Brownville flooded with misinformation


July 21st, 2011

Lincoln, NE – In towns all along the Missouri River, business owners and farmers are facing an arduous economic wave of uncertainty. In the small village of Brownville, they’re battling an additional variable: misinformation.

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Jane Smith and her husband Randall own and operate three businesses in and around Brownville: the Spirit of Brownville Riverboat, the River Inn Resort and the Lyceum bookstore and cafe.

The River Inn Resort in Brownville has suffered from flooding, but the majority of the town's businesses remain open to tourists. (Photo Courtesy Randall Smith )

“Brownville is open. We’re here. Our theaters are running, our concert hall is running, our businesses are all open, our museums are open,” Smith said. “People hear, flooding at Brownville,’ and they tend to think the whole town is underwater. Not the case at all.”

One of the reasons people think Brownville is underwater – or at least partially flooded – is road signage.

“North of Auburn, Nebraska, there is a sign that says Highway 136 east closed,” said Mark Andrew.

Andrew farms on both sides of the Missouri River and runs a fertilizer and chemical business in nearby Nemaha.

“That sign pretty much kills the traffic going east out of Auburn,” he said.

It’s the traffic that keeps a town like Brownville alive.

Charles Harper, a retired Peru State College theater professor, owns and operates the Brownville Village Theater.

“The theater, for example, is really hurting for attendance,” he said. “Our attendance is down over 20 percent. People come and they do what we call a dinner and a cruise and a play. I’ve had about 250 total that were going to do the boat, the dinner and the theater that have cancelled.”

Some help came Monday afternoon when the U.S. Department of Agriculture named 15 Nebraska counties as primary disaster areas from flooding that began in May. Those counties are Boyd, Burt, Cass, Cedar, Dakota, Dixon, Douglas, Knox, Lincoln, Nemaha, Otoe, Richardson, Sarpy, Thurston and Washington. The designation means qualified farmers are eligible for low-interest emergency loans from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

For business owners, they still wait. In the meantime, Brownville needs tourists and the dollars they spend.

“We’re still waiting for the government to declare it a disaster area so monies can come,” said Harper. “But it’s still going through the pipeline and things seem to drag, which is typical of government. It’s hurry up and wait.”

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