By Alton Porter
'You Can Tell A Lot About A Community By How It Treats Its Animals' - Dr. Cory Tucker
The Crockett City Council got a good look at what it will take to open up and operate a much needed city animal shelter at a meeting Monday evening, May 16.
In a well-prepared and thorough Power Point presentation, Sergeant Jerrod Vickers of the Crockett Police Department showed the council how the city's old Public Works Building near the city shop on Caddo Lane off South Loop 304 can be converted to and run as a shelter. And he projected how much it will cost.
To get up and running, the city can expect to spend around $112,940, Vickers said, explaining, that figure includes a projected $59,680 for renovations to the building and an estimated $53,260 for items needed in the building.
Dog kennels, feline kennels, fencing, shelving, a freezer, an exam table, washing machine, a dryer, a sink and a bathing station are just some of the items needed in the building in order to convert it into a shelter, Vickers said.
He added, the projected annual cost of a full-time employee to man the shelter is $66,717, and the projected annual cost of a part-time employee is $50,863. And the projected annual budget, not including personnel, is $30,863, he said.
In answer to a question from Mayor Robert Meadows, Vickers stressed, these are "ballpark" figures, not the actual costs of what it will take to start-up and operate a shelter.
Vickers was assigned the task of researching the matter, and preparing and presenting his findings to the council by Police Chief David Cross, who was present at the meeting -- along with other police officers – and who introduced Vickers and his presentation to the council.
The address, which was presented to the council for information purposes only, was well-received by Meadows and the four council members present at the meeting. Precinct 5 Council Member Mike Marsh was out of town, Meadows said. The council took no action on the matter.
Meadows said, "I think your homework shows. You've done your due diligence. ... There are things in there I didn't consider."
Dr. Cory Tucker, who currently houses at his animal hospital the city's animals that would be in an animal shelter if the city had one, also was at the meeting and he stressed the urgency of the critical need for a shelter here.
In his presentation, Vickers showed several photographs from different sides and angles of the exterior and interior of the Public Works Building as it currently exists and showed how it could be renovated. And he presented images of how it could possibly exist after undergoing renovation.
He noted that the building is relatively small, so it needs to be converted in a way that allows maximum use of the available space. Among the overall improvements needed is the installation of insulation. In addition, some minor structural changes need to be made to the building, he said.
In collecting information for his presentation, Vickers and others working with him toured animal shelters in several East Texas cities to see how they are set up. Shelters they visited, he said, included the Anderson County Humane Society facility in Palestine and the Humane Society facility in Nacogdoches, as well as the police department's shelter in Jacksonville. He showed photos he took at these facilities to show the council how those facilities are laid out, along with the features and other aspects of the facilities.
To have a quarantined facility for the purpose of housing rabid dogs and other diseased animals, state inspectors must tour the facility to ensure that certain requirements are met, Vickers said.
Before Vickers made his presentation, the council voted to designate GrantWorks, a grant consulting firm, as the city's new grant advisor and grant application preparer. So, after the presentation, Meadows asked the three GrantWorks representatives present at the meeting if there is any possibility that the city can obtain grant funds for an animal shelter.
Martha Drake of GrantWorks said they had looked at a new grant program through TEA called the Community Enhancement Fund and unfortunately, the city doesn't qualify for money from that source.
She said that fund is for first-time facilities that are created in a community, such as a civic center, emergency shelter, command center or a similar structure. However, an animal shelter doesn't qualify for funds from this source, Drake explained, adding she is "definitely on the lookout for some other funding."
In addition, Meadows asked whether funds might be available from such organizations as the Humane Society and SPCA. Drake said, "When I looked at those organizations, they don't really have building funds," adding they do provide assistance with vaccinations, neutering, spaying, and other related kinds of things.
She said she will continue her search for potential sources of funds for the shelter.
In his address to the council, Tucker said, at the last council meeting he attended some of the council members favored continuing to have the animal shelter at one of the privately owned veterinary clinics in the city.
"I'm just here to say that's not an option with my clinic or any of the other clinics," he said. "We need to focus on having the shelter as a private entity whether it's at (the Public Works Building) or another. I think that needs to be the focus of the city's energies and thought.
"This problem – this can – has kinda been kicked down the road for a while. I've only had the shelter at my clinic for about six months, but I've been involved with the animal shelter here one way or another going back almost 10 years. I've seen the highs of it, and I've seen the lows."
He added, "I think we have the chance now to do something that we can really be proud of. I don't know who said it. I heard somebody once say you can tell a lot about a community by how they treat its animals.
"We have people moving in here from Houston and other places. They're kind of appalled at the animal situation we have here. I think we have a chance to really change that. I'm glad to help as much as I can. My facility is too small right now with the animals housed in my isolation area, the area I usually use to put animals with contagious diseases so I can get them away from healthy animals in my hospital. And so, that presents a problem" when trying to keep healthy animals separated from those with contagious diseases.
These animals "just need to be separated," Tucker said. "And it's just hard to do. I'm glad to help the city in a time of need, but eventually it needs to be separated. The timeline on it – I gave the city a time (to take possession of the animals). I'm flexible on that as long as I know the city is working on something. I'm not just going to kick all of the animals out and lock the doors. I'm ready to help as long as I know the city is working hard at doing this.
"And once they have done it and provided another building (for the animals), I'm happy to continue to consult on protocols of sanitation, disease prevention (and) adoption protocols. At my clinic we've had really good success adopting out a lot of animals. We have euthanized very few animals. A lot less than I imagined that we would since we started this.
Tucker added, "I hate it every time I hear of somebody from this town going to another town to adopt an animal. Because we have them here. We've got all the animals that we need here. We need to centralize the location where they can go and see them all, a place that everybody knows about instead of trying to trace down where they are at that moment.
"We need the animals vetted so that people aren't adopting unhealthy animals. I think we've got a chance to do something really good here, and I hope the city will concentrate on this and focus its efforts toward it.
Meadows told Tucker he appreciates how he has reached out and helped the city by housing and caring for the city's animals at a time when the city needed that help.