Darren Doyle, story:
Two topics that have been points of discussion with the current administration of the Edmonson County Fiscal Court were reviewed at today's meeting, which were a regional jail and the current animal control/animal shelter issue.
Edmonson County Judge Executive Wil Cannon has heavily favored building a new county animal shelter after the fiscal court terminated a contract with a private animal shelter on June 13, 2016 and the shelter was shut down by Kentucky State Police due to animal cruelty charges that were brought against one of the owners. Kentucky law requires all counties to use an animal shelter according to KRS 258.095, which states: The governing body of each county shall employ, appoint, or contract with an animal control officer, or shall contract with an entity that employs, appoints, or contracts with an animal control officer, and shall establish and maintain an animal shelter as a means of facilitating and administering KRS 258.095 to 258.500.
While the law doesn't require each county to have its own shelter, they must utilize one.
With not enough in the budget for the county to build its own shelter, the county voted to contract animal services to the Bowling Green-Warren County Animal Shelter, directed by Lori Hare. That contract was voted upon by Edmonson County Fiscal Court on July 11, 2016 with the hopes that the contract would be temporary until the county built it's own shelter.
Five years later, the county is still under contract with BG/WC Animal Shelter as the they still do not have their own; however, they purchased a 12-acre tract on Veterans Memorial HWY for the original price of $105K, which was finally purchased for $91,449.38 after the seller delayed the deal by not vacating the property by the extended deadline. That decision was not favored by some neighbors in the area.
Hare, Director on the BG/WC Shelter, attended today's virtual meeting to answer any questions that magistrates had concerning the current agreement or other general questions.
She described Edmonson County's current part-time dog control officer Joe Carl Daugherty as someone "with a great heart and wants to do a good job and can, as long as he has the proper training." She said the ideal situation for a dog control officer was someone that was passionate about animals because sometimes deputies that are assigned those duties from a local law enforcement agency are looking for more police duties than animal duties. She also said the positions were best carried out by someone with a full-time animal control position. All animal control personnel that has been hired by the county have been part-time, only.
Sheriff Shane Doyle had requested another deputy in his upcoming year's budget that would also oversee animal control after adjusting his budget to allow room for that, which he said was originally agreed upon by the fiscal court budget finance committee; however, Judge Cannon said he felt like deputies should be focused on safety rather than animals. Treasurer Tammi Willhite said after some research in some other line items, she and Cannon said additional money was found in a line item not used in three years, described as "economic development," which was normally used for travel when promoting the county.
Doyle said he was not implying that the current animal control officer situation in the county was not working, but rather, he was seeking solutions to both a deputy shortage and the lack of full-time animal control that he thought could be beneficial to the county in several ways. He completely agreed his office would be better suited with another full-time deputy instead of one that has to share animal control duties.
Hare said the shelter was housing a total of 800 to 1000 dogs per month. According to the Judge Executive's Office, consistent reports show anywhere from 10-25 dogs per month from Edmonson County are included in that total number; however, Hare said she felt like they were much higher than that from Edmonson County, and said many walk-ins were likely from Edmonson County, even though she did not provide any data to support her opinion.
She also said that most counties in KY provide animal control officers that are not law enforcement. She said she felt like the current contract the shelter had with the county was working overall and she was not interested in discontinuing the contract, as a good working relationship had been established. She said she would continue mentoring those involved and offering any assistance to the agreement as it would only help the shelter in the long run.
While the county property designated for an animal shelter has been secured, no further talk of when a shelter could or would be built was discussed. The property is currently being used for storage, as an impound lot for the Sheriff's Office, and the rest is being leased for farmland.
Another item discussed was the continued possibility of a regional jail between Ohio, Butler, and Edmonson Counties. This idea was first discussed in Edmonson County Fiscal Court in May of 2021 when the fiscal court voted to continue with a feasibility study at the cost of $1875. Those studies have continued and documents have been drafted to move forward with an interlocal agreement as part of the process of the jail; however, County Attorney Greg Vincent said he had some issues with the documents.
He described the language as being written as binding Edmonson County into far too much responsibility, even if the numbers didn't work for the county. He said he liked everything else at this point, but the county could not afford to make such a commitment at this stage. He said without question, without grants for the construction and staffing of a proposed 200-250 facility, the county could not fund it, and while it may be a bad economic time for purchasing property and hiring contractors, it could be the best time to secure funding, due to the nature of government funds that are currently available.
Cannon said he felt optimistic that housing federally funded prisoners could possibly pay for a large portion of the costs of a jail but Vincent disagreed. Vincent said that more and more offenses are being decriminalized, which could lower the possibilities of offenders being incarcerated; however, at a cost of $45 per prisoner, per day, if Edmonson County could stay within that same range of budget, it was certainly worth a shot of moving forward, as the county has to pay that anyway.
Edmonson County currently has a jail budget of $477,700. Current county inmates are housed at Hart County Jail, which normally runs the county nearly $25,000 per month, depending on the amount of inmates at the time. Currently, the county has 34 inmates housed at the Hart County Jail, which is a bill of $1,530 per day.
A vote to continue with an inter-local agreement is expected at the next fiscal court meeting, which is the next step in a regional jail process.
The county also voted to:
The next fiscal court meeting will be held on Monday, December 27, 2021 at 9AM and will be held virtually.