling hundreds of miles to help out.

They are our heroes. They do what they do out of a sense of duty to their communities and now their state. It is a calling that reaps them no financial rewards. They ask nothing in return for risking their lives, giving of their time and talents to fight the fires and the hours and hours of intense schooling required before they can do what they do. They cannot just get on a truck and put out a fire, especially fires as sprawling and fast moving as these.

It’s difficult to find just the right words to describe Nebraska’s volunteer firefighters, especially those who rose to this occasion. There are times when the actions of some are so heroic and extraordinary that a simple thank you doesn’t seem to be enough even though it’s about all we have to offer other than the food and water that so many generous Nebraskans donated.

Natural Disasters Require Help

When natural disasters like wildfires and drought strike we pull together as Americans and put political differences aside but we also need a little help from Washington.

That’s where the Farm Bill comes in. On a strong bipartisan vote, the Senate passed the Farm Bill that includes a number of provisions for financial relief for those suffering from drought and wildfires. Relief provisions include an authorization of direct and guaranteed loans for recovery from wildfires and drought.  Funding for the construction and rehabilitation of fire breaks, and other pre-suppression efforts. Compensation for ag producers that have incurred livestock and livestock feed losses resulting from wildfires and much more.

But, while Nebraska burns the House plays politics and refuses to bring the bill modernizing farm programs for the next five years to a vote. There’s talk of just extending the last farm bill for a year, which would be another half-hearted move by this Kick the Can Down the Road Congress and wouldn’t provide the certainty our producers need or all drought and fire assistance needed after this summer’s disaster.

I have called on the Speaker of the House to put politics aside. Think of the agriculture producers who are in need of help. Show the same courage as all the volunteers who pitched in to fight the fires. There was no political gamesmanship there. Just a common goal to do the right thing. Now, it’s Washington’s turn to do the same.

* Incident Management Team transitioning out of the area Monday

(Posted 9 a.m. July 30)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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.

* Kerrey proposes expanding drought program, streamlining disaster process

(Posted 7:45 a.m. July 28)

After completing a tour of the fire-affected Niobrara River Valley Thursday, former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey said expanding the crop insurance program and streamlining the disaster declaration process would help the people dealing with the drought and the fires.
Kerrey’s comments came as he returned from a tour of drought and fire-affected areas of north central Nebraska. While there, Kerrey met with fire victims, National Guard personnel, first responders, Forest Service officials and volunteers to learn more about the fire and its impact.
“The response of the volunteer community and the pressure this puts on county and city budgets reminded me of the aftermath of the tornado of 1975 that destroyed hundreds of businesses (including mine), thousands of homes and much more besides,” Kerrey said. “The storm put tremendous pressure on Omaha and Douglas County’s budget. The good news for us was that the area was declared a federal disaster two days later.
“This fire is part of a larger disaster occurring as a consequence of drought conditions. The impact on local governments is substantial. For example, the city of Ainsworth’s Fire Department budget was exhausted in just two hours of fighting this fire. I can’t tell you how impressed I am at the courage, tenacity and effectiveness of everyone involved in this effort. These folks are heroes and I want to do whatever I can to support them. Unfortunately, we may be facing a very long fire season.”  
Based on the information he gathered from the tour, Kerrey offered the following proposals for aiding farmers and ranchers affected by the drought:
“First the House must pass the five-year Farm Bill and renew the disaster programs to deliver relief to our struggling farmers and ranchers,” Kerrey said. “The bill’s enactment would also allow the Department of Agriculture to deliver assistance for livestock feed lost due to the drought and to provide compensation for livestock losses. Finally, the bill provides critical assistance to communities by funding fire prevention and firefighting resources.
“Second, the USDA should press forward with, and Congress should support, its efforts to streamline disaster declarations and speed up the turnaround time for low-interest loans to farmers and ranchers impacted by the drought.
“Third, Congress should consider expanding the crop insurance program for grazing land. The bill generates $23 billion in savings and expands the crop insurance program. I think we should look at rolling some of that savings into expanding the program allowing ranchers to purchase insurance for their pastures and grassland.”
Kerrey's opponent in the U.S. Senate race, State Sen. Deb Fischer, is visiting north central Nebraska today (Saturday).

* Springview fire chief said work continues on Wentworth Fire Friday

(Posted 2:35 p.m. July 27)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)
 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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)


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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

“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)

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)

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)

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 today

(Posted 9:15 a.m. July 24)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)
(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)

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)

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)

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)

(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)

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.)

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.)

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)

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)

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)

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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