2017-03-15 / Front Page

Commissioners moving forward with animal control

By Diana Royal

After years of debate, the Burke County Board of Commissioners has decided to build an animal control facility.

Last night (Tuesday) the commissioners unanimously voted yes to open a position for an animal services director in order to get the ball rolling.

A work session was held last week to discuss the issue; every seat in the room was filled and many folks stood as commission chair Allen DeLaigle addressed the crowd. “We will build a shelter, and y’all are going to help us,” he said. “Believe me – we are going to get it done.”

According to county administrator Merv Waldrop, hiring a director is the first crucial step in the process. The director will oversee design plans, look over ordinances and figure out what is best suited for the county, while working with the public, various rescue groups and the Department of Agriculture. Waldrop said he feels confident that through a thorough search the county can find someone highly qualified who has experience in running a shelter.

For the first time, the animal control discussion was met with gratitude and approval by most in attendance, and many who’d signed up to speak declined with a thank-you and promise to help in any way that they can.

Waynesboro resident Ben Roberts said he would take the risk of being a different voice. “I am glad that you are moving forward on this issue; it’s time to address it,” he said, “but I have very real concerns about the financial situation.” Roberts pointed out that operating a nokill shelter was not feasible and that the costs would only sky rocket. “In a fairytale land, we could take them all in and take care of them, but that’s just not possible. I am all for building a shelter, but we need to put a limit on how long animals will be there. It needs to be countycontrolled, and if not managed properly, it will get out of control.”

While some rescues have pushed for a no-kill facility, Dr. Sarah Ford, veterinarian and owner of Burke County Animal Hospital who served on the animal control advisory committee, said that was not a recommendation of the board. “The public is not for euthanizing,” she said, “but for Burke County it’s not realistic.” Various audience members chimed in, adding that they (the rescue groups) will just have to work hard to get animals in and out so holding does not become an issue.

Roberts went on to say that he also felt the county should not help fund Girard Lifesaver, a rescue organization run by Samantha Holton. “I commend her for her work,” he said, “but I have seen Facebook and comments that provoke and incite people who don’t even live here … they down our county and down the citizens.”

Dr. Ford spoke up again, acknowledging that the advisory committee had also made recommendations to the county that any rescues who work with the shelter should be prohibited from negative social media.

Bill Tinley, who served as chairman of the advisory committee, said the group would be more than willing to continue their service if needed. “We do want rescues and volunteers,” he said. “We just all have to work together.”

Holton said her biggest concern was the need for a spay/ neuter program, to which the room erupted in applause.

Combined, Girard Lifesaver and Old Fella Animal Rescue saved and transported more than 1,000 dogs in 2016.

For fiscal year 2017, the county has budgeted $427,000 for animal control, with $200,000 appropriated toward infrastructure and $125,000 for salaries. Waldrop said the director could earn in the $47,000-$71,000 price range, and that the funds set aside for salaries could be enough for three employees. The remaining funds are allocated for doctors fees, funds for spay/neutering, benefits for employees, etc. SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) funds for 2018 in the amount of $500,000 will also be available for animal control, and the board indicated that in the meantime, if need be, they would borrow money from the general fund and reimburse it later.

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