Photo by George Lauby
Sandy Schade outlines the situation
Photo by George Lauby
The director of the Pawnee Assisted Living Hotel asked for help Saturday, admitting that the operation might not be salvageable. Sandy Schade held a discussion with about 30 people – civic leaders, counselors, mental health care advocates and residents – for nearly two hours in the hotel lobby.
The question is if the building should be fixed up or closed down.
“I really don’t know the future right now,” Schade said. “We can’t sustain this building without help. It is an albatross around my neck and we can’t do it alone.”
City Administrator Jim Hawks said he would go over the finances on Monday with Schade to see what might be feasible.
The second of two 83-year-old boilers – the main heat source - quit on Dec. 19. It is not worth fixing, Schade said. Temporary space heaters were set up, and residents wear coats as they come and go through the lobby.
The hotel is home to people with emotional and behavorial disabilities.
The Bulletin talked with Schade in the lobby for two hours on New Year’s Day, researching the situation as residents came and went or watched football in the lobby.
(For that report, see this week’s print edition, on sale on our news racks throughout Lincoln County and surrounding towns.)
The hotel has made-do with temporary heaters, is installing baseboard heaters in rooms and adding temporary forced air furnaces in the lobby.
Jenny Olson, the administrator of North Platte’s Liberty House on Fourth and Willow, a home for the same type of residents, said the community of North Platte needs the Pawnee.
Olson said Liberty House has room for maybe 4-5 more residents, but it is basically full.
Some poeple at the meeting suggested moving the operation from the Pawnee to the former Boys and Girls Home at 2300 East Second, which is for sale. The price of the building is $350,000, said John Striebel, a mental health care counselor who is checking out options.
The Boys and Girls Home would hold about 30 residents.
North Platte Nurse Shirleen Smith, a guardian, is moving two of her charges into an apartment where they will live together. They will have to learn to cook, but she said she thinks they are ready for it.
Residents as well as guardians said the Pawnee is uniquely successful for some, featuring a private room and a private bath.
“I have a resident who had no success anywhere else in the state but here,” said Dorothy Rice, a mental health guardian. “This is one of the better places.”
“Having our own rooms with a bathroom is very important to us,” said a woman named Mary, a former Pawnee resident who is now living on her own. “That much privacy is a big deal to a person (mental health patient) who has no emotional privacy.”
"We haven’t asked the city or the community for much help,” said Kathy Jo Smith, the chairwoman of the board of directors and a volunteer at the hotel for 20 years. “We have a very homey place for our residents. We treat them with love.”
Schade agreed to another meeting in a few days, after she and Hawks review the financial situation.
The hotel has a capacity of about 75, but the number of residents began to decline during the summer, when state inspectors found problems and put the hotel on probation for a year.
Recently, inspectors returned and found insects and stains during an unannounced visit, officially revoking the hotel’s operating license, pending an appeal. A hearing is set for Jan. 30.
Schade said the insects are “water bugs” that frequently live in old pipes in the oldest parts of North Platte. The bugs are rarely seen and are harmless, she said.
The random state inspection also found some medicine administrative records were incomplete. Schade said a med-tech failed to initial some of the records and is no longer working there.
For the Bulletin's opinion, see the opinion page. - Editor