KOSCIUSKO — The animal control controversy continued at the Kosciusko Commissioners meeting held Tuesday, Aug. 6, with court security eventually stepping in to cut off one woman’s time at the podium.
Columbia City resident Kelly Bolenbaugh, who spoke at the July 23 commissioners meeting, approached the podium once the floor was open for public comments on Tuesday.
Bolenbaugh expressed concern that even with the new animal control ordinance, the animal control officer is still able to shoot animals under certain circumstances.
Bolenbaugh and others are upset that Animal Control Officer Jerry Clase only received a five-day suspension for his handling of a dog that he ended up killing because he thought it was severely ill. They contend Clase has a track record of abuse and want him removed from his position.
When County Attorney Chad Miner explained that the only time it would be acceptable for the animal control officer to euthanize an animal would be an emergency situation if the animal were suffering and dying, Bolenbaugh asked, “Do we have a definition for suffering though, so we don’t have a repeat of the fiascos?”
Miner and Commissioner Vice-President Brad Jackson both said the current ordinance requires the officer to first attempt to contact the owner of a domestic animal in that situation and the officer also has to have another officer sign off and agree with the decision to euthanize.
The conversation continued, with Bolenbaugh and the commissioners each accusing the other of interrupting.
“I know that Chad (Miner) had given you his card last meeting to sit down with him and discuss these issues or things you thought were relevant to the case and you never called him,” said Commissioner President Cary Groninger.
“That’s not going to do anything,” Bolenbaugh insisted. “You three are the ones who can make ordinances. His job is to determine if the law if broken. We’re here to get y’all to step up and look for yourself to see what the state laws are.”
“We allowed you to speak,” Commissioner Bob Conley said. “Please listen when the Chairman is speaking. You’ve interrupted him six times.”
“We need to keep order in the quorum,” Conley added. “It appears to me as though you’re wanting (a) war and we’re not going to do that.”
“If you’re going to accuse me of starting a war, don’t I have the right to defend myself?” Bolenbaugh asked. “You laughed at me several times during the last meeting, showing me that you obviously don’t have any respect for animal education, animal welfare, animal rights.”
“Y’all have been okay with that man breaking the laws. He’s hiding behind all of you. The three of you have the power to hire and fire him,” Bolenbaugh said.
“Hey — enough, enough,” said Groninger. “We’ve asked you to talk with our attorney about these areas you have concerns with.”
Court Security Officer Mike Speigle then intervened and addressed Bolenbaugh, saying, “Let’s go ahead and stop right now on this. I think cooler heads will prevail at a later time.”
Roxanne Coffelt of Warsaw approached the podium next to discuss animal control.
“If it’s up to the animal control officer to decide if death is imminent, what kind of medical training does he have to determine that?” Coffelt inquired.
“I don’t think anybody here wants an animal to lay on the side of the road suffering,” Coffelt said. “I think what they’re concerned about is, if you had an animal control officer that actually cared about animals, they would probably trust his judgment, but in this case you have an animal control officer that obviously has no empathy for animals and he errs on the side of shooting them every single time.”
“We’ve got it to where he has to have another officer sign off. They both have to agree. We tried to appease all you guys’ needs,” said Jackson. “I feel like no matter what we do, it isn’t going to be good enough for you guys.”
“I think there’s one thing that would be good enough and that’s to get an animal control officer that actually cares about animals,” said Coffelt. “That, I think, would make everyone here happy.”
In other matters, Kosciusko Superior Court Judge David Cates received approval for an ordinance amendment related to gratuities for servers at restaurants in situations involving a jury.
“If I have a jury I want to get them out, I want to get them fed and get them back in the courtroom and I want to get back to work,” said Cates. “The servers go a long way in helping with that. The servers downtown do a good job of getting them in and out.”
The amendment will allow tips to be included and covered under the ordinance.
Emergency Management Director Ed Rock told commissioners he recently applied for several grants. Rock apologized for not getting prior approval from commissioners before submitting the grant requests but explained that the grants were time-sensitive and needed to be applied for immediately. Each of the grants is 100 percent reimbursable. The commissioners thanked Rock for applying for the grants and approved the requests.
Commissioners approved a letter of understanding submitted by Highway Superintendent Scott Tilden. The letter is between the county and Indiana Department of Transportation and is in reference to an unofficial detour route due to an intersection improvement at US 6 and SR 13.
Tilden requested approval for a 35 mph speed limit ordinance on CR 850E, Pierceton, between CR 150N and Adams Road and also on Adams Road, between CR 850E and CR 900E. This is due to a sharp S curve in the road, Tilden said. The speed limit is currently 55 mph. Commissioners gave approval.
An ordinance for “no truck” signs for Wray Street in Atwood was approved by commissioners. Tilden said often times when trucks attempt to go down that street they have difficulty making the turn and end up driving through yards.
- Kosciusko Area Bus Service General Manager Amanda Landis presented second quarter claims and requested approval for limited power of attorney. Both were approved by commissioners.
- Miner submitted three ordinances related to establishing donation funds. These donation funds include Camp H.E.R.O., the teen court program and JCAP. These were approved.
- County Auditor Michelle Puckett presented a Fire District 2 grant request in the amount of $61,860. Commissioners approved this request.
- The next regular meeting will be at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20.