County may get health department, animal shelter
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County may get health department, animal shelter
By Christa Jennings
While both are still in the very early stages, Coosa County may be getting its health department back and may also get an animal shelter.
Individuals are going through various processes and performing the legwork to try to help make both of these facilities realities for the county. Information regarding both was presented at Tuesday morning’s County Commission meeting, with all commissioners present.
County EMA Director Sheldon Hutcherson briefed the commission that he had someone contact him about bringing the health department back to Coosa County. He explained that he proceeded to contact Superintendent of Education David Stover about the matter.
They and representatives with the Alabama Department of Public Health looked at the old high school’s main office as a potential location. Hutcherson reported that they liked the site and would be getting with the Board of Education to try to lease that site.
“So it is in the talks that the health department will be coming back to Coosa County if the Board of Education signs off on that location,” he said.
He added that the ADPH has a grant to do any needed restructuring of the office space. He said their plan is to have the health department start off being open two or three days a week, which may increase based on demand.
He said they will have vital records, immunizations and immunization records, WIC, family planning, and live telehealth with nurse practitioners in Montgomery.
The health department would be sharing the old high school facility with the Head Start program that is starting there.
Hutcherson said that ADPH told him that in about three years they would have enough statistics to know if ADPH will come in and build a permanent location, “depending on how many people use the health department when they bring it back to the county.”
The Coosa County Health Department had closed its doors on October 1, 2016. Since then, residents have had to utilize those services in other counties, such as the Tallapoosa or Talladega County Health Department.
Coosa remains the only one of Alabama’s 67 counties to not have a health department.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the commission heard from Dennis Hill, a resident of the county for 26 years, to discuss a possible solution for an animal shelter in the county.
Commissioner Lamar Daugherty explained that Hill had reached out to him regarding a shelter, which Daugherty said is a need the county has and that it has been put on the back burner for years.
“Mr. Hill reached out with some really good ideas,” Daugherty said. “We’ve had an issue of finding a building that would accommodate this, but he’s got a proposal that he’s brought to us.”
The floor was then turned over to Hill so he could present his proposal to the commission. Hill also introduced Connie Willette, manager of the Sylacauga Animal Shelter, who was there to help answer questions.
Hill explained that they were asking the commission to get things started for an animal shelter in the county.
He said he understood there had been roadblocks in the past, including having a veterinarian available to the shelter and financing of the animal shelter itself. He explained that in his report he wanted to address both of those items.
“We’re at a critical point here regarding this animal shelter,” Hill said.
He said that surrounding counties will not take animals from Coosa County, with the exception of the Sylacauga shelter, which takes animals from Coosa on an “as needed” basis. However, he said this has put a strain on their shelter, which is now at full capacity and has had to suspend taking in animals.
“[Willette’s] capacity is around 55 dogs and as few cats as possible,” Hill explained. “Last week she was over 100 dogs, double capacity, and had 80-something cats I believe. Many of those animals are coming from Coosa County; they don’t have any place else to go. So it is critical. It’s having an impact on our neighbors.”
He explained that for his report he looked into the Sylacauga shelter, as well as the one in neighboring Clay County, to see how they operate and come up with a plan. He added that he believes the shelter in Clay County would be more similar to what they would come up with in Coosa County.
However, he said he combined what seemed like the best parts of both shelters’ operations and combined them in his proposal to provide the commission for consideration.
Hill said the animal shelter in Clay County, located on Alabama Highway 9 between Lineville and Ashland, has been in operation for about six years and was started by five concerned individuals who started a nonprofit shelter.
He further explained that their shelter handles about 20 dogs and as few cats as possible.
“They do the job for the county,” Hill said. “Their funding comes from donations, except for $5,000 a year that the county provides.”
After further discussing details for how Clay County’s shelter is operated, Hill said he was proposing a facility for Coosa County to be managed by one paid individual and have it be financed entirely by donations.
He further proposed the Coosa shelter having a capacity of about 20 dogs and no cats when starting out. He added that it would be a no-kill shelter, where no animals are euthanized unless they are aggressive or too sick and won’t survive.
His proposal also indicated that the construction costs for the facility would be about $77,000 for a metal building, although he hopes to find ways to decrease that overall cost. Additionally, he said the estimated annual operating cost would be about $40,000.
Also in discussion, he said the spay and neuter program would be something that would help make a big impact toward solving problems with cats and dogs in the county. He proposed buying 100 vouchers for that program to help residents spay and neuter their pets at a lower cost.
Concerning the past roadblock with having a veterinarian come on board to work with the shelter, Hill said he contacted Dr. Herron Baxley who lives in Coosa County and owns Baxley Animal Hospital in Sylacauga.
Hill said that in discussion with Baxley, he said that he would support the shelter if it goes forward.
Regarding location, Hill said the number one place in his mind would be at Alabama Highway 22 near the county landfill. He said as you turn into the landfill, it is private property that has been clear cut.
“I understand that those individuals ‘might’ be interested in possibly a lease, a $1 lease or something like that,” he said. “If not, the landfill itself would definitely be workable.”
He said that Elmore County has done exactly that, with its animal shelter being located on the landfill property.
“What we need from the commission is, after you deliberate on this thing, just get us started and do the organizational part,” Hill said.
Additionally, a resident of District 5, Hill said he had to share a quote that Board of Education Member Gay Adams gave him when he talked to her about the subject because of the possible implications with the high school students.
“She said we need to concentrate not on where we’ve been, but where we’re going,” Hill said. “I thought that was a pretty good statement.”
Hill added that he would be willing to volunteer his services as a project engineer toward this cause.
For coverage of the remainder of Tuesday’s 2-hour County Commission meeting, see next week’s edition.