Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

2015 in review


Looking back at the events of 2015, it is safe to say the events in and around Kimball have been exciting.

We will revisit an appearance from Miss Nebraska, hiring a new Chamber of Commerce directors and then another as well as an assistant for the Veteran’s Service Officer. City leaders approved the purchase of a K-9 officer and a large employer further reduced its workforce following a buyout.

Vencil Ash was sentenced for murder; Kimball lost an Economic Development Director, Wilson Bowling and the area experienced a wave of robberies all just the first six months of the year. Reminisce over the events of January through June in the first of our two-part series: 2015 in review.


Several Kimball landlords approached the Kimball City Council to discuss amendments to the City’s Landlord Utility Agreement. While the agenda read that amendments were to be considered, several landlords in attendance were under the impression that it had already been amended.

“I filled out paper work with the city and I was under the impression that I would be hearing back. However, I never heard a word. I just feel that if you are going to go through the trouble of having us fill out things and then tell us we’ll hear from you, you should make an effort to contact us,” said Cathy Sibal, a Kimball landlord.

The board instructed City Administrator Daniel Ortiz to change the agreement to reflect the concerns of the public present, after which a public hearing was expected to discuss changes to that draft.

Kimball Health Services announced a new affiliation to begin the new year as well, when a joint operating agreement was signed with Regional West Health Services of Scottsbluff. KHS previously had a joint operating agreement with Cheyenne Regional Hospital.

Miss Nebraska Megan Swanson visited with students in Kimball where she told them it was important for young people to pay attention to total body wellness in order to be the best they can be.

The City of Kimball Planning Commission received an update on the comprehensive housing study at its Jan. 19 meeting from the firm handling the city’s comprehensive plan, Hanna:Keelen.

This extensive housing study included a listing and rating of all the houses in Kimball and pinpointed a lack of large family dwellings with three or four bedrooms. Though the study added that Kimball had a large number of “lock and leave” housing – the type of housing that appeals to seniors who travel a lot, or leave their home for an extended period of time.

After two years without a director, the Kimball Banner County Chamber of Commerce hired a new one, Larissa Binod.

After asking around and trying to find a good fit, that board believed that Binod was just that. Many knew Binod as the director at Keep Kimball Beautiful, and she will split her time between the two organizations. She will have a number of board appointed duties to accomplish, however, Board Chairman Josh Enevoldsen and the board have confidence in her abilities.


February brought a new addition to the Western Nebraska Observer – Friends a Neighbors, a feature of the people that make our communities all that they are. The first featured Friends and Neighbors were Doctor Don and Mary Gerner.

Kimball County considered adding a part-time assistant for the Veteran’s Service Office for 20 – 30 hours a week to compliment Veteran Service Officer Shawn Evertson’s schedule.

At the time the VSO was open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The additional hours would provide greater assistance to the county’s veterans.

Evertson said there were enough funds in the salary portion of his budget to hire someone part-time for the remainder of this budget year, which runs through the end of June.

Courts were busy early in 2015, beginning on Feb. 1, at 7:15 p.m., a jury found Vencil Leo Ash III guilty of first degree murder, for a second time, in the 2003 death of Ryan Guitron after a weeklong trial. Sentencing was held early in March.

Two Kimball residents were arrested on methamphetamine charges in February of 2015. Steve Warner, 51, was arrested on four counts of distributing methamphetamines within 1,000 feet of a school zone, while Rusty Warren, 34, was arrested and charged with two counts of distribution of methamphetamines.

At the same time, three Kimballites, Shawn Morrison, 23, Daryl Burt, 55, and Charles Smith, 45, were each arrested and charged with one count of distribution of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a park.

Courts were busy, but area students may have been busier.

The Kimball High School speech team placed first out of 15 teams at the Sutherland Invitational on Saturday and three Kimball students took first place individually – Kennedy Lewis was chosen first in extemporaneous speaking, Nicholas Thomas-Lewis finished first in poetry, and Leisha Casimiro took first place in informative speaking.

Kimball High freshman, Clay Keller, won the 132 pound championship at the SPVA Conference Wrestling Tournament held at Grant this past week. With the win Keller ran his season win-loss record to 24-3, the mark he will take into this week’s district tournament being held at Mitchell.


Electricity rates in Kimball residents were increased in March, as the Kimball Board of Public Works unanimously passed a 13 percent hike in those rates early in the month, however, the rate increase will go into effect April 1.

Golf fans got some exciting news in March, with the announcement that the Nebraska Golf Association selected Four Winds Golf Course as the site of the 47th Annual Nebraska Junior Amateur and 15th Annual Nebraska Girl’s Amateur Golf Championships. Although the announcement was in March, play was planned for July 14-16 with the girls to play 36 holes and the boys 54 holes, all stroke play.

The Kimball Police Department received approval for a drug dog in March, though the requested bomb dog was denied unanimously.

Council voted 3-2, with Mayor Keith Prunty casting the deciding vote, in favor of a drug dog for the police department. Others voting in favor were council members James Schnell and John Morrison, while council members Christy Warner and James Shields voted against it.

Inspection Oilfield Services, formerly known as Castronics, went through a third round of layoffs in March, on the same day sale of the company was announced to L.B. Foster Company of Pittsburgh, Pa.

According to multiple sources, at least 12 employees from both day and night positions lost their jobs in this most recent reduction in force, effectively shutting down the night shift, although some second-shift employees were retained for day shift. More than 40 people were laid off in the first two rounds of reductions.

The Clean Harbors site in Kimball received approximately 1,000 tons of soil from the Love Canal clean-up in Niagara Falls, N.Y. for incineration. The soil received in Kimball represented about half of the soil that was shipped out, with the other half scheduled for incineration at a similar facility in Utah.

March marked a milestone for 32-year old Omaha native Skip Bierman. Bierman stopped at the duckpin bowling alley in Potter, meaning he had bowled at every bowling alley in Nebraska.

As planned, Vencil Ash was sentenced in March, to life in prison without the possibility of parole in Kimball County District Court. The facility where he will be detained will be determined by the Nebraska Department of Corrections at a later time.


Potter-Dix junior Sara Gingerich was chosen for not one, but two prestigious art awards in April 2015.

Gingerich was one of 60 high school juniors, chosen from 142 entrants across Nebraska, to receive a Nebraska Young Artist Award. She was also chose as a winner for the Congressional Art Contest.

In addition to the state contest, Gingerich is also very excited about being chosen for the Congressional Art Contest in which one winner in each category, in each state, wins a trip to Washington, D.C.

Gingerich was not the sole Potter-Dix winner in April 2015.

Potter-Dix speech competitor Rebekah Hutchinson closed out her senior year with an unexpected win in the poetry interpretation category at the state speech meet in Kearney.

“I almost cried. I was shaking so bad. I couldn’t stop shaking and I felt like I was going to cry,” she said. “This is the first year I’ve even made it to finals, let alone, win. It was completely unexpected.”

Potter-Dix also tied for second as a team in the two-day event. Individuals from Kimball and Banner County each participated at the state meet.

Hutchinson stole the show in the state contest in April, but in Kimball others stole much more, as a number of burglaries and thefts were reported, according to Kimball County Sheriff Harry Gillway, who said many vehicles were broken into.

Also in April, despite many requests for otherwise and despite the unanimous recommendation of the city’s planning commission on March 16, the Kimball City Council voted to zone a tract of land at 4351 E. Highway 30 for heavy industry, with council member James Shields as the lone dissenting vote.

April 15 marked the deadline for filing taxes, as it does every year, but it also marks a happier annual event, Minnie Lebruska’s birthday.

Lebruska turned 105 on April 15, 2015 which she celebrated among family and friends at the Kimball County Manor.

Also celebrating a huge milestone in April, local shop keeper Lorna Evelyn of LorRon Department Store in downtown Kimball celebrated 50 years in the business.

It was a bitter-sweet celebration for Lorna as her late husband, Ron, had hoped to see the store through the milestone anniversary in Kimball and then sell it. Lorna has kept the store going to the best of her ability, with help.

The Kimball County Commissioners approved hiring additional help in April as well, specifically for the veterans service office. A part-time addition that was first considered earlier in the year.

The Kimball cemetery went high-tech this April when the original Kimball cemetery directory was replaced with a digital kiosk.


Jo Caskey was hired to be fill the Kimball-Banner County Chamber of Commerce executive director position left open by Larissa Binod, who was hired for that position at the beginning of 2015. Caskey, too, will be splitting her time as Binod did before her. She also fills the director position for the Kimball County Visitor’s Committee.

More changes for the City of Kimball in May, as Economic Development Director Wilson Bowling resigned. City Administrator Daniel Ortiz said the city would begin open recruitment and go forward from there.

Closing out their school year, the Kimball Board of Education approved a bid for the new HVAC system at Mary Lynch Elementary School to be completed before the beginning of the coming school year.

Area students continued making the news right up through the end of the school year as well.

Kimball trackster Jaden Withrow brought home a Nebraska State Track medal when he finished 8th in the boys Class C Division long jump with a best jump of 20 feet, 6.5 inches and gave Kimball their lone 1 point in the team standings.

Neighboring competitors at the state track meet also fared well. Jake Johnson, Sam Bogert, Cameron Purcell and Cooper Hicks, in that order, ran themselves to a state championship in the 3,200-meter relay.

Track and field came to a close while three young ladies were just beginning their season in competitive shooting. A summer of fun began for Madie Snyder of Kimball, Shauntae Daily of Dix and Annie Grothusen of Mitchell with the 2015 NRA Open Air Gun Championships, in Albuquerque, N.M., scheduled for May 22-24.

Despite continual precipitation through May, officials said there is no immediate threat of flooding in Kimball and Banner counties. The South Platte Natural Resources District received reports of six to eight inches of rainfall in this area in May alone, with annual rainfall reported to be 14-16 inches in areas, according to SPNRD general manager Rod Horn.


A clean-up initiative began in June 2015 which included vehicles left unattended for lengthy amounts of time, on public property. Following a review of city ordinance 724, the Kimball City Council voted at its June 2 meeting to consider vehicles abandoned if left unattended on any public property within the City of Kimball for more than six hours without a license plates or a valid in-transit sticker.

The city took the measure one step further by issuing a letter, in June, asking residents to remove abandoned and junk vehicles from their properties.

Along the same lines, the city concentrated on nuisance properties or those properties with excess garbage and refuse or an overgrowth of grass and weeds. The city ordinance states the growth must be over 12 inches tall to be considered and overgrowth.

Moving into county fair season, 2015, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture canceled all poultry events for the remainder of the year due to an avian flu outbreak. The decision included local, county and state fairs as well as swap meets, exotic sales and live bird auctions.

One month after graduating Kimball High School, local teen AJ Spicer was seriously injured in a single vehicle roll-over, prompting Kimball County Sheriff Deputy Brandon Loy to caution drivers on the use of seat belts and driving for conditions.

We will continue looking back at the second half of 2015 in next week’s edition with July through December. Experience again the excitement of the All- Class Reunion and the local fair; review the winning underpass design and read all about the changes made for our local school board, the Veteran’s Service Office and Keep Kimball Beautiful in the second part of our two-part synopsis of 2015.


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