09/09/07 — Duplin County residents will be able to speak out on animal control policy

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Duplin County residents will be able to speak out on animal control policy

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on September 9, 2007 2:04 AM

Beginning Monday, Duplin County residents will have their first chance to publicly air their feelings on the proposed new animal control ordinance, as the first of five meetings will be held at Rose Hill Town Square in Rose Hill at 7 p.m.

The purpose of the meetings is to get public feedback on the ordinance, which, at the county Board of Commissioners request, was put together by Duplin Humane Society President Ken Rau earlier this year.

Rau explained that after the commission adopted a pet registration fee about two years ago, members realized they needed some way to not only enact it, but also to give some guidance to the animal control officers out in the field.

Currently, Duplin County has no such ordinance in place, other than what is mandated by the state -- protection from dangerous animals and rabies vaccinations.

Rau has emphasized repeatedly that the proposed ordinance is not an attempt to hinder or interfere with people's ownership of pets, but rather a way to protect them. It includes a provision for the creation of a county pet database, based on the $5 registration fees, which could eventually be used to help build a new animal shelter.

"Right now we don't have a consistent way of dealing with (animal control) issues," Rau said. "The animal control officers are having to make decisions on the street.

"We're not trying to control anybody. We're trying to help them."

Once the meetings are concluded, though, no action is likely to be taken until next year.

"I expect it would be the first of the year before anything would be enacted," county Manager Mike Aldridge said. "My feeling is that we will take whatever comes out of these meetings and weave it into the proposed policies."

The other four meetings will be held at 7 p.m., at the Duplin County Cooperative Extension Auditorium in Kenansville on Sept. 20, the Beulaville Volunteer Fire Department in Beulaville on Sept. 24, the Oak Wolfe Volunteer Fire Department in Mount Olive on Oct. 1, and the Warsaw Town Hall in Warsaw on Oct. 4.

Holding its first regular meeting of the month Tuesday because of the Labor Day holiday, the commission also:

* Voted to release the remaining $595,000 to the county public school system for maintenance and other support service programs. The commissioners have now released all of the $750,000 special allocation it made to the school board during this summer's budget process.

* Voted 5-1, with commission Chairman David Fussell dissenting, to move forward with the $5,000 purchase of a billboard on N.C. 24 between Kenansville and Beulaville to advertise Cabin Lake Park.

Originally approved in August, there was a discrepancy over how the sign was going to be paid for.

The final verdict was for about $1,500 to come from the parks and recreation budget and the rest from the county's fund balance.

"We have a tourism authority and they get the (approximately $180,000) occupancy tax and that money is designated to be spent on advertising the county," Fussell said. "There was an understanding and handshakes, to get me to vote for the present budget, that we would stick to it, and not go into our fund balance except for in extreme emergencies. I think it was irresponsible of the commissioners."

Commissioner Cary Turner disagreed, however, citing previous dives into the fund balance this year, and county tourism director Rob Wells' explanation that the authority hasn't yet had time to create internal policies for using their occupancy tax funds.

"We had to decide whether we wanted to go another year with no advertising or go ahead and give them the billboard like the ad hoc committee had requested, and I felt like that was the best thing to do," Turner said.

* Voted to request that the N.C. Department of Transportation reduce the speed limit around the county's solid waste transfer station on Landfill Road from 55 to 45 miles per hour.

"It'll now go on to DOT for their consideration," Aldridge explained. "I don't know if they'll do it or not, but due to the number of trucks traveling on that road and making turns off that road, (Solid Waste Director Bee Barnette) was just concerned we were going to have an accident there that could have been avoided had the speed limit been reduced."