NORTH VERNON — Politically speaking, animals can be the kiss of death.
That’s according to the North Vernon City Council president, who predicts that the county’s request to disband the current seven-member Animal Control Board is “not going anywhere.”
David Shaw made that remark after Jennings County Commissioner Jeff Barger spoke to the council during its Sept. 10 meeting. Both the commissioners and the County Council have voted to replace the appointed seven-member board with a three-member one.
However, that change cannot be finalized without the city council’s consent.
Barger originally proposed that a new board be composed of one elected member each from the city and county councils and one county commissioner. But while being questioned by the council, Barger said he was willing to consider appointments.
The reasons for the proposed change cited by Barger have not changed over the past few months. They include concerns about the legal liability of board members’ public comments, as well as alleged disharmony and disorganization.
Barger again said he believed too many board members have strong ties to the Jennings County Mercy Rescue organizations and are advocating unrealistic efforts to reduce the number of euthanized animals.
But Animal Control President Nancy Green-Cruser reiterated her request that the city council postpone a decision for a year. She said the board needs that time to make improvements at the animal shelter that have been implemented in a number of neighboring communities.
“I’m not opposed to reorganization, but I am opposed to changing the rules right now,” city council member Brian Hatfield said. “I’d rather see it done next year by people who are elected this November. I don’t want to change things now at the end of a term.”
Green-Cruser and another board member, Vicki Cardinal, told the council that their group’s request for a key to the animal shelter was denied by the county, and that board members are not allowed in the facility unless senior Animal Control officer James Brewner is notified.
When Cardinal said the Animal Control Department has not paid attention to the board’s advice for months, a number of council members looked at Barger for a reply.
“We’re not taking their advice,” Barger told the council. “When I made the motion to disband the board, I no longer considered them to be a board.”
That exchange seemed to take Shaw by surprise.
“We have people appointed to the board,” Shaw later told the Republic. “I don’t understand why they aren’t letting them act as a board.”
North Vernon Mayor Harold “Soup” Campbell said he feels that a three-member board would be too small.
“Can we bring it to five?” Campbell asked Barger. “Could we have one more additional member be appointed by both the city and county councils?”
A consensus concerning the mayor’s suggestion was not reached during the meeting.
While Barger and the two board members were still arguing their respective cases, council members abruptly stopped the discussion and tabled the matter.
“We’re beating a dead dog to death,” Hatfield said with a laugh before the council moved on to its next agenda item.
While Shaw said he does not think the topic of reorganizing the board will be brought up any time soon, he admitted he could be wrong.
“It’s up to the council to act on it,” he said. “If they choose down the road to vote, we’ll vote. I don’t try to control the council. I just act on their wishes.”
The North Vernon City Council will meet again at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“But I don’t see them wanting to jump in and vote on it,” Shaw said.
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