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Animal control seeks protection from dangerous animals

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Jones County Board of Commissioners approved its first project with the Jones County Public Facilities Board and considered how to best protect animal control officers from aggressive canines.

Chairman Chris Weidner called the Nov. 2 meeting to order, and the invocation and pledge were given by Emergency Management Director and Jones County Fire Chief Don Graham.

The first agenda item was from Planning and Zoning concerning a conditional use to allow a singlewide on property on Walnut Creek. Zoning Officer Tim Pitrowski said the staff recommendation was denied because the project did not conform with the future land use map.

Commissioner Sam Kitchens said the original request was for a mother-in-law residence, but he said the problem was it was located on a separate plot. The commissioner said he had spoken with the petitioner.

Kitchens made the motion to deny the request, and the vote to deny it was unanimous.

Weidner said a vacancy on the Board of Health needed to be filled, and Leslie Coleman, the administrator of Lynn Haven Health and Rehabilitation, had applied.

A motion was made to approve adding Coleman to the Board of Health, and the vote to approve was unanimous.

New Business

The first item of new business was to authorize the intergovernmental agreement with the Jones County Public Facilities Authority for the refinancing of the recreation complex and jail expansion loans.

Placement agent David Lucas said the refinancing resolution was approved by the PFA at a previous meeting. He said the new interest rate of 1.6 percent would save the county $428,496.

Lucas said the bond issue for the loans would go through a validation process and should close Dec. 7.

Commissioner Daylon Martin made the motion to approve the Intergovernmental Lease Contract between Jones County and the Jones County Public Facilities Authority to provide funds to refinance the lease obligations and the motion was approved unanimously.

Architect Bob Brown with BTBB Inc. and Morris Hutcheson, Director of Project Development for the North Central Health District, gave board members an update of the renovation/new construction project for the Health Department.

Brown said he had measured the building and met with Hutcheson and the staff. He said he took their wish lists and looked at the existing building. He said the current building is 6,800 square feet, and 1,800 could be added.

Brown said the addition would include a drive through. He estimated the cost of the project at $1.4 million. The architect said, if they went with new construction, the suggestion was a 9,000-square-foot building.

He said the problem with that scenario is that property would have to be purchased. The property they are looking at would cost from $150,000 to $275,000.

“I would hate to estimate the building cost, but currently it would be $200 to $285 a square foot,” Brown said.

He said the end result could be that the new building would have to be smaller than the existing building.

Hutcheson said the CDBG application to fund the project would not be successful if the building was downsized. He said the grant is ARPA-funded, and the drive-through service would be a good addition.

“The staff is concerned that the current building is not accessible, and they would like more visibility,” he said.

Hutcheson said, during the pandemic, the health department essentially went 12 months with no fees collected, so it was a good thing it had a healthy fund balance. He added that, if renovations were done on the existing building, the health department would need an alternate site to be able to continue to operate.

Paintball guns

Animal Services Director Jennifer Allen talked to the board about the need for something to protect animal control officers out in the field when dealing with aggressive dogs. She said at this time they have nothing.

“We are put at risk, and we’ve had close calls,” she said.

Allen said there are non-lethal weapons available, and she asked the thoughts of the commissioners about trying paint ball guns. She said the guns use bullets with a paint tip and do not pierce the skin.

Martin asked what other counties use, and the director said some carry Tasers that would have to be regulated by a law enforcement agency.

After a discussion about the pros and cons of different types of non-lethal weapons available, Kitchens made the motion to authorize Allen to move forward researching the weapons and bring back a recommendation to the board.

County business

The next five items were brought to board members by County Administrator Jason Rizner. The items were the approval of the auction of surplus sheriff vehicles, approval of matching funds for a bullet proof vest grant, the authorization to put out bids for new sheriff’s vehicles, concession services at the recreation complex and two basketball courts at Mattie Wells Community Center.

All five items were approved unanimously.

Clerk of the Board and Human Resource Director Shannon Wagner asked for approval to begin the process of creating a procurement position for the county. Martin made the motion to approve, and it passed with a unanimous vote.

Wagner went on to ask about the third Tuesday board meeting for December that is usually cancelled. Commissioner Wendy Vaughn made the motion to cancel the meeting, and it was approved unanimously.

Wagner spoke about the annual Christmas luncheon and the possibility of giving employees gift cards instead of the luncheon. Martin said he was in favor of the gift cards, but employees wanted to have the annual luncheon.

After a discussion among board members and input from county employees in the audience, the employee Christmas luncheon was scheduled for Dec. 22 and gift cards approved.

The meeting adjourned to enter closed session. The next meeting of the Board of Commissioners is scheduled Nov. 16.