Many fuzzy members of the Beatrice community are in new hands this new year.
The Beatrice Humane Society has hired Carlee Fiddes as shelter manager to oversee day-to-day operations of the shelter. Though she started on Jan. 2, Fiddes said she and her staff are hard at work to prepare for the challenges of the new year.
Fiddes said she has been all over the country working in many different positions, but passionately and diligently helping animals has always been her calling. She began working as a veterinary technician at age 18 and has been working in animal care ever since.
She received a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Kansas State University, and a master’s degree in shelter management from Colorado State University. She has worked extensively in veterinary medicine and has done constant volunteer work in pet shelters across the nation. Before coming to Beatrice, she managed a branch of the Pennsylvania ASPCA.
Fiddes said she is confident she can help the Beatrice Humane Society accomplish new goals.
“I’m ready to be the person who moves this organization to the next tier,” Fiddes said.
Being the voice of the animals is the key to the job for Fiddes, who said she is particularly proud to work in a place where she can advocate for animals that have no one else to advocate for them.
Beatrice should be proud of its humane society, Fiddes said, because it is a no-kill shelter, which is rare for a shelter of Beatrice’s size. She commended the work that has already been done at the Beatrice Humane Society.
John Rypma, chairman of the Beatrice Humane Society's Board of Directors, said the addition of Fiddes to the shelter and the community is exciting.
"She comes to us with a lot of experience and a lot of education," Rypma said. "She has a tremendous amount of enthusiasm. She has the personality and the skill set to become very involved in our community."
Rypma noted that as shelter manager, Fiddes is responsible for all aspects of the shelter from scheduling and finances to helping clean cages and find more volunteers.
“They have done so much already with the support of our community,” Fiddes said “The majority of small rural shelters don’t make it to this point.”
In the short term, Fiddes said, the shelter is looking for ways to prepare for kitten season, which typically begins in spring and could last throughout the summer. The shelter needs to prepare for an influx in their cat population, possibly even 20-40 new arrivals each week.
To be ready, Fiddes said the shelter needs to have an adequate stockpile of food and supplies prepared, and they are working to line up homes for the new cats ahead of time.
Fiddes also mentioned that the shelter runs a kitten foster program, which allows locals to take care of a few kittens for a matter of weeks to alleviate pressure from the staff and volunteers.
The shelter is also working on training its staff and volunteers to raise the standard of care that it is able to provide to its animals.
Fiddes said she also has bigger plans for the next few years, and hopes to achieve some large milestones. One big step for the shelter will be attempting to spay and neuter almost all of the pet population of Beatrice and the surrounding area. This will help decrease the number of cats that are brought into the shelter over time.
Another goal is to spread the practice of microchipping, in which pets have a small microchip about the size of a grain of rice implanted under their skin. This allows the animal to be identified when scanned at shelters, which vastly increases the rate of animals that can be returned to their owners when lost.
Fiddes said the transition has gone well so far, and she is impressed with her amazing staff and volunteers.
“I already love the place and love the people,” Fiddes said.
Fiddes said that locals can support the Beatrice Humane Society by adopting pets, donating money and supplies, volunteering and raising awareness about the shelter.
Beatrice High School staff are serving as advisors for the forming Hope Squad and attended the initial training last week.
Hope Squads are a school-based peer-to-peer suicide prevention program. Dr. Gregory Hudnall of Utah says he developed the program because youth will tell other youth about their intentions of suicide, but will rarely tell adults.
Hope Squad isn’t a counseling program, but students are taught skills that will help other students, family and the community.
“I’ve learned that any small action of good can start a chain reaction and you can see changes in your school and community,” said Emily Matheson, President of Utah Hope Squads.
The Beatrice High School will begin the peer nomination process in January. Once the advisor team has identified 40 youth in the high school to serve as leaders and parent permission is received, the 10-phase education program will meet each month.
“PHASES” stands for Promoting Hope and Student Empowerment. The curriculum includes instruction on QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer), setting good boundaries, friendship, and dealing with bullying.
“I think Hope Squads will be a great addition to our school and our community,” said Jennifer Prososki, Beatrice High School Guidance Counselor. “Often times people think mental illness is looked down upon, and keep quiet about it, no matter if they have felt depressed, or anxious for weeks, months, or even years. Mental illness is just as serious as a physical illness. If we have the flu for over a week, we go to a doctor. If we're not feeling ourselves mentally for long periods of time, we need to be able to know that it's okay to see help, whether it's from a doctor, counselor, or just a trust adult.”
Students leaders are trained to identify students who are struggling with depression and some of the warning signs of suicide. They’re taught how to approach them, offer hope and discuss how to seek help.
Jason Sutter, Beatrice High School Principal, expects to the program to be an asset for the school.
“The value we see with HOPE Squads are that this is set up to be successful because is focuses on peers and how our students can have a peer to discuss concerns and share thoughts with,” he said. “Evidence shows that approximately 70 percent of our youth experience depressive or suicidal thoughts and will confide in a friend or trusted peer rather than an adult. With HOPE Squads, selected students are educated on how to recognize signs of suicide contemplation, and how to respectfully report this concern to an adult who can provide professional help.
“If our students feel more comfortable talking to each other about these serious feelings, then our school will better serve and help all of our students.”
The Beatrice Middle School started the program with peer nominations in December 2017 and have been meeting monthly.
People who live near a potential wind farm in Lancaster County got a consolation prize from the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission on Wednesday.
Commissioners voted 7-1 to endorse some minor changes to rules proposed by the neighbors and their attorneys, but they said no to more substantive ones.
The board did endorse requiring any wind farm developer to do post-construction testing to ensure turbines meet noise standards, and it also approved some minor changes to zoning language meant to clarify intent.
But it said no to the residents' main proposal: to require a 1-mile setback from any wind turbine to the property line of a nonparticipating property.
Nonparticipating properties are those where the owner chooses not to accept a payment from the developer, either to host a turbine on the land or to act as a buffer to meet setback requirements.
Three years ago, the county set minimum setbacks for wind turbines of 1,000 feet to a property line, with potentially longer distances depending on the height of the turbines. It also set noise limits of 40 decibels in the daytime and 37 decibels at night.
Last month, the County Board voted to adjust those noise limits to allow participating properties to have limits up to 50 decibels both day and night.
During public hearings on that change, it was revealed that a study done by NextEra Energy Resources, a Florida-based company that is considering building a wind farm with up to 50 turbines in southern Lancaster and northern Gage counties, showed that turbines would have to be about a mile away from a house to meet the nonparticipating property decibel level.
Neighbors structured their proposal off of that distance but took it a step further by making it a mile from a property line.
"We're taking this information from studies that were paid for by NextEra," said Mark Hunzeker, one of the attorneys for the neighbors.
He and another attorney, Anne Post, argued that making the property line the boundary rather than a building was necessary to ensure nonparticipating properties were not devalued.
Hunzeker also argued that a distance setback would be cheaper and easier to enforce than one based on sound.
Yvonne Mihulka-Poole, who lives in the area, said the standard was a good measuring stick, because if turbines could not be sited within a mile of nonparticipating properties, "it's proof that this is not a place for industrial wind power."
Mike Woodward, another area resident, said he's worked with sound testing and results can be manipulated.
The 1-mile buffer, he argued, "is the only consistent guarantee on noise for us as nonparticipating properties."
Planning staff, however, did not support the 1-mile setback, saying no other surrounding county has regulations even close to that.
"The proposed change to setbacks and measuring noise levels at a property line instead of a dwelling are excessive and go beyond protecting property owners," Planner Tom Cajka wrote in his report on the proposal.
David Levy, an attorney for NextEra, said the company supported the Planning Department's recommendations, including the requirement for post-construction noise testing, even though neighbors were getting "a second bite at the apple" by proposing changes that would essentially nullify the vote the County Board took three weeks ago.
The only commissioner to vote against the stricter proposal was Maja Harris.
Harris did not vote no because she endorsed the 1-mile setback. Instead, she said the issue of regulating wind turbines had been through an extensive public process and she felt no further changes were necessary.
"I am fine with my original votes," she said.
The proposal passed by the Planning Commission will go on to the County Board, which will have the final say.