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After spending nearly 15 years taking care of them, John Harris is no longer in charge of the animals at the Taylor County Animal Shelter.
On Monday, magistrates voted at a special Taylor County Fiscal Court meeting to transfer Harris, who was also the county’s appointed head animal control officer, to the County Road Department.
Magistrates voted to appoint Jacob Newton to the ACO position. The transfers were effective Tuesday. Newton will oversee the shift of the animal shelter to the Taylor County Animal Control Holding Facility, Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers said.
After being asked by someone in the crowd if the ACO position was posted as a vacancy, Rogers said the changes were made as transfers and therefore don’t have to be posted.
Newton was hired at the shelter about seven months ago. He has previously worked at the Taylor County Detention Center as a deputy.
Also at Monday’s meeting, Rogers said the county has received a one-year contract offer to house its stray animals at Green River Animal Shelter in Adair County at $44 per animal.
Rogers said Taylor County’s animals will be held at the Adair County facility for five days. At that point, he said, they become the property of the Adair County shelter and can be adopted.
A photograph will be taken of each animal that comes into the county’s holding facility before it is transported to Adair County, Rogers said, as well as when the animals arrive at Adair County.
Rogers said Adair County has a fine animal shelter and he believes working with the county’s officials will work well.
Magistrates unanimously agreed to contract with Adair County.
There was no discussion about the transfer of Harris and Newton or the contract. Harris and Newton attended the meeting but did not speak.
After the meeting, Rogers said there will be three employees at the animal shelter for the time being instead of four. He gave no reason for the transfer of Harris and Newton.
Rogers said the contract with Adair County will go into effect April 17, which is 45 working days after magistrates agreed to no longer adopt animals at the Taylor County Animal Shelter. The county had to give counties with which it contracted 45 days to find new counties to house its animals.
Rogers said Taylor County animal control deputies will transport animals to Adair County on Mondays through Saturdays. Animals won’t be transported on Sundays. Those that come in on Sunday will be transported the next day.
“And we’ll work with Adair County,” Rogers said.
Rogers said he believes becoming a holding facility will save the county money. Costs at the shelter have continued to escalate, he said.
“We’re doing the same thing that we were doing for the counties,” he said. “We were saving them money.”
On Tuesday, Taylor County Treasurer Melissa Williams agreed.
“You have to,” she said. “There’s no way you can’t save money.”
Williams said $246,415.30 has been spent so far this fiscal year at the animal shelter. Only $25,689.55 has been received in revenue, she said, for a total cost of $220,725.75. The cost to operate the shelter has steadily increased over the years.
According to figures Williams provided, the shelter cost the county $158,836.83 in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
In 2010-2011, the figures rose 22 percent to $193,872.01. In 2011-2012 that figure continued to increase, this time by 7 percent at $205,730.78.
The largest increase has been comparing the current fiscal year to the last one.
So far, according to the figures, there has been a 46 percent increase in costs when compared to the 2011-2012 figures. Williams estimates the figure will reach $300,000 before the fiscal year ends June 30.
When the shelter becomes a holding facility, she said, the county will lose revenue from housing animals from other counties. However, she said, expenses will decrease drastically, from saving money on utilities, cleaning supplies, petroleum to operate the county’s incinerator, food and veterinarian bills.
“Really when you think of the cost, the revenue is not that much,” she said.
Williams said she believes a holding facility will cost from $100,000 to $150,000 to operate.
“So our cost is gonna be cut in half,” she said.
Williams said she believes paying $44 per animal is pretty cheap. And by contracting with nearby Adair County, she said, that will mean all the animals that used to be at Taylor County’s shelter will just now be in Adair County.
“The same animals will be available, though they will just be available at another shelter,” she said.
Rogers has said the county has about 1,000 stray animals each year. At $44 each, that would equate to $44,000 a year.
“I don’t think it will be that many,” Williams said.
Going from a shelter to a holding facility will be an adjustment, she said.
“Of course, there’ll be a transition.”
After being transferred to the road department, Williams said, Harris won’t be a salaried employee.
He will make $17.99 per hour, she said, which is the same wage for all road department workers.
As shelter director, Harris made $38,245.15 a year, plus benefits, Williams said.
She said ACO deputies at the shelter make between $10.61 and $10.93 an hour. She said Newton’s wage falls in that range and will stay that way for now. She said his job won’t be the same as Harris’ was, so Newton won’t receive that salary.
Harris said on Tuesday that he doesn’t know yet what his duties will be at the road department. He said he starts his job there on March 11. He is currently on vacation.
County Road Foreman Brian Smothers says Harris will likely start by being trained to operate equipment, mowing, filling potholes, replacing street signs and perform various maintenance on county roads.
Smothers said the road department is always in need of more help.
“I think we’re gonna make it work,” he said.
After 14 years at the shelter, Harris said he is looking to do something new.
“It’s a new outlook,” he said.
Harris said he trained Newton to perform ACO duties.
“I think he will do a good job.”
Newton said his job is to make sure everything is done properly at the shelter and to take care of the animals.
He said the shelter becoming a holding facility will change those duties a bit, however, and that will take some time.
“It’s gonna have to take planning,” he said. “One day at a time, one issue at a time.”
Newton said he enjoys working at the shelter and has received all the training he needs to perform his duties.
“It’s a good environment,” he said.
Newton said he won’t be trained to euthanize animals, since that won’t be done at the shelter anymore. If a stray animal comes in that needs to be euthanized, he said, a veterinarian will do that or those in Adair County will.
Newton said he isn’t familiar with the Adair County animal shelter, but will soon visit and learn about the facility.
On Tuesday, Adair County Judge/Executive Ann Melton said her shelter was built as a tri-county facility, housing animals from Adair, Russell and Metcalfe counties. Adair County has housed only its own stray animals for a while, she said, but now contracts with Green County and is in talks to house Casey County’s strays. The Taylor County shelter had contracts with Casey, Green, Russell and LaRue counties. Williams said the county contracted with Casey, Russell and LaRue counties at a rate of $18,500 a year. Green County received a $45 per animal rate because it houses fewer stray animals.
Melton said she expects her magistrates will approve the contract with Taylor County during a special meeting on March 18.
The $44 rate Taylor County will receive, she said, is the same offered to Green and Casey counties.
Melton said she believes the Adair County shelter is clean and employees there work well with rescue groups to find as many animals new homes as possible.
Even though animals are required to be kept for five days before being euthanized, she said, workers often keep them longer in an attempt to find them a home. She said the euthanasia rate has decreased since various rescue groups have become more involved in helping shelter staff members find new homes for the strays.
And for Taylor County residents who are concerned about not being able to reclaim their animals if they get lost, Melton said she invites anyone to tour the facility and ask questions.
“I just invite the citizens who have concerns to come to the facility,” she said. “I welcome [them to] tour the shelter. I don’t think they will be disappointed.”
Melton said animals that come into the Adair County shelter from other counties mean just as much to her as the ones from her hometown. And if there are concerns about her shelter, she said, staff members will get to the bottom of them.
Also at Monday’s meeting, magistrates discussed litigation and the discipline of an employee in closed session for 39 minutes. No action was taken.