The Greenwood City Council’s July 1 meeting was highlighted by an Animal Control officer vote that failed with a 3-2 vote in favor of the ordinance. Last month, Chief Will Dawson brought the need for a City Animal Control officer to the council. The City Council determined that hiring an Animal Control person was an administrative action and fell under the Mayor’s responsibility. At the July 1 council meeting, Mayor Del Gabbard submitted an ordinance to pay for the new Animal Control person.
A.C. Brown, Jim Gossett and Craig Hamilton voted in favor of funding the new Animal Control position. Tim and Lance Terry voted against it. According to Mike Hamby, the City Attorney, "A majority vote by elected officials is needed to pass an ordinance. In our case, we need four votes." After the meeting, Tim Terry stated, "If the new position had reported to Planning instead of directly to the Mayor, I would have voted for it."
Currently, the Planning Department building inspectors handle calls of an animal control nature. When a Planning Department Employee has to go take care of an animal, they lose time on their actual jobs. Sonny Bell, the Director of Planning, explained that, "Our inspectors have other jobs to do. There are times when they are out inspecting property at seven in the morning."
Mayor Del Gabbard called a special City Council Meeting to revisit the issue on July 2. He plans to change the structure of the new Animal Control position, having it report to Bell in the Planning Department. "It makes sense," Bell explained, "We have knowledge of the ordinances. We can shorten the learning curve."
Police Chief Will Dawson asked the council to pass an ordinance authorizing a special election in December. He’d like to ask voters to pass a 10-year, half-cent tax to cover the cost of a $3.2 million station and land.
Council members suggested a quarter-cent tax over 20 years may be "more palatable" to voters during a potential December special election.
"I’m open to all suggestions to get it passed," Dawson said.
Dawson and his force of about two dozen operate out of a 1,000-square-foot room in the back of City Hall. The Police Department requires a building with at least 14,000 square feet based on a needs assessment, Dawson said.
Councilman Tim Terry said that although the tax "needs to happen," a half-cent tax "is my biggest drawback."
"There’s no doubt you all need a new police department," Terry said. "You’re working out of a broom closet. It’s a joke. So, I want it to pass the first time through. I’m just trying to give you my personal thinking of what’s going to get it passed."
Councilman A.C. Brown echoed Terry’s rationale.
"From what I hear, too, I would prefer the quarter-cent for 20 and make sure it’s bonded," Brown said.
Dawson will bring the ordinance back next month with the suggested changes. Once the ordinance for the election passes, the City has 120 days to hold the election.