The director of Gage County Tourism is leaving her position to take on a new role as the Gage County Emergency Management director.
The Gage County Board of Supervisors approved hiring Lisa Wiegand for the position 6-1 on Wednesday.
Wiegand accepted the tourism director position late last year after an extensive history with Gage County Planning and Zoning.
Wiegand said she’s excited for the opportunity, and no start date was given.
“I love Gage County,” she said. “This is home and this was an opportunity to make myself a better person.”
While the board is not initially changing the position, it was discussed that the Gage County Emergency Management position may also work with planning and zoning issues as needed to take advantage of her knowledge related to zoning.
“What I would like to see, and it may take a little more discussion, would still be an emergency manager and a Planning and Zoning administrator,” said board member Erich Tiemann. “Both jobs are going to fluctuate as far as how much time’s necessary. There’s going to be times when the emergency manager needs help and times when the Planning and Zoning needs help.”
The Emergency Management director assists emergency services in planning for operations during disasters, serves as liaison between emergency operations agencies and county-city executives and is responsible for updates to the Local Emergency Operations Plan.
The position is also responsible for maintaining the Emergency Operations Center, development and maintenance of the hazard warning system throughout Gage County, training severe weather spotters and coordinating storm watch operations.
Timothy Stutzman announced in early July that he was resigning as the county’s Emergency Management director. Stutzman was previously the Emergency Management director in Nuckolls County, and was one of eight finalists interviewed for the position.
The County Board considered eight applicants for the position. Wiegand and Josh Niles, of Clatonia, were deemed finalists and had a final interview with the County Board, as well as Beatrice Fire and Rescue Chief Brian Daake and a rescue worker from Filley.
The annual salary for the position is $42,000, plus benefits.
Matt Bauman, who cast the lone vote in opposition to hiring Wiegand, said he favored Niles for his history with rescue departments and military service.
“With my experience in two rural fire departments, I’m a volunteer in Pickrell and Beatrice, we’ve seen when you don’t have that relationship with those first responders,” he said. “I think that Josh’s experience with Clatonia Rural Fire and his experience in the military, his knowledge in communications is a good fit.”
Board member Dennis Byars voiced strong support for Wiegand, based largely on her history in Gage County.
“I’ve known Lisa most of her life," he said. "Her experience in Gage County has been very positive. One of the advantages she has is that she knows the people of Gage County. She knows Gage County. She has an excellent reputation and I think would be accepted by the community. I would recommend Lisa very strongly.”
It was stated at the meeting that Wiegand will attend a certification class in early October before beginning her new role.
Before Hurricane Harvey battered Texas and the Gulf Coast, animal shelters—having experience from Hurricane Katrina in 2005—began transporting animals to shelters in states that would be unaffected by the storm.
On Wednesday, a group of animals from Corpus Christi, Texas arrived at the Beatrice Humane Society after a nine-hour drive.
Knowing that the heavy flooding and damage would mean a second flood of displaced and abandoned animals arriving in Gulf Coast shelters, Tall Tails Rescue and Transport in Texas began sending shelter animals—all vetted with health certificates and ready to go—across the country.
The Beatrice Humane Society was the second animal shelter in Nebraska to receive displaced animals, after a shelter in Norfolk, said shelter manager Bryce Caulk.
The truck arrived shortly before noon on Wednesday with 12 dogs and one ferret named Freddie. As of Wednesday afternoon, four of the dogs had already been adopted, Caulk said.
Lauren Hubka, who had been looking for a dog to adopt came to the Beatrice Humane Society after seeing the shelter’s post about the hurricane dogs on Facebook. That’s where she met Rita, a lab-mix with floppy ears and big, tired eyes.
Hubka’s mother, Shelli Hubka, was also at the shelter on Wednesday. Just after entering one of the pens, Rita put her paw on Shelli’s hand.
“I want to take them all,” she said. “They're going to go so fast.”
That’s what the Beatrice Animal Shelter hopes, Caulk said. The maltipoo, two chihuahuas, two miniature pinscher puppies and six lab-mix puppies are all in need of homes.
Freddie the ferret is another animal ready for adoption.
“They're doing pretty good,” Caulk said. “They all seem to be in pretty friendly spirits. They all are getting settled in.”
The new animals are in a good home, he said. The Beatrice Humane Society recently obtained status as a no-kill shelter, the first shelter in Nebraska to do so. That means less than 10 percent of the animals taken in are euthanized, Caulk said. The ones that have to be put down are only euthanized as a last resort--in the case of an incurable illness or injury.
Moving into their new location on Highway 136, across from Southeast Community College, was what allowed the shelter to bring in the hurricane animals, Caulk said. The old location downtown would not have provided enough space to take them in.
“I really don't think that we could have,” Caulk said. “Which is why we're very excited that we had the community support to build this building and so far we've had a lot of support from the community welcoming these animals in, which we're very thankful for.”
The animals from the hurricane—as well as local animals—are up for adoption now. Those who are unable to adopt but still want to help can make donations either in person or online at www.beatricehumanesociety.org. The shelter also has an Amazon wishlist which will deliver items right to their door.
Right now, Caulk said, the shelter is most in need of Iams adult dog food, bleach and cat litter, or gift cards to places like Tractor Supply Co., Wal-mart or PetSmart.
Caulk said the shelter is trying to get the word out about the animals on Facebook and they’re planning on accepting another group of hurricane dogs in the near future. But, for the moment, their main concern is finding homes for the current batch.
“To come out of a situation like that, we're hoping that they won't have to stay in another shelter and prolong their adoption,” Caulk said. “We're hoping the community comes together, we get these babies homes and save a couple more.”
After being closed to traffic two months ago, the stretch of Grant Street leading to Second Street in Beatrice is nearing completion.
During a monthly department update at Wednesday’s Beatrice Board of Public Works meeting, City Engineer James Burroughs told the board that the city is hoping to have Grant Street going through the middle of Second Street open again by the middle of next week.
“Second Street, from Grant to Ella portion, all the concrete is poured, the bike path is poured and the sidewalk is poured,” Burroughs said. “So, we are looking at doing final grading the rest of the week.”
The reopening is dependent on the concrete break tests, which will be conducted in coming days. If they come back strong, Burroughs said, they’re looking at opening it up next week.
Construction on the portion of Second Street in front of the Gage County Historical Society Museum began on Aug. 7. The street has been removed and work continues.
Instead of completing construction in a two-phase process, Burroughs said, all of the improvements will be done at once, which could cut down the timeline for completion from an original estimate of mid-November to some point in mid-October.
Lottman Carpenter Construction from Diller has been working on the length of Second Street from Grant to Ella streets since July 1 and, Burroughs said, the construction team deserves credit for their work.
“They did a really good job,” he said. “They told us when they were going to start, they started on that date, they told us what they were going to do and they did that work.”
Gage County’s budget for the fiscal year has been set, with a 3.68 percent increase over the previous year.
The Gage County Board of Supervisors approved the budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year during its meeting Wednesday.
The budget was approved as previously discussed at earlier meetings, with no major changes.
Budget talks started with a 15 percent overall increase, though the board was able to trim that figure, first to around 7 percent, before lowing the increase to under 4 percent, with a total tax asking of $9.6 million, including a road bond issue.
This tax asking will come with a levy of .297594.
The increases compare to a $9.29 million tax request and a .288082 levy in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
County Board member Gary Lytle commended the board and county departments for keeping their budget increases to a minimum.
“I think this is a pretty well-constructed budget proposal,” Lytle said. “It’s pretty conservative again. I think this board has done a good job of coming to a number, that while I would like to see it be a flat budget and there’s probably areas we could make that happen, I think this is prudent at this time.”
Board member Matt Bauman added that input from the community is helpful, and encouraged Gage County residents to share their ideas with the board.
“I appreciate the feedback that the other board members get from their districts,” Bauman said. “We do want input. We encourage people to look at this. If the public has ideas, we want to know that.”
Wages and benefits account for $5.2 million of the budget.
The budget marks the biggest percentage increase for Gage County in the last five budget cycles.
For the 2012-2013 budget year, a 2 percent increase was approved, followed by increases of 3.51, 1.67, 1.06 and 2.88 percent through the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Reducing the budget increase from initial asking required substantial cutting, primarily from the highway department, sheriff’s office and jail budgets.
The road and bridge department requested an increase of 27 percent, while the jail requested a 27.5 percent increase and the sheriff’s office requested 13.9 percent.
The road and bridge budget received an increase of 4.5 percent compared to last year, while the sheriff’s office and jail budgets are each 10 percent higher.
The budget was approved unanimously 6-0, with board member Terry Jurgens absent.
Lytle said the board will continue searching for ways to keep budget increases at a minimum moving forward.
“As a county, we need to look for more ways to be efficient, and more efficient all the time, and look for more ways to save money,” Lytle said. “Moving forward, it’s going to be more and more difficult to continue to ask for dollars from the constituents of this county. Each one of our departments needs to make sure they’re looking at their budgets.”