2018-09-13 / Front Page

L.C. Paws reaches out to county for help with stray animal issues

By KAY TOTO staff writer

Lincoln County Commission Chairman Walker Norman touched on a variety of subjects at the re­cent workshop of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, when no vote was taken. Some is­sues will be taken to a vote at the next regular meeting, scheduled for Thursday (tonight), September 13, beginning at 6 p.m. Primarily dis­cussed was the need for an animal rescue center.

Lisa Reese attended as a repre­sentative for the non-profit organi­zation L.C. Paws. She spoke of the problems that Lincoln County resi­dents have with stray animals be­ing dropped at various boat ramps and parks. “People can be in danger from these stray animals. We need to help control this population. You’re also looking at not only protecting the residents of Lincoln County but you are improving the quality of life for the animals as well,” said Reese.

Every animal that comes through L.C. Paws is given their shots, as well as being spayed or neutered. Cost of the bare minimum of treat­ment that is given any stray animal that comes through the organiza­tion is roughly $250 per dog, and $175 per cat. Cats frequently do not have some of the diseases that dogs do, because they do not travel in packs.

“Currently we are looking at about 150 dogs this year that we can take care of. We've only taken in about three or four cats. We at­tempt to find them foster homes. We are asking for funds to help run this operation, and we are ask­ing the same thing of the city as we are of the county, which is $2,000 per quarter. This is just to cover the bare minimum,” she said.

Reese went on to say that the vol­unteers hope to raise the rest of the monies that they would need through grants and fundraisers. They hope to bring the “Grill and Chill” back, which has been a huge fundraiser in the past. “We believe that we are in many ways doing a service for our community and county,” she saud. “One of the ways we are finding a better life for these animals is that we are attempting to get them into the Dogs for Vets, which is a pro­gram for both companion and ser­vice dogs for veterans. We recently had one of our dogs to graduate from that program. We name our animals, and this dog, which will be a companion of one of our veterans, is named Lincoln.”

It was discussed briefly whether there are laws governing the dump­ing of animals. County Attorney Ben Jackson noted that there is a Georgia law governing cruelty to animals with which dumpers could be charged, if there are no local or­dinances.

The chairman commented that it was a bad time to be consider­ing spending more money, with the budget talks looming, and the coun­ty funds trending downwards every year. “We have a meeting Septem­ber 21 to adopt a budget, and we have a digest that has decreased eight out of the last 10 years. How­ever, the 2018-2019 budget has increased $259,000 - that's 3.8 per cent. Lincoln County has not had a millage rate increase in 10 years ex­cept for a very minor increase one year,” he said.

Norman then mentioned that there is a state law, however, stating that county officers are able to im­pose a fee to be collected every time an animal gets a rabies shot from a veterinarian, something they could do that would be of some help. Nor­man stated that he believed that the volunteers of L.C. Paws are doing an excellent job.

However, he went on to say that the commission is entitled to start an animal control center, which would be run by an Animal Control Board. Technically, under Georgia law, Lincoln County is allowed to have a dedicated officer. Reese stated that an animal rescue center is not allowed to take in vicious or rabid animals. All animals must be adoptable.

L.C. Paws is currently working on grants to build an animal shel­ter. Norman also mentioned that the county has some acreage behind the transfer station, not currently being used, and he mentioned the possi­bility of donating this to the orga­nization when they receive grants. Norman also mentioned that the land is not around any houses.

“I really think there’s a need for it,” he said. “Somewhere down the road the county is going to have to do something. I really do not want the county to have the responsibil­ity, but I think we could partner.”

Reese explained that they are currently working on the grants to construct the shelter. “There are also grants to help us staff it and run it. However, it has to be run by the rescue organization, and not by the county. Where I would like to see the county and the city become involved, is to possibly have people on probation -– those that have to do community service – possibly could come and help walk the ani­mals, do cleanup work, etc.” Nor­man asked if she had spoken to Judge Lee Moss, as he is in charge of the community service program, and she stated that she had been waiting to speak with the board first.

“If the county agreed, and could in fact find money, we would have to do it under contract. We’d have to have a contract describing the services you would provide,” he stated. “As I said, the money the county has brought in has decreased over the last 10 years, to the tune of about $4 million. We are the fourth lowest county in our 13-county area in regard to taxes levied by the county commission. Out of 31 mils of tax, this body levies about 10 of them. Less than 40 percent of the total tax collected comes from property tax. The rest comes from other sources, and a lot of them are down,” said Norman.

“This is a bad time to be asking for money with a budget coming up, but we want to help you. You are not likely to get $8,000 a year for this when we're in such a budget crunch. I realize this is not a great amount, but it is not budgeted for. I think we really need to drop this off the agenda at this time, and possi­bly revisit this in November or De­cember,” said Norman. Reese stat­ed that perhaps they would know about their grants at that time. “We know we need to help you, and I think it is a necessary thing for Lin­coln County,” finished Norman.

Information about donations and volunteering may be found at their Facebook page, L.C. Paws, or by emailing mfox@fsblincoln.com.

Sherry E. McKellar, County Clerk, spoke regarding the new 911 resolution passed by the Geor­gia House of Representatives. The bill created the Georgia Emergency Communications Authority. She also stated that although Lincoln County is in compliance now, the agency strongly suggested that the commission adopt the new resolu­tion.

As of January first of 2019, all the 911 fees will now be collected by this authority and then remit­ted back to the local governments. Norman then asked Director Casey Broom of the Lincoln County Of­fice of Emergency Services if there would be any fees collected by this new organization, and there was found to be one percent in a man­agement fee kept by the state. “Es­sentially we have no choice in the matter,” said Norman.

The commissioners then dis­cussed water bills in Serenity Point. A person owning land in Serenity Point had his attorney send a letter to the commissioners in reference to the $10 monthly availability fee that is charged by the county for water. The letter essentially stated that the county is in violation of state law to collect a fee for this. Jackson was asked to write a letter stating that it is, in fact, not illegal.

There are 31 lots, all with a bal­ance due, with some owned by Southern Nature, Inc., and some in the person’s own name. The fee on some lots have not been paid in years. “In fact, the law is very clear. This money is treated like taxes in the law,” said Jackson. It was de­cided that, at the commissioner’s meeting, they would vote on fil­ing both a lien on the property and also go to Magistrate Court as well. “You can’t let one person not pay. It’s not right for the others that pay the fee,” said Norman.

Briefly discussed was chang­ing the speed limits on Double Branches Road and Chamberlins Ferry Road as well. Speeds were discussed and suggested to be set at 45 miles per hour, with a cautionary yellow sign reducing the limit to 35 at congested areas.

Broom also was there to com­ment on the E-Billing rate adjust­ments. He recommended to raise the rates for an ambulance call and mileage as well, making it more in line with surrounding counties.

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