Commissioners consider details of animal ordinance
A possible county-wide animal ordinance came before the Sullivan County Commissioners again during their Monday meeting — with passage once more delayed to work out details, although all involved appeared to be getting closer to a resolution.
“How many times have I been here,” The Humane Society of Sullivan County board member Shirley Lueking began her presentation with. “I guess we’ll try again.”
An attendee at one point interjected that “I don’t have a dog, but (Shirley’s) been here multiple times,” stating the commissioners “owe it to her to tell her if you’re going to do this or not.”
The commissioners and their attorney Ann Mischler appeared open to passing an ordinance, with most of the lengthy discussion directed at not duplicating verbiage in the ordinance that was covered by state statute.
“Why would you write a ticket for an ordinance if you can cite a state statute?” Mischler queried at one point. “I don’t think we need to duplicate anything covered by state statute.”
Overall, the commissioners sounded more at ease with revisions from the last meeting on the subject.
“I’m a lot more comfortable with this than I was before,” commissioners president Bob Davis said.
Commissioner Ray McCammon admitted during the meeting to not being prepared for the revisions.
“Shirley, I just got back from Florida and haven’t had a chance to look at this,” he noted, with Lueking mentioning his “mission” after Hurricane Irma hit that state.
“A mission for myself,” McCammon replied of tending to property there.
On Tuesday, he said that “hopefully we’ll be ready for the next meeting.”
Lueking noted that Mischler suggested to look at Cass County’s ordinance, which included a possible fine of $0 to $500 for a dog, not vaccinated for rabies, bite and $0 to $1,000 for a second bite.
“Right now sheriff’s fines (here are) $50 for a bite, rabies,” Lueking said. She noted a postal carrier was bitten on Friday.
“When that postal person goes on your property and a dog bites him, you’re libel,” she added.
Commissioner John Waterman noted a situation with a dog in Shelburn that has bit several people.
“That dog should be put down,” he said. “It’s nuts.”
Discussion also was held that animals other than dogs also must be vaccinated for rabies.
“I did know dogs, but I didn’t know cats,” Davis said.
“Did you know about ferrets,” Lueking added. “I didn’t know about ferrets.”
She noted that state law has a 10-day quarantine period for non-vaccinated animals after a bite while Cass County’s ordinance has 14 days.
Although Sheriff Clark Cottom could not attend Monday’s meeting, Lueking said they were on the same page of giving his department some leverage when his deputies must go to a property several times on animal nuisance complaints.
“It’s an expense to the county, (with a) lack of a penalty,” she continued, which Mischler agreed with.
“If you don’t have a penalty, what’s the purpose of having them go out there multiple times?” she asked later.
Lueking noted that circumstances may vary, and law enforcement “must be able to make those decisions, whether it’s a cranky neighbor or a real problem.”
Feedback was sought from Sullivan County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Michael Gamble about animal bite forms.
“There are several a month that are reported to the health department,” he said. “It’s a communicable disease issue.”
Some discussion was held on how other counties handled bites by non-vaccinated dogs, with penalties waived if proof of vaccination is shown prior to a court date.
“In Vigo County, as long as you had the proof, it got dismissed,” Mischler noted, with her finding a six-month time period to vaccinate a new born dog and Lueking suggesting she’d heard that was changed to three months.
If many ordinance violations are filed, Mischler questioned where the money would come from to pay for court cases for them if they don’t result in criminal charges, which the prosecutor’s office would handle.
“Who’s paying me to cover all the ordinance violations?” she said.
“That could theoretically come out of your (THSSC’s) money at the end of the year,” Davis told Lueking.
The matter was tabled to allow Lueking and Mischler to get together for further simplification of the statue.
In other business:
• County engineer Jerry Netherlain reported that “I’m sure everyone heard our Community Crossings grant came in” for road and bridge repair from the state and “part (of the projects) we can get done this year.”
Sullivan County received $420,205 from the state.
“The award letter had different priorities on it, but I did get that revised for our top four priorities so I think we can proceed,” Netherlain said.
Waterman brought up that a turn study to determine traffic flow was being done by the state north of Farmersburg where Dollar General is located and Mickey’s Bar & Grill will soon open.
“They are aware that there’s a new business going in there?” Netherlain asked.
“Yeah, they are,” Waterman answered.
• The commissioners took care of some bookkeeping in reimbursing the Sullivan County Redevelopment Commission $61,000 loaned to the county from its EDIT funds in 2015 to do jail roof repairs.
County auditor Diana Ross noted that 75 percent of EDIT monies must be used for infrastructure. The commissioners designated EDIT monies in 2017 for the work, but the repayment returns that to SCRC who were “so gracious to give it to us,” Ross said on Wednesday.
After a lengthy explanation, McCammon motioned that the “auditor’s office take care of reimbursing Sullivan County Redevelopment for the work done on the jail roof from the grant match.” “That’s clear as mud,” Waterman said before providing a second.
• The commissioners tabled an issue involving two county employees who quit and did not contact Edward Jones concerning their retirement funds. Ross noted that two certified letters were sent to them, but returned unsigned.
“Are we allowed to close those out or do we have to send them to Indiana Unclaimed Property?” Mischler asked, with the matter tabled so she could answer that question.
• The commissioners considered adding the health department to a computer maintenance contract with AME that currently covers the assessor’s, auditor’s and treasurer’s offices at $220 additionally a month.
Davis thought that was “a little pricey,” with Waterman agreeing. The contract with the other offices runs through June 30, 2018.
On Wednesday, Ross said “I talked to them today, and (told them) if we couldn’t get that amount down we were going to look elsewhere.”
• Resident Doug Followell advised the commissioners that he acquired a farmhouse from Joe and Teresa Trotter that currently is on land that Hoosier Energy purchased.
Followell noted that Hoosier Energy gave them a year to move the house prior to demolition.
He planned to move the home to a property about 2.5 miles away in the next 30 days, saying “I’m trying to make sure I cross all my Ts and dot all my Is.”
McCammon didn’t see a problem, as “we have people moving houses in here all the time that are pre-fab homes.”
Followell noted no train crossings or bridges were involved, but a culvert or two would be.
Davis just asked Followell to provide support to the culverts, noting it “wouldn’t just hurt us, but it could jeopardize your move.”
McCammon moved to allow the move with that restriction with Waterman seconding.