The matter of the Central Nebraska Humane Society and its response in Wood River following the recent flooding continued to spill out at the Hall County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.
Supervisor Dick Hartman placed the item on the meeting agenda following concerns he heard following an update from the Humane Society on the issue at the April 16 county board meeting.
Beckie King, of Wood River, told the board Tuesday she wanted to “bring some light to some information that is incorrect” in regard to the Humane Society’s response in Wood River. She said that on the evening of March 14 there was a meeting held in the village to discuss concerns and pet care was mentioned.
“My husband (Todd) is the Wood River fire chief and he asked me to contact the Humane Society the next morning to see what resources they would have available for pet relocation, evacuation or dislocated pets if needed,” King said. “When I called them that morning, I was told they do not do that and was hung up on. I spoke with other Wood River residents who had the same response.”
Board Chairwoman Pam Lancaster asked King if she knew who answered the phone and who she spoke with. King said she did not. She added that when she called the person who answered did not provide their name.
“After I was hung up on, I contacted some other local rescues that were not in Hall County,” King said. “I contacted Start Over Rover in Hastings and they provided us with crates, blankets, food and water dishes. I had a volunteer driver go pick up those items and bring them to Wood River.”
King said a rescue in Kearney provided Wood River with more than 500 pounds of dog food. She added another rescue in Lincoln sent dog food and supplies.
“We were informed after the fact that (Humane Society Executive Director) Angela (Williams) had called the Wood River city office around 1 p.m. on March 15 offering assistance with a phone number,” King said. “By that time, all pet care needs were taken care of because we were told prior to that time that they did not do that.”
In a letter to Humane Society Board President Jill Hornady that was provided to the county board and read into the record by Supervisor Jane Richardson, Cindy Schellpeper responded to King’s claims. Schellpeper, a member of the Wood River Volunteer Fire Department, said information stated by Williams at the April 16 county board meeting was true.
She said Williams claimed it took her a number of times to reach the Wood River Fire Department on March 16, which she believes is true as there was only one phone line working at the time and several callers stated it took some time for their calls to be answered.
“I spoke with her (Williams) that morning and did relay to her that there was already a plan in action in regard to animals that were needing shelter,” Schellpeper said. “She asked if she could get into Wood River for volunteer services and would be coming to help if she could get into town. Angela made it to Wood River, came through the south doors of the station and I directed her to the meeting room where we had the incident command set up.”
Schellpeper said when Williams got to the fire station, she talked to the person in charge at the time. This was not Todd King since he was out of the station at the time, she said.
Richardson said she did not want to “get into a ‘he said, she said’ deal” and that the important thing is that animals are taken care of.
“I think there have been a lot of hurt feelings, disgruntled employees and volunteers let go,” she said. “I would like to move forward in a positive fashion. With what happened during the flood, I do not think we will know for sure how things played out. However, I feel there are lots of people concerned for the animals’ welfare, which is a good thing. We all need to learn to work parallel and know that their mission is the same: the welfare of the animals.”
Supervisor Ron Peterson said the situation already occurred and that there is nothing the board could do about it. He suggested having a conversation between Hall County communities and the Humane Society to ensure the situation does not happen again.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board heard from Grand Island Fire Prevention Chief Fred Hotz regarding a letter he sent Hall County Facilities Director Doone Humphrey about fire code violations at the Hall County Courthouse. Hotz said his main concern is a way of exit on each floor. On the third floor, he said, there is only one way of exit with nearly 200 people on this floor at any given time.
“The concern is that the life safety code prohibits the use of a third floor unless two means of egress are provided,” Hotz said in his letter.
Hotz said with the courthouse being a historic building, the least invasive way for the county to address the issue is to install a fire sprinkler system.
Hartman asked Hotz what the cost to install a sprinkler system at the Hall County Courthouse would be. He said he did not know what the final cost would be.
The county board agreed to form an ad hoc committee to see how the courthouse could comply with fire code. Supervisors Karen Bredthauer, Gary Quandt and Jane Richardson will serve on the committee.
The board also voted 4-3, with board members Hartman, Butch Hurst and Richardson voting no, to approve offering its vacant board assistant position to Kim Dugan. The board interviewed Dugan and Jennifer Turek for the position last week.
“They were both very good candidates. However, I felt one had more of an accounting background which is greatly needed in this position,” Richardson told the Independent following Tuesday’s meeting. “She is also a Hall County taxpayer, whereas the other one is not.”
In other action, the board awarded a bid for an alfalfa lease on a tract of land at the northeast corner of Alda Road and Old Potash Highway to Ivan Hongsermeier of Phillips. The two highest bidders both bid an annual payment of $2,500 a year and drew for the highest playing card to secure the winning bid.