Funding for animal control in question
Harrison County’s animal control facility needs more money. Additional funds are needed to finish 2019, and questions have been asked about how to best fund the department in the upcoming year.
At last week’s Harrison County Council meeting, held on Tuesday due to the Columbus Day holiday the day before, Harrison County Commissioner Charlie Crawford and the recently named animal control director, April Breeden, said they needed $56,723 to get through the final two months of the year.
“That’s for our additional funding needed to do the restructuring of the department,” Breeden said.
Animal control has turned a part-time employee position into a full-time one, Breeden said. Next is hiring someone to fill the part-time role.
Part of the shortfall includes $4,690 for the coordinator position.
“I know Jaime (Breeding) stayed longer than anticipated,” Breeden said about the additional funds, as Breeding, the former facility director, helped Breeden get familiar with the role.
Without a leader in place, Breeding had to spend more time learning about the facility and getting the operation running again, according to Crawford, when she took over after the facility was shut down for a brief time in the early part of 2019.
The department needs an additional $22,400 to pay part-time workers for the rest of the year. More money is expected to be added to the 2020 budget to cover part-time work, too.
Councilman Gary Byrne said the county spent $63,900 on part-time workers’ wages in 2016 then $60,000 in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, the finalized budget was set at $71,560.
The 2019 budget also included funds for one full-time worker. Next year, the county is planning for two full-time employees.
“We should have three full-time,” Crawford said.
Byrne said while the council sets the budget, he would ask the department to operate within it.
“I have two choices,” Crawford said. “Either operate it safely and, if we cannot operate it safely, just shut it down.”
Crawford said the department would need $122,000 to staff the employees in 2020.
“We’re funding you more money than we have ever funded you next year,”
Crawford said if he had his way, the council would send more funds to the department next year, adding he would want an additional animal control officer.
Councilman Kyle Nix said, after looking at the request and what is likely to get approved for the 2020 budget, it might be better to add a full-time employee to cut down on the part-time expenses.
Nix suggested the idea of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. helping with some animal calls to limit the need for part-time workers, or giving the facility to another organization and letting that group run the facility as a humane society facility.
He added other departments in the county are required to work within their approved budgets.
Councilwoman Jennie Capelle said animal control doesn’t have that luxury because the department doesn’t know how many animals it will have to work with on any given day.
“You have an unpredictable day,” Capelle said.
Some council members said they’re looking forward to Breeden getting comfortable in her role and finding out what the department needs to make it succeed.
“People want to see this thing be successful, and I think we just need to know,” Capelle said. “And if it’s double or triple what we’ve done in the past, oh, well, if that’s the model that is going to take care of all the needs of it.”
The council could approve the additional funds to get animal control through 2019 at its next meeting, set for Monday at 7 p.m. at the government center.