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By KEVIN KOELLING
TELL CITY – “To make it clear,” County Commissioner Tom Hauser said at a regular meeting Sept. 3, “we did not put $40,000 in the commissioners’ proposed budget to hire a full-time animal-control officer.”
He was responding to Jim Carter, president of the Humane Society of Perry County, who was attempting to learn how much of a request from the Perry County Animal Welfare, Control and Education Board might be fulfilled next year.
“After analyzing information and reviewing possible solutions to the animal-control problem data,” board members wrote in a June 21 letter, (we are) making the following recommendations.”
They proposed a “temporary fix” that would have a trained person employed on a per-call basis to respond to animal-transport calls authorized by the county sheriff.
Carter has described that as a “Point A to Point B” proposal, and the board’s recommendation spells out that payment for the service “would be according to an established minimum” fee and could include mileage.
The board also suggested a “permanent fix” under which the county would hire a sheriff’s deputy who would also serve as an animal-control officer. The county would also allocate $40,000 for that officer to work specifically in the area of animal control.
All five of the board members’ names are listed on the letter. They include Calvin Cash, Kathy Kleeman, Linda Dudiné, Kristy Sodrel and Scott Whitehead.
Hauser said he didn’t recall the board referring to either recommendation as permanent or temporary.
“Forty thousand dollars to hire a full-time animal-control officer,” he continued, “I don’t remember that being an official recommendation given to us, but no, we did not put that in our budget … because of budget restraints and the fact that … the funding for an animal-control officer was taken out of the budget two years ago, I believe, and the budget has not gotten any better.”
The county, Tell City and Cannelton have each allocated money for years to the animal shelter. The News reported in November 2011 that in formulating a budget for 2012, the county council approved $24,500 as the county’s share of funding for a shelter contract, $500 less than was paid the previous year.
Another $31,500 that had been appropriated annually for an animal-control officer for 2010 and ’11 was zeroed out for 2012. The board of directors for Perry County Animal Shelter Inc. voted to stop providing the officer’s services at the end of April 2011 due to the cost involved.
The remainder of that allocation was later applied to the purchase of a vehicle by the sheriff’s department for animal-control and other duties.
In a budget worksheet the county council is using to plan the 2014 budget, $5,000 is earmarked for animal-handling fees.
The sheriff will draw from that fund to pay the per-call animal-transport fees if that proposal goes into effect.
The 2014 budget request for the shelter contract is $30,738. When the budget worksheet was prepared Aug. 28, the year-to-date spending stood at $22,366 for that account, $2,634 shy of the $25,000 appropriated for the year. Actual spending for the two preceding years was shown on the worksheet as $44,046 in 2012 and $44,732 in 2011.
In a meeting Thursday between the county council and many of the offices and agencies that receive county funding, Rick Newton, president of the shelter’s board of directors, said that organization has been working closely with Sheriff Lee Chestnut in the past year. In addition to buying a truck, the sheriff offered in 2011 to have his department provide animal-control duties in unincorporated parts of the county.
“Since they picked up on the animal control, we’ve provided them all their equipment,” Newton said Thursday. “Helping them out has increased the number of animals coming in.”
That has increased shelter expenses because it’s receiving more animals that need to be euthanized, he continued.
“We’re absorbing that cost. If the sheriff’s department would have taken (them) to a vet, it would have been $15 or $25 an animal,” Newton said, adding that the number of
animals arriving at the shelter are continuing to increase. “I wish we didn’t have to have an animal shelter … but it’s something we have to do.”
Two full-time and three part-time employees, volunteers and community-service workers staff the facility, he explained. Further revenue is provided by boarding and grooming animals and from a company that leases half the building. Donations have long been a part of the cash flow but are down at the moment due to the sluggish economy, although the shelter is “the No. 1 (nonprofit agency) that people will give to in lieu of fines; we do get quite a bit from the court and that’s appreciated.”
The agency does secure an occasional grant, Newton said, explaining they usually go into minor projects. He invited the council’s members to visit the shelter and look at the budget.