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Support builds for animal control

Harrison County Animal Control Officer Bruce LaHue requested a $12,000 additional for his part-time employees budget line Monday night at the Harrison County Council meeting in Corydon.
He also received support from two members of a start-up group, Friends of Harrison County Animal Control, Kate Rieger and Abby Coffman, who said they believe LaHue’s department needs more funding to provide some sort of sustainability.
The main cause for the increase in animals at the shelter and at-large throughout the county has been the downturn in the economy since 2008, LaHue said.
Rieger spoke of an incident where a large dog came on her property and ‘harassed’ her own dogs and even knocked down her father.
‘We have a service that can address these issues, just not in a timely manner,’ she said.
Coffman said LaHue has seen an unprecedented increase in demand and a decrease in funding since taking over the position in 2008.
Later in the meeting, LaHue said the additional funding, if approved, will be used to pay for part-time kennel workers. Kennel workers clean, feed and take care of the animals in the shelter.
He said if the funding is not increased, he will have to basically become a kennel worker himself, along with his office manager, and calls for service will go unnoticed or unanswered.
LaHue said Harrison County Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye has offered one inmate to help clean the facility, but LaHue would have to provide transportation and would have to pick the inmate up and drop him/her off at the same time each day, which could pose a problem with LaHue’s call for service schedule.
LaHue said the friends of animal control group has helped more animals become adopted through an online service called Pet Finder. He said their adoption rate is now up to 14 percent. He also said the return-to-owner rate has increased to 7 percent from only 1 percent when he took over at the facility.
‘We’ve made more people aware,’ he said.
One source of income the animal control program receives is through enforced fines. When a dog is picked up by LaHue at-large, the first offense is a warning and the second offense is a $50 fine. Residents have 10 days to pay the fee, or it will be sent to the county’s superior court. If a dog is a nuisance to neighbors or passers-by, a $20 fine can handed down by animal control. If an animal is not vaccinated, animal control requires a $20 fee to completely immunize the animal.
LaHue said the account draws in about $3,000 each year.
‘We would like to come up with a system where it (animal control) pays for itself,’ he said.
One suggestion LaHue mentioned was to implement some sort of dog tax, possibly $1 for each dog in the household.
LaHue explained that the No. 1 problem area for animal control is Morgan Township, particularly in the Sennville area.
Commissioner Carl (Buck) Mathes spoke in support of LaHue and the animal control program and said he’ll try to get his fellow commissioners to request another full-time employee for 2012.
‘It’s because of the great slowdown,’ Mathes said. ‘People can’t afford to feed their dogs.’
He also wants to increase the amount of money the county gives for a spay and neuter voucher (currently $35 for dogs and $20 for cats).
LaHue was budgeted $28,400 for part-time work this year and has already spent nearly $22,000.
The council will vote on the request at its next meeting, Monday, July 25, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in Corydon.
Another additional to be voted on at the next meeting is for litigation work for the county’s legal counsel, John E. Colin, totaling $30,000.
‘We have a lot of litigation; there’s a bunch of them,’ Harrison County Auditor Karen Engleman said.
In other business, Council Chairman Gary Davis informed the board of budget plans the financial committee wants to implement for next year, including: restoring all budget line items to the departmental budgets; establishing an expense budget for each building; merging police officers paid from riverboat funds into the sheriff’s department budget; holding joint hearings with commissioners for outside agencies requesting riverboat funds; and revamping the riverboat budget by eliminating lump sums and budgeting the contribution to the county fund of the Harrison County Community Foundation.
Instead of supplementing the county budget with riverboat gaming funds, Davis said the committee’s plan is to do so with CEDIT and Rainy Day funds.
Mathes spoke against Davis’ plans, saying the county will need that funding for upcoming building projects, such as an addition to the jail facility. He said money was well-spent in refurbishing the old hospital into the Government Center because the money wasn’t earning much interest in the community fund for a couple of years anyway.
Davis referred to the Government Center plan as ‘one of the worst ideas the commissioners ever had.’
The council will approve or deny the financial committee’s ideas before any of it is official, Davis said.

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Mike Summers, the legal counsel for the Harrison County Council, was not present at the meeting. He suffered a heart attack Friday and had open-heart surgery Monday. Summers, of New Albany, is also the legal counsel for the Town of Lanesville.