The open door policy of the Highland County commissioners was put to good use Wednesday morning as private citizen and volunteer Pat Lawrence used the opportunity to air her concerns regarding the status of the Highland County Dog Pound in the wake of the recent departure of Senior Animal Control Officer Cathy Seifer.
In her statements to the commissioners, Lawrence said the ongoing problems with the facility “is not a dog problem; it is a people problem, and like all things these days, it is a politics problem.”
She told commissioners that the mission of the pound has changed and expanded since the building was opened in 1996, with more people with more dogs, many without means to care for them properly, and more demands being placed on a staff trying to address the needs of lost and stray pets from the community at large.
“What Highland County needs and deserves is a new building with dog runs, and a fair wage for the two people who must handle the tragic consequences of human neglect, inadequacy and loss, every day of the year,” Lawrence said.
She praised the recent decision by commissioners to raise the price of dog licenses by $2, calling it a positive step, but noted that the increase to $14 was accompanied by the decision that the pound will now pay for its own water and electric usage.
In her statements, Lawrence also presented a nine-point outline with suggestions and a plan of action for the future, which included having one of the commissioners assume a leadership role in the formation of a public committee tasked with finding solutions to the problem of construction of a new building, a wage increase for the two wardens, and offering her services free of charge as a media liaison.
While welcoming her suggestions, the commissoners deemed one of them them unworkable, that of adding $1 to annual taxes or the addition of a voluntary extra dollar to any pound fee. Commissioner Gary Abernathy said the commissioners don’t have the legal power to levy taxes.
In other matters, commissioners issued a proclamation on behalf of the American Association of University Women, locally represented by Virginia Purdy, Loretta Dean and Jane Stowers, saluting the organization for its charitable, educational and civic works over the years.
The most noteworthy accomplishment, according to Purdy, was the group being instrumental in the creation of the annual women’s hall of fame event, which began in 1981.
A pair of maintenance contracts that were under discussion met with commission approval Wednesday, one dealing with maintenance of the back-up generator at the Highland County Justice Center by Quad County Service and Repair, the other an annual retaining maintenance contract with Weller’s Plumbing and Heating on county buildings.
Commissioner Jeff Duncan extended condolences to the family of Blair Aukeman, who he said served many years on the planning commission board, and to the family of Dale Hodson, whose son, Dwight “Ike” Hodson, is the Highland County clerk of courts.
Also Wednesday, commissioner Terry Britton said that in recent conversations with Highland County Job & Family Services Director Katie Adams, she indicated that there were now 140 children in the foster care system with the number likely to increase in the future.
Prior to entering into executive session to meet with Deputy Dog Warden Lanny Brown II regarding employment issues, Duncan commented on the wide range of issues brought up during Wednesday’s busy, though light, agenda.
“I think today just goes to show how many different things the commissioners’ office deals with on a daily basis,” he said. “Everyone has their own concerns, be it the humane treatment of animals at the dog pound, but we’ve also got 140 kids in foster care, a law enforcement agency that’s busy dealing with the drug situation, and we try to focus as much as we can on all those areas and give them all the attention that we’re able to do.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.