Animal Control needs budget infusion

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — The demands on the Casco Animal Control department have grown substantially. To keep up with that growth, animal control will likely need a bigger budget.

“Our call volume from two or three years ago has quadrupled. The call volume level has gone from requiring between 30 and 40 hours of field work per month to 100 hours a month,” Animal Control Officer (ACO) Sue Fielder said, adding those monthly hours are shared with one assistant.

“People call because they know we will respond,” she said.

In addition to a greater number of calls from the public, Fielder and her assistant have attended educational and training courses — state-required classes with a fiscal note attached. Also, a cat hoarding case this past summer took a toll on equipment; and those items will need to be replaced, Fielder said.

The Animal Control Committee recently presented its wish list to the Casco Board of Selectmen, including a recommendation of a minimum of $500 to pay for training on an annual basis.

During the Jan. 8 workshop, the board was updated on the department’s monetary needs. Those requests will be addressed in the coming months as the Casco Finance Committee puts together the 2012–13 budget.

Casco Town Manager Dave Morton told the board that the list before them included “some of the ideas and recommendations from the animal control committee.”

“I do not know if there is specific action that is required of the selectmen,” he added.

Selectman Ray Grant said, “Put money into the budget for training.”

Morton explained, “We haven’t been budgeting what we’ve been spending.”

“A lot of the classes we learned about, we didn’t know about when we were doing the budget. Our budget has already been pretty tight to have any kind of flexibility,” he said.

“In the long run, this is not the best place to be making cuts,” Morton said, referring to animal-control training classes which are mandated by the state.

Grant asked if the AC committee was requesting that the majority of items listed be put into the upcoming budget.

Then, Selectman Tracy Kimball asked if a percentage of the equipment could be shared with other towns to offset the full costs.

Morton responded, “The question is: How much is the board willing to see the budget grow — if we do all this?”

Then, Kimball commented, “This is a lot for animal control in Casco to absorb. But the issue would be safety.”

The equipment that relates to safety issues includes: state-required safety vests with reflective lettering, yellow safety bar lights for vehicles used by department employees and a pair of bite-proof gloves.

The gloves were destroyed during rescue attempts in the cat hoarding case, according to Fielder. The cost is approximately $250.

Several kennels were also broken or lost during the process of rescuing and finding shelters for the felines.

Fielder said she hopes some of the costs can be defrayed by public donations. She said all sizes of animal crates as well as nylon leashes would be much appreciated donations.

The town’s Finance Committee will hold its first meeting of the budget season on Feb. 13, and the committee will gather again on Feb. 27. Both those meetings take place on a Wednesday, and will be held in the upstairs room of the Central Fire Station.

 

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