STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
COUNTY OF HENDERSON MARCH 4, 2003
The Henderson County Board of Commissioners met for a special called meeting at 7:00 p.m. in the Commissioners= Conference Room of the Henderson County Office Building at 100 North King Street, Hendersonville, North Carolina.
Those present were: Chairman Grady Hawkins, Vice-Chairman Larry Young, Commissioner Bill Moyer, Commissioner Charlie Messer, Commissioner Shannon Baldwin, County Manager David E. Nicholson, County Attorney Angela S. Beeker, Deputy Clerk to the Board Amy Brantley, and Public Information Officer Chris Coulson.
Also present were: Health Department Director Tom Bridges, Environmental Health Director Robert Smith, Assistant County Attorney Russell Burrell, and Animal Control Lead Officer Brenda Miller.
Present from the Board of Health were: David Chapman, John Bell and William Martin.
CALL TO ORDER/WELCOME
Chairman Hawkins called the meeting to order and welcomed those in attendance. The purpose of this meeting was a workshop on the Animal Control Ordinance/Facilities. The meeting was called to order at 8:15 p.m. due to the continuation of the March 3, 2003 regularly scheduled meeting being called back to order at 7:00 p.m.
ANIMAL CONTROL ORDINANCE/FACILITIES WORKSHOP
Dr. David Chapman, Chairman of the Henderson County Board of Health, informed the Commissioners that just over a year ago, the Health Department began a review of animal services in Henderson County. The Board of Health appointed a committee, and serving on that committee with Dr. Chapman were Bill Martin, John Bell and Marilyn Gordon. He stated that while the Board would be receiving input from residents of the county, he hoped other animal control groups within the county would also be consulted.
Dr. Chapman noted that a report by the National Animal Control Association was used to help provide a framework for their report. That report contained the new Animal Control Ordinance recommendations. It was the desire of the committee when preparing the report to provide a framework for change that could be considered even in tight budget years. He noted three specific points contained in the first section of the report:
1. How much Henderson County had changed since 1985 when the current animal control ordinance was written.
2. There is currently confusion as to the jurisdiction covered by animal control within the county.
3. The expression of the need to update the animal control ordinances and a new facility.
He felt that taken as a whole, it might be difficult to get everyone to agree on a solution that would address the problems within Henderson County. He stated that there were just under 40 items the committee felt were worthy of consideration by the Board. It was his belief that 30 of those items could be agreed upon, and would make a good working framework for an effective animal control ordinance. He requested that in addition to those 30, the Board address the items covered in the possible additions to the basic ordinance either now or in the future.
He stressed that updating the animal control ordinance was well overdue. He stated that the County should not have an ordinance unless it was willing to fund the cost of its implementation and enforcement. There may, however, be a three phased approach to address that problem:
C Phase 1 - Consider adopting a basic ordinance that will better address the animal concerns in Henderson County. Adopt a basic ordinance that can fit within the budget of Henderson County.
C Phase II - Construction of a new facility. Better funding of the current program to allow mandated services to be provided at a level the county expects and deserves.
C Phase III - Continue to make additions and revisions to the ordinance to address other concerns as the budget permits.
Commissioner Moyer questioned where the report being referred to could be accessed by the public. Tom Bridges answered that it was on the Health Department web page, and hard copies were available at the Health Department and the Library.
Chairman Hawkins posed several questions to the Board of Health members and Tom Bridges. He first questioned why the report called for a salary increase for the Animal Service Officers of 8%. Mr. Bridges stated that according to the State Personnel Act job description, any Animal Control Officer who issues citations would be classified as an Animal Control Officer II, which would constitute a two pay grade increase. Some additional training or orientation would be necessary for the citation issuance. The Legal Department had offered to assist with some guidance on the citations and how that falls within the code.
Chairman Hawkins asked Mr. Bridges to explain how the cost of the program would be offset by the revenue from civil penalties. Russ Burrell stated that the Commissioners would be looking for an agreement with the Board of Education. If the Board of Education would like the community to have a citation program operating under animal control, the appropriation to the Board of Education would be a specified amount of money, less the amount received in civil penalties from the animal control program. In that way the money received from the animal control program would come off of the Board of Education appropriation, and would be used for animal control.
Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board that former Commissioner Marilyn Gordon had previously provided the Board with some literature discussing possible revenue generated from licencing and micro-chipping. He questioned the position of the Board of Health on that issue. Mr. Bridges stated that in his opinion, the citations would offer more compliance than licensure. Citation fees would be collected at the animal control shelter. Collection of those fees would be used as a means of compliance, rather than having to resort to court which is timely and costly.
Commissioner Baldwin questioned their success rate in criminal court when trying to prosecute someone for an animal control violation. Russ Burrell answered that it was about 50%, with some judges viewing it as more of a crime than others. Angela Beeker stated that the civil penalty route proposes an alternative to going the criminal route for violations. She also noted that some substantial civil penalties were being proposed for the Board=s consideration, and they have had good success collecting civil penalties in court. There followed some discussion on some of those penalties, particularly in dealings with dogs deemed dangerous by the Board of Health.
Chairman Hawkins referred to a section of the report dealing with municipal control ordinances, or the leash laws, that stated if those laws were enforced by the municipalities there would be little or no need for the County=s ordinance. Mr. Bridges reminded the Board that the municipalities have the option of adopting the county ordinance, but the county is under no obligation to enforce those ordinances within the municipalities. If the municipalities enforced their own leash laws, it would greatly reduce the need for a county ordinance.
There was also some discussion regarding the fact that the Board of Health did not recommend that enforcement of the ordinance be placed with the Sheriff=s Department. Dr. Chapman stated that the Board had met with Sheriff Erwin on the specifics of enforcement of the ordinance, but were unable to answer many of his questions. Sheriff Erwin had stated that he would be open to considering enforcement in the future if asked, but would require more information. There followed some discussion of how barking dogs fit in this ordinance versus the noise ordinance, and on the definitions of companion animals versus farm animals.
Mr. Bridges discussed the option of offering micro-chipping services. It would cost about $5.00 to offer that service. He stated that identifying animals was a serious problem, especially when trying to identify injured animals at night or on weekends. William Martin explained that most vets will charge $15-$18 for micro-chipping, while most county agencies will provide that service for $12-$15. He suggested the county sponsor a micro-chipping clinic about once a month as a fund raiser.
Commissioner Young expressed concern over the number of animals euthanized at the shelter each year. He stated that the spay and neuter clinic was the only way he knew to stop it. He felt the county should step up and take such an approach. Mr. Bridges noted that one approach to that used licensure, with a graduated scale making the fee higher if the animal was not spayed or neutered.
There followed much discussion among the Board on the various phases of the project, and the best ways to implement it as a program. David Nicholson stated that he viewed Phase 1 as an update of what the county is currently doing. He felt that discussion of Phase III would have to occur in order to build a proper facility due to the wide range of options that could be considered.
Commissioner Young questioned the time frame on the various phases. Commissioner Baldwin stated that the Board had to think long term on the issues, and design a facility that would accommodate the needs of the department well into the future. Tom Bridges agreed that any facility should be designed with growth potential in mind.
Chairman Hawkins asked the Board what areas they would need additional data on before proceeding to public input. Commissioner Baldwin stated that he would like to see how a fully implemented program would affect the cost of running the animal control program.
John Bell reminded the Board that the public health issue being dealt with was not shelters or licenses, but was disease control. The obligation exists to protect the general public from unnecessary disease. That includes not only rabies but other types of diseases carried by animals. If the vector of disease spread can be controlled by controlling the reservoir it inhabits, we have a better chance of minimizing the impact of the disease process on the general public.
Commissioner Moyer stated that he felt the Board should commit to a schedule to begin with Phase 1 and get public input, and immediately start addressing Phases 2 and 3. He felt the goal should be to complete the project by the end of the year. He stated that the Board should proceed to address the entire county, and that if municipalities wanted services the county did not address, they should be prepared to pay for them.
Following additional discussion, it was the consensus of the Board to proceed with getting public input on the proposed ordinance. Mr. Nicholson stated that in addition to scheduling public input, they could do a ACounty Connection@ program for Channel 11 to provide further education on the matter. He also noted that recently, two vehicles had been donated to the animal shelter for their use. He proposed to sell those vehicles and use the funds for some professional services that would assist in projecting costs.
There being no further business to come before the Board, Chairman Hawkins made the motion to adjourn the meeting at approximately 9:25 p.m. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Amy R. Brantley, Deputy Clerk to the Board
Grady Hawkins, Chairman