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County to create citizen board to examine animal ordinance

A month after animal rights activists asked the Troup County Board of Commissioners to make the county’s animal ordinance stricter, Board Chairman Patrick Crews said on Thursday night the commissioners would appoint a citizen board to reassess the ordinance.

“What we decided is probably the best way to handle this is to create a citizen board that would take the challenge of taking the current ordinance that we have and working through it as a committee to look at how we might improve the current ordinance,” Crews said.

Crews said the board would be made up of approximately seven people. At least one person would be a veterinarian. The other members would be made up mainly of people from unincorporated, rural Troup County.

“As we know, the City of LaGrange has their own ordinance, Hogansville, West Point [too],” Crews said. “So, these are the rules that would govern our citizens in the unincorporated area.”

The decision comes after more than 40 people came to a Board of Commissioners meeting in mid-July when the issue was debated. Local animal rights advocate Evie Kettler argued the ordinance should be updated to more closely define what constitutes food, water and shelter. Two Troup County farmers cautioned commissioners from altering the ordinance without input from people who use working dogs on their farms.

Crews said the citizen board would research and review other ordinances from other local governments before recommending something to the commission. Crews committed to having the board members appointed in the next 30 days, and said people will be able to apply online. 

“I think that the dogs have waited long enough,” Kettler said in an interview after the meeting. “I appreciate their [commissioners] effort … but I think it’s just going to drag on longer.” 

Kettler said it shouldn’t be complicated to write an ordinance that better protects animals without criminalizing the work of farmers.

“We all know that there are some good ordinances out there – I’ve read them, I’ve gone through over 100 ordinances,” Kettler said. “I know that it’s possible to have the ordinance and not hurt people.”

In other business, the Troup County Fire Department has received a grant for about $245,450 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. To accept the FEMA grant, Troup County must provide matching funds of at least 10%, about $24,500. 

If the grant is accepted, all $270,000 will go toward the purchasing of new equipment — diesel exhaust removal systems. These systems are, in essence, hoses that attach to firetruck exhaust pipes that then remove the exhaust from fire stations while the engine is running.

According to the presentation TCFD gave, diesel exhaust is a “complex mixture of gases and fine particles” that contains carbon monoxide, as well as several chemical carcinogens that non-diesel engines don’t produce. The exhaust is toxic to inhale, and the particulates it contains settle on fire gear and in the adjacent living quarters. 

The systems would be installed in the seven manned stations, where staff are there 24 hours a day. 

Firetrucks may be running inside the station bay for 30 seconds up to five minutes, depending on the situation, before heading out.

The hoses automatically disconnect when the firetruck is driven out of the bay.

“The diesel exhaust system is very beneficial in keeping the fire station healthy for the guys,” Deputy Chief Dennis Knight told commissioners. 

Knight said the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration specifies fire departments should try to capture 100% of diesel exhaust at its source.

Commissioners will vote on receiving the grant at their meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 18. 

The Troup County Board of Elections and Registration also asked the commissioners to lift a hiring freeze to allow for the hiring of another employee. 

Elections Supervisor Andrew Harper kept his request brief, saying the position was a budgeted, part-time position.

“We need help,” Harper said. “We need help now.”

The commissioners will vote on the measure on Aug. 18.

 Troup County Parks and Recreation Director Lance Dennis sought permission to sign and receive a DHS Transit Grant that helps fund the county transit system, which will also be voted on at Tuesday’s meeting.