Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

Mule deer

Mule deer stand in ponderosa pines near the Snake River in Cherry County. 

NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

The state’s only accelerant-detection canine — a Labrabor named Alley, who works for the Omaha Fire and Rescue Department — has helped out Lincoln fire inspectors several times in the past year.

Alley and her handler, Dave Sobotka, helped investigate the arson fires at the Belmont Baptist Church and a sporting goods store in College View last fall, and the house explosion in August, said Bill Moody, Lincoln's chief fire inspector.

A dog trained to smell for gasoline, kerosene or other liquids used to purposefully start a fire can reduce investigation time. The dog’s nose is more sensitive than lab equipment and can detect anything put down that should not have been there, Moody said. Then investigators look at the burn patterns and take samples in that area to send to the lab, he said.

The Lincoln City Council recently approved a four-year contract with the Omaha department to pay for the time of Alley and her handler.

Omaha had been providing the help for free, but can’t be expected to do that forever, Fire Chief Micheal Despain told the council.

Lincoln doesn’t have enough demand to justify having its own dog, he said.

It will cost Lincoln $200 to $300 each time the dog is brought in, Despain said. He expects to spend less than $1,000 a year for Alley's services.

The state fire marshal used to have a couple of accelerant-detecting dogs. But for a few years there were none in the state, Moody said.

Alley is very sweet, not like a police dog, Moody said.

Lamm catches voting mistake 

City Councilwoman Cyndi Lamm, who is known for paying careful attention to detail, caught the City Council's voting error in early November. 

The council, working on how to deal with the annexation of Sunrise Estates in northeast Lincoln, had approved an amendment to the annexation ordinance. In that amendment, the council agreed to annex the acreage development, but delay the actual annexation until next November.

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Cyndi Lamm

Lincoln City Councilwoman Cyndi Lamm 

However, the council did not then take up the amended ordinance. It accidentally skipped that final, but necessary, vote.

No one noticed the error. Not the city attorney, not the city clerk, not the council chairman or any of the council members. Not even this reporter, who has covered many amendment votes in her life.

After the meeting ended, Lamm was going through the various votes in her mind when she realized the council had never taken that final vote on the amended ordinance. She checked with the city clerk’s office, who checked with the city attorney. Everyone agreed, one more vote was necessary.

The oversight is understandable, given the chaos of that particular situation. This was the third vote on the ordinance, including a vote to overrule the chairman’s decision and votes on two amendments. 

Councilwoman Jane Raybould left the room because of a conflict of interest. She returned just after the council took that vote on the amendment, giving an impression that voting was finished.

That final vote will be part of the council's upcoming Monday meeting.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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