The staff at the new DeKalb Animal Shelter has become stretched thin because of the workload and needs help.
During Monday night’s regular monthly city council meeting, Sue Puckett, spokesperson for the DeKalb Animal Coalition Board of Directors, addressed the mayor and aldermen to formally ask that the city, which already funds a full time director and a half-time position at the shelter, make the half-time employee full time.
Since it opened to the public in November, the shelter has stayed at or near capacity of dogs and cats which has created more work for the staff, Director Megan Moore, and her assistant James Wilkerson. Volunteers have been used to help take up the slack but it still apparently isn't enough.
“We are asking and kinda begging to make him (Wilkerson) a full time employee. We don’t want to lose him but we’re liable to if we can’t give him full time employment,” said Puckett.
Alderman Jason Murphy, who is also a member of the Animal Coalition Board, seemed to agree with Puckett. “ We have the same staffing we had for the old shelter but now we have six times more space”.
In December, 2015 the City entered into a 99 year lease with the DeKalb Animal Coalition Board of Directors. Terms of the agreement call for the City to “ provide to the Coalition a full time employee, as well as a part time employee, to assist in the day-to day operation of the animal shelter and to budget funds for this purpose from year to year, subject to approval of the Coalition”.
Prior to the new shelter, the city paid two other people to operate the old dog pound on Smith Road, which is now closed. According to the 2016-17 city budget, the former full time employee was paid $27,979 plus a $279 Christmas bonus and a health insurance benefit of $6,993. The former part time employee at the old dog pound was paid $17,487 and a Christmas bonus of $174 but no health insurance benefit.
Puckett said the new team, Moore and Wilkerson are doing a great job and the Coalition wants to keep them together.
“We have a wonderful director, Megan Moore, and we have James Wilkerson as a half time employee. That was our agreement with you (for the city) to furnish one and a half employees. That is exactly what was happening at the old one (dog pound). But we’re new at this and you are too at running a good shelter. We were full (animals) the first week (in operation) and had a waiting list. The community has responded and we are really excited. We don’t want to lose either of these employees. They are over worked. They just can’t do it all,” said Puckett.
In the 91 days the new shelter has been open, Moore said 89 animals have been adopted, almost one a day. “We’re housing 51 animals right now. We have 20 indoor/outdoor runs. We have 41 dogs in those. That’s quite a few,” she said.
Unlike the old dog pound, Moore explained that the new shelter does much more than just pick up strays. “We are an adoption center. Animals are spayed and neutered before they leave our facility to reduce the problem we have with over population. We are in the process of being state certified as an animal controlled agency. The duties we do during the day are not just picking up dogs. We do everything from cleaning, feeding, medical, transport, dealing with the public, making sure everything is clean throughout the day and weekends. Saturdays we’re there for half a day. Saturday evenings we come back and Sunday mornings we’re there cleaning. Sunday evenings we’re there cleaning. Holidays, weekends, it doesn’t matter. It’s a seven day a week, every single week job. It’s not easy but that’s what we are there for and that is why we are asking you for that extra help. The work load itself is quite a bit. I want to do my job the best I can but I also do need help to do that. I think two full time employees would make that much easier for everybody. As of right now our volunteer program is on hold because I need to find a volunteer coordinator that can help me train and manage volunteers while they are there,” said Moore.
In addition to funding the employees, the city appropriated $75,000 to help build the shelter, which is located behind Tenneco Automotive. The county also put in $75,000 for the construction. While the Coalition had hoped the $150,000 contribution by the local governments would have been sufficient to build the facility, it fell short.
“We were hoping $150,000 would build it but it did not. Our board has raised and spent $144,531 in addition to the $150,000. We owe $33,000 of that because we had to borrow some money. We didn’t have enough. Of course we’re having to pay interest on that. I think we have $3,000 in the bank. We’re low on funds,” said Puckett.
Alderman Danny Washer said he had reservations about the city making the half-time position at the animal shelter full time when the city, because of funding concerns, has previously turned down requests by the fire chief and police chief to add another full time position to their departments. Washer said the community might not support giving the animal shelter higher priority than police and fire.
“My problem is the fire department asked for another employee and we’ve had the police chief ask for another employee so how are we going to justify giving you (animal coalition) a full time employee when we turned them down? How do we say one is more important than the other? I know it’s a burden to you but the way I look at it we have to get by with what we’ve got,” said Alderman Washer.
“But we may lose what we’ve got if we don’t do something,” replied Puckett
“We have spent $145,000 on a building (shelter) that belongs to the city and this was money that was raised by the (animal coalition) board. We’ve spent almost as much as the county and city put in together on the building. I understand that we have a lease and it calls for one and a half employees but none of us knew how it was going to work. We would pick that up (extra expense) but we can’t do it,” added Puckett.
“They are not asking for a completely new employee, just to increase one from a part time to a full time so you’re not adding a completely full salary, just a half a salary,” explained Alderman Gayla Hendrix in response to Alderman Washer.
“What about health Insurance?” asked Alderman Josh Miller.
“Once you (city employee) are put in full time status you are entitled to health insurance,” replied City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson.
Mayor Jimmy Poss said according to Director Moore, Wilkerson does not wish to have health insurance through the city.
The mayor and aldermen decided to schedule a workshop to determine the actual cost to the city before acting on the animal coalition’s request.
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