By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
The Killeen Animal Advisory Committee wanted immediate answers at Thursday's meeting, but it didn't get any.
The committee wanted to know why the animal shelter expansion has been delayed and why the city doesn't have an emergency evacuation plan for pets.
Killeen police Capt. Steve Hoskins, who oversees the Animal Control Division, reported that the building permit for the expansion was rejected by the city. He said the permit application was submitted Feb. 20, returned March 8 and was resubmitted Thursday.
Hoskins said there were a few oversights in the permit application. Among the oversights was landscaping. A city ordinance requires a certain number of trees or shrubs when a new building is constructed.
Hoskins said the fire marshal rejected the permit because some parts of the building were more than 150 feet from the road or a fire lane. Killeen Fire Marshal James Chism said in an interview that the length requirement is so that hoses can reach all parts of the building.
Hoskins said the parking lot would be marked to include a fire lane.
"So that's an easy solution," Hoskins said.
Chism said, in theory, that would work. The fire lane has to start and finish on a public roadway unless there is an adequate turnaround.
There was also an electrical issue, Hoskins said. He said the electrical service wasn't as "heavy duty" as regulations require.
Some committee members were not happy that the city's own building permit got rejected.
"I shake my head not at you (but) at the process," Councilman Larry Cole, committee chair, told Hoskins. "We paid $43,000 for an architect who can't get the plans approved. That is really discouraging."
Councilman Juan Rivera, committee member, asked if the architect could be at the next meeting to explain why he couldn't get the permit through on the first try.
Hoskins said there is no obligation in the contract for the architect to report to the committee, but assured members that the problems are being fixed.
"We're hoping to start turning dirt next week," Hoskins said. "Everything is in place to start except the paperwork."
Michael Marrs, the architect for the project, said in a telephone interview, that building permit rejection on the first try is typical.
"They have a list of things that need to be answered," Marrs said.
Marrs said the corrections to the permit application were minor.
The committee also came up short on answers for an emergency evacuation plan for pets and animals in the city. That issue has been an item on the monthly agenda for nearly every meeting the past year.
"This has been on our agenda month to month to month, and we don't seem any further than when we started," Natalie Pittman, committee member, said.
"We've got to quit postponing things," Rivera said. "We need to get to the bottom of this real quick. We're overdue."
Liz Rainey, committee member, has been gathering information to develop a plan and recently attended a Federal Emergency Management Agency conference. She said, after conversations with local officials, the plan for Killeen is to let Bell County handle pet evacuations.
"And we just follow their lead," Rainey said.
However, Rainey said it was her understanding that a city needs a written plan in place to receive full funding from FEMA following a disaster.
George Fox, committee member, said he checked with several nonprofit shelters in the county and was told they were not aware of a county plan.
"'Follow the lead' is not in my language," Rivera said.
The committee expected a report from Chad Berg, Killeen's emergency management coordinator, about animal evacuation plans in the event of a disaster. Berg was not at the meeting. The committee demanded an immediate answer about why this has not been resolved.
Assistant to the City Manager Matt Wojnowski, who was at the meeting, pulled City Manager Connie Green from another meeting to answer questions. Green explained that Berg was out sick Thursday. Green said he believes Berg has drafted a plan.
"I hate to suggest that you put it on your next agenda," Green said after the committee explained how long it has been postponed. Killeen police Capt. Steve Hoskins, who oversees the Animal Control Division, asked that if a plan is drafted that he, animal control officers and Rainey have an opportunity to review it before the next meeting.
In other business, the committee discussed raising the adoption rate at the animal shelter so that pets are already sterilized when people pick them up. The current adoption rate is $25.
The committee plans to vote on whether to recommend the increase to the full Killeen City Council at the next meeting.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7550