Coffee County Animal Control has not been closed, not officially; despite the facility’s only two employees being let go Monday. Currently, the four or five dogs there are being cared for by Manchester Animal Control.
During a meeting of the Health, Welfare and Recreation Committee on Thursday, the board voted to hire a new director, approved a salary study for the new higher-level position and sent a request to Budget and Finance for funds to help build a new facility that would allow for the county to leave the current facility that it shares with the city.
The meeting began with Coffee County Mayor Gary Cordell telling the committee that he had let go of the two animal control officers. Cordell would not disclose the reason for the personnel action.
Commissioner Ashley Kraft, who during the meeting was later voted chair of the committee, asked Cordell if he had a plan of action moving forward.
“We’re going to consider that right here. HWR has got to be a part of that type of action,” Cordell said. “We talked about numerous opportunities or whatever. I hope that some of our rescue groups might help out in that regard and come into play.”
One possibility that had allegedly been kicked around prior to the meeting was “a partnership” with the city in which Manchester would handle animal control for the entire county.
When Kraft pointedly asked Cordell about the future of the shelter that is sitting in a state of limbo, Cordell balked, citing no time for “drama and hoopla.”
“It’s not stalling, Mayor,” she said. “We have a department that’s not staffed and we’re literally in limbo. You made an action that has repercussions, and now we’re trying to figure out what to do from here.”
Cordell responded, “We had two people and now those two people are gone. I’ve got other things to be dealing with, I’ll let you folks start discussing.”
Kraft then suggested starting the hiring process for a new director, and after lengthy discussion, and the motion almost dying on the floor for a lack of second, the committee unanimously approved to start the hiring process for an Animal Control Director with related certifications preferred and a salary study for an increase in pay from what is currently offered.
Commissioner Jeff Keele made a motion to go before Budget and Finance with a request for a $200,000 allocation to match with donor funds for a new facility. It too passed without opposition. The hiring process could take two weeks or longer. And the details of what role the committee will play in hiring will come from County Attorney Robert Huskey, members said.
In the meantime, Manchester City will assist with the care of the shelter. Animal control related calls should be directed to Coffee County Sheriff’s Department, Kraft said.
Addressing the issue of whether the shelter was going to be closed, Kraft said that it was never the intention of HWR to do so.
“I don’t know where that came from. I was very aggravated when I saw the story in the paper, to be honest. That was something the mayor mentioned one time and I don’t know how it exploded and blew up. It was not something that we’ve ever supported or been proposed by HWR,” she said.
Present at the meeting were members of the public representing animal rescue groups. They voiced concerns that ranged from making sure a new director had proper training and standard procedures to follow and calls for improved support by the county for animal control.
“As a taxpayer I’m furious. If an aggressive dog or any dog for that matter shows up at my house, I have no recourse at this point. I shouldn’t have to figure it out because I pay taxes and it’s in the budget,” Alison Bass Stacy said.
Former chair of HWR Jackie Duncan asked Cordell about his reason for letting go of the former supervisor Daylon Cornelison, but the mayor replied no comment. The committee noted that the last meeting ended with the authorizing of the officers to be sworn in, though this was said by the committee to have been blocked by members of the mayor’s office.
In documents obtained by our sister paper the Manchester Times, Cornelison’s separation notice lists lack of work as the reason for separation, the condition was cited as permanent and it stipulates wages in lieu of notice and vacation pay for the amount of $2,643.10 for the period of June 14-July 6. It was signed by Gary Cordell on June 14. Cornelison was hired Nov. 9, 2020 according to the document.
Approval of the funds for a new facility will have to be approved by Budget and Finance, Capital Outlay and be approved as a budget amendment by the full commission.