County to fund shelter through Aug. 30

Published 5:45 pm Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The claws came out in a debate Monday over whether or not the Escambia County Commission should pay the Humane Society of Escambia County to operate through the end of the month.

But at the end, the funding was given, in exchange for property adjoining the shelter property.

In July, the local animal organization announced it would close its doors after the city of Brewton opted to perform its own animal control services. That move reduced the shelter’s funding by more than $65,000 annually. To keep the shelter open, staff and the board asked the commission for some $31,000, which prompted the debate on Monday.

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Sheriff Grover Smith said during the last week, there were two documented incidents where deputies where required to provide animal control service when shelter staff either refused or were unable to respond. Grover asked the commission to fund an animal control officer as soon as possible to respond to citizen complaints.

“If not, I’m going to have to take a deputy off patrol and put him on animal control,” Smith said.

Commissioner Raymond Wiggins described the “situation” as frustrating.

“I’m having a hard time entering into another agreement with the Humane Society when they have failed to uphold their end of our first agreement,” Wiggins said, speaking of the $120,000 annual appropriation paid to the Humane Society for county animal control services. Funds are distributed quarterly, he said.

“They agreed then to provide services to the end of September and that was not fulfilled,” he said. “It gives me heartburn to give them more money.”

Commissioners put the fault on shelter director, Renee Jones. To date, Jones has refused to meet with county officials to discuss the situation; however, board members have agreed to deed an adjoining five-acre parcel next to the shelter in exchange for the additional $31,000 in funding.

“I know this disagreement is not between the county and the (board),” Wiggins said. “And I know it needs to get resolved.”

Commissioners then asked County Attorney Thad Moore Sr. and Smith to meet with the board and Jones to complete the shelter closure.

“We have to think of the welfare of the animals,” Smith said, of the 100-plus cats and dogs that remain at the shelter as of the weekend.

Humane Society Board President Joe Thomas said he would work with the county “any way possible” to finalize the closure.

Chairman David Stokes said the county may lodge an official complaint with the Humane Society board, and Smith said he would make the commission aware of any future problems.

In other business, the commission:

• Approved a one-time cost of living adjustment for county retirees. The $30,000 expense was approved by the state legislature in its last session and will provide payment on a sliding-fee schedule based on the number of months of service. Each retiree will be paid no less than $300.

• Tabled a vote on pulling out of the state association of county commissioners’ workmen’s compensation fund until May;

• Approved an agreement with the state transportation department for federal funding to restripe some 50-plus roadways in Escambia County.

• Appointed Nancy Helton to the county department of human resources board.

This story was written by Stephanie Nelson, Brewton Standard publisher.